Archive for the Tiny House Category

How Much Does A 2×4 Weigh?

How Much Does A 2x4 Weigh?

how much does a 2x4 weigh
How Much Does A 2×4 Weigh?

How Much Does A 2×4 WeighWhen tackling your next building project, calculating the weight of your material might be the last thing on your mind … until it comes time to fit everything in your truck. When transporting lumber, your job becomes much easier if you understand how much a 2×4 weighs, and why.

On average, a 2×4 weighs 9 lbs. for an 8-foot board. However, 2×4 weight varies depending on a number of factors, so understanding those variables is key to fitting the right amount of lumber in your truck.

Why Does 2×4 Weight Vary?

Why Does 2x4 Weight VaryThere are a few different elements that determine the weight of a 2×4. Different types of lumber are good for different projects, so the weight of your 2x4s will depend on the type of wood you want for your task. Tree species, lumber treatment, moisture content, and length will all affect how much your 2x4s weigh.

Weight Difference Based On Tree Species

Weight Difference Based On Tree Species

One of the variables that determines the weight of a 2×4 is tree species. Trees vary in density, so the lumber they produce has different weights. For example, Southern Yellow Pine is hard and dense, making these 2x4s heavier per foot than spruce or fir.

weight of treated and untreated lumber

Weight Of 2x4s: Treated Vs Untreated

Treated and untreated lumber are significantly different when it comes to weight. Treated lumber has been soaked in liquid preservatives to prevent water damage and pests.

The moisture content of treated lumber can be up to 75%. Freshly treated lumber is heavier than treated wood that has been drying for a few months, but both weigh more than untreated 2x4s.

2x4s Weight Based On Moisture Content

2x4s Weight Based On Moisture Content

Moisture content is relevant to the weight of all lumber, not just treated wood. Porous cells in the lumber take in moisture from the air.

The two types of untreated lumber: green and kiln-dried. Green lumber is wood that hasn’t gone through any drying process. Kiln-dried wood has been heated, evaporating the moisture in the lumber, making a kiln-dried 2×4 lighter than a green one.

Weight Difference Of 2x4s Based on Length

Weight Difference Of 2x4s By Length

The length of a 2×4 affects its weight. This may seem like an obvious fact, but with all the other variables to keep in mind, it can be an easy one to overlook.

Since a 2x4s weight is impacted by so many factors, weight by foot is the most reliable way to calculate the lumber’s total weight. Once you know the weight by foot based on the factors above, you can then multiply it by the total length to determine the weight of a single 2×4.

tiny house tools

Weight Of A 2x4x8

weight fo 2x4x8 lumberThe species, treatment, and moisture content all affect the weight by foot of a 2×4. Once you have this information, length is the last variable to consider when calculating the total weight. Below, I’ve calculated the untreated weight of 2x4x8s for a few common tree species.

Weight Of A Ponderosa Pine 2x4x8

Since the untreated weight by foot of a Ponderosa Pine is 1.02 lbs., a 2x4x8 will weigh approximately 8.2lbs. This is the lightest of the common species listed here.

Weight Of A Douglas Fir 2x4x8

With an untreated weight by foot of 1.24 lbs., a Douglas Fir 2x4x8 weighs about 9.9lbs. This wood is great for construction because it is stiff and strong despite being relatively lightweight.

Weight Of A Western Hemlock 2x4x8

An untreated Western Hemlock 2x4x8 weighs around 8.5 lbs., with a weight by foot of 1.06 lbs. One of two commercial species of hemlock, this is often sold under the generic label HEM-FIR.

Weight Of A Southern Yellow Pine 2x4x8

Southern Yellow Pine is the heaviest species here, with a 2x4x8 untreated board weighing 11.9 lbs, or 1.49 lbs. per foot. It is one of the densest available softwoods and is therefore often used in building construction.

Weight Of A 2x4x10

Weight Of A 2x4x10 lumberThe challenging of weighing 2x4s comes from acquiring the necessary information. Once you know the weight by foot, calculating a 2×4’s weight is as simple as multiplying by the length of the board.

Weight Of A Ponderosa Pine 2x4x10

The Ponderosa Pine is a relatively lightweight wood and is widely available for distribution throughout western North America. An untreated 2x4x10 weighs approximately 10.2 lbs.

Weight Of A Douglas Fir 2x4x10

An untreated Douglas Fir 2x4x10 typically weighs about 12.4 lbs. While this wood is generally available for a modest price, reclaimed or old growth boards can be an expensive construction option.

Weight Of A Western Hemlock 2x4x10

Classified as a domestic softwood, an untreated Western Hemlock 2x4x10 weighs about 10.6 lbs. It is moderately priced and is commonly used for framing and other construction purposes.

Weight Of A Southern Yellow Pine 2x4x10

Southern Yellow Pine is dense with a very uneven grain and an abrupt transition from earlywood to latewood. An untreated 2x4x10 board weighs approximately 14.9 lbs.

Weight Of A 2x4x12

Weight Of A 2x4x12 lumberFind below the approximate weight calculations for 2x4x12 boards of several different tree species. These varieties are some of the most commonly used for commercial wood and are widely distributed.

Weight Of A Ponderosa Pine 2x4x12

While Ponderosa Pine is technically classified as a yellow (hard) pine, it is significantly less dense than Southern Yellow Pine. An untreated 2x4x12 is only about 12.2 lbs.

Weight Of A Douglas Fir 2x4x12

Since Douglas Fir trees grow to be very large, they yield a lot of lumber making them very valuable commercial timber. An untreated 2x4x12 board weighs around 14.9 lbs.

Weight Of A Western Hemlock 2x4x12

An untreated Western Hemlock 2x4x12 weighs about 12.7 lbs. While generally workable, the disparity between soft earlywood and late hardwood can make uneven surfaces in boards.

Weight Of A Southern Yellow Pine 2x4x12

While there are four species of Southern Yellow Pine, they are indistinguishable from each other, even under microscopic examination. A typical untreated 2x4x12 board weighs 17.9 lbs.

Weight Of A 2x4x16

Weight Of A 2x4x16 lumberWhen calculating the weight of a 2x4x16 board, it is important to know if you’re dealing with treated or untreated wood. I’ve used the untreated weight by foot to calculate below, but some species (like Douglas Fir and Southern Yellow Pine) might be more common or useful as treated 2x4s.

Weight Of A Ponderosa Pine 2x4x16

The IUCN reports Ponderosa Pine as a species of least concern, making these 2x4s a sustainable option for construction use. An untreated 2x4x16 board weighs approximately 16.3 lbs.

Weight Of A Douglas Fir 2x4x16

An untreated Douglas Fir board measuring 2x4x16 will weigh around 19.8 lbs. It is useful to note that this wood typically machines well, but has a moderate tendency to blunt blades.

Weight Of A Western Hemlock 2x4x16

An untreated 2x4x16 weighs approximately 17.0 lbs. However, it is worth noting that this wood is susceptible to insect attacks which can be prevented by pressure treatment.

Weight Of A Southern Yellow Pine 2x4x16

An untreated Southern Yellow Pine 2x4x16 weighs around 23.8 lbs. However, this wood is a preferred species for pressure treatment, and comprises 85% of the treated wood in the United States.

How Many 2x4s Will Fit In My Pickup Truck?

How Many 2x4s Will Fit In My Pickup TruckIf you’re transporting 2x4s, it’s crucial to know the total weight so you can determine the right size cargo for your truck bed. A load that’s too heavy could damage your vehicle, while a load that’s too light will cause unnecessary trips back and forth. Below are the lumber calculations for a few common pickup truck models.

Ford F-150 Pickup Truck

A standard model Ford F-150 can hold up to 1,300 lbs. of cargo in the bed. The total amount of lumber you can transport will depend on the length of your 2x4s, but if we calculate an average board weighing 9 lbs., your truck can handle 144 boards.

