Plan To Build. Build To Plan.

Let it be known that building a tiny house is absolutely not for the weak of heart. It is not for pregnant women, men with heart trouble, people under 5 foot tall, or people who are taking antidepressants or other mood enhancement drugs.

Okay, so that is a bit of a stretch. I think you get the point though.

One of the greatest challenges in life regarding a home is deciding to build a house yourself. It doesn’t even matter what size, big or small. The project starts out innocently enough. Maybe a sketch on a napkin or a desire to be more independent. But before long it has blossomed in to a j-o-b complete with frustrations, late afternoon trips to hardware stores, lots of YouTube videos, swollen knees and knuckles, and the occasional curse word. But rest assured that no matter how tough it may be it can also be the most gratifying experience in life akin to giving birth or cultivating a food plot from nothing but dirt.


As with any project planning should come before execution. A good plan has two parts; the mental planning and the material planning. The mental planning involves some serious soul searching and some thought about need -vs- want. How much space do you need? How do you want your house to look? How adept are you at building and how much experience do you have? The material planning involves sketches, drawing, schematics, material lists, cut lists, timelines, and budgets. If you are serving as contractor and are going to need some help building your tiny house you will also want to plan out subcontractors, a schedule of payments and inspections, as well as any necessary permitting according to local codes. Remember, since you are building the house yourself many of the tasks associated above will be completed by yourself so organization is essential.


I once taught an eCourse about building a tiny house. It was years ago. However, the primary thing I taught is still just as relevant today. It is the ‘inspiration notebook‘. It is called such because it begins innocently enough as just a gathering spot for inspiration but it evolves as the build does. I asked that it be color coded or sectioned complete with sheet protectors and pockets. In it you can keep magazine clippings, computer printouts, paint chips, etc. I encourage detail as the more detail you allow yourself the more likely you’ll find solutions to problems in your design. I also insist that a section be designated to receipts and budget worksheets. Once building begins a section may lend itself to contracts, warranties, and agreements.


Building a tiny house may be a small undertaking in terms of square feet but it is like any other home build. You need to do your home work beginning with the land upon which you are going to build. Because tiny houses are often built on trailers you need to check with your municipality about such a project. Can you have a trailer in your yard? Can you build a house on your property? Are there noise or visual ordinances? Then think about where the house will reside. Will it be completely mobile or just rest on the assurance that it can be mobile if need be? You need to think about site orientation, water tables, and even surface composition. One of the first things you should also check regarding where your new home will rest is if the municipality has a size restriction requiring homes to be a certain minimum size.

It is also important to do your homework regarding building materials. There are so many choices in todays market ranging from natural products to engineered ones. Check to see what is available in your area, what the costs associated are, life expectancy, and maintenance required. With a tiny house you have some advantages that don’t exist with large homes. You can use more sustainable products without exploding your budget. You can use higher grade windows, perhaps a metal roof, and some sustainable resources that in a larger home just wouldn’t be affordable.


As ironic as it sounds, building a tiny house is a big job. There may be some aspects that are simply beyond your skill or even interest level. You may need a substantial amount of outside expertise. You may need none. But you need to know what you can handle and what you can’t. It is important to note though that the more outside help you have to hire, the more the overall project will cost. Plan for those expenses up front to save frustration, time, and even rework.

Have fun building. Remember this is your adventure. Take charge!

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

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Gareth Bean - March 20, 2017 Reply

This is the real lumberjack 🙂

Rita - March 20, 2017 Reply

I really liked your idea of the inspiration notebook. I need to start one SOON. I have all these ideas tumbling around in my head. THANK YOU

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