1,000 hours. That’s the average amount of time that is put into every tiny home on wheels. Jay breaks it down into sizable chunks for us in this post!
Looks like we all have time on our hands these days. Not that we are choosing this or are thankful in any way for the situation, but if you are someone who was thinking about building your very own tiny house ... mostly by yourself, then this time of world and national emergency might just be the “alone” time you need to get this going or finish the projects that you already started.
Let’s assume for now that you already have all the house building skills needed to make this happen and all the tools, parts and pieces delivered and on-site. Of course, this is a big set of assumptions. We may as well just assume you have a magic wand and can wave it to just have the perfect THoW appear out of thin air (which you could actually do if you send an email over to ThinHaus).
But, just as you have time to build it, we take thetime to tell you what it really takes to do it. One real word of caution if you really are intent on doing this: Make sure that you have safety gear (first aid kit, etc. harness) and use it. A fall harness in the tool shed does you no good if you are falling off the roof. Also, make sure that someone knows where you are and what you are doing. Check in periodically. If something bad does happen, you really want someone to come help sooner, rather than later.
Okay, now let’s build a tiny house!
First, you will need a trailer.
Break out your steel welding rig, skycrane and cutting torches to complete this step. It takes about 3,000 lbs of steel, four really great tires and two killer axles (you really have to buy these or get a government certification to make your own). Figure at least 400 hours to do this.
Now that you have your trailer, you’ll need a place to build this. You will want at least 2,500 square feet with a minimum of 500 square feet of covered area at least 16’ tall. If you do this inside, make sure you have a 14’ door to get it out at the end (really!). You won’t need a big truck to move this in place at the start (when the thing only weighs a ton and a half), but you will need one at the end after you add five and a half tons of steel, floors and appliances. If you don’t own the property, make sure you have a one to two-year lease because you really don’t want to have to move a half finished tiny house.
Now you will add insulation, floor and wheel well covering.
The tricky part of this is that the floorboards weigh nearly 50 lbs each (and you’ll need ten of them) and are 4’x8’ ... and you’ll need to drill holes to match the trailer attachment pins. Doing this by yourself is not easy, but you have time, so just be safe with this. Once you have this done, add edge flashing and standard bottom plate foam and you’ll be ready for your frame. This part shouldn’t take more than 75 hours or so.
On to the frame. Somehow, you’ll need to have a two ton pile of steel studs or a three ton pile of wood. If you don’t have a big truck, plan on a lot of trips or some help when your supplier shows up with theirs. A fork lift would be great, but a skycrane is a nice tool, if you have one.
Couple of things to keep in mind here: Be sure to re-level your floor at least twice a day to be sure your walls go up straight. You’ll want to have plenty of extra chop saw blades around because you’re going to make a lot of cuts. This is the part where you’ll be using 10,000 screws, so get the big box of those! If you don’t have one, get a massive magnet on wheels to pick up all the fallen screws so that you don’t run over them and flatten your tires at the end.
If you are not under roof, then get a bunch of very large tarps and put them up before it starts storming. Trying to cover your tiny house (even with help) when the wind is already blowing is a real thrill. Getting the steel wet is not a big deal, but your floor is made of wood and the edges can be damaged by the rain even if you took the time to coat it a time or two with deck sealant. This part will take 400 hours or more (two to three months or more of full time work) if you don’t make too many mistakes and have to re-do some of it.
By now, you’ll be able to step back and really feel like you’re on the way ... and you are. Once you add the roof, you’ll be at about the half way point.
You have a choice at this point. You can add electrical, plumbing and HVAC at this point or wait until you have put up the sheathing and sides. There are solid reasons to do it now (it’s easier to get at stuff and easier to adjust things without walls in the way), but there is also the idea that getting the sides up is a lot easier if you don’t have wires and pipes in your way. It’s your call and both ways work. Figure 75 hours each of these three things and add 50% more if you are watching YouTube videos for training.
The time has come to really get serious about weight. With the trailer, frame and roof, you could easily be near 9,000 pounds. If you have two 7K axles, that only leaves you 5,000 more pounds for everything else. Adding sheathing boards like a house will leave you nothing left for the interior walls and Oh My! if you are thinking of using drywall in there, you better have three axles ... which is a problem because you only have two and adding one more at this point is really a big deal (and mostly impossible).
Adding exterior sheathing, vapor barrier, windows, doors and siding is a BIG job. Figure another 300 hours at least and getting a little help will really save your back. On the good side, once you are done, your tiny house will be “dried in” and you can work inside the rest of the way. Doing this before winter in the north and summer, here in Arizona will make the final push a lot more comfortable.
And, now you are done! Well, not really, but you are close. Add your walls, cabinets, fixtures, floors, carpeting and appliances. Then hang a few pictures and hook up your water, sewer, power and internet and viola! You are done. It was the best 1,000+ hours you have ever spent and now you can fall asleep on the couch in a house that you built by yourself. If you start today and work day & night without rest, you’ll be done right around Christmas if you’re lucky ... or you can call us and have one next week. We are big fans of DIY folks, but come on … really? There are only a few people in the world who can do this alone (several of them work at ThinHaus) and none of them ever would. Hat’s off to those who have done it by themselves - that’s surely no easy feat!
When you build your own house, you will have issues with permits, insurance, finance and city codes. You’ll need to have all the money in the bank before you start as well as complete plans and supplier connections. Scheduling can really slow you down and let’s not forget that most all of this stuff weighs a lot, so lifting and placing parts of a tiny house requires at least a few big bodies.
It will need to be a “passion project” because selling it will be all but impossible. The next owner will have all the problems you had putting it in place and maybe a few more ... not to mention that it was a home built unit with no assurances or warranties. The next owner may not be impressed with your considerable construction skills or assurances that you are excellent at watching building videos.
While the tiny house world started years ago with DIY folks and kit builders, it has quickly evolved to a place where the pros can do it better, faster, cheaper and easier than you can. It still takes 1,000 hours to do, but with a team of skilled folks who do this for a living, it leaves you free to do other things that make your life something special.
For more data and building details concerning ThinHaus, email to: firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll share the specifications and techniques that we use to build our industry leading homes. Also available for free is a copy of our newest tiny book, “The Big Book of Tiny Houses.” Just email over your name and address and we’ll drop one in an envelope for you.
Woof! Makes me tired just thinking of all the hours I’ve spent building tiny homes over the years.
Although we do truly love the DIYers, and want to help and support them anyway we can (feel free to reach out with any questions about DIY!), Jay isn’t wrong - it’s no joke building your own tiny home. With the right instructions, passion and dedication it’s possible though!
It is always wise to check with builders before going the DIY route. If for no other reason than simply learning new tricks and tips for how to build yours!
Start living your dream,