Ford F-150 Pickup Truck

Dodge Ram 1500 Pickup

The Dodge Ram 1500 pickup bed can handle 1,240 lbs. The length of board you need may vary depending on your project, but with a typical 2x4x8 at 9 lbs. each, you can carry 137 boards in the bed.

Dodge Ram 1500 Pickup

Chevy Silverado 1500 Pickup Truck

The Chevy Silverado 1500 has the heaviest weight bearing capacity of the three standard trucks I’ve calculated here. The bed can handle 1,650 lbs. of cargo, so this is your best model for projects requiring a large amount of lumber. Using the average of 9 lbs. per 2×4, the Silverado can handle 183 boards.

Chevy Silverado 1500 Pickup Truck

towing a tiny house

Buy or Build A Tiny Home: Cost And Considerations

Buy or Build A Tiny Home: Cost And Considerations

Buy or Build A Tiny Home

NAVIGATION

Making the decision to live in a tiny house is only the beginning of your journey! Once you decide to adopt the tiny life, you’ll need to figure out whether you want to build or buy your tiny home.

There is a lot to consider when making the decision to buy or build, but there are really only a few basic things worth considering most heavily.

ryans tiny house

Hi, I’m Ryan

When I made the decision to build my own tiny house 10 years ago, I had to learn as I went. Since then, I’ve helped over 3,000 people build tiny homes of their own; here is what I’ve learned when it comes to making this critical decision.

ryan mitchell simple living expert

Should I Build Or Buy My Tiny House?

Should I Build Or Buy My Tiny House

There are many important questions to ask yourself when deciding whether to build or buy a tiny house. At the end of the day, whichever way you go, you’re going to be investing time, money, and resources into the project. You want to make a decision that will help the outcome be worth your while.

is it better to build or buy a tiny homeWhen I started looking into living tiny, things were totally different than they are today. The tiny house community was a small movement still finding its way. There were fewer tiny home owners and online resources, and there weren’t even any builders until much later in the game.

Keep in mind that I was working for corporate America in the middle of the recession, I had never built anything myself before in my life, and money was tight! For me, the decision was simple, and cost was the major driver.

I was 23, drowning in student loans, and I had always been attracted to the idea of building my own home and learning skills I could use down the line. I knew building my tiny home was the way to go.

Today, the tiny house community has grown so much. There are builders in every state who offer prefabricated, turn-key tiny home models shipped straight to your town. You can also partner with building companies to create custom designs. The opportunities out there are abundant.

How Much Can You Afford To Spend On Your Tiny House?

How Much Can You Afford To Spend On Your Tiny House

The amount of money you have to invest in your tiny house is the most important thing to consider. Money is pretty black and white with things like this; you either have $10,000 or $50,000 to spend on the project, or whatever amount you have. It kind of makes the decision for you.

tiny house kitchenIt’s always going to be more expensive to buy a house through a builder because you’re paying for materials, labor, and their overhead, whereas if you build the home yourself, you’re handling those hoops on your own.

Whether you choose to buy or build, don’t let the size or idea of a tiny house trick you into believing it’s not a huge financial investment. The average tiny home costs about $27,000. However, the price of tiny homes has a huge range because of how many elements are considered.

It really comes down to how much you’re able to spend. Be honest about where you’re at financially and act according to the numbers, not according to your desires.

how much does a tiny house cost

Can You Put In The Time And Effort Required To Build A Tiny House?

Can You Put In The Time And Effort Required To Build A Tiny House

If you choose to build your home yourself, you’re looking at a year of time dedicated to the project at the very minimum. When I say a year, I don’t mean like when you commit to a book club for a year and have a couple meetings a month. I’m talking dedicating the bulk of your weekends and weekday leisure time to your tiny home.

getting a grip on a busy scheduleWhen I was building my tiny house, I was going to work during the day, and when I wasn’t working, I was either planning, buying materials, researching, building, or sleeping. There wasn’t much time to do anything else.

I’ve had friends who think they want to build their own tiny home, but when I tell them how much time and effort it actually takes, they realize they can’t afford a commitment like that at this time in your life.

I’m not saying this to discourage the building option. Like I said before, I built my own tiny home and would definitely choose that route again! However, it’s important to have a realistic understanding of what goes into building a tiny home so you can decide if you’re able to actually do it. The worst feeling is getting halfway through a project you’ve invested so much time and money in only to have to abandon it halfway through.

Maybe you’re raising four kids right now, you have a really demanding full-time job, or you just don’t feel like you’re in the place to invest all your time and energy into this. However, just because you don’t feel like you can go all in right now, doesn’t mean the dream of building your own tiny house cannot become a reality down the road.

Do You Have Building Experience?

Do You Have Building Experience

If you want to go the building route, having previous building experience is a big advantage. But it’s not an absolute necessity.
I went from being a corporate businessman to a skilled builder through the process of building my tiny home. The whole experience was a huge learning process for me and gave me confidence and lifelong skills I still use today. Trust me — if I can do it, anyone can.

Just because everyone can learn, though, doesn’t mean that everyone is ready to. It’s not easy, and it takes hard work, being a corporate desk worker meant I wasn’t used to long days of heavy physical work. If you aren’t feeling ready to do it all on your own, consider asking friends, family, or neighbors who have the skills to come over and grab a hammer.

Even if you have lots of people to help, realize that you’re going to still be doing a ton of work and, sometimes, having people help you can actually slow you down.

One of my last and most important pieces of advice: make sure you have health insurance if you’re building your own tiny home.

Not only can building be challenging, but just like with any construction project, you can get hurt. I’ve had two friends put a nail through their hand with a nail gun and one friend fall off a ladder and break her back. Of course, injuries won’t happen to everyone, but you want to stay safe above all else.

tiny house design and build collection

How Much Control Do You Want Over Your Design?

How Much Control Do You Want Over Your Design

Another thing to consider when deciding to buy or build is how personal you want your home to be. There are so many options out there when it comes to partnering with a builder and creating a custom design, but it’s still someone else’s work at the end of the day.
Even with the closest builder-to-buyer relationship, there may still be elements of your home that don’t turn out exactly the way you had wanted. If you’re building the house yourself, you’ll have full control over every decision and detail!

how to design a tiny house

How Quickly Do You Want To Start Living In Your Tiny House?

How Quickly Do You Want To Start Living In Your Tiny House

Time is another important factor to keep in mind. Like I mentioned before, if you’re building your own tiny house, it will likely take you a year at the very least. Probably closer to two years, realistically.

With a building company, a custom design will take some time, but not as much time as building your own home. The fastest option is to buy a prefabricated model and get it shipped to you. The route you choose will depend on how quickly you want to unlock your door and say, “home sweet home.”

Buying Verses Building A Tiny Home: Cost Comparison

Buying Verses Building A Tiny Home Cost Comparison

Cost is ultimately the biggest consideration when deciding to buy or build your tiny house. Whatever way you cut it, building yourself is the cheapest option. However, there are many specifics ways you can buy verses build, and they’re all going to vary in price.

The Cost To Build A Tiny House

When it comes to building, the price is going to vary depending on several factors. A tiny house is not one lump sum, but is instead made up of many individual parts that add up to the total cost.

The Cost To Buy A Tiny House

The cost of buying a tiny house is much more cut-and-dry. Since the tiny house has already been built, you’re paying for materials and labor that are no longer malleable. The price for a tiny house you buy is what it is. For some people, that makes the entire process easier. Others would rather have more of a say over each detail of their home.

What Are You Paying For In A Tiny House?

