Do you love tiny houses? A lot of people do. But many are shocked that tiny houses often cost as much as $100,000 or more. Tiny house living can be cheap, but a lot of tiny house models just aren’t as low-cost as we expect.
But if you’re wondering how to build a tiny house that isn’t going to break the bank, look no further! All around the world people are building beautiful homes for as little as $4,000. It’s a smart and economic choice if you’re careful about how you build.
We’re going to cover seven of the best examples of tiny homes that have been built for less than $25,000. Hopefully these impressive (and frugal) builds will inspire you, and show you how to build a tiny house within your budget.
1. Modern New Zealand Tiny House
Back in 2013, Brett Sutherland built a tiny house in his home country of New Zealand. He had lived on self-built catamarans in the Caribbean for years and was already accustomed to a down-sized, minimalist lifestyle.
So he began building a small home for himself made of as many salvaged materials as possible. For example, he recycled wood and used it to build a desk and dining table, and also found a broken shower liner that he repurposed for his smaller shower area.
Sutherland also used reclaimed, donated, and discount furniture to minimize furnishing and appliance costs. These included:
- A free potbelly stove reclaimed from a Bedford house bus (and uses a small container of pinecones to warm his home)
- a brand new sink from a recycling yard
- donated faucets
- a refurbished ‘shub’ (shower + bathtub) found at a junkyard
Brett Sutherland’s simple and practical off-grid tiny house costs $18,000 all up to build and fit with appliances, solar energy, and plumbing. Because of this, his 161-square foot home is a perfect example of why it pays off to design your own tiny home yourself! This way you can choose the materials and appliances you need to fit your budget, and your own needs.
2. Romantic Tiny Forest Home
After taking a walk through the woods on his own, Carpenter Dave Herrle made a decision. Within a few months, he had quit his office job and pledged to start a new and simpler life. He then went on to build himself a gorgeous home in the woods of Westbrook, Connecticut.
Dave also made the most of salvaged materials, and much of the wood used to build his home came from various construction sites he had access to. He even reclaimed all of the windows in his home. These facts are no doubt a big factor in the low cost of construction, which came to under just $4000.
That’s right, for only $4000, Dave and his partner built a rustic 11 by 14 foot two-story home nestled in the woods. It took them only six weeks all up to build. Their tiny home has a kitchen, living area, and a loft space accessible by ladder, where the couple sleep.
But keep in mind the low cost is not just because of reclaimed items. Though the home has a composting toilet, there is no running water. The tiny house sits on a property owned by Dave, and they carry water from the main house to their cabin. He even has electricity provided through an underground cable connected to their home.
Tiny houses like Dave Herrle’s are a great example for people who already have property of their own, and want to build a smaller dwelling that can use the same resources.
3. Gooseneck Trailer Home
Macy Miller built her dream tiny home on a budget of just $11,400, based on a year’s worth of rent payments. Inspired by other tiny house builds, she bought a gooseneck trailer to build on and set to work.
To save money Macy began contacting construction companies for salvaged wood and leftover materials. Sure enough, she sourced much of the wood she needed, and even some windows, for only $300! One of the job sites had ordered too much and gave the remainder to her at a considerable discount. She also sourced several old shipping pallets to use for the remainder of the build.
From the beginning of her build, she made the most of salvaged and donated materials, going to great lengths to find resources at as low a cost as possible. She spent $5000 of her overall budget on appliances and a $2000 composting toilet.
But it all paid off! Today she has a gorgeous 196 square-foot, including a 36-foot addition constructed from the original back porch.
Though Macy saves incredible amounts of money on the build, she admits that a process like hers is very time-consuming, largely because she had to disassemble over 83 shipping pallets and prepare them for construction. As she smartly put it, “to fit your budget, it’s time or money.”
4. Rural Studio’s Innovative Tiny House
Rural Studios is a design-build program for university students in West Alabama, who have been working on a particular problem in home design and construction. They wanted to build an extremely affordable house that is still appealing to live in and can be built by construction workers who are paid a living wage.
The result? Two gorgeous tiny homes in the Serenbe tiny house community, for the low price of $25,000 each.
Their homes are different to most tiny houses that center using salvaged, reclaimed, and recycled materials to lower costs. Instead, the program created and utilized unusual construction techniques that use less material and made the buildings less expensive.
“They’re built more like airplanes than houses, which allows us to have them far exceed structural requirements. We’re using material much more efficiently.” says the associate director of the program. “[We use] construction techniques that make the house not just less expensive but actually makes it perform better than they normally would.”
The ballpark cost for these homes is around $25,000, but this includes the cost of construction labor too. Materials for each house only cost $14,000, and program directors estimate that each home would cost less than $20,000 each to build with volunteer labor.
Tiny house builds like this are best suited for engineers and architects who want to make an innovative and low-cost tiny house, not necessarily for your everyday tiny house shopper/builder. Despite that, Rural Studio’s tiny homes are a perfect example of what can be done when you’re working with a small budget and still want to build a stylish, appealing, and fully functional home.
5. Tiny House School Bus
This one is a little unorthodox. But Michael Talley has proven you can build a tiny house out of almost anything! The Texas native found the inspiration to construct his new home out of a yellow school bus that was taken out of the school system. This tiny house on wheels cost only $15,000 to build – and that includes the cost of the tiny house!
He started by purchasing the bus from an online auction company for $2,200. Choosing to build on a full-sized saved him a large chunk of money, as the interior of the bus could act as the “shell” of his home, something that would normally cost closer to $10-15,000.
He made the most of discount furniture. ”IKEA phased out their old kitchen line and I got a hell of a deal on these drawers and cabinets,” he said. “I paid $30 for everything! The butcher block was also a great deal. All the butcher block in this bus was bought on clearance for $120.”
He also used reclaimed floorboards and salvaged wood to build things like a desk, shelving, and storage for various areas of the tiny house.
When it came to converting the school bus into a tiny home, Michael actually had zero construction experience. Despite this, he managed to construct a wonderful home for himself by conducting thorough research. He also had the support of friends and family who were willing to assist with construction.
Michael Talley’s tiny house bus is an excellent inspiration for people who want to build on a budget and be able to transport their home to different locations without the necessity of another vehicle. It’s also ideal for rookie DIYers who don’t have much construction experience and feel daunted by other tiny house builds constructed by experienced builders, carpenters, and architects.
Building a tiny house yourself is a difficult process, and building on a limited budget is even harder. But as you’ve seen above it certainly is possible, especially if you have construction knowledge and experience or the assistance of people who do. And in some cases, building your dream house without these things is still possible.
These gorgeous homes are just a few examples of what passionate people can do on a limited budget. Building a tiny house on a budget is definitely within your reach, you just have to go about it the right way.