“Woody” Tiny House on Wheels Cost Only $50,000 to Build

Colorado couple, Joni and Brian Buzarde, recently completed their 236 square foot THOW and have already been featured in Dwell magazine and Curbed. What might make their tiny house stand out is not only the unusual design (courtesy of Brian’s architectural skills), but the fact that the couple built “Woody” by themselves for only $50,000 over the course of a year.

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The 236 square feet looks a lot larger with the contemporary lines and birch-veneer plywood used throughout the house. Woody has a loft bed above the kitchen, hanging baskets for clothing, large sliding doors, a flat screen TV, cedar siding, a galvanized steel trough as a bathtub, and eight inch deep storage compartments built into the floor.

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The contemporary look with the western flair is continued with the plumbing and electrical conduit exposed. Done on purpose since this was the couple’s first foray into construction. Joni and Brian towed the trailer from Austin, Texas up to Colorado and are currently living in their home on a five-acre piece of land they purchased in the small town of Marble near Crested Butte.

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Photos by Benjamin Rasmussen for Dwell

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Susan - November 2, 2015 Reply

Listened to a tiny homes podcast the other day. There was an electrical/general contractor talking about fire hazards. He brought up the fact that tiny home dwellers that sleep in lofts have no egress from the loft – which would take an operable window and a rope ladder. As Brian is an architect at some level, I see there is an operable window in their loft. Yay! But, then to my dismay, I saw an operable window above their gas stove. Years and years ago (like 40 or more) HUD wrote restrictions on doing this bcuz a proximate window can “fan” the flames toward combustible materials – like a curtain, or something like a kitchen towel laying on the counter. I am curious, Brian, why this clear and present danger is overlooked by a design professional?

    alice h - November 2, 2015 Reply

    I’ve used gas burners and wood stoves in both indoor and outdoor locations for many years and have always been extremely cautious about flammable items too near the stove. However even if a breeze fans the flames there’s still a limit to how far those flames tend to reach. I’ve never had problems with windows near a stove (other than keeping the window clean) and the extra light and oxygen were always appreciated.

    Lee - November 2, 2015 Reply

    There is risk in living life. When narrative-abstractions are the question at hand, there is an unlimited catalog of theoretical scenarios that one has to account for. Unfortunately, from time to time, some of these anecdotes get knee-jerked into statutes or codes. The fact that I cannot go buy Lawn Darts is an example of the crescendo of this, when a lot of similarly ridiculous ‘codes’ were passed. Could your TH catch on fire and you die? Yes.

    Dave - November 4, 2015 Reply

    Said coldwell banker

Andrew - November 2, 2015 Reply

The funny thing is you can buy a 3 bedroom 2 bath single wide mobile home for under $40k. $50K for 300 square feet is not impressive, even if the design is.

    Sandy - November 2, 2015 Reply

    I agree

    Lou - November 2, 2015 Reply

    Andrew, I agree with you. When the article said ‘for only 50,000 dollars’ I thought it was a joke. It comes to more than 200 dollars for a square foot. I remember building my 4 bedroom , 2 1/2 half bath house for 50,000 dollars doing all the work myself in year 1980.

      Skooj - November 4, 2015 Reply

      I’m not sure that comparison shows exactly what you intended. In 1980, you spent the equivalent to $144,000 of today’s dollars on materials alone.

    Clare - November 2, 2015 Reply

    Not sure what you are getting at. Of course you can buy something with the same *utility* at a lower price. But most people opting for high-end tiny homes (if we want to call this high end) are massively downsizing. They want to live in a space with a certain aesthetic that makes up for all the space they are leaving behind. A beautiful (and expensive) tiny home is absolutely worth it if it means someone is more likely to stick with the lifestyle and avoid a traditional home mortgage for a longer period of time. I personally love my (not tiny but modestly sized) home not because of its utility value, but because it’s beautiful … and I payed extra for that beauty. And would do it again. Comparing this home to the cost of an RV kind of misses the point.

