Check out my new book!

“A Publishers Weekly top ten pick!”

Building and Living in a Tiny House

May contain affiliate links. Please see my privacy policy and affiliate disclosure.

Living in a tiny house is not for the faint of heart. Here’s how one family does it.

What if you decided that the spot you lived in was just not affordable, and decided to pack up, move halfway across the country, and start converting bare land into a usable homestead? That’s exactly what Teri Page and her family have done.

I’ve been following her blog, Homestead Honey, for awhile now and find it incredibly inspiring to see how her family is making the homesteading lifestyle work for them, from the ground up.

One of their big achievements: Building a tiny house in less than a year’s time. Teri has graciously agreed to share some of her thoughts on building and living in a tiny house.

tiny house with a green lawn (and a black chicken)

Here she is:

Living in a Tiny House

Four of us co-exist in a space that is just under 350 square feet, on our 10-acre homestead in Northeast Missouri. Moving onto raw land, we began construction on our home in late February 2013, and moved into an unfinished, but warm and insulated structure in late October.

While we have dreams of someday building a timber framed straw bale home, the reality of our situation was that we needed an immediate dwelling. Building a tiny house fit our needs and our sensibilities.

Why Build a Tiny House?

There are many compelling reasons to build small, including:

Price – Although there are many factors that determine the final cost of building a tiny house (see discussion below), most tiny houses cost significantly less than what you’d find on the real estate market. Many tiny house dwellers are advocates of debt-free living, and trade square footage for the advantage of not having a mortgage.

Human Scale Building – It’s possible for a single builder or a family to build their own home without large crews or equipment that larger buildings might require. For us, for instance, building a tiny house required little more than a tall ladder and occasionally, a few extra hands.

framing a tiny house

Materials – Tiny houses can make great use of overstock or salvage materials, as they require only small amounts. We were able to completely side our house with reclaimed barn wood from a 100+-year-old structure, at an incredible bargain, and our mudroom tile flooring was found in new condition at a Habitat for Humanity ReStore for only $20.

Details – Small spaces invite attention to detail and an investment in quality because you don’t need much material to really make an impact.  For instance, I’ve always loved the look and feel of cork flooring. In my 80ish square foot kitchen, I can afford to make that choice.

Timeline – All of these reasons appealed to us, but our primary motivation for building a tiny house was to create a space that we could realistically complete in less than one year, with my husband doing most of the work himself. A very small, simple house with a largely open floor plan made this possible.

framing of a tiny house, from the inside

How Much Does it Cost to build a Tiny House?

It depends.  On my blog, Homestead Honey, I recently shared the total labor and materials cost for our home and for comparison, our neighbor’s 120 square foot house on wheels.

Total costs depend on a number of factors, including what materials you choose to work with, whether you are doing the work yourself or hiring a crew, what kinds of permitting or infrastructure your area requires, and many other considerations, such as whether you are wiring for electric or installing plumbing.

Building a tiny house with reclaimed materials.

What is living in a tiny house really like?

 

Living in a tiny house has its joys and challenges, just like any living situation. Our family feels great joy being able to live in such a beautiful space that we created with our own hands. Our small house takes little time, energy, and expense to clean and maintain. And although our house is not fully finished on the interior, we have created a beautiful and functional dwelling well within our budget, and in under nine months.

But living in a small space can be challenging. With two children under the age of six, our house holds a lot of big energy (and sometimes big emotions). Our home does not lend itself easily to “escape” as there are no rooms to retreat to or doors to close.

I also find that when we let clutter accumulate, the house can feel disorganized very quickly. So, one of our challenges is continuously refining how to live together harmoniously and respectfully.

Related:

The Biggest Challenge

The biggest challenge for our family, however, is not having adequate space in our house to store all of our homeschooling and homesteading supplies! While we have had access to off-site storage, we do not yet have any outbuildings or sheds on our land.

The homesteading tools that we regularly use – a collection of mason jars, canning supplies, a seed collection, a chest freezer, or five gallon buckets of bulk food – currently do not have a place in our home. For our homesteading lifestyle, living in tiny house requires access to outbuildings or other storage space.

