Archive for the Tiny House Category

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

Accessory Dwelling Unit For A Couple

Consider this floor plan if you’re thinking about using your accessory dwelling unit as a guesthouse for family and friends. With room for a queen bed, open kitchen and living room, washer and dryer, and full bathroom, this ADU design feels like an entire house of its own.

ADU Guesthouse with Mudroom

22 x 28 ADU Floor Plan #2

22 x 28 ADU cost: $123,200

ADU Guesthouse with Mudroom

The attached mudroom makes this floor plan extremely unique. A backroom extension is an awesome way to connect your ADU to the outdoor elements and have your kids wash up or change after a day of play. With an open living room and kitchen, bathroom, and room for a queen bed, this design makes a perfect pool house or guest home.

tiny house floorplans for adus

Two Bed, One Bath Accessory Dwelling Unit For Family

25 x 25 ADU Floor Plan #3

25 x 25 ADU cost: $125,000

Two Bed One Bath Accessory Dwelling Unit For Family

This design includes a wide open living room and kitchen with room for two bedrooms and one bathroom, making it the perfect size to house family around the holidays. Each bedroom is spacious with room for a queen bed and its own closet — great for extended family.

One Bed, One Bath ADU Floor Plan

37 x 24 ADU Floor Plan #4

37 x 24 ADU cost: $177,600

One Bed One Bath ADU Floor Plan

This floor plan merges the living and dining spaces, while the kitchen has a nook of its own. The bedroom is private and has room for one queen bed, with the bathroom directly connected. This design is perfect for a guesthouse or a place for grandma and grandpa to live in your backyard.

barndominium floorplans
living in a yurt

Two Bed, One Bath ADU Floor Plan

32 x 24 ADU Floor Plan #5

32 x 24 ADU cost: $153,600

Two Bed One Bath ADU Floor Plan

This two-bedroom, one-bathroom ADU floor plan is another option perfect as a guesthouse for relatives to stay or in-laws to live in permanently. The primary bedroom has a walk-in closet while the secondary bedroom has a smaller closet; both rooms fit queen beds. The kitchen serves as the point of entry, which opens into the living room.

ADU Garage Conversion, 2 Bedroom Floor Plan

25 x 25 ADU Floor Plan #6

25 x 25 ADU cost: $125,000

ADU Garage Conversion 2 Bedroom Floor Plan

This ADU garage conversion has room for two bedrooms with queen beds, a bathroom, and an open kitchen and living room. The floor plan is ideal for someone who wants to build an apartment on top of their two-car garage and is a great way to incorporate an ADU in smaller properties and urban settings.

free aframe floor plan kit

ADU Convert Garage, Boomerang Kids Apartment

25 x 25 ADU Floor Plan #7

25 x 25 ADU cost: $125,000

ADU Convert Garage Boomerang Kids Apartment

The ideal floor plan for a child who isn’t quite ready to move out, this converted garage will give your kid freedom and independence while not being far from home.

The design rests atop a two-car garage with room for a bedroom, bathroom, and living room with barstools and a large couch. They can have friends stay the night and enjoy privacy in their backyard ADU.

Three-Car Garage Converted Into ADU

32 x 25 ADU Floor Plan #8

32 x 25 ADU cost: $160,000

Three-Car Garage Converted Into ADU

Convert your three-car garage into an accessory dwelling unit with this prime floor plan. A two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment rests on top of your three-car garage and includes an open kitchen and living room with two closest and a dinette. This design makes the perfect guesthouse!

designing your tiny home

Four Tips For A Smooth ADU Building Process

Four Tips For A Smooth ADU Building Process

After designing your dream floor plan, it’s time to build your ADU! I’ve had friends start construction on a property they love only to hit major roadblocks later on. These easy checkpoints help prevent problems down the line.

1Tip One: Connect With A Local ADU Building Company

Building an ADU on your own is the easiest way to make the project take longer and cost more. The devil is in the details, and there is plenty of room for mistakes if you’ve never taken on a huge construction project before.

