Tiny House, Tiny Living, The Tiny Life.

The Planning Stage Of Building A Tiny House

So I thought I would tell a little bit about my planning process before I even picked up a hammer.  This is a very important step in building your home and shouldn’t be overlooked.

thumb-whatstheplanBefore you even think about what your Tiny House is going to look like, how you are going to organize things, colors, etc.  You should sit down and list everything you do in your home right now.  Think about what you do in your home every day and those things that happen every now and again.  Take this list and order it in terms of priority and then start to think about what you will need to achieve those things.  From this line of thought the form of your house will emerge.

At that point start sketching various floor plans until you come up with something you like.  Once you have something that seems reasonably close to what you want, grab some masking tape and map out the entire floor plan to scale on the floor.  From there act out an entire day of your life and see how things work out.  Consider things like where your trash or dirty laundry goes, clearances for doors, how wide doors and passage ways need to be for you to pass through them comfortably.

It is at this point that you will discover things that don’t work and need to be changed, make them and start the process over again.  After you have worked out a solid plan, set them aside for a while and then after a few days, revisit them.  It will be surprising what things jump out at you that you were blind to before.  You can even enlist friends to get feedback from them on the design; sometimes a fresh pair of eyes will be useful.

sketch-quickAt this point I would take a look around at some of the plans that are out there and see if one of them is close to what you have come up with.  It might be worth purchasing plans if you are new to building if it matches your needs and budgets.  If you opt to come up with plans yourself then be prepared to do a lot of research and work to come up with a solid plan.  I would strongly suggest learning Sketchup which is free and pretty easy to learn.  Once your plans are drawn up consult with other Tiny House builders to get feedback on your plans, they will also be able to advise you on certain aspects that even experienced home builders will not have experience with because they are unique to Tiny Houses.  Finally draft a parts list of everything you will need.

Pros-Orange_thumb_w_580Once the plans are pretty firm and you have had them reviewed by someone who has experience in building, set a few hours aside to mentally work through how you will build the house.  Think about the process of building, envision it, where do you start, then what is after that and after that?  You will inevitably find some things that need to be rethought or given some thought when you discover the order will impact other parts.

From there consider work flow and your building site, where will you build?  Where are your tools stored?  Where will the materials be stored?  Is there power on the site, if not how will you get it there?  How will you handle trash?  Where will you setup your work station?  How will you get the trailer in and more importantly think about how you will get it out if you do have to move it?  If you need to get materials brought to the site in the back of a truck or a delivery vehicle, can they get close enough to where you need them to be? There are a million things to think about, but take the time to work it all out.

Next consider where you are going to source your materials.  The big ones are your windows, trailer, roofing, dimensional lumber, siding and any specialty items.  Windows, trailer and roofing often take a few weeks to get delivered if you are special ordering them, so consider the time line on things.  I would take your parts list to the store where you plan to purchase the bulk of your stuff and get prices and lead times on it all.  If you are trying to use reclaimed materials then hit craigs list, restores and other sources for the parts.

So that is quite a bit to chew on, if you are about to begin building your own home and want guidance feel free to contact me through the “contact us” page here

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  1. Ryan, I have been reading the information you have here on this website. Although my tiny house will be a bit bigger than most, it still needs the same information, so thanks!
    I plan to use a storage shed for my “shell” and finish it off inside, placed on a concrete pad with footers. It will be permanent, not on a trailer. (I have a 16 foot camper for traveling purposes.)
    I plan to purchase “Cracking the Codes” because I didn’t think building codes would apply to a storage shed. Any help I can get will make the process easier in the end.
    Thanks for doing all the research for me!

    • what is a footer? I thought of doing the same, using a storage shed.

    • I thought of using a shed too but I don’t think it will be high enough. and then I want a 24′ long house so I would still have to piece something together on the sides.

  2. Hi…I am planning to move to Ecuador. I love the idea of having my own Tiny House on coastal property there. Do you know if it would be possible to build a Tiny House over seas? I am a single retired woman so I would need help.
    Any advice?