Above all, building — and now living in — our house has been a family endeavor that requires hard work, creativity, and flexibility. That we now get to live together in such an intimate space is a joy and a celebration.

tiny house with a green lawn (and a black chicken)

Teri Page lives in Northeast Missouri with her husband and two young children. Together they are building an off-grid homestead from scratch, complete with food forests, organic gardens, water catchment, and more. Teri’s eBook is Creating Your Off-Grid Homestead: Radical Inspiration and Practical Advice. You can follow their radical homestead adventures on Teri’s blog, Homestead Honey, or on Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter.

Click to save or share!

Meet the Author

Kris Bordessa

Kris Bordessa founded Attainable Sustainable as a resource for revitalizing vintage skills. Her book, Attainable Sustainable: The Lost Art of Self-Reliant Living (National Geographic) offers a collection of projects and recipes to help readers who are working their way to a more fulfilling DIY lifestyle.

17 comments… add one
  • Joy Apr 5, 2014, 12:58 pm

    I’d like more details! How did you build your foundation? Are you on the grid or self-powered? What about water source and septic? Oh, and YES, outbuildings are so important. That’s our project at our cabin this summer. We have a bit more sf than you and it’s not our primary home, but with 3 growing children and all our gear, we can’t contain everything inside the cabin itself. Good luck to you!

  • Coffee to Compost Apr 5, 2014, 2:30 pm

    I love how they were able to use inexpensive materials and some repurposed materials to make a home. Wow! No mortgage! Must be nice. I wonder if my husband would go for this?

  • Bill Apr 6, 2014, 1:09 pm

    Why were we told that we would be told the building cost prior to reading this entire article? If it was to get me to read it all, it worked. Unfortunately, I despise being lied to. Teri, I guess I misread you, you seemed so honest. I guess you can’t judge a book by its cover.

  • Teri :: Homestead Honey Apr 12, 2014, 7:56 am

    Thank you Joy. I have written many posts about the building process here: https://homestead-honey.com/category/building/. I hope they are helpful.

    We live in a rural area with a very “relaxed” building code, so we are not required to have septic. As such, we use a composting toilet. We collect rainwater and filter it for drinking. And we are going to be installing a photovoltaic system for electricity.

    Good luck with your projects!

  • Melissa Apr 15, 2014, 2:11 am

    I would happily trade my mortgage for a much smaller home!  It’s always been my dream to have a Little House on the Prairie home…itty bitty home, huge expansive land with lots of space to grow and roam!  

  • Nancy Apr 15, 2014, 5:46 am

    Inspiring! Thank you for this post. 

  • paula Apr 15, 2014, 12:49 pm

    Congrats, I would love to live this way. Northeast Missouri gets cold (especially this winter). I admire you guys.
    No mortgage sounds wonderful but my husband and I raise three grandchildren and I just couldn’t see getting him to downsize so much.

    • Teri :: Homestead Honey Jul 2, 2014, 7:48 am

      What I love about the Tiny House movement is that there is no set guideline for how small “tiny” is. But the basic gist is that you’re making do with less space than you might think you need. So raising three grandchildren would call for a larger space than living solo.

  • Leah Apr 17, 2014, 1:35 am

    We just down sized from a 2000 sqr ft home to a 500 sqr ft cabin. It has it’s challenges, usually storage related, but all in all I really enjoy it. We also hve two kinds under 6. The inside isn’t quite finished and we also need a storage shed. We aren’t debt free yet, the cabin will be paid for over the next 2 years and then we will actually own our home. It’s pretty freaking awesome if you ask me!

  • marissa Nov 24, 2015, 12:54 pm

    Nice article! Thanks!! I am so fascinated by these tiny houses! Would love to see inside! 😀

  • Don Blue Apr 21, 2016, 2:40 am

    i love your tiny house. For storage have you though of a root celler a good place is your hill next to the house. We had one when i was a kid we put our can food & root crops in it it stads about 50 year round if you cover with the dirt you take out of hole. we put a air lock intrance front door.

  • tiffany Apr 26, 2016, 6:18 pm

    your inspiring! this is what my husband and i would like to do! How much money did you put into everything besides the land? Were trying to get an idea of what we need to make this happen and we have found the area we want to buy in.

    • Kris Bordessa Apr 26, 2016, 7:33 pm

      If you click through to Teri’s site and search, I know she has a post over there about the cost of her house.

  • Rousseau Alain Jan 16, 2017, 9:27 pm

    Verry , verry good I love …. beau travail .Alain Rousseau ….France

  • katt Apr 1, 2017, 7:26 am

    i will b dowsizing soon and would like to see floorplans single family

Leave a Comment