It’s helpful to have an expert’s input when it comes to things like zoning and building laws, installing heating and cooling systems, alternative energy sources, and other complicated details. A simple Google search can connect you with designers and builders in your area that can help you navigate the construction process of your ADU.

2Tip Two: Check The Feasibility Of An ADU On Your Land

Make sure your land can handle an ADU before you start building. Many expert building companies will help you undergo some kind of land analysis process to help you understand if an ADU will fit on your land.

They’ll also assess any problems that could drive the price up — like wanting to build on a sloped hill, underground pipes that inhibit the foundation, or rough terrain. This pre-analysis is crucial and will help you decide if an ADU is a worthy investment on your property.

ADU tips“Assess where the utility lines run, do I need to upgrade the electrical panel, are there access issues, does the sewer run downhill or uphill — these things can have a huge impact on cost. Ask these questions before starting the build.” – Mike Moore, Snap ADU

parking a tiny house

3Tip Three: Get A Permit To Make Your ADU Legal

When it comes to ADUs, getting the legal go-ahead can be dicey. Each state has their own set of zoning and building codes that they follow for traditional dwellings, and some have additional codes for detached dwellings.

cracking the codeYou almost always need a permit to make your ADU legal. This is another reason why it’s recommended to get help from an experienced builder who can help you read between the lines of your city’s building laws and walk you through the permit process.

Most ADU permits are managed by the governance of the city. City websites sometimes have a checklist of all the documents you’ll need, and each of the rules your ADU plans need to follow to be approved.

Here’s an example of an ADU permit checklist for San Jose, California. Look into the planning, building, and code enforcement department in your city to find a similar checklist.

Talk to the building company you’re partnering with and let them help you with the permit process before you break ground. You can also defer to our tiny house builders directory to see if your state has laws in place specific to ADUs.

4Tip Four: Assign A Mailing Address To Your ADU

In most cities, it’s recommended (or required) for ADUs to have their own address independent of the main house or property. The reason for this is fire safety. If firefighters need to get to a particular location quickly, trying to figure out which building on the property to go to wastes time.

Having an individual address for your ADU is also helpful if you have a parent, child, or long-term renter living in the backyard dwelling. It helps letters, cards, and bills not get mixed up as easily when there are two separate addresses.

Oftentimes, ADUs are given a ½ fractional number that is adjacent to the existing main address. Contact the Mapping and Property Management Division (MPM) in your respective jurisdiction for questions about setting up an address for your ADU.

How Do I Get Electricity, Water, HVAC, And Sewage Service To My ADU?

How Do I Get Electricity Water HVAC And Sewage Service To My ADU

A common question I get about ADUs is how they get the essential utilities: electricity, water, sewage, heating, and cooling. Basic utilities are typically required by law as a building code standard, so integrating them into your ADU is a must.

I’ll walk you through how to get each of these to your ADU so you can live comfortably in your backyard tiny home.

Electricity For A Backyard ADU

When it comes to power, you have several options here. Again, work with your builder to help decipher the route that works for your needs, your land, and your bill. Options for getting electricity to your ADU include:

Electricity Options For Your ADU:

tiny house electrical

Connect Your ADU To The Main House’s Power Source:

You’ll want to check the amperage to the main house before connecting the two units. Amperage is the amount of electric power that you have coming into the house in total.

Your main house will most likely have a total amperage of between 60 amps and 200 amps. With newer houses, it’s likely the home will have 200-amp services. Older homes may have less.

An ADU may need up to 100 amps to operate, so it’s vital that you to consider the amperage of your primary dwelling before connecting it to your ADU to ensure you have enough power for both properties.

Giving Your ADU Its Own Power Source:

Sometimes it just makes more logistical sense to give your ADU its own power source. This is smarter if your main house doesn’t have enough amperage to power your ADU, or if you plan to rent it out and don’t want to deal with splitting the bill each month.

electric meter for aduIf you choose to go this route, you will need to install a dual meter panel on the main house.

