Can A Pre-Fab Be Made Into a Tiny House?

The question is asked so often and so often people respond with affirmative as if it is the easiest task in the world. Perhaps it may be. But it still requires some planning, some elbow grease, and some skill. What are we talking about? Turning a pre-fab garage or barn or shed into a tiny house.

Yes, there are modifications to be made. Perhaps the biggest stumbling block is that these pre-fabs are not rough plumbed or rough wired.  They also don’t have insulation or interior walls. However, they are sturdy and typically have a sound build structure.

In the video below I submit it can be done…and for under $20,000 USD.

After having watched the above video I hope you’ll consider subscribing to the Tiny r(E)volution via the button below for a weekly video uncovering more topics of tiny houses and life on the road.


By Andrew M. Odom for the [Tiny House Blog]

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Dee - July 1, 2015 Reply

I’ve been asking this same question for years.

Serenity - July 1, 2015 Reply

I those folks on Texas Move and Flip can turn a small shipping container into a pool house Yeas a shed can do the job

Jerry - July 2, 2015 Reply

I don’t recall exactly where or when I heard it, but I remember applauding the resourcefulness of working poor families who took prefab sheds, garages, etc to do this same thing across LA and SF.

The earning power of many of those folks just wasn’t enough to afford what the housing market demands for rent or purchase.

In many cases they set their tiny homes up in the back yards of friends or family, complete with power and plumbing.

The sour note was the gnawing fear that a neighbor might turn them in. Then they’d be homeless and their friends or family would be in legal trouble for a lack of permits, zoning and face hostility from City Hall and some neighbors for “lowering ” property values. What a shame.