What Are You Paying For When You Buy Or Build A Tiny House

There are lots of things to consider that affects where those dollars go, whether you buy or build. Either way, you’re investing in materials, labor, and other elements of the home. I want to spell those things that cost you in order to help you make the most informed decision possible.

The Bulk Of Your Cost Is Materials

The Bulk Of Your Cost Is Materials

Whether you buy or build your tiny house, a large portion of the cost will be materials. This includes buying the actual lumber, screws, wiring, plumbing, doors, windows — anything that goes into a home.

You’re paying for these materials whether you assemble the house yourself or pay someone else to do it for you. This means that you want to invest in high-quality materials where it makes the most sense, while cutting costs where you can to mitigate the price.

tiny house plumbing
tiny house tools
tiny house electrical

Paying For Labor Can Add Up Quickly

Paying For Labor Can Add Up Quickly

The next thing to consider when breaking down the cost of a tiny house is the price you pay for labor. This is the differentiating factor when we’re talking buying or building.

A general rule of thumb is that labor is usually proportional to the material costs. Take the cost of the house you want to build, and if you’re going to have someone build it for you, double the price.

While it is ultimately more expensive to hire a builder and invest in the labor, you know it will be done right (hopefully). If you build the home yourself, you don’t have to pay for labor, but you run the risk of making mistakes that could end up being costly down the line.

tiny house building checklist cta

Ways To Save Money On Your Tiny Home

Ways To Save Money On Your Tiny Home

Whether or not you decide to buy or build, there are ways to specifically mitigate cost. However, there are also some elements where going cheaper may reduce the quality of your home. Staying informed on where to cut corners and where not to is key, whether you’re buying or building.

Money-Saving Measures In Your Tiny House

Money-Saving Measures In Your Tiny House

There are several areas where you can save money without reducing the quality of your home. This isn’t the case with every element, but I’ve been doing this long enough to know what works.

Things To Spend Less On: Floors, Cabinets and Fixtures

tiny house floors

Floors

The nice thing about flooring is that, square footage wise, tiny houses are small. It doesn’t actually take a lot of flooring to cover your home. If you’re looking for a place to cut costs in your budget, flooring is the first place I’d start. The best thing about saving on flooring is if you decide down the line that you want to make a change, it’s not set in stone.

tiny house cabinets

Cabinets

Cabinets are another feature you can spend a ton of money on unnecessarily. I would suggest going with Ikea cabinets or a pre-built, project cabinet kit from Lowes or Home Depot. You can stain them or paint them yourself, and they have tons of styles and sizes. This is the most affordable option.

tiny house fixtures

Fixtures

You can also save big on fixtures. With lighting fixtures, you can find some good deals or go secondhand. With plumbing fixtures, I’d stick to standard, off-the-shelf models.

Overall, whether you choose to buy or build your tiny house, you can make decisions that cut costs without sacrificing quality. At the end of the day, both options have pros and cons, but it really comes down to what works for you, your partner, or your family.

Tiny House Elements You Should Not Cut Corners On

Tiny House Elements You Should Not Cut Corners On

The last thing you want to do is spend less money on things you should really be investing in, compromising the quality of your home. There are some elements of your tiny home, whether buying or building, that it’s worth spending more on the front end to save yourself from spending a lot on repairs down the road.

Things To Spend More On: Trailer, Roof, Windows & Doors

tiny house trailers

Trailers

My recommendation has always been to buy a brand-new trailer from a reputable source. That’s your foundation, and you don’t want to cheap out on your foundation because your whole house is built on it.

I’ve seen people try to buy used trailers or build their own, and it’s just not the way to go. Every single person I’ve talked to who has pursued a used trailer has regretted it. Unless you’re a metal fabricator, don’t even go down that road.

tiny house roofing materials

Roof

Second, invest in your roof. Your roof protects everything, because everything in your home sits below it. Your overhead protection is not worth skimping out on. I personally like standing C metal roofs because they are wind resistant and hold up for a long time. It’s much easier for shingles to fly off when driving down the road, so I’d avoid that route.

tiny house windows and doors

Windows and Doors

When it comes to windows and doors, go with stock sizes. Custom designs can triple or quadruple your cost, and there’s no need to go this route when you can get stock sizes for the same quality.

Just be sure to invest in quality products. These are the parts of your home that lead to the outside world, so refraining from cutting corners here will keep your house protected from things like bugs or the elements.

Your Turn!

  • Are you planning to build or buy your tiny home and why?
  • How will you strategically save money when you buy or build?

How To Build An Underground Home

How To Build An Underground Home

how to build an underground house

NAVIGATION

When you hear underground house, you may picture a bunker, a cave, or your local prepper’s stuffed basement. But what if I told you many people live in underground homes by choice, just for the perks?

It may sound bizarre to envision someone living underground by choice and not due to an apocalypse or another crazy circumstance. However, underground homes are not actually the dark, humid, cave-like dwellings you may be picturing. These homes can be avant-garde, energy efficient, and designed in a classy, aesthetically appealing way, which is why they’re loved by people all over the world.

ryans tiny house

Hi, I’m Ryan

While I truly enjoy my life in my tiny home above ground, the sustainability and energy efficiency of underground homes have definitely caused me to consider life underground!

ryan mitchell simple living expert

What Are Underground Houses?

What Are Underground Houses

Underground homes are defined by the fact that they are partially, or sometimes entirely, built into the earth. There are many types of underground houses. For example, earth shelters are houses that are entirely underground, while earth berm homes are only partially built into the earth.

The way a builder combines the earth and home varies depending on the needs or vision of the homeowner, which can give you the opportunity to be creative.

Oftentimes, these homes are built into the sides of a large hill with one side left open to the elements. There are also models that are built above ground, but are strategically covered in thick layers of ground material.

underground house entrance

What Are Earth Shelters Made Of?

What Are Earth Shelters Made Of

The materials used in an earth-sheltered structure will vary depending on characteristics and typography of the site as well as the design you have in mind for your earth shelter home.

An elevation-style home is going to be built into the earth or hill, causing its layering to be primarily dirt and ground with clay and concrete support. A berm, or penetrational-style home, is built above ground, but buried or bermed on all sides of the home. These houses will be packed in by a specific covering that is commonly layered with the following materials.

Layering Materials

  • Dirt & Grass
  • Wicking Fabric
  • Dirt Layer
  • Rubber membrane
  • Sand
  • Concrete
underground house construction diagram

Building An Underground House: The Advantages

Advantages of Building An Underground House

Living in an underground home may seem interesting, but is building one yourself truly worth it? Sure, it’s a pretty out-of-the-box way to live. However, in my own life, I’ve found that taking the path less traveled is often one of the most rewarding lifestyles to choose.

I had the opportunity to talk with Jon D’Aleo, who spends his time designing and building earth-sheltered homes at Formworks. Jon had a lot to say about the core advantages of living in an earth-sheltered home.

Underground Houses Are Energy Efficient

Underground Houses Are Energy Efficient

One of the biggest pulls for living in an underground house is that they are energy efficient, which is becoming a more and more popular way to live. Due to the air tight design of these structures, underground houses use far less energy than traditional homes.

Not only is this good for mother nature, it’s also good for your wallet! With an intelligent build, underground homes can actually reduce your HVAC bill by 40–70%. We can all agree that cutting costs wherever you can is a great feeling!

Jon DAleo

“The blanket of earth material over your structure keeps the temperature constant. You’re taking advantage of the heating and cooling of the earth itself, increasing energy efficiency.”

– Jon D’Aleo, Formworks Building

Underground Houses Protect You From Severe Weather

Underground Houses Protect You From Severe Weather

A home that is specifically built to protect you from harsh weather is always a wise move when you have a family and assets to protect. Earth-sheltered houses are protected by thick, heavy layers of earthy material that sit on top of the structure, protecting your home from most natural disasters.

