The Hidden Costs of Tiny House Construction
People are continually surprised by how much tiny houses cost. Fact is there is everything in them that is in the much larger counterpart, the only thing lacking is all the extra space. In a lot of cases it even requires more compact appliances and equipment. That stuff isn’t ‘standard’ nor mass produced. They are often more expensive as well. Then there are just those things that you don’t think of if you’ve never built a house before… That is what I want to talk about. These are my top most surprising costs…
I easily spent $700-$900 on nails/screws/lag bolts/liquid nails and other fasteners. When you are accounting for costs in your tiny house it’s easy to just account for the ‘big things’ like studs and sheathing but all of that stuff needs to be put together too. Those fasteners are easy to miss.
Hurricane ties and strapping are necessary in a tiny house, they just are, you are building a tiny house that basically has to withstand hurricane winds while driving down the freeway and earthquake type of shock when being moved. You need to account for that or your hard work is all a waste. at $3-$7 bucks a pop and needing them on both ends of every rafter and other locations adds up. I have a few hundred dollars in metal ties in my house (which need fasteners!)
Far more mishaps happen with dull blades than sharp ones. Keep your blades sharp. Use the right blade for the job. Dont use a wood blade to cut concrete backer board and rigid insulation… Use a sharp blade designed for what it is you’re cutting. Some blades last longer than others, I think I went through at least eight wood blades (maybe more) on my build, a masonry blade, two tile blades and about eight double sided planer blades. Some of those blades we in excess of 50 bucks! I spent over $400 on blades alone.
no matter the project and the construction type you will use more caulk then you anticipate. I started with 4 tubes foolishly thinking that that would be ‘oodles’. More than 2 ‘contractors packs’ later I had learned my lesson, buy in bulk! 🙂 I probably spent at least a hundred bucks on caulk. (it covers mistakes pretty well, I made a lot of those!)
If you buy a used trailer you may find a heck of a deal! You may also put enough money back into it to kick yourself for not buying a new one built FOR tiny houses. In the end I still found a great deal with my trailer but there was A LOT of elbow grease put in. And cash! I paid an extra $270 for hardware to add and relocate the axles. An extra $300+ for steel to build out the frame to accommodate my design . An additional $450 for new tires. That is more than a thousand bucks I put into readying the used trailer.
I knew I had to paint my walls. I foolishly thought a gallon would do. Nope. To avoid buying the big 5 gallon jug of paint I thought three more gallons would do. Nope. I ended up using just over six gallons of paint on my walls. I used a middle grade paint. It was over 20 dollars a gallon. My budget went from about 20 bucks to a hundred+ fast. I could have saved money AND labor had I just gone with a higher quality paint + primer to begin with. I believe, after millwork and walls, I have over ten gallons of paint in my wee house. Probably would have been half that with better paint. Over 200 bucks of my budget went to paint, just on the inside. That doesn’t count the stain and sealer I used outside! Plan heavy for that if you’re painting/sealing.
If you don’t have space or know a friend/family member with a place to work that is going to cost something. And it comes with a liability, should you get hurt you’d have cause for a lawsuit. For this reason, if you rent a space the owner will likely have to carry some sort of insurance. They will pass that rate along to you. On the plus side, paying to use a space gives you incentive to get out there as often as possible. You are incentivized to not doddle. You may just get into your new tiny home quicker than if you didn’t have a shop fee to pay!
And if you’re buying…
If you have to hire anything done count on spending some bucks. Labor is expensive. A good rule of thumb is that labor is equal to the cost of materials. NOT reclaimed materials. You don’t get to use that here. Equal to the cost of new building materials. If you need siding done, price siding and then double it. Price plumbing and all the fixtures then double it. It adds up fast! This is primarily why I believe tiny houses are DIY movement. A house you could build for $25,000 of materials (believe me, that is EASY to hit if you’re not super careful and organized) would easily cost $50,000 to have built. There is A LOT of work that goes into a house. It’s not rocket science type labor. Nothing is terribly difficult about building. Even for the best professional it takes time! Last I checked time is not free…