jipsi - July 2, 2015 Reply

Jerry, Don’t hate me. Please.
But I was one of ‘those neighbors’ who did report on something similar, but believe me, it did not end up at all the way I’d hoped iit would…
See, I lived in a nice, edge-of-town mobile home park. Though there were many brand new late-model double-wides and manufactured homes therein, there were also some 14 and 16 foot widers, but they were BEAUTIFUL: recently painted, most with addon improvements and nice finished decks or pergola shaed patios, even window shutters, trellises, house-type roof-overs, etc., the fact these homes were ‘older’ made not the least bit of difference as it was very clear their dwellers loved and took care of their not-so-standard home. And the ‘laws’! I could go on and on about the incredible amount of attention went into beautifying their ‘trailers’, like espalliered (sp?) trees and shrubs, from magnolias to climbing roses, sunflowers and chrysanthemums, peonies and lilies…
And then the ‘court’ changed hands, and the new management started RENTING out some of the vacant homes.
Still, no big deal, on one side of me, the nicest single mother and daughter moved in, and we shared everything once we became friends (single mothers NEED that – another single mother as a bestie – because we bothunderstand howhard it is juggling kids, the job, daycare, those spur-of-the-moment needs for ‘someone to watch my kid an hour’ when an emergency comes up…
But then the gentleman in the home on the other side passed away. After a few months, people started moving in (I thought they had bought the place – it wasn’t till later I found out the new management was now renting their collection of ‘for sale’ homes as a policy).
It was a nice young couple with two small children. And I wondered, that is a TINY 2 bedroom home, but then again, working families have to start somewhere…
Within four weeks, it became clear, by the amount of late model vehiclesthat were not only parking 4-up in their alotted 2 car driveway but lining up, sometimes 3 or 4 more vehicles, to BLOCK MY DRIVEWAY… one night, there was a truck parked behind MY CAR, and two cars were doubling up in MY 2nd space. I went outside and told them they could not park there! Their response? They shrugged, shook their heads at me, said ‘No Ingles!’ and walked away! I went inside and BIT MY LIP ALL NIGHT.
The next morning when my drivewaywas clear again, I went to my neighbors and knocked on their door, thinking I’d politely ask them to ask their guests to NOT park in the neighbor’s drive (MY drive)… imagine my surprise when, as the young man opened the door, it was the same man from last night who had muttered he couldn’t understand me! Behind him, the woman I now assumed was his wife. Around her, three small children tugged and pulled at both the man and woman – he turned and called back to someone else and here came the couple I’d seen originally when they moved in. I also saw, over their shoulder, a WALL HAD BEEN ERECTED SPLITTING THE LIVING ROOM IN HALF – and the man and woman who were the renters came out of a closed door to joi the other couple and their children. It took me TEN MINUTES to explain why I was there. I left feeling I’d accomplished nothing. Time to pull out my Spanish language books (I took it in high school a couple years) and learn to communicate with my neighbors, I thought.
See, I’m an open, friendly person, and even though I knew, then, that there were TWO FAMILIES living in that little trailer, I figured better communication on my part was going to benefit us all, in the long run…
But things just got worse. Their parties continued, up to ten or a dozen vehicles besides their own, their parties spilling out into their little yard, the street, MY DRIVEWAY! My son and I would take walks every evening, and in passing the little trailer, their were always a dozen or so plastic chairs left sitting in the yard, some overturned, and EMPTY QUART BEER BOTTLES lying everywhere! I know it’s rough trying to clean up after a party when you’re tired (and drunk), but for Pete’s Sake, have some decency and put the GARBAGE away at least! Of course, there was also garbge that had made it into the street. And I found myself cleaning up my OWN YARD often after their parties, beer bottles, cans, cardboard boxes the brew came in (once they or their friends had partied UNDERNEATH MY BEDROOM WINDOWS!). I made a few complaints to the neighbors (went nowhere, even though I had shared it to them in spanish and KNEW they understood), then to the management… Management told me that NO ONE OWNED any ‘yard space’ or driveways, we may own our homes, but THEY owned the lots and we rent the lots (and driveway and yard) from THEM. Then came the comment the manager lady made that chilled me to the bone: “Well, they pay their rent months in advance.” As if THAT was the singlemost important qualification management enjoyed the most.
The nice single mother on the other side of me? Her daughter was pulled from her bike, and beaten by a couple of the older kids (the SECOND family) before they rode off on her little Huffy bike. So she MOVED. And management moved more of the same in. I heard hammering and drilling all night the first weekend, and wondered if they were ‘modifying’ their rental, too -YEP, they were, because a few weeks later, their driveway was filled with shiny new trucks and SUV’s and THREE FAMILIES (two couples, their two or three kids apiece, AND an older couple – gramma and grampa? – with a middle-aged man that I assumed was an Uncle, from the way the kids treated him).
Normally, I would have never batted an eye at a neighbor’s business, as long as they were reasonably quiet, respected me as I respected them, kept their lot neat…
But now I was literally in the CENTER of a total of 6 or more families – both ‘renters’ having converted their 2 and 3 bedroom mobile homes into multi-efficiency ‘rooms’/apartmentlets …
It’s too many people – yes, I am happy they all seemed to be WORKING – but in less than six months, from February to July, from the original total of four vehicles between three mobile homes and lots, to suddenly there being four to six vehicles PER DRIVEWAY on either side of me … I can’t even guess the amount lining the street when they EACH had company – which was several nights a week, not just weekends; if my driveway is being used by people OTHER THAN ME, and BLOCKED on top of that, and I cannot get out even if my life depended on it, it’s TOO MUCH.
I had to move. I had to leave my beautiful, PERFECT cottagey home – because the management told me I was going to have to ‘get used to it, times are getting tight for everyone’.
The last straw?
I love flowers. My little yard was a haven for me, and I had lovely old-fashioned roses on either side of my deck, up against my mobile home. I had beautiful 10 year old peonies of different species in the front and back of the ‘yard’. And ON MY DECK, i had a container garden of roses, clematis, honeysuckle and nasturtiums. I knew when every bud was about to open, as I loved keeping fresh flowers in a vase indoors.
One morning, I saw that a beautiful golden yellow rose had three opening buds, and I was so happy, because that rosebush was from a group of graftings my sister had cut from my MOTHER’S ROSES (before she passed away in 1988), and after three years of nurturing, it was finally healthy and blooming. When I came home from work, that afternoon, the FIRST THING I SAW as I came up my deck steps was a TRAMPLED yellow rose in a pulp beside the bush, and the other two new blossoms were GONE. As a matter of fact, a whole BRANCH WAS GONE. Part of it was bent down, as if it had literally been PULLED APART… this was done by kids, obviously. An adult would know there are nasty thorns in there…
Of course I was angry. But the first thought that crossed my mind was worry that someone could’ve been hurt badly… and I had given up telling the children to stay out of my yard. Believe me, I memorized several phrases in spanish, to ‘be careful’, and ‘please play in your yard’, but they just laughed at me as if they didn’t understand, and there was no talking to any of the adults….
In effect, *I* had become the DANGER to my neighbors’ children, children who scampered around with no qualms about playing in someone else’s ‘yard’, and, obviously, no respect for property of others’, eiither.
I was heartbroken because those three roses were going to be picked when they were ready, placed in a vase by me, enjoyed for a week or so in my home. Gardening had become my hobby after several years of dealing with uterine cancer, surgeries, illnesses, more surgeries…
I’m afraid I’m going on so….
But, the moral to the fable is this:
IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO PUT MORE THAN A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF PEOPLE, SO CLOSE TOGETHER, AND EXPECT THERE TO BE NO MAJOR PROBLEMS. Even though they were dealing with their own tight spaces within their mobile homes, this cramming of too many in too little was spilling out into the yard, homes and LIVES of neighbors.
I was not alone in moving. Quite a few other owners sold their homes, sadly and reluctantly, like me, because the ‘new tenants’, and the ‘new management’ that wasn’t enforcing any rules or order whatsoever, had made it impossible to continue living there SAFELY. Everyone I talked to was worried about the same happening to them: one of these tiny tots streaking around like puppies across the street, through yards, onto neighbors’ decks and patios, was going to get hurt – whether by thorny roses as they pinched a few blooms off on their way home to give their mama , or by stubbing a toe against a lawnmower left to cool down before being put away, or RUN OVER BY A CAR someone was backing slowly out of their driveway – and we’d be responsible, somehow…
It’s a shame, because it was one of the last really pretty, nice, family mobile home parks left in this area; now it is overrun by transients, drug deals take place near the school bus stops, every week the police report in the paper mentions somebody’s home there has been burglarized. Or burned down. Or that rats the size of cats had infested one of the homes therein that had been vacant but notoriously used as a flop house/party house.
So there is a DELICATE BALANCE that must be adhered, by both the residents of an area, and the newcomer(s) moving in. Above all, RESPECT for each other is the most important. But it is not safe, nor is it ETHICAL, to allow (or turn a blind eye to) so many people into spaces that were never meant to house more than a single or couple.