  3. Thank you for all your thoughts. I especially appreciated the BOM list of windows from Jeld-wen. Your comment about 1M things to think about may be a bit of an exaggeration but not by much! I picked up my trailer yesterday, learned about brake controllers, and brought an RV friend for the ride. He reminded me of the 250 things that I hadn’t yet decided upon or considered. I’m excited, but nervous. I have only one question: do you know anywhere there is a discussion about total height of the TH and why one should consider something LESS than 13.5′.

    • I also like the Jeldwin windows. On Home Depot’s web site they won’t ship them to Florida, codes perhaps? It was a good thing thought. We found a bunch of awning style windows we really liked made by Tafco.

    • Hi Cy, if you plan to move your tiny house, you’ll need a clearance of 13’5″ to clear the overpasses. But some of them are a tad lower than they should be, so it’s better to go a few inches shorter just to be safe. I have a good friend who used to drive a truck long distance and he ran into several that were really only a 13′ 3″ clearance.

      I know I’ve read more on this specific to tiny houses but can’t remember whose blog talked about it. I saw one online recently that has a very low ceiling in the loft but it set up so that a portion of the loft ceiling can be raised up to allow extra headroom and fresh air when the weather’s nice.

  4. For you folks wanting to build a tiny house out of a storage shed I have some things for you to consider. When they build these, the flooring frame is built then the sheeting is installed. The wall framing is then built on top of that sheeting. So, if you want to remove the sheeting for insulating, it’s a booger. Otherwise, you’ll have to lift the building and insulate from underneath and apply the flashing. I’m a farm girl and this flashing is a must for pests and critters even if it’s not going to be on wheels. Otherwise, have one custom made and insulated before they install the walls. Just a suggestion….

    • Just wanted to say Thanks for this viewpoint! It makes an enormous amount of sense. I’m old enough to know that NOT having to make EVERY mistake that’s possible to make is a tremendous relief!

  5. Hi Ryan, thank you for creating this site. Your articles are very helpful. I am about to start my framing, and every time you post something about mistakes or unforeseeable issues that came up, it has helped me to avoid learning the hard way. I think the guidelines and questions to ponder that you provided here are a great resource. Keep up the fine blogging!

  6. This is so helpful! Thank you so much for this post. The masking tape idea was the best thing I have heard in all of my research! If you dont have the space inside, you could also chalk an area outside:)

  7. I am so glad I found this. My husband and I are looking forward to building our own. Ours will be slightly different because it will be a bit larger because we do have 5 kids. I will keep you updated on teh progress.

    • Erin- you the first person I’ve seen to mention children in building a tiny home! We have only one child and a medium-sized dog but I see most designs are meant for 1-2 people. I’d love to hear how you come up with a design- good luck!

  8. Almost all of the plans I see for tiny houses are built on trailers. Why are tiny houses built on trailers? I would think a simple foundation would be easier and cheaper. Are there zoning requirements we are trying to avoid?

    Thank you,

  9. I’m trying to figure out where to find plans for myself and my adult son with disabilities. Need accessible bathroom and one bedroom on the main floor. Also stairs to the loft as I am no spring chicken! any ideas would be welcome:) thank you

    • Cheryl,

      There are quite a few tiny houses out there that have stairs up to the loft and/or a bdrm on the main floor. I think it was one of the tumbleweed plans that has that. You could also google it. I’m sure you could find something. You could get things modified a bit to make a larger bathroom entrance? I just found this. Check out this site, maybe this will help you out. It’s a great website.


  10. Love love this! Thanks so much for all of this great info, and feedback! I have a question about how to mask out the floor plan. I’ve tried something similar but I’m not sure how to exactly get things to scale. How the heck do you do that? That is one of my biggest problems to figure out right now. Yes, I’m going to build a tiny home even though I can’t figure out floor plan scale lol. I would love any info!
    Thanks so much in advance!


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