No house is invincible. However, it’s much harder for a berm home nestled into the ground to be uprooted by a tornado, earthquake, or storm than it is for a traditional house.

Jon DAleo

“You’re in a lot better shape in a green roof home when it comes to natural disasters because the foundation is embedded into the earth. Your home moves with the ground.”

– Jon D’Aleo, Formworks Building

Underground Homes Have Less Upkeep

Underground Homes Have Less Upkeep

I often feel like I spend all of the time I’m not working maintaining and repairing my house. No one likes to spend all of their free time on chores!

The idea behind earth-sheltered homes is that they are entirely air tight. This means, if constructed correctly, these houses should not require half as much upkeep as a traditional home. There is less room for things to go awry, allowing you to spend more time living in your home and less time repairing it.

Underground Houses Help With Noise Control

Underground Houses Help With Noise Control

There is nothing more irritating than a home with really bad noise control where you can hear everything: neighbors yelling, construction equipment being used, and car horns blaring. Underground homes provide an entirely natural noise barrier due to its air-tight covering and natural insulation. This can bring your family peace and quiet without having to break the bank to soundproof your whole home.

Underground Homes Have Low Visibility

Underground Homes Have Low Visibility

Earth-sheltered houses blend into the landscape more naturally than traditional houses. This low visibility is attractive to homeowners who want to live independent lives, out of the way of the general public. Owners of underground homes love the way their earth berm homes blend into the beauty of the natural scenery around them.

Underground Houses Are Aesthetically Pleasing

Underground Houses Are Aesthetically Pleasing

When you picture living underground full time, you might picture a dark and dreary environment. Yet underground houses often provide the exact opposite of that. Earth-shelter homes are actually known for their aesthetically pleasing interior full of satisfying architectural details and natural light.

Jon DAleo

“These homes allow you to get away from the conventional, 90-degree, room-to-room relationships. You’re able to create open space, cathedral-like ceilings, arch openings, and other creative architectural details.”

– Jon D’Aleo, Formworks Building

Building An Underground House: Problems And Solutions

Building An Underground House Problems And Solutions

There are a myriad of reasons why living in an underground home is a worthwhile move, but living full-time in one of these structures will also bring about its own unique set of problems. If you’re aware of the common obstacles of life underground, it will be easier to solve them as they come up!

Are Underground Homes Safe?

Are Underground Homes Safe

People always want to know whether or not underground homes are safe to live in. Legally, they have to be. Earth-sheltered houses have to meet the exact same building codes, residential codes, and safety standards as any other traditional home within its respective jurisdiction.

It makes sense that the idea of a cliffside home built into a hill might spark fear, but these homes have to meet the same safety standards as the two-story models in the middle of suburbia. For me, knowing this eases my mind when I think about alternative housing options.

Will My Earth Shelter House Have Mold?

Will My Earth Shelter House Have Mold

Heat is easily trapped underground, especially with the highly insulated, air-tight builds of underground homes. The high-humidity levels can bring about an increase in condensation which, unfortunately, can breed mold. You can attack festering mold with Clorox wipes and copper sulfate, but you don’t really want to be scrubbing up mold on your hands and knees all the time. It’s much better to get ahead of the problem.

One way to do this is to invest in a humidistat. The device connects to a dehumidifier and kick on when it reads the humidity as being higher than a certain level. The dehumidifier will become your best friend. These suckers will suck a surprising amount of humidity right out of the air — a lot more than you’d think!

underground house design pro tip

“Use a whole house-ventilation system when it comes to condensation. It works off a supply and return, intake and exhaust system, which helps get good quality, fresh air into the living space and reduce humidity.”

– Jon D’Aleo, Formworks Building

Will My Underground House Have Enough Airflow?

Will My Underground House Have Enough Airflow

Being underground can get stuffy, and you may worry that your underground house won’t have enough air flow. With poor planning, that can sometimes be the case. It’s important that you plan an earth-sheltered house with extreme care to ensure adequate ventilation is achieved in your house.

Elements of ensuring proper ventilation is twofold. You want to make sure your earth-shelter house is built to support a fast air exchange rate, or the speed with which your home replaces polluted air with fresh air. This will, in turn, provide higher overall air quality.

Ways To Improve Air Quality Inside Your Home

  • Using combustion appliances
  • Avoiding indoor pollutants
  • Using energy recovery ventilators
  • Buying air purifiers
  • Changing your AC filter
  • Cleaning your air ducts
  • Buying house plants
houseplants improve air quality
berm house pro tip

“To improve air flow, design your exterior like a dome instead of a box. The open, rounded space gives the air the ability to move extremely well.”

– Jon D’Aleo, Formworks Building

How Do I Ensure My Earth Shelter House Has Enough Light?

How Do I Ensure My Earth Shelter House Has Enough Light

You might imagine an underground home would be dark and gloomy, but that’s actually a common misconception about earth shelter homes. Underground houses have to meet standard building regulations in the same manner as traditional homes, despite all the differences in structure. This is especially true when it comes to light.

Earth-shelter homes tend to be strategically designed to incorporate copious amounts of natural light — large windows, high ceilings, and glass or reflective surfaces are often used in underground homes. This brings in as much natural light as possible and keeps the space feeling open.

Contractors will often build light tubes into the roofs of the structure to pull in sunlight and distribute it throughout the interior of the underground home. These light tubes use reflective materials to transmit light through any sized space.

What If My Underground Home Has Leaks?

What If My Underground Home Has Leaks

Leaks and flooding can be a big concern when it comes to underground life. Water flows downward, and it’s fairly common for moving groundwater to weasel its way into your earth-shelter home. So what do you do if you start to notice sagging wet spots on your ceiling and walls?

You want to catch the problem before it gets to that point by triple checking your initial design and effectively leak proofing it in the building stages.

Leakproof your earth shelter

  • Using plastic / vulcanized sheets
  • Filling in panels with bentonite
  • Using rubberized asphalt on roof
  • Sealing windows and doors with caulk
  • Installing weatherstripping
Seal windows and doors with caulk

However, if you do find yourself wading through puddles, you can use liquid epoxy to fill in holes and cracks where there is water coming in. This will hopefully divert some of the groundwater away from your house.

underground house construction pro tip

“Limit the amount of flat areas on your home. Lay out the exterior shell with valleys and intersections that allow water to move off of the shelter.”

– Jon D’Aleo, Formworks Building

Will My Underground House Attract More Pests?

Will My Underground House Attract More Pests

Ideally, your earth shelter should be designed in such an air-tight manner that pests and critters don’t have space to make a home. However, when you’re living underground, you’re technically in mother nature’s territory.

I have heard several friends who live in earth-shelter homes talk extensively about ants, centipedes, and termites getting into their walls and rooms. Others say it isn’t a problem in the slightest! If you do find yourself meeting your match with pests, fill in wall gaps and seal off doors and windows just like you would in a traditional home.

how to build an undergraound house pro tip

“Pests and critters are often attracted to crawl spaces. Build your home with a slab on grade foundation to keep it tight to the earth and prevent pests.”

– Jon D’Aleo, Formworks Building

Design Inspiration For An Underground Home

Design Inspiration For An Underground Home

I’m a simple guy, so if I were to move my tiny life underground, I would probably build as small and minimal of a house as possible. However, I know some people prefer more spacious, elaborate homes with big rooms and intricate designs. Whatever your style, there is a design out there for your underground home.

Oval-Shaped Underground House

Oval-Shaped Underground House

This modern earth shelter is perfect for families who live in the countryside, surrounded by rolling hills. The design is set up with low visibility and the house can only be seen from one side of the structure. The underground house layout includes a gorgeous patio and stone-walled kitchen, bedroom, and living room for your family to inhabit.