I realize the whole premise behind ‘living with less’/living tiny means one *could* convert an 800 square foot mobile home into a ‘duplex’ for two families of four (total of 9, ‘coz the first family did move their grampa in just before I moved away).
But sometimes one has to look around and FIRST consider the logistics and livability of ALL CONCERNED – yes, the neighbors. Because shoehorning three families into small spaces that were once a SINGLE residence CAN be done, does not mean it SHOULD be done.
Sorry so long, but I felt this was important enough to address, the subject of people turning backyard sheds/outbuldings into cute little ‘bungalows’ they might just decide to RENT OUT.
Because, ultimately, this will mean MORE PEOPLE, MORE VEHICLES, MORE NOISE… and more ‘sharing’ of space(s) the neighbors (homeowners) might NOT feel like sharing…
I think the fastest way to turn unenlightened people OFF on the subject of tiny homes might just be this, the proliferation of such backyard sheds/tinies and their occupants difectly (but unintentionally) causing parking, property and privacy issues.

    Lisa E. - July 5, 2015 Reply

    We are adding population at a rate that is only going to drive all of this up. We are adding a city the size of San Francisco every three days. We need to start thinking about population control.

    It is estimated that the world population reached one billion for the first time in 1804. It was another 123 years before it reached two billion in 1927, but it took only 33 years to reach three billion in 1960.[70] Thereafter, the global population reached four billion in 1974, five billion in 1987, six billion in 1999 and, according to the United States Census Bureau, seven billion in March 2012.