Keep in mind that creating a power supply for your ADU that is separate from the main house is not cheap. Purchasing a new panel, creating a new electrical service, and wiring can all run the price up. But depending on where the power lines and poles are in relation to where you want to put the ADU, it may be cheaper to run separate lines.

The price will vary, but I’ve seen power companies run up to 250 feet of power lines for free if you maintain a power service with them. So if there is a power pole close by, you might save money by going separate.

But if hooking up to the main unit is simpler, I’d recommend that route to save money. Talk to the building company you’re partnered with to figure out where the power lines are to create a plan that’s best for your wallet.

Power Your ADU With Solar Panels:

Another popular option for powering an ADU is solar panel installation. This is an amazing option for the environment and your lifestyle. I’ve been powering my tiny house with solar panels for over seven years now. Not having a power bill for almost a decade has been incredible.

ADU with solar panelsMost people would love to have solar panels on their property, but it gets expensive quickly. Some cities still require you to be grid connected, so you have to pay that cost along with the costs that come with going solar. The startup cost for buying and installing solar panels, battery packs, and other accessories is typically around $30,000 or more for an ADU.

However, this is a one-time payment, which will eventually be matched by the monthly electricity bill. There is also a tax credit you’ll receive down the line, but you will still need the cash flow for that initial installation cost. To me, this made the long-term investment in going solar on my own tiny house worth it.

Heating And Cooling Your Accessory Dwelling Unit

Every ADU unit needs to have a good heating and cooling source. The most effective means of heating and air conditioning a backyard tiny house are ductless, mini-split heat pumps. I’ve installed two mini pump systems myself, and it was actually easy! There are DIY kits available that are super simple and relatively affordable. Mini pumps are cost effective and can heat and cool all in one unit!

mini split system for an aduThese split pump systems work by using an indoor unit that is connected to an outdoor compressor. The outdoor compressor heats or cools the air depending on the season, then sends that air directly into your accessory dwelling unit.

If you’re working with a builder, it’s highly likely they will work with you on installation of a mini-pump. However, it’s also possible to install a mini-pump system DIY style if you’re tackling the project on your own. Mini-splits are the easiest installation for confident DIYers.

Setting Up Sewage Service For An ADU

In most cities, you can simply tap into the sewer connection between the city sewer line and your primary dwelling, and connect it to your ADU. However, the cost of the sewage system is going to actually depend on where the ADU sits on your land in relation to your primary house.

However, for more remote locations or those who want an ADU on wheels, you may need an alternative sewage option. If you’re unable to connect your ADU to the main sewage line, I’d suggest installing a septic system. It’s worth noting that in some places, because of the type soil or municipality laws, you may not be allowed to have a septic.

style advice“If your ADU sits up higher than the main home or lateral sewage line, that’s ideal. You won’t need to add a sewage pump. If the ADU sits lower than the main home you’ll have to add a sewage pump — usually about a $5,000 increase.” – Mike Moore, Snap ADU

Some cities require you to be on their sewer system and won’t grant septic permits easily. In general, if there is a sewer line on your street, you’ll be required to tap into it. But for those out in the boondocks, this isn’t an option, so septic is the way to go.

Work with your builder to determine whether or not you’ll need your own septic system or if you can tap into your city’s main sewage line. Or, if you’re building on your own, look into the rules for sewage maintenance within your municipality.

septic system install

Water Systems For A Backyard ADU

Water is the easiest utility to set up in an ADU. It’s similar to sewage in that you typically connect your ADU to the city’s main line. It’s the easiest, most cost-effective way to get water to your dwelling, especially if your ADU is stationary and in a permanent location.

getting water to an aduIf you’re in a remote location or want your ADU to be mobile, you’ll need an alternative water system. Getting water without a direct connection usually means setting up a water tank. Water tanks require scarcity.