Oval Underground House
Round Shaped Underground House
round shaped underground house interior
oval underground house interior

Modern Earth Berm Home

Modern Earth Berm Home

This earth berm model is partially built into a hill, while part of the home extends out of the hill and into the woods. The front-facing side of the design is covered in glass to increase natural light, while the walls are lined with stone. The house has an underground and ground level with several gorgeous balconies.

Modern Earth Berm House
Modern Earth Berm House Facade
Modern Earth Berm Balcony
Modern Earth Berm House Roof
Modern Earth Berm House Kitchen
Modern Earth Berm House Plans

Underground Hobbit House

Underground Hobbit House

This whimsical hobbit house is perfect for The Lord of The Rings fans, or anyone looking to add a splash of fantasy to their reality. The home is entirely underground and covered in grass and earth. The interior walls are lined with stone and brick, and surround a bedroom, living room, and pool room.

Underground Dome-Shaped Earthen Shelter

Underground Dome-Shaped Earthen Shelter

This model has extremely low visibility. In fact, you could walk right on top of the roof and never know there was someone living underneath the ground! The rounded dome shape allows for air to move as freely as possible throughout this fully underground earth shelter.

Hobbit House Built Into The Hillside

Hobbit House Built Into The Hillside

Another whimsical choice, this hobbit house is built entirely into its surrounding hill. The home design includes a kitchen, bedroom, and living room that embody the rustic, woodsy feeling of Middle Earth. The standout feature of this design is the doorway — a perfect circular doorway framed in dark wood.

Green Roof Homes For Rent On Airbnb

Green Roof Homes For Rent On Airbnb

If you’re searching for a way to live with many relatives or extended family in your underground house, a design like this one may work will for you. These half dome, green roof tiny houses are connected by an outdoor patio and yard area. The exterior of the homes are covered in glass to allow natural light.

Cozy Underground House For A Family

Cozy Underground House For A Family

These earth shelters are unique in the way that they incorporate natural elements into the inside of the home as well as the outside. The house is fully submerged in the earth, with interior walls lined with beige and white stone. It offers low visibility and uses trees, bark, and plants throughout the inside of the house.

Natural Limestone Plaster Home Built Into Hill

Natural Limestone Plaster Home Built Into Hill

Personally, this design is one of my favorites due to the way the floorplan is woven into the natural shape of the earth. This house is almost entirely hidden to the outside world, but the high ceilings allow for tons of room underground. The uniformity of the white stone throughout the exterior and interior is also a nice touch.

Half Dome Earth Shelters For Multiple Families

Half Dome Earth Shelters For Multiple Families

These designs are also a great option if you want to live close to relatives or other families. These earth shelters are built into surrounding hills but still have one outside facing wall. While this model has a smaller interior, it’s great for minimalists who want to try living with less.

How To Build An Underground House

How To Build An Underground House

You don’t need an expert build and design team to create an earth shelter home! But it does take strategic planning, time, effort, and safe execution to maintain such an innovative living space. You definitely can be your own general contractor for a project like this if you stay educated and willing to get help where it makes sense.

1Step One: Do Your Own Research

Before you break ground for something this major, do your research. This step is vital. Every element of a project — cost, design, materials, insulation, wall framing, land, upkeep, and more is going to vary from the process you go through with a traditional house.

Don’t assume you know the answers. Look up the things you have questions about to pave the way for yourself before you even begin building your underground home.

2Step Two: Find Your Own Land

You can’t build your dream earth shelter without the right land. Typography is a huge part of what makes or breaks an underground house. Consider whether you want your earth shelter built into a hill, on top of your land covered in ground, or entirely underground. The type of land you select will determine the type of home you’re able to build and how easy the process will be.

A more horizontal slope will require more excavation than a vertical one, meaning the flatter the land the more strenuous it will be to dig out your shelter. You can build earth shelters into any kind of land, but most experts agree that land with gentle rolling hills and south facing slopes is most desirable.

finding land for your house

3Step Three: Plan Your Design

Planning your underground home wisely is key. Every detail matters when you’re attempting to work your design into the caricature of preexisting land. You’ll want to strategically place your largest room in spaces where the hill opens up, integrate light tubes in darker areas, and account for dips or bends in the earth when drawing out your floorplan.

You’ll also want to make sure your initial design sets you up for success in all ways. This includes combatting common obstacles earth shelter homes can bring about.

how to design a tiny house

4Step Four: Submit For A Building Permit

The building permit process for an underground home and a traditional house is likely the same, even if the outcome is different. Your underground home will need to be designed and built to the safety, residential, and building codes in your jurisdiction, the same way a traditional home would. It’s likely, though, that you may have to get a little more creative to make it happen.

5Step Five: Begin The Building Process

Now it’s time to break ground and begin building your earth shelter. Before you break ground, you’ll need to pre-mark the area on your property that you want to excavate with stakes and white paint. It’s also likely that you’ll need to hire an excavator. You can search for professional excavators online.

Make sure to pay close attention to your landscape and the type of soil you have on your land. Let that inform the tools and equipment you’ll need for your build.

Are Utilities Managed Differently In An Underground House?

Are Utilities Managed Differently In An Underground House

For the most part, yes! Since underground homes have to meet all of the same building codes as a traditional house, you treat utilities the same way you would for any house. However, there are a few tricks you can employ to make sure you set your utilities up in the best way you can underground.

For one, you want to design your house with an open floorplan and structural shell to keep your HVAC supported. As mentioned before, a whole house ventilation system can help improve your air quality while reducing humidity.

Another thing you should do is plan your electricity earlier than you might for a traditional house. With an earth shelter, you can run certain elements through a conduit on the actual shell of your house. Most other utilities like hot water access, sewage, internet, and plumbing is all fairly standard.

tiny house utilities

Cost To Build An Underground House

Cost To Build An Underground House

Underground houses may have a higher upfront price tag where building and design is concerned, but there are other costs that can be cut to make the playing field more even when compared to traditional housing.

With HVAC, strategic planning can cut up to 90% of the cost out of a home over time because the energy efficiency continues to grow with the life of the home.

Jon DAleo

“Your rough end cost will be more than a traditional home, but when you consider the lifetime and the longevity of this style of house, you end up saving money.”

– Jon D’Aleo, Formworks Building

It will likely cost somewhere between $130 to $150 per square foot to build a house like this. While that’s higher than a traditional house, the alternative values that the berm homes come with can be worth the higher investment on the front end if you play your cards right.

The smartest way to make back what you invest in a property like this is to register it with green building insurance coverage. This is a specific type of insurance for energy-efficient properties that can protect properties that may incur damage for being eco-friendly. This is the best way to protect your green roof home, and your wallet.

Is The Value Of An Underground Home Worth My Investment?

Is The Value Of An Underground Home Worth My Investment

Deciding whether an underground house is genuinely worth the investment in the long run is a big decision. Do you want to invest now so you can save later? The longevity of houses like this can last for up to 100 years, which can easily turn into properties passed down generationally.

You can also make money off of alternative properties like this through long-term renters or Airbnb. However, at the end of the day it will come down to whether or not the expensive investment is the right financial move for you and your family.

Using Underground Homes As Airbnb Rentals

Using Underground Homes As Airbnb Rentals

In today’s renter market, quirkier stays are in high demand. Airbnb has an entire “offbeat” section of properties for its most abnormal living experiences. What better way to join the fun than by turning your berm home into an Airbnb? You can become a host at Airbnb by clicking “add listing” at the top of their homepage.

Underground homes may not be very traditional, but neither are tiny homes. To me, earth shelters embody what simple living is about by encouraging an off-grid, eco-friendly, private life.

underground-home-as-air-bnb-rental

Your Turn!

  • How will you design your underground house?
  • Where will you choose to live in your earth shelter?