    Marcia - November 2, 2015 Reply

    I guess a mobile home isn’t quite as “mobile”, for one thing.

    Finishes are the other. Mobile homes are getting better though.

    April - November 3, 2015 Reply

    To the guy who made the comment about a mobile home being the same price…… Who wants to live in a mobile home which is cheap and ugly? This is beautiful and looks and has the feel of a luxury home

    Greg - November 5, 2015 Reply

    I thought the same exact thing. 50 grand for that? It’s pretty but not worth 50 grand.

    aarond - November 8, 2015 Reply

    what planet are you living on. 3 bed house for 50k lol, try leaving idaho for a moment.

    Suzie - December 28, 2015 Reply

    This is true, however the tiny’s ar way better insulated. It’s tough to live in a motor home in winter as the heater is on constantly

Mike - November 2, 2015 Reply

only 50k, that’s over 200.00 per sq. ft.

    Marcia - November 2, 2015 Reply

    would be a bargain in my town!

    alice h - November 2, 2015 Reply

    Mind you, there are upfront costs and there are ongoing costs. You might pay more up front for SIPs and really good windows and doors but you’ll pay a lot less for heat and light forever afterwards. Also save by not having to replace cheap components later on.

      Mike - November 2, 2015 Reply

      I build timber frames and cover them with sips. I built my first timber frame for ourselves and used sips. We had solid surface countertops, Shuler cabinets, built in cedar sauna, all wood t&g on the inside (no drywall), gas fireplace with nice rocked surround and lots of other nice amenities. It only came to $65 per sq. ft. I get the whole small home thing, I just don’t get the tiny home on wheels. Our last timber frame is going to be 600 sq. ft.

        Todd Richardson - November 7, 2015 Reply

        the “on wheels” bit is to get around building codes, most wouldn’t allow the loft space or the dimensions of a tiny house. By putting it on wheels you’re a tailer so the design is less limited

alice h - November 2, 2015 Reply

I guess “only” is a relative term. My “only” would probably involve one less zero but if they can afford it and it does what they want it to do it’s a successful build regardless of the cost.

Lavender Grey - November 2, 2015 Reply

Tiny houses used to be inexpensive alternatives. Now that the trend is to have one (the fancier, the better!), they (and the materials used to build them) are more in demand. No surprise that prices for both the homes and materials, as well as professionals who build them, have risen. Now, tiny homes are no longer inexpensive, although they are still less expensive than buying a full size home. Perhaps one day the popularity will wane and the prices will come down lower so that more people can afford to have one that otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford their own homes…which was the original thought on tiny homes, I believe.

    curt - November 2, 2015 Reply

    What should a tiny house cost? Its going cost what you put into it. currently most tiny homes are one of a kinds like handmade furniture. A hand made piece of furniture costs more than a particle board bookcase. They might function the same but the lifespan of the handmade piece of furniture is decades to centuries were the bookcase will be trashed with the next apartment move. With mass production you could get a more economical product- but you then start fighting the concept of the status of living in a poor house. When I go in to work at a big box – I do chuckle on how six months ago- I noticed one stealth RV in living in the parking lot- today I noticed four. I do think management has noticed but are not sure how to handle it.

    aarond - November 8, 2015 Reply

    people who build it themselves may choose to add fancy things to it. its still a very affordble option. are you saying that the cost of building materials has risen due to tiny houses? doubtful. yes, there are now companies who will charge you to build one. just like there are companies that will charge you to build a regular sized house for 3x the cost. i dont see your point. 35-50k is not a lot for a place to live. where I live, the avg home price is $650k…

michelle henry - November 3, 2015 Reply

you need to be concerned with spray in insulation and its flammability as well..always have an escape from the loft sleeping area
1