The average American uses around 100 gallons of water per day, so if you’re going to use a water tank as your primary water source, you’ll have to be cautious about how much water you use.

Tanks work well for ADUs without their own bathroom, like an office or studio space. However, you might not want to go this route if grandma lives in your ADU or you’ll be cutting her showers short.

Talk to your builder about whether or not it’s best to hook up to your city’s main water line or set your ADU up with its own water tank.

Additional Resources For ADU Homeowners

Resources For ADU Homeowners

For the ADU Coalition’s list of builders and designers, click here.

design and build collection

Your Turn!

  • How will you design your accessory dwelling unit?
  • What will you use your backyard ADU for?

The Definitive Guide To Converting Your Cargo Trailer

The Definitive Guide To Converting Your Cargo Trailer

Cargo Trailer Conversion

NAVIGATION

Have you ever considered camping in a cargo trailer? Converting a cargo trailer from scratch allows you to design your camper to specifically fit your needs.

Having a blank canvas with so much room for creativity might seem a little scary, but if planned out well, it can really enhance your camping experience. A cargo camper is more affordable and customizable than traditional campers and RVs, and it is definitely sturdier than a tent.

ryans tiny house

Hi, I’m Ryan

When I built my cargo camper as a temporary place to live while finishing up my tiny home, I loved being able to drop the ramp door off the back, pull out my mattress, and lay in bed looking up at the stars.

ryan mitchell simple living expert

What Type Of Trailer Should I Convert Into A Camper?

what type of trailer should i convert into a camper

I considered a lot of factors before choosing a 7’x14’ V-nose trailer to convert. There are many styles and sizes available, which can make the shopping process a little overwhelming at first. Let’s narrow down some of those options.

V-Nose Trailer Camper

V-Nose Trailer Camper

v-nose trailerA V-nose trailer is an enclosed trailer that features a V shape on the front rather than a flat shape. There are a couple of benefits to having this V-shaped front.

First off, it adds a few extra inches to the front, which could be a great spot for additional shelving and storage. I’ve even seen people use this extra space for their toilet and shower because it’s an easy place to hang a curtain for privacy. Another plus is that these trailers will get you better MPG, as the V shape is more aerodynamic and easier to pull.

I find the biggest downside to V-nose trailers is that they create a more complicated layout, since the shape is a bit awkward. But if you’re a handy person and this isn’t your first build, you may enjoy the extra challenge the V shape provides.

Flat Nose Trailer Camper

Flat Nose Trailer Camper

flat nose trailerA flat nose trailer is a traditional box shaped trailer. When I was shopping around for trailers, I found these to be the most popular and affordable option. The box shape gives you more space by the hitch, where I’ve seen people mount storage boxes in addition to their propane tanks. Plus, their modular shape makes for a much simpler interior design.

One important thing to note about flat nose trailers is wind resistance. If you’re worried about your cargo camper slowing you down, consider adding a wind deflector to the roof. For a small price, you can achieve an aerodynamic effect similar to that of the V-neck trailer.

Toy Hauler Camper

Toy Hauler Camper

toy hualer camperToy Haulers are considered RVs with fold down ramps and dedicated “garage” areas for large items like bikes, ATVs, or even watercraft. The built-in garage space is ideal for many campers and makes a great option for a camper conversion.

The most common toy hauler you’ll find is a bumper pull, and it has about the same weight capacity as a cargo trailer of the same size. These trailers will have a smaller garage, and if you plan on keeping that space intact for your toys, keep in mind that you usually have to unload the garage area to use the living space.

If you’re looking to keep the garage area as a dedicated space for large toys and you don’t want those toys spilling into your living area, you should consider a fifth wheel toy hauler. This type separates the bult-in garage area from the living area, so it’s a great option if you’re looking for the best of both worlds.