Starting A Tiny House Community: It Takes A Tiny Village

Starting A Tiny House Community: It Takes A Tiny Village

Starting A Tiny House Community

NAVIGATION

Imagine not worrying about paying rent, growing food on your property, having enough outdoor space for your dog and kids to play, and knowing your neighbors deeply enough to call them friend. If that sounds too good to be true, you’re in the right place!

Tiny house lovers are taking things to the next level by upgrading to entire neighborhoods. Shared social experiences, reduced cost of living, time outside with loved ones, freedom, and authentic connections are just a few reasons why people may want to start a tiny house community of their own.

ryans tiny house

Hi, I’m Ryan

Over the last decade, I’ve uprooted my life in the corporate world and exchanged it for a tiny lifestyle. My tiny house has given me benefits that have changed my life. Tiny communities bring you all the benefits of living in a tiny house, but allow you to experience them in a community with others.

ryan mitchell simple living expert

Why Live In A Tiny House Community?

Why Live In A Tiny House Community

In the isolated social culture of our media age, people long for honest connection. Something I love about tiny house culture is it gets back to communal life that used to be commonplace.

neighbors hanging out togetherIn the agrarian era, farming was the central focus of society; that work took up most of the day. As a result, people spent most of their time with the same people, and social communities naturally formed.

Today, a lot of our work is individualized and, thus, our lives are too. Tiny house communities are a way to get back to that down to earth, harmonious way of living. They put you in close proximity to your neighbors, allow you to depend on each other for resources, involve outdoor activities, and create spaces to bond.

You Truly Know Your Neighbors In Tiny House Communities

I think people today are craving the kind of camaraderie that tiny house communities foster. It’s one of the main reasons communities fill up so quickly. The culture in a tiny house neighborhood is drastically different from inner-city or suburban life — it’s much more personal.

tiny house community planning meetingKnowing your neighbors intimately is a given. Instead of interacting with your neighbors every once in awhile when you need someone to dog sit, you’ll run into them when you grab your mail in your pajamas, drink your coffee on your porch, or head out the door for work.

If you’re looking for total privacy, these villages may not be for you. Life in a tiny community means close quarters and daily interactions with other families. However, this hospitable camaraderie is a main reason people are drawn to tiny house communities.

You Have Financial Freedom In Tiny House Communities

Living in a tiny house has reduced my cost of living substantially, which makes it a huge pull for tiny communities. For one, you aren’t responsible for monthly rent or under the control of a landlord if you’re a part owner. Additionally, your utility bill is going to be much lower than if you lived in a traditional home.

It’s also common practice in these communities for people to share on food costs, cook meals for one another, host neighborhood potlucks, or share produce they’ve grown themselves — reducing money spent on food overall. Neighborhoods also regularly host activities collectively, which are open to everyone, so there is less need to spend on entertainment.

no spend challenge

Life Happens Outdoors In A Tiny House Community

In tiny home communities, little life moments happen outdoors. With such small living rooms inside, community residents often spend huge chunks of time outside doing yoga, grilling burgers, or playing with their dogs. In a typical community layout, tiny homes are positioned around a shared space: a communal fire pit, porch, or garden. Community members use the space as an extension of their living rooms.

Because of this, much more happens outside the house than in a traditional neighborhood, which is phenomenal for your health physically, mentally, and emotionally. Experts say time outside improves your quality of life, and these tiny housers really live that out.

Life Happens Outdoors In A Tiny House Community

Tiny House Villages Are Eco-Friendly

Environmental consciousness is a given in tiny house communities. Tiny homes require fewer materials to build and less energy to power, heat, and cool compared to traditional single-family homes.

Additionally, shared resources and meals, the utilization of communal spaces, solar panels, and a tendency to depend on one another for daily needs like carpooling and borrowing supplies reduces the carbon footprint of members in tiny house communities.

zero waste lifestyle

How To Start A Tiny House Community In 8 Steps

How To Start A Tiny House Community

Starting your own tiny house community takes more than just a bunch of friends with a dream. You’ll need donors, the right location, an understanding of building laws, and more to start your village off on the right foot. You’ve got to start somewhere, so let’s dive in!

1Set Goals For Your Tiny House Community

The process of starting a tiny house community is going to vary greatly depending on what your goals are, so you need to solidify your vision before making any concrete plans.

People start tiny house communities to:

  • House their own extended family
  • Create an intentional living community
  • Rent tiny homes out as Airbnbs
  • Give tiny homeowners long-term parking
  • Build energy-efficient housing alternatives
  • Offer alternate housing in a housing crisis
solar power efficiency

If any of these reasons sound like the intention you have in mind for your tiny house community, think about what that means for the planning and design process. You aren’t going to design or plan for each of these reasons in the same exact ways.

2Find A Location For Your Tiny House Neighborhood

Choosing the ideal location is important when considering how to start a tiny house community. You want to foster a positive environment. A community forms via the bonding of likeminded people, so you want to grow your village in a city where you naturally connect with the type of people who live there.

Do some in-depth research on different cities and towns, and what life looks like there to scope out the ideal location for your community. Think about the type of people you hope to attract and scope out places where the social culture matches your intent. Again, keep your intent in mind to help inform your research.

3Read Tiny House Building And Zoning Laws In Your City

You also can’t just plop a tiny house community anywhere — there are rules for where these neighborhoods are actually allowed to be. Reading the fine print of building and zoning laws is vital if you want to set up a community like this.

building codes and zoning for tiny house communitiesRural land restrictions tend to be less involved, with less building codes and less staff to enforce them. Cities and counties typically have minimum dimensions for single-family dwellings, so how small you’re allowed to build your home varies.

City building laws are more involved, and many of them aren’t quite up to date when it comes to accommodating tiny homeowners. However, just because you can’t find tiny house-specific laws in your city, doesn’t mean building a tiny house community is prohibited where you are.

I’d suggest consulting an expert like a local build and design company in your area to help you understand the fine print for laws in your city before breaking ground. Or, check out our state builder’s directory to find information on tiny house building laws in each US state.

4Gather Support To Fund Your Tiny House Village

Unless you’ve been saving awhile already, you’ll need to rely heavily on funds from other people to get a project like this off the ground. This can come from donors, investors, or simply encouraging your community residents to come together to split the cost of the project.

The co-housing movement is growing rapidly as today’s housing prices are steadily increasing. There are several legal structures in place to support the co-housing movement and make it possible to split costs with your peers. Some co-ops will also have a labor system where residents put in their time, labor, and skillsets to benefit the intentional living community and help reduce overall costs.

community supportEvery intentional community does things differently when it comes to ownership. It’s going to depend on what your purpose is for the village and whether or not you intend to have members buy the land and tiny house, rent the property, or invest in the project. For example, check out the in-progress Tongass Tiny Home Village in Alaska where the creators are using different investment packages for members to choose from to cover costs.

You’ll also need to budget wisely. You have to know how much you need in order to spell the costs out accurately for community members. This can get dicey, because projects like this span huge price ranges. Again, this goes back to your purpose and planning. You would need to budget a tiny neighborhood for your relatives in an entirely different way than a community you’re building to rent out tiny houses.

The best way to get a ballpark idea of your tiny home community cost is to find someone who has done something similar. Scope out projects that mirror your vision. Then, identify what you’re willing to spend on your project — is the cost of these similar projects comparable? You may need to amend your vision to get the support you’re seeking.

Consider the following costs when planning a tiny house community:

  • Land
  • Tiny house shells
  • Trailers
  • Design services
  • Building services
  • Land use permits
  • Building permits
  • Landscaping
  • Water infrastructure
  • Electrical connects
  • Vehicle management
  • Waste management
tiny house community planning

I’ve worked in the tiny community for over a decade, and too often I see people put all their eggs in one basket only to have their project fall off the map. Without proper planning, people often just decide they can build their dream tiny house village for an unrealistic amount of money, and it’s simply not possible.