William Kastrinos - November 3, 2015 Reply

This is Bill Kastrinos, founder of Tortoise Shell Home. When I saw this discussion going on, through the high tech BlueTooth connection on my Lamborghini, purchased while taking advantage of the Tiny Home Community, I just had to pull over and comment. First, square footage cost has nothing to do with Tiny House Living. A $1,000 demand hot water heater (not including labor which might be considered profiteering, equates to $2.00 a square foot in a 2000 square foot home. In a 200 square foot home, it is $5.00 a square foot. The bottom line is not square foot cost, you are saving a bunch on monthly bills. Add labor it gets uglier. Typically, please don’t compare us with rubber stamped manufactured homes, we are looking at 500 hours labor for a 200 sq. ft. tiny home. In a manufacturing environment. With an average material cost of $11,000, at $10 an hour that brings us to $16,000, no profit. If we are bold enough to charge $15 an hour, what they are seeking as minimum wage for a burger flipper in San Francisco, we are now at $18,500, no profit. A modest 20% profit we are at $22,200. If I were bold enough to charge what Camping World charges to work on you RV, $125 an hour, we are at $62,500 plus $11,000 for materials. Or $73,500 total. And by the way, I can frame a 2000 sq ft home, in about the same time I can frame a 200 sq. foot home and properly attach it to a trailer. The bigger question, if your are truly concerned about global warming, and conservation, are you willing to spend more, and adjust to a minimalist life style, even if it costs you a little more up front? Are you willing to spend more for a solar system, than coal generated electricity? Your savings on monthly bills, not considering interest on a 30 year mortgage, and there lies the beauty of Tiny House Living. My hat’s off to this couples triumph in simplistic and totalitarian design!!

    Bill - November 3, 2015 Reply

    A most excellent response Bill.

    I see many complaints on this blog that people spent 25K building a tiny house and have the nerve to ask 35K for it.

    I’ll be in touch soon for the 28′ trailer. I’m building the 28′ Open plan on the link above.

    Bill Mitchell (soon to be in Upland CA)

    Mike - November 5, 2015 Reply

    The article states that they built the home themselves. I realize companies must make a profit when building anything including tiny homes. What I don’t get is the whole tiny homes on wheels thing. I can build the same size home (timber frame) using sips on a foundation for a lot less than $200.00 per sq. ft. It is going to be just as energy efficient as the one in the article and even more so since it doesn’t need a fuel guzzling truck to move it. I’m all for people getting out of the rat race and not getting a mortgage but I think there are better ways to do it and not be constrained by an 8′ width when building on a trailer.

      Bill - November 5, 2015 Reply

      Hi Mike,

      I have happy feet. I hate always living in the same place with the same view. I hate routine. I tend to throw my life in the air occasionally just to see where it lands.

      But I hate packing.

      I can only speak for myself but the tiny house movement is the best solution to my life needs.

      aarond - November 8, 2015 Reply

      yea if you think that living your entire life in one spot makes any sense. some people are insistent on missing the point.

    William Kastrinos - November 6, 2015 Reply

    Forgive my math, little off, you get the jist of it. Southern Ca. sun 🙂

William Kastrinos - November 6, 2015 Reply

Mike,
I couldn’t agree with you more. You can’t beat a stick built home with a real foundation.
In California, we are trying to beat the system by building and following RV rules, which are much less restrictive and expensive than building a fixed dwelling. First we are limited to a minimum of 700 sq. feet, and building permits and school taxes can get us up to $30,000 and much more before you turn any dirt on even the tiniest of conventional homes.
My wife and I lived in Northern California when we first started Tortoise Shell Home, in two different tiny houses, for five years. We parked on a friends property, and no one said boo. We lived extremely cheaply, and could not have afforded to live there otherwise. Rents are so prohibitive in the San Francisco area, there is a huge Tiny House movement, on wheels, to avoid Building and Safety and other prohibitive laws, just to get by. They are popping up everywhere. Water homes are also on that list. Most notably in Sausalito, but other areas as well.
So if you are in an area where you can build a fixed dwelling, or tree house for that matter, fantastic!! I am jealous!
Bill Kastrinos
Tortoise Shell Home LLC

Westin - November 15, 2015 Reply

Does anyone know how much this house weighed? Starting to worry I may have overbuilt my tiny house! D:

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