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Tiny House Kit Beginner’s Buying Guide

by | Last Updated: Aug 29, 2018 | Tiny House Kits | 0 comments

Looking to downsize permanently or to add a guest house or extra office space in your home? If so, you might want to look into tiny houses. Tiny houses are efficient, environmentally-friendly, and cost-effective, so many people love them.
Spurred by a combination of adverse economic events (i.e., downturn of the housing sector, inflation and high mortgage rates) as well as environmental factors (e.g., hurricane Katrina), an increasing number of people are opting for a minimalist lifestyle.
Since the first tiny homes were built on trailers decades ago, many new construction ideas and styles have emerged, including the tiny house kit.  Tiny house buyers guide is aimed at beginners thinking of buying a tiny house kit. In this guide, we compare several pathways to tiny house ownership. We go into detail on the pros and cons of buying a tiny house kit, factors to consider when buying a kit, as well as where to buy a tiny house kit.
For other topics related to tiny houses, take a look at this curated list of books.

The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less. – Socrates

Table of Contents

Ways to Own a Tiny Home

As interest in tiny homes continues to rise, one major challenge has been how to make building a tiny house manageable for both amateurs and professionals. There are several pathways to tiny house ownership, including building one from scratch, using pre-built tiny house shells, buying a completed tiny house, or buying a DIY tiny house kit.

DIY Build Your Own From Scratch

An obvious option is to build your tiny home yourself from scratch. This option involves conceptualizing a design either by yourself or getting the blueprints and building instructions online. You’d also have to look for a trailer that specifically meets the requirements of your blueprints. For more knowledge on how to build a tiny house from scratch, check out The Tiny Life. You can also visit our Events/Courses/Workshops resource page for a list of tiny house educational events around the world.

The building process can be broken down into 3 major steps:

Step 1. Planning:

The planning stage consists of budget planning, selecting a site, determining the major features of your future tiny house, and designing and drawing up/buying of floor plans.

Step 2. Sourcing:

Before construction can start, both the materials and the tools for the building of the tiny house will need to be sourced. Some of the likely construction materials include lumber, insulation sheaths for the roof, etc.

Step 3. Construction:

The actual construction of the tiny house involves multiple sub-steps, including building the foundation, framing the walls, sheathing, roof framing, creating window and door openings, hanging wall panels etc.

There are pros and cons to building a tiny home from scratch yourself, as explained below:

PROS

Involvement:

Homeowners can be intimately involved in the building process, starting with the design of the tiny house to its final interior decoration. You are at the helm of the decision-making process. Your high level of involvement in the building process is likely to ensure a final product that is in line with your needs and vision.

Flexibility:

Homeowners building their own tiny homes can decide to make changes midway for a variety of reasons (e.g., lack of needed materials that call for downsizing of the original floor plan, desire to increase depth of foundation or to substitute the wall panels). As long as you’re willing to shoulder any additional costs resulting from these changes, then you’re fine. You’re your own boss in the project.

Price:

Because you’re in control of the building process, you can try to keep building costs as low as possible. For those on a shoestring budget, you can take various cost-saving measures to keep building costs affordable, to as low as perhaps $8000. You can find a sample breakdown of expected costs here.

CONS

Time-consuming:

Building a tiny house from scratch requires substantial time commitment. You will have to pay attention to even the smallest detail. You can hire a professional crew to help you but that might be costly.

Building experience:

Unless you have prior knowledge of construction (e.g., cutting and sectioning) and is handy with tools, it is not advisable to build your tiny house from scratch. Without help from a building professional, you might not know whether or not your tiny house is structurally sound and safe to live in.

Tiny Houses On Wheels

– Watch This Before You Buy Or Build!

Click here for other Tiny House Related Videos.

Tiny Houses On Wheels

– Watch This Before You Buy Or Build!

Click here for other Tiny House Related Videos.

Semi-DIY Pre-Built Tiny House Shells

A pre-built tiny house shell comprises the doors, windows, roofing, flooring and walls. It might even come with a custom trailer. In essence, getting a tiny house shell is akin to getting the framing of the house – the majority of the work has already been done in the production facility.
The only major task the homeowner is faced with is the home’s exterior and interior finishing touches. If you prefer the option of having the difficult part of the tiny home construction already done for you, check out the options provided by 84 Tiny Living.

PROS

Little-to-no-experience needed:

Building a tiny house with a pre-built shell requires no building experience.

Time-saving:

With the framing of the house already provided, much time is saved. You just have to decorate and finish the interior.

CONS

Cost:

A pre-built tiny house shell can cost anywhere from $5,000-$60,000.

Flexibility:

When you purchase pre-built tiny house shells, making changes to the size of the home or dimensions of the structure at a whim is not possible because the sections are often created by the manufacturers with a set floor plan in mind.

Move-In Ready Tiny Homes

If you aren’t handy or are not interested in DIY options, you might consider buying a completed tiny house. It’s a home that’s ready for immediate move-in and travel. This is the most expensive option for owning a tiny home, as the manufacturer is responsible for the entire construction process. However, if you have a larger budget, this option might be worth considering. These homes might take several weeks for custom completion. Check out the option provided by 84 Tiny Living.