Wise planning, however, can actually bring your vision to fruition! Your dreams are attainable if you pair the passion and idealism with practicality from the early planning stages.

how much does a tiny house cost

5Get Permits Your Tiny Village As A Neighborhood

The next step is to figure out what permits you need to get your tiny house neighborhood legally registered. Consider land permits, building permits, and the subject of registering your community as a neighborhood or RV park through your municipality.

building permits for tiny home neighborhoodsBuilding permits and land permits will be managed differently depending on where you live. Typically, permits are issued by local government agencies through which you’ll get approval. Here’s an example of a land permit from Santa Barbara, California. A simple google search can help you find out which department to contact about permits in your jurisdiction.

You’ll also need to register the tiny village as a legal rental property, neighborhood, RV park, or whatever designation fits best. This is a process you can complete through local government agencies. Depending on how you’re registering the village, you’ll likely seek out the department of transportation or department of community engagement.

6Build Your Tiny House Community

Once you’ve jumped through all the proper hoops to get your tiny house community set up, you can start building! Again, there’s a lot to consider when you’re ready to break ground.

Consider your budget and what that means for the building process — are you going to DIY the tiny houses and utility installation yourself? Or are you planning to hire a professional design and build team? Defer to our builder’s directory to find tiny home builders in your state.

Your design dreams are also a huge part of bringing your tiny house community to life. We’ll look at some example community layout ideas later in this post.

tiny house building checklist

7Find Your Tiny House Community Members

A tiny house community without community members will not stand. To start a tiny house neighborhood, you’ll need residents to live in your village, so get the word out! Posting online or creating a website for your tiny house community is a valuable way to find people who might want to live there.

You’ll also need to design a membership process that works for your vision. How do you want to go about accepting members into your community? There are several approaches — here are some common routes:

Common Membership Options

  • Co-op housing
  • Communal housing
  • Renting to tenants
  • Selling land plots and houses
  • Selling land plots for tiny homeowners to park
lots for rent in tiny house community

With co-op housing, each member of the community owns part of the project and decisions are made together like a team or family unit. While the co-op method may sound utopian, it can be hard to execute in the modern world. If the community doesn’t agree on core decisions like how to spend savings or use resources, the whole project can break down quickly. Psychologically, the co-op method is more likely to go smoothly with a smaller group.

Most of my friends who own tiny house communities have gone the renting and leasing routes because it’s easiest for them to manage effectively. It’s also the easiest way to get devoted investors, because investors know tiny home communities with a monthly rent will fill up and are more inclined to commit.

Most tiny house communities create an application process to approve renters and residents. That process can be as general or in depth as you see fit, but having some sort of screening process before accepting members is wise so that the character of the community matches your heart’s intent for the project. Check out Sunset Meadows in Trenton, Texas, for an example of how to set up applications.

8Move Into Your Tiny House Neighborhood

When your tiny house community is all set up, it’s time to move in and start your new life with your neighbors! Enjoy a communal life in your outdoor hammock, reading in your tiny house loft, and playing outside with neighbors and pets. Lean into the idyllic existence that mirrors how humans were meant to live.

intentional living

Starting A Tiny House Community: Potential Setbacks

Potential Setbacks To Starting A Tiny House Community

If you want to learn how to start a tiny house community, you might face some setbacks along the way. Addressing those obstacles early on helps you get in front of them to make your development process as smooth as possible. Let’s look out how to conquer any challenges you may face building a tiny house village.

Legislative Restrictions On Tiny House Communities

The most common obstacle that could get in the way of the tiny house community you desire is issues with building or zoning laws. Depending on where you live, you’ll undergo a different process to get a community approved.

You may have to present your project to a planning committee to get it approved entirely, or simply follow the building laws already in place and make sure your community does not break any zoning or building laws. If a tiny home is not legal in your jurisdiction, you may want to consider joining an existing community to avoid the headaches, or seek another locale.

desiging your tiny house

Tiny Home Villages Face Disapproval From Those Who Live In The Area

When creating your own tiny house community, you may face backlash from current homeowners in the area who do not understand what tiny homes are. There’s a stigma around RV parks, and pre-existing neighborhoods don’t always want them nearby.

But just because a tiny house community may be coded or zoned as an RV park, that does not mean the concerns residents in surrounding subdivisions have will be present. Regardless, you may face pushback from the community who fears and misunderstands your tiny home village, so just be aware of that.

Setting Up Utilities In A Tiny House Community Takes Work

You may also face challenges setting up utilities on the land you’re using for your tiny community. It can be a hard process, especially for someone without construction experience. But don’t lose heart! I built my own tiny house from start to finish without having any construction experience of my own. It took a while, but I was able to learn from experts as I went.

You’ll need to answer these basic utility questions that apply to the location of your neighborhood to inform what kind of utilities you need.

Basic Utility Questions

  • Is there a water supply nearby you can connect to?
  • Will your tiny houses need water tanks?
  • Are your tiny homes mobile with RV hookups?
  • Are you required to connect to the city septic line?
  • Will you need to install a septic tank?
  • How will you get electricity?
drain field for septic system

tiny house solar

Tiny House Community Design Ideas

Tiny House Community Design Ideas

One of the most important elements when it comes to starting your own tiny house community is the design. Check out these tiny house village plans to help you create the neighborhood that works best for you and your residents.

Tiny Home Community Plans For Twelve Families

Tiny Home Community Plans For Twelve Families

This layout is set up to include 12 tiny houses centered around a communal space in the middle. The communal space can be used for lots of different activities like group meals or game nights. Each house has its own driveway connected to the house.

Tiny House Neighborhood Layout For Families

Tiny House Neighborhood Layout For Families

Ideal for multiple families who want to live together in a tiny home village, this layout includes 12 homes which each surrounding their own cul-de-sac. This is helpful if you still want to maintain a sense of privacy while living in your tiny house community. The homes also surround a central community building.

Tiny House Community Design With Parking Lot

Tiny House Community Design With Parking Lot

If you are seeking a tiny house neighborhood that is welcoming to visitors, you may want to include a parking lot in your plans. This tiny house village layout is set up similarly to an apartment complex, with each building next to the other and a parking lot with covered and uncovered parking in the middle of the community.

Tiny House Village Layout With Covered Patios

Tiny House Village Layout With Covered Patios

This tiny home neighborhood has each of the 12 tiny homes fairly spread out, leaving room between them for larger yards. It also includes a covered outdoor space on each side of the street which you and your neighbors could use for community cookouts, bonfires, or picnics.

Tiny House Neighborhood Map With Parking Lot And Swimming Pool

Tiny House Neighborhood Map With Parking Lot And Swimming Pool

If you’re seeking a tiny house community layout that spreads each house out substantially while also having a spacious area for community activity, this might be the layout for you. The community area on the far-right side of the plot has room for a swimming pool and two covered patios to bring the community together and connect with one another.

Tiny House Community Blueprint For 44 Tiny Homes

Tiny House Community Blueprint For 44 Tiny Homes

Not all tiny house villages are meant for just a few residents. Many developers have dreams of creating tiny house neighborhoods that closely mirror subdivisions. This community layout has room for 44 tiny houses as well as a yard and parking spot for each home.

Tiny House Village Design Surrounding A Lake

Tiny House Village Design Surrounding A Lake

A communal, intimate feel is the focus of this layout. All of the tiny houses face each other and are angled around a lake at the village center. This setup also includes a community center which can be used for a vast number of purposes that best serve your tiny community.

