There's a new trend in the housing market: Tiny Houses. Tiny houses are exactly what they sound like: fully functional stand alone homes that are typically 90-250 square feet. With a size like that, some of these homes could probably fit in your living room. These homes are often self-built for anywhere from $10K to $80K. They can also be purchased for around $30k-$70K.
Their popularity started picking up in 2012 and has since been titled the Tiny House Movement. Tiny homes are mostly different from regular homes in term of size, but they also use different building materials, appliances, furniture, layouts, (dare I say different toilets!) and are sometimes regulated by different laws. Aside from the technical details, there is also a culture of environmental awareness that comes with the decreased carbon footprint.
In terms of building materials, tiny houses are often built on wheels. Yes, wheels. Almost like an RV, tiny homes are built on trailers. The purpose of this is to avoid the strict city regulations that pertain to the construction of a house. Tiny houses usually do not pass code because they are simply too small, but there would be a myriad of other issues even if they were large enough to be considered "safe." The added benefit of building a house on wheels is that there is not need to buy land, because when on a trailer, the tiny house is considered an RV and can be parked anywhere a car can! Tiny homes that aren’t built on trailers are usually built or placed on a skid. Because the houses are so small, they does not require a slab foundation like normal houses.
Some tiny homes look like little rustic log cabins, some like a modern oasis, and others like futuristic space junk. The smaller the house, the fewer materials you need, so owners/builders get creative. Instead of buying bulk amounts of drywall, a builder may opt to line the walls with recycled b board that was thrown away in a home renovation – that’s part of the environmental awareness. Tiny homes are often built with salvaged or recycled materials and tend to ration the store bought goods.
That may sound dingy, but the salvaged building materials give the small space a rustic cozy feel. Not to mention, with less money spent on store bought items and a smaller space to fill, owners can afford to buy nicer accessories.
Tiny homes look unconventional on the outside, but sometimes they get even weirder. Sheet metal, corrugated metal, and shipping containers are all commonly used to construct the exterior of a tiny house. As for the inside of a tiny house on wheels, the materials are "normal," but the content is anything but. For appliances, tiny house dwellers often use boat appliances and portable stove stops that they can stow in a cabinet. Many appliances are stowable to allow for more counter space when they are not in use. As for water, nomadic tiny houses can hook up to water lines at RV parks. Some tiny house dwellers live in the yard of a "normal" house and hook up to a hose. Houses that are semi permanent will sometimes collect rain water in barrels and use that in their home. Of course, if a tiny house is built as a legal house rather than on a trailer, it can hook up to city water. For electricity, many tiny homes use solar panels and store their power in car batteries. For heat, tiny houses use small propane heaters, since they are the heater is cheap and, even though propane can be pricey, the heater does not need to run often since there is not a lot of space to heat. Things get weird when it comes to the toilet. Tiny houses that are not legally "houses" cannot hook up to city sewage. The mass movement towards tiny living and the lack of sewer access, led to the popularity of the composting toilet. Composting toilets are simply buckets of sawdust that mask and break down human waste into soil. Toilets are pretty standard all around the world, but tiny homes challenged that and popularized a new way of "using the bathroom."
As for the layout, tiny home builders had to think out the box to figure out how to fit anything in such a small place. In a tiny houses, glasses tend to hang from the ceiling and spices are tucked in the rafters, because when there is so little space, one must find ways to utilize every square inch of their space. Speaking of glasses hanging from the ceiling, so do the people who live in tiny homes. Tiny homes on wheels must comply with highway laws since it is meant to be driven. This includes height restrictions, so most homes utilize the small bit of vertical space to create a sleeping loft on one end and storage shelf on the other. Tiny home builders had to consider lifestyle habits in every aspect of design. For example, the kitchen is typically placed under the loft while the living room is left to enjoy the full height of the home, because less time is spent in the kitchen so ceiling height is a fair sacrifice.
So ... Why Live in a Tiny House??
The Tiny House Movement is most commonly viewed as an act against materialism and step towards a simpler life. For some, that’s exactly what it is. For others, they’re just trying to escape the burden of rent or a mortgage and a tiny house is the only chance they have at owning a home. Both rationals are represented on Tiny Home Construction company Wind River’s merchandise, where they have shirts that read “Do More Be More Have Less” and “Bringing the American Dream Back.” Either way, there's a sense of peace and freedom that comes with living in a Tiny Home.
Tiny Houses Around the World
In other countries, it is more common to see permanent tiny houses. These are often built with standard building materials and code, but made to fit into a smaller space. Why? Because there's less land. These are mostly seen in large cities. For example, the tiny house pictured to the right is located in Tokyo Japan. While these house have taken on extremely creative architectural and interior designs, the original purpose of their size was not economic freedom or minimalism, but rather necessity, because a tiny house is the only kind of house that can fit in a city like Tokyo.