Pre-Made Tiny House Kits

Besides the options listed above, you can also buy a tiny house kit. The tiny house kit is a prepackaged assembly of the tiny house which includes every screw, precut wood and window for the building process.
Now, with a tiny house kit, not only do you get the opportunity to be involved in the construction process, the amount of time needed to complete the building is relatively low compared to building from scratch. This is akin to completing a crossword puzzle where you just need to put the pieces together. Jamaica House Cottage offers a wide array of DIY tiny house kits at varying prices. Check out other DIY tiny house kit vendors. The remainder of this guide explains pre-made tiny house kits in greater detail.

Buying a Tiny House Kit: Pros

Predictable Costs

If you’re building your tiny house from scratch, you’d have to budget for a variety of expenses, including material costs, design costs, costs of labour (if hiring professional help), costs of tools (if special tools are needed), etc. These costs may quickly spiral out of control.
In contrast, the costs associated with tiny house kits are much more predictable, since the remaining step after purchasing a tiny house kit is the assembly of the tiny house itself.

Minimal Building Experience Needed

If you’re building from scratch, you’d likely need a professional’s help to either create the architectural blueprints or provide technical advice on building materials.
Tiny home kits, on the other hand, are typically designed to optimize for DIY construction without the need for professional help or specialist construction tools. A novice can usually take a look at the instructions that come with the kit and assemble the house without much trouble.

Time-Saving

With a tiny house kit, the majority of the grunt work (e.g., selection and processing of materials) has already been done at the facility. Depending on the complexity of your tiny house and your assembly speed, you might be able to move into your tiny house in a couple of weeks or even days!

Environmental-Friendliness

When tiny homes are built from scratch, by-products (e.g., wood shavings, extra sheaths, oversized panels, etc.) generated from the construction process might be discarded.
On the other hand, factories typically produce tiny house kits en-mass, so they are able to recycle any byproduct or waste generated from one production cycle for another production cycle, thereby reducing wastage.
Compared to the typical American home, tiny houses leave a smaller carbon footprint. They consume less energy due to their smaller size. They may also come equipped with eco-conscious technologies, such as solar panels.

Customization/Personalization

Small house kits typically come in varying shapes and sizes with different options for design and personalization. In many cases, manufacturers may be willing to fulfill buyer’s customization requests.

Buying a Tiny House Kit: Cons

Design

Unless you’re opting for a custom-made small home kit (which is likely to be a costly optio), most of the tiny kits sold online or in local malls look generic, as they are bulk produced in factories. For the prospective small house owner seeking a tiny house kit on a budget, the design aspect will not be an area where he or she has much control over.

Flexibility

You must typically follow the architectural blueprint and instructions that come with the tiny house kit to the smallest detail. Trying to make a change to the structure of the tiny house that deviates from the manufacturer’s instructions can create problems for the final product. The types of fittings (e.g., piping and plumbing, windows, doors etc) allowed beyond those that come with the kit may also be limiting.

Factors to Consider When Buying a Tiny House Kit

What Is Your Lifestyle/Family Size?

The size of your family, as well as your lifestyle patterns, should play a heavy role in your decision-making process. A large family would probably not find it comfortable to reside in a tiny home. If you have toddlers, keep in mind they probably enjoy having to space to run around. If you have teenage children, they would want a bit of privacy to have friends over. As parents, you to might need some quiet time away from all the noise.

Where Will You Place Your Tiny House?

Do you have personal land or outdoor space where you can properly assemble the kit into a tiny house? If you have land for your tiny house, have you conducted the necessary safety evaluations on your land? You should also consider whether the tiny houses assembled from the kits could be easily integrated with the available utilities, such as water and power hookups. You might be able to construct a tiny home kit as an accessory unit on a lot with other homes or on wheels to be kept in an RV park or in a rural area. The Tiny Life talks more about choosing land for building tiny homes.

What Are The Building Codes And Standards In Your Area?

You should become familiar with your local building codes, as laws vary state by state about acceptable structures. Any home created from a small kit must be able to stand up to natural disasters. Avoid kits that are not up to HUD (The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) standards. Mini Motives offers more on building codes for small homes. Check out our resource page as well.

What Type Of Home Do You Want?

Would you like your tiny house to be mobile or stationary? You decision will influence the type of kit you end up buying. You have the option of building on a slab, foundation, trailer or on wheels.
For the tiny home built on a foundation, it will have to conform to your area’s building codes.
If you want your home to be movable or kept in a park, it will have to meeting recreational vehicle (RV) home standards set by the RVIA (Recreational Industry Vehicle Association).

What Kind Of Materials Are You Using?

The quality of the tiny home kit has a direct impact on the durability of the final structure created from it. Make sure your tiny house kit is made from quality materials that can withstand the harshest environmental conditions in your area.
Many different factors contribute to a tiny home kit’s durability. For example, you may ask the manufacturer what type/grade of wood comes with the kit. What were the treatment procedures for the wood? The Tiny House Community and Tiny Life offer deeper insights into sourcing for materials for tiny homes. Make sure to read previous buyers’ reviews of the tiny house kit you’re considering buying.