Best Size Cargo Trailer To Convert

Best Size Cargo Trailer To Convert

The first thing I did before shopping for a trailer was check my vehicles towing capacity. When I converted my trailer, I planned to use it as a temporary place to live by myself.

I knew I wouldn’t be doing much traveling, but that I needed to account for all of my belongings while my tiny home was under construction. With that in mind, I chose a 7’x14’ trailer, which was the perfect size for me.

cargo trailer 5x8
I would recommend a 5’x8’ trailer if you’re a solo camper who wants to get around easily. This is a great option if you don’t have a large truck but do have a mid-sized SUV or smaller truck that can handle a smaller load.

An empty 5’x8’ cargo trailer weighs around 800 lbs. and can hold about 2,200 lbs. of additional weight.

cargo trailer 6x10
I like this size because it’s a great option for two people, or a solo camper traveling with a dog. With the right style bed, you could easily sleep two people in this trailer. I’ve also seen a lot of people put a dog bed under their elevated bed.

An empty 6’x10’ trailer weighs around 1,000 lbs. and can hold about 1,800 lbs. in additional weight.

cargo trailer 6x12
For couples who camp together, this option is a great choice because it allows space for a larger bed and a shower. Plus, it can still be towed by a smaller truck.

An empty 6’x12’ trailer weighs about 1,200 lbs. and can hold about 1,800 lbs. of additional weight.

cargo trailer 7x12
This size trailer is great for couples with a dog or couples who take longer trips, as there’s a bit more room for storing your supplies. Be sure to take into account the weight of this camper when it’s fully loaded, as it may need a larger truck to be towed.

An empty 7’x12’ trailer weighs about 1,300 lbs. and can hold about 1,700 lbs. of additional weight.

cargo trailer 7x14
You might want to consider this option if you’re a small family with a large truck. This is a decent size trailer to fit bunk beds or a large seating area for a family.

An empty 7’x14’ trailer weighs about 1,400 lbs. and can hold about 1,600 lbs. of additional weight.

cargo trailer 7x16
This is an ideal option for a larger family who wants to get away from it all. You’ll need a larger truck to tow this because the weight will be higher, but it’s easily doable.

An empty 7’x16’ trailer weighs about 2,200 lbs. and can hold about 4,700 lbs. of additional weight.

towing a tiny house

How To Design An Enclosed Trailer Camper For You

How To Design An Enclosed Trailer Camper That Is Right For You

One of the first things I learned when building my camper and my tiny house is that planning your design ahead is the most important part of the building process. Start by pinpointing what your needs are and make note of what is most important on that list. Then you can start designing a camper and be confident that it will fit all of your needs.

how to design a tiny house

Can You Put A Bathroom In An Enclosed Trailer?

Can You Put A Bathroom In An Enclosed Trailer

I personally like the convenience of a full bathroom no matter where I’m parked, but some campers prefer to stick to campsites with facilities.

I’m often asked about toilets in tiny spaces. For camping purposes, I would recommend a composting bucket toilet or a portable toilet because they’re waterless and stowable. These will save space in both your water tank and your floorplan.

And, for all of the toilet questions you’re probably afraid to Google, I’ve answered them in my What It’s Really Like To Use A Composting Toilet post.

There are a few options for a shower in a trailer, with the easiest option being a shower stall kit. These can be purchased at your local supply store for around $400 with all parts included and are guaranteed to be lightweight.

If you’re a handy person and want to DIY, you can install a handmade shower like the one featured below. I would start with a shower pan and then install my waterproof enclosure next. I love the look of this modern shower with stainless-steel walls and a waterfall showerhead.

stainless steel shower
tiny house toilet options

Cargo Camper Bedroom Options

Cargo Camper Bedroom Options

When it comes to sleeping in a cargo camper trailer, I would recommend a bed that saves you the most space. With such limited square footage, a standard size bed may fill up the entirety of the trailer space. Here are some sleeping options that will save you the most space.