      jipsi - July 5, 2015 Reply

      YES! Someone who SEES what’s happening as I do!
      EVERYTHING ‘bad’ that’s happening in this world, right now? Is a direct result of there being TOO MANY PEOPLE IN THIS WORLD, and TOO FAST.
      It’s funny, isn’t it (funny as in ODD, because nobody’s laughing), how government leaders, organizations, think tanks and big biz, all, unilaterally, SAY NOTHING about the need for POPULATION CONTROL, but they’ll blame hunger, war, disease, etc. on anything else, almost always on SOMETHING that will impact politics or profits.
      The plain science of it all is, we are approaching the tipping point of cataclysmic disaster, and we’ll reap dire consequences to the runaway population problem.
      Thanks for a spot-on comment, Lisa. Brilliant point, and I definitely agree…

        Lester - July 12, 2015 Reply

        Jipsi and Lisa E., both of you raised very valid points. First, it is not a good idea to create ghettos comprised of too many tiny houses or many sub-divided houses. Second, unchecked population growth is bad for communities, regions, and the world. Elected officials prefer to remain in office (and be re-elected), rather than address the tough issues which challenge all of us.

      You are morons - October 3, 2016 Reply

      They call that exponential growth. What is the point of providing such remedial information without offering a remedy. “Population control?” You want to kill off some people or how do you suggest this be done?

        Mark - May 15, 2017 Reply

        Nothing will be done but Mother Nature will sort it out if populations get out of whack. As really smart mammals we aren’t immune from her rules of balance.

Lynnette - July 8, 2015 Reply

I can’t find you on YouTube

Rachel - July 14, 2015 Reply

We currently live in an pre-fab converted tiny house. We’re on the upper end at 300 s.f., but it’s perfect for a young couple. Also, we’re in grad school, so it was cheaper than purchasing all the lumber ourselves. We have one of those Graceland Portable Buildings on an anchored foundation. My fiance and his dad did everything except the outside. We love it! If we got to do it again, we would insulate the floor, build the ceiling along the pitch of the roof, and get a pre-fab with a lofted space.

D. A. Larson - July 29, 2015 Reply

I made a recreational, off-grid, mobile, mini-cabin starting with a 10x12ft. lofted garden shed for $3,900 total!
Read the book for .99 Cents!

marielynne - October 30, 2016 Reply

I hear the concerns as laid out by the person who had to move from the mobile park after irresponsible managers ruined a lovely small living park. Multiple code violations would have kept the local code officer pretty busy if they would have acted on any call made to complain. With cutbacks in city government, the very people they mean to serve by saving city money suffer the consequences. Child protective services, code officers, health inspectors, fire marshals and the police should have been swarming that place like clockwork. Im sorry your city failed you. But, and im sorry ive had to add the but…good people, hard working people, are being forced into living in their cars and they are purchasing mobile homes because rent is out of control and new apartment buildings are addressing housing for only one class…young well educated upper income people. I work for a city and if I ever lost my home that came from my marriage (spouse now deceased), I would be doing the same. As it is, my home is small and I share it with my 22 year old son, who cannot afford to rent. The rent in my area is 2x what I make per paycheck. I could not afford to buy because the economic crash killed my credit when I lost my job and my husbands construction company business dried up. I am in the same boat as 3/4 of my fellow city dwellers. At the time of the crash, a new housing development was just finished in the center of town. They sat unoccupied for 3 years then started filling up. They were meant for middle income and retirement couples, now it is occupied with upper income city dwellers forced from the major city near us. Not one lower income family was planned into these condos. A brand new block of “retirement” condos just went in and only 3 are for lower income and now are so outpriced, again, only upper income will be able to afford them. 2 in my office had 2 rent increases in less than a year when the leases went to 6 month from 2 years. They are having to move their families again, this time the commute will be 1 hour each way, on a good day. Our transit has cut back, not grown, and seems to totally ignore the influx of new arrivals and newly commuting people. Local building codes, zoning, do not allow mother in laws. Apartment building codes force full size kitchens and bathrooms and leave very little living space. Where a new one bedroom apartment with full kitchen and bath could be reconfigured with tiny home kitchens and baths, 4 could live comfortably. Lots that are considered family size could house 4 tiny homes. And, if coded properly, they could be better looking than most of the homes in area. Things need to change in the government to address putting more people less space, and until they change codes and zoning, it will not happen. The heads need to come out of the sand..people need a safe place to live and they no longer require it to be 2000 sqf nor do they want 360sqf with 100k worth of bells and whistles that make the space unobtainable.

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