What Utilities & Appliances Are Included In Your Kit?

Does your tiny home kit include utilities and appliances? If plumbing is included, how does it work? if there is no plumbing, does the kit include instructions/recommendations on how to set it up? What is the setup for electricity? Is it going to be sourced from solar panels? Does the kit come with insulation? Remember you’re going to spend a good amount of your time in your tiny house, so building for comfort is paramount.

What Do Other Buyers Think?

Do some research on what other buyers think about the tiny house kit you’re thinking of purchasing. However, keep in mind reviews are often subjective and can vary for different users. If possible, try to reach out to buyers directly (e.g., through their blogs) to ask them questions directly.
Sometimes, buyers might even write about their experiences on their blogs. For example, the Tiny House Blog contains a review of the Tumbleweed Tiny House Kits while The Tiny House Net has a review of Tumbleweed and Tiny Home Builders Kits.

Where to Buy Tiny House Kits

Look online! A simple input of “tiny house kits for sale” into any reputable search engine is likely to bring forth thousands of results. To find results that are more specific to your area, try to include your location information in your search phrase (e.g., “tiny house kits for sale in Alabama”).
Check out our resource page for companies that operate in different parts of the world. Many of them sell DIY tiny house kits.
You can also easily order tiny house kits from Amazon. On Amazon, you can get a tiny house prefabricated from a shipping container for $36,000. This tiny house comes with bunk beds, toilet, and the necessary facilities that you need for an ideal home.
Check out these other tiny house kits available to order from Amazon!

Allwood has a strong presence on Amazon and several great DIY home kits at reasonable prices. Check out Amazon Garden & Outdoor for different tiny kit options and reviews left by buyers.

Tiny House Kits Under $5,000

A professionally-built move-in ready tiny house can cost about $80,000. If you don’t have a huge budget for your tiny house, then DIY tiny home kits is probably the way to go. Some of these small home kits even cost under $5000.
Tiny house kits costing under $5,000 are appealing for many reasons. You probably would not have to take out a mortgage loan to finance your purchase. Additionally, the length of time required to set up a very basic tiny house is usually minimal (e.g., days or even hours). Setup usually does not require prior building experience.
However, to make the tiny home kits affordable, oftentimes only the most basic aspects of the home (e.g., beams, roof panelling, trims) are included in the kit. The kits may lack certain utilities/fixtures (e.g., plumbing, electrical wiring). These can usually be added on for an additional fee. At the end of the day, the cost of buying a “cheap” tiny house kit plus the cost of extra concessions might end up being more than just buying a kit that offers everything at once.
Also, to reduce production costs, be aware that manufacturers may sometimes substitute certain materials for those that are less expensive. For example, the kit may use engineered wood, which is much cheaper than solid hardwood.
Before making a purchase, always check with the manufacturer and read the specifications and fine print carefully.

Here are a few companies that offer tiny house kits under $5000:

Arched Cabin Designs

Arched Cabin Designs, based in Cypress, TX, has been offering their signature Arched Cabins for years. According to their website, their Arched Cabins have been used for almost everything from animal shelters, RV shelters, workshops, retirement homes, lodges and vacation homes.
In terms of sizing variants and the pricing, it is quite incredible to see what they offer. The size of the cabin kits varies from 8’ x 8’ wide to 24’ x 40’. The smallest 8′ x 8′ unit can be bought for under $1000. Request for certain upgrades may bring the cost to $1400. A kit for a 12′ x 24′ unit goes for under $5000 including all the basic essentials. The company also offers buyers the opportunity to get custom designs with specific measurements.
For more on sizing and prices, check out Arched Cabin Designs.

Summerwood

Summerwood offers a range of building options, including small home kits, prefab sheds, outdoor cabins, etc. Make sure to browse their offerings, take a look at their featured customers’ favorites, or ask them about their custom designs. For example, their Glen Echo model starts below $5,000. Also check out their Sonoma model for some affordable options.

Close to Home

Close to Home offers a tiny house kit called “Shelter in a Day” for a price of $4,999 (exclusive of tax and shipping). Like the name suggests, this kit can easily be set up within a day. Regardless of whether you intend to make use of the house as a permanent abode or for temporary use due to one disaster or the other, the 144-square foot (12’ x 12’) structure has a lot to offer, so make sure to check it out!

Conclusion

A DIY tiny house kit can be a good investment for people who would like to own a house of their own relatively quickly and affordably.
As we have seen, building a tiny house from scratch does not have to be time-consuming for novice builders. There are plenty of relatively affordable and doable tiny house kits for sale. With some research, you should be able to find a kit that fits into your budget and meets your specific lifestyle needs.
If you would like to discuss DIY tiny house kits with other tiny house enthusiasts, please feel free to join our free Slack channel.
Please leave your comments below or reach out to us!

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