Elevator Bed

I’ve noticed the elevator bed growing in popularity, and for good reason! Similar to the Murphy bed, this option gives you plenty of floor space. But with the elevator feature, you don’t have to move anything out of the way to reveal the bed — you can lower your mattress to a height that allows you to leave most of your belongings where they are.
cargo camper elevator bed

Raised Bed

A raised bed is perfect for campers who need the extra storage space. They provide plenty of space for storing food, clothing, and maybe even a dog bed.
cargo camper raised bed

Murphy Bed

Murphy beds are a very common space-saving bed option. When folded, it provides open floor space and room to move around the trailer.

Also featured in this trailer is a futon. The futon is a great bed choice because, with a simple maneuver, it serves a second purpose. If you plan to spend a lot of time hanging out inside of your cargo camper, you may like having the seating area.

cargo camper murphy bed

Kitchen In A Cargo Camper

Kitchen In A Cargo Camper

I had so much fun designing and planning the kitchens for my tiny house and camper. It’s where I got to be the most creative and really started to customize my space to fit my needs. Even the minor details in your kitchen can really make a big difference in such a small space.

Kitchen Appliances in a Cargo Camper

store away cooktopI cook all of my meals from scratch and I love to grill out, so with this in mind, I focused more on my outdoor grill and reserved extra counter space in my camper kitchen. If you’re looking to save some counter space, a store-away stovetop is a great option.

I also opted for a convection toaster oven because it requires less power and space than a built-in oven. Take a look at my top appliance recommendations for more advice on how to equip a small kitchen space.

Fridges In A Cargo Camper

refrigerator In a cargo camperRefrigerators and freezers are a little trickier since they aren’t something you can just turn off and store away. You’ll need to be sure the one you choose is compatible with your power source and battery setup.

I don’t have much use for a freezer, so I use a small electric fridge that’s compatible with my solar power. Portable chest refrigerators are also popular options for trailer campers because they run on rechargeable batteries and most of them have a dual freezer option.

Sinks In A Trailer Conversion

undermount sinkA kitchen sink is something I certainly couldn’t live without. Take into account all of its potential uses: dish washing, clothes washing, hand washing (no need for a bathroom sink), and others. For this reason, I would recommend a deep sink to allow for multipurpose use.

I personally prefer an undermount-style sink because of the attachable accessory options, like the countertop slab for additional counter space.

Kitchen Pantry In a Trailer Camper

Let’s not forget about kitchen storage! People often finish their kitchen designs only to realize they forgot to account for a pantry.

kitchen pantry storageMake sure to give yourself enough space to store not only food, but also pots, pans, and dishes.
catty corner kitchenA catty-corner kitchen is a great use of the V shape. This kitchen features a microwave with a range hood, three to four burner stove, oven, and fridge.

Maximizing Storage In A Cargo Trailer Camper

Maximizing Storage In A Cargo Trailer Camper

I love seeing creative ways people incorporate storage into their camper designs. Creating storage space under a bed or bench gives a multi-use of the space. As you can see in this trailer camper, there is plenty of storage space below the bed that folds back up into a bench seat.

cargo camper raised bedIf you’re limited on counter space, take advantage of your walls by mounting and hanging items. Whether it’s with shelves or racks, mounting items to the wall will give you an alternative place to store household items and food.

In a V-nose style trailer, I would utilize the extra inches of the V shape as shelving space. Since I don’t have a bathroom vanity, I would use this space to store my toiletries and towels.

Enclosed Trailer Camper Conversion Design Inspiration

Enclosed Trailer Camper Conversion Design Inspiration

Starting a DIY camper conversion from scratch gives you the freedom to plan and design it to fit your personal needs and aesthetic. Check out these unique designs for some cargo camper inspiration.