Tiny House Neighborhood Plans

Tiny House Neighborhood Plans

This layout is set up the way a traditional neighborhood might be setup, except with parking lots at the end of the street instead of next to each individual home. The tiny houses sit across from one another to foster casual camaraderie amongst the community.

Tiny House Village Map For Eight Families

Tiny House Village Map For Eight Families

If you are seeking a tiny house community that still feels private and separate, consider this layout. The setup allows each resident to have room for their own backyard, front yard, and parking space, just like in a traditional subdivision. The only differentiating factor is the size of the homes.

Tiny House Community Blueprints With Lake

Tiny House Community Blueprints With Lake

This setup also has an interconnected, communal feel. All of the homes face each other in a circle to cater to that feeling. The only difference between this setup and the previous lake layout is the community center is in the middle of the community, while the lake is off to the side.

Tiny House Communities You Can Join Today

Tiny House Communities You Can Join Today

If you aren’t ready to start you own tiny house community, consider joining one that already exists! Find a tiny house community in your state or find a tiny house community near you!

tiny house communities directory

Your Turn!

  • Why do you want to build a tiny house community?
  • What steps do you need to take to develop your tiny house community?

Backyard ADUs: What’s The Big Deal And Why You’ll Want One

Backyard ADUs: What’s The Big Deal And Why You’ll Want One

Backyard Accessory Dwelling Units

NAVIGATION

If you’re searching for a place for your loved one to live nearby but want to forgo the madness of rent and mortgages in today’s housing market, accessory dwelling units are an awesome option. I’ve seen many families build ADUs on their property for elderly parents who want privacy, yet can’t live alone. I’ve also seen ADUs used for children who move back home, or as a private place for extended family to stay when they visit.

ryans tiny house

Hi, I’m Ryan

After years of helping folks design and build their dream tiny house, I’ve learned a lot about the dos and don’ts of the process, what mistakes to avoid, and what tricks to employ to make your ADU the best it can be.

ryan mitchell simple living expert

What Are Accessory Dwelling Units?

What Are Accessory Dwelling Units

An ADU is a smaller house that sits directly behind your main home, but is still on your property. There are tons of different building types for backyard ADUs, including:

Examples of Backyard ADUs:

  • Backyard tiny houses
  • Backyard cottages
  • Garage conversions
  • Prefab accessory dwelling units
  • Small detached mobile homes
  • Small detached container homes
  • Granny flats
a backyard accessory dwelling unit

Some ADUs have full bedrooms, bathrooms, or kitchens. Some are simply open rooms with studio space. The possibilities are endless with your backyard ADU, and the design and building style you choose is going to be dependent on your purpose for the building.

Why Build A Backyard Tiny House ADU?

Why Build A Backyard Tiny House ADU

I’ve spent a lot of time helping my friends design tiny houses, but wanted to learn more about the ins and outs of building ADUs so I could share that with you.

Last week, I reached out to two ADU design companies to ask the nitty gritty questions about what you should make sure you understand before building an accessory dwelling unit. These experts had a lot to say — let’s talk about what they shared.

ADUs Can Be Used To House An Elderly Parent

I’ve seen many folks build accessory dwelling units for their elderly parents. It’s a wise way to keep your parents close in their retired life, while still giving them their own private house.

With an ADU, your parent feels like they can live an independent life, but still access help when needed. Design the space to accommodate their needs in old age, like including wheelchair ramps or easy access to kitchen and bathroom spaces.

ADU tips“Design your ADU using universal design. Widen doorways for wheelchair accessibility, build the bathroom so you can add hold bars later, build to future proof for needs down the road.” – Caitlin Bigelow, Maxable Space

Boomerang Kids Live In ADUs Instead Of Moving Out

Building an accessory dwelling unit for your 20-something child is also becoming an extremely popular choice. With the cost of living getting more expensive every year, young professionals are desperately searching for alternative methods to find affordable housing.

With an ADU, your kids can have freedom, privacy, and independence without throwing rent down the drain each month. You also get to keep your loved ones close, but not too close.

Backyard Tiny Homes Make Great Guesthouses

Housing family and friends is another common reason I’ve seen people build ADUs. If you have substantial savings, a smaller primary house, and a lot of land, a guesthouse might be a helpful way to create a space guests can call their own.

With a separate guesthouse, family can stay for holidays, birthdays, or weekends without feeling like they’re invading your space or overstaying their welcome. It gives loved ones their own private living space, which can be a peaceful escape when you’ve had a little too much time together at family gatherings.

Backyard Tiny Homes Make Great Guesthouses

Backyard ADUs Provide Rental Income

People will make anything a rental property these days — from a backyard treehouse to a converted cargo trailer to their childhood bedroom. Building an ADU is a great way to get on board with this common trend.

Turning your ADU into a rental property can help you make a little extra money on the side. Whether you want to list it on Airbnb or rent it out long term, creating a rental property out of an ADU is a positive investment.

ADU tips“I’ve been a landlady for about 12 years with different long-term rentals, and renters always need more storage! Work with your designer to add storage to the outside of the unit.” – Lynette Padwa, Maxable Space

ADUs Increase Your Property Value Substantially

Many of my friends have built accessory dwelling units to raise the value of their home. They can really pay off when it’s time to sell.

Accessory Dwelling Units add value to your propertyWhen done well, detached ADUs have the potential to increase your property’s overall value by 20 to 30%. Additionally, a national housing survey by Porch recently stated that properties in major metropolitan cities like LA or New York City that have ADUs are listing at 35% above the price of properties without.

In today’s work-from-home culture, ADUs are hot commodities. People are seeking small spaces to rent to professionals and travelers, detached work-from-home offices, and tricked out guesthouses. This makes ADUs assets for realtors and homeowners alike.

ADU tips“Take out a home equity line of credit to unlock full revenue potential on the property. We see folks do this, and the cashflow they receive from that rent check each month covers the loan payment and much more, especially in expensive cities.” – Whitney Hill, Snap ADU

How Much Does An Accessory Dwelling Unit Cost?

How Much Does An Accessory Dwelling Unit Cost

Providing a one-size-fits-all cost breakdown is impossible with ADUs. The total cost of the project will depend on where you live, if there are any obstacles with the land you’re building on, what jobs you hire out and what you do yourself (building, architecture, installation), how you design your structure, how large it is, and many other factors.

how much do accessory dwelling units costI’ve heard of ADUs as cheap as $50,000 and as expensive as $400,000 — the range is huge. The best way to determine how much you’ll need to build your backyard dwelling is to look at examples similar to what you’re envisioning.

You can refer to local builders in your area, online listings of similar projects, or ask friends or neighbors in your community who may have built an ADU property.

Accessory dwelling unit is an umbrella term for so many types of housing. A backyard cottage will require an entirely different budget than a converted garage. Look to local projects that mirror what you want and talk to your builder to get an idea of the cost of your project.

ADU tips“The biggest thing people misunderstand is cost. There’s a lot of misinformation online about the price tag of these projects. Partner with a design company to understand what you can actually afford.” – Lynette Padwa, Maxable Space

Ideal Floor Plans For An Accessory Dwelling Unit

Ideal Floor Plans For An Accessory Dwelling Unit

It’s also hard to know what size is best for accessory dwelling unit, or what to include when designing one. The ideal dimensions can be contingent on many factors.

Consider how much land you have to work with, what you’re using your ADU for, the legal dimensions allowed in your jurisdiction, and property line setbacks, among other factors. Think about what will work for you.

ADU tips“The life of ADUs will go through different iterations in the 20 or 30 years you’re in your house. You may start out with your mom in there, but 10 years from now you may be renting it out. Design your space with the future in mind.” – Lynette Padwa, Maxable Space

Accessory Dwelling Unit For A Couple

30 x 24 ADU Floor Plan #1

30 x 24 ADU cost: $144,000