Millard’s 5’x10’ Trailer Camper Conversion

Millards Trailer Camper Conversion

The Millard’s loved the idea of #vanlife as a way to hit the road and get away, but they did not want to spend a small fortune on the van and remodel. Instead, they opted for a 5’x10’ DIY trailer conversion. Now they can travel more and spend less, and they didn’t have to sacrifice a single feature!

millards converted cargo camper

Camper Conversion Storage

There’s a very cozy feel in this converted cargo camper. It features a double burner stove and kitchen sink, plus plenty of kitchen storage and storage under the bed. I also love the floating knife rack as a way save countertop and drawer space.


wood panel ceiling and accent walls

Camper Conversion Bedroom

The wood panel ceiling and accent walls in the camper make an elevated design touch. The bedroom features a TV mounted on the wall and an entertainment tray for beverages in bed. Shelving above the bed is perfect for storing a phone or book at night.


stowaway table and seat

Camper Conversion Kitchen

This design really takes advantage of the underbed space with a stowaway table and seat. Under that seat would be a great spot for additional storage, or even a portable toilet. On top of that, there’s tons of storage in the kitchen.

BAHN Camper Works’ Cargo Camper With Tons Of Seating

BAHN Camper Works Cargo Camper

Ryan, the owner of BAHN Camper Works, is an engineer who designs custom campers. When he realized he needed a bigger, higher quality camper to better suit his growing family, he decided to build one. This inspired him to start his business and he now builds custom campers to fit clients’ specific needs.

cargo trailer custome seating area

Trailer Camper Dining

For large families who enjoy game nights and eating meals together, a kitchen table of this size would be perfect. This cargo camper not only features a custom seating area, but also a large kitchen countertop, full-size sink, and large cabinets and drawers.

custom cargo conversion

Trailer Camper Kitchen

There are so many functional details in this custom cargo conversion. They have electrical wall outlets with USB ports next to the couch, a smart home panel is easily accessible over the door, and the furnace makes for a nice decoration in addition to providing heat.

cargo trailer kitchen sink

Trailer Camper Sink

The custom trailer also has a large kitchen sink with a water filtering faucet. It’s a great size for both dishwashing and clothes washing. A spice rack mounted on the cabinet displays a convenient use of storage.

How To Build A DIY Cargo Trailer Camper

How To Build A DIY Cargo Trailer Camper

Before my tiny house, I had never actually built anything before. After finishing my design and plans, I was a bit uneasy about actually beginning the building process. Here are a few tips I learned that will help ensure you’re off to a good start, especially if it’s your first DIY build.

Materials Needed For A DIY Cargo Trailer Camper Conversion

Materials Needed For A DIY Cargo Trailer Camper Conversion

Once you have a solid idea of your cargo camper design, you can start making a shopping list of materials you’ll need to purchase. This preparation will help ensure that you stay on track with your budget and that you won’t have to make multiple trips to your supply store.

Doors

Windows

Insulation

Lumber

Interior siding

Shower stall

Water heater

Toilet

Light fixtures

Vent fan

Appliances

Flooring

Fasteners/Adhesives

Paint

The most important materials you’ll need to get started on your camper conversion are insulation and supplies for walls and floors. There are many insulation options, including foam boards, fiberglass batts, and sheep’s wool.

pro tip

The most popular form of insulation in a cargo trailer is rigid foam board, as it’s affordable, water resistant, sturdy, and most importantly, it gets the job done.

What Tools Do I Need For A DIY Cargo Camper Conversion

What Tools Do I Need For A DIY Cargo Camper Conversion

Like I mentioned earlier, my DIY camper and tiny house were the first things I ever built. I quickly learned that I needed to stock up on some essential tools. Depending on your design, you’ll need a variety of hand, power, and measuring tools. Be sure to check out my detailed tool recommendations.

tiny house tools

Heating And Cooling Options In A Trailer Camper

Heating And Cooling Options In A Trailer Camper

I’ve lived in a tiny home for quite some time now, so I can attest to how important it is to insulate your DIY build.

Enclosed cargo trailers don’t typically have insulation, so if you plan on camping all year round, it’s a good idea to insulate your cargo camper so you’re ready for any climate. Keeping warm in cold climates, and vice versa, is crucial to a pleasant camping experience.

Let’s talk about heating first. For starters, you’ll need to determine whether you plan to camp off grid or not. Once you’ve narrowed it down, think about the size of your trailer and how large of a system you’ll need to heat the entire camper.

options for heating a tiny house

In addition to heating, there are a lot of options for air conditioning. I’ve seen a lot of people install both an air fan and a portable AC unit. The air fan serves as a great backup should anything go wrong with your AC unit while you’re on the road.

I power both my tiny home and cargo camper with solar panels, which took a lot of trial and error at first. Check out what I learned in my post about Air Conditioning On Solar Power.

Plumbing In A Cargo Trailer Camper

Plumbing In A Cargo Trailer Camper

When converting my cargo trailer camper, the idea of plumbing was pretty daunting at first. It was hard to imagine having running water in such a small and mobile unit. As it turns out, it’s actually a lot simpler than I first thought.

Water Inlet

You have a few options for camper plumbing. One is an RV water inlet. If your camping involves campsite hookups, this would be a convenient option for you. These are simple to install and connect and can be used at almost any campgrounds.

RV water hookup

Water Storage Tank

For those who are always on the road or prefer off-grid camping, a water tank would be a better option. With this water source comes a few additional materials and connections. I go into more detail on this in my post about plumbing.

water tank for rv or camper

Regardless of the plumbing option you choose, make sure to take into consideration both a heating source and an inline water filter. Hot water is make or break for some people, so don’t forget it in your planning process if that’s you. I would also recommend placing an inline water filter in your pipes to automatically filter the water coming through.

Powering Your DIY Cargo Trailer Camper

Powering Your DIY Cargo Trailer Camper

Before I started using solar panels, my preferred method of power was a temporary 50-amp plug. This is a great electric option (even in addition to solar power) because it gives you flexibility with your power source. You can find your preferred amp plug and a drop extension cord at any RV store, then you’ll be all set to connect to power from a home or an RV park.

If you choose to go the temporary plug route, make sure to accurately calculate the voltage you’ll need for your size camper. There’s some basic math you’ll need to understand in order to properly power your camper, and I explain that in my Tiny House Electrical Guide.

cargo trailer solar panelsIf you’re on the road quite often and are considering solar power, you’ll want to mount the panels to your roof so you can capture sunlight while on the go. Mounting solar panels isn’t as easy as it looks, but luckily, there are smaller, more flexible panels made specially for RV and camper mounting.

After seven years of living completely off grid and powering my tiny home with solar panels, I’ve compiled some of my tips and tricks in this solar power post. Be sure to check it out if this is your preferred electric source for your cargo camper.

Cost To Convert A Cargo Trailer Into A Camper

What Does It Cost To Convert A Cargo Trailer Into A Camper

A DIY build for your cargo trailer conversion can vary in price depending on the quality of materials and appliances. The good news is, if you’re starting from scratch, you can budget from the beginning and plan ahead for how much or how little you want to spend.

A brand-new trailer, depending on the size, can cost between $4,000 and $6,000. Used trailers (in good shape) can cost as little as $2,000. Always make sure to check if the used trailer needs new tires or any other maintenance, as this can tack on an additional expense.

The largest costs will be materials like windows, insulation, and HVAC. Whether you install these features yourself or hire someone to do it will also largely affect the price. For some, the time and peace of mind saved by hiring a professional is worth the extra money. Keep this in mind when budgeting for your more expensive materials.

Another cost to consider is tools. If this is your first DIY build, you may need to take a trip to a supply store, but keep in mind that tools can get pricey. Stick with the essentials to begin with — you’ll be surprised what you can accomplish with just the basics.

Materials Price
Doors $500–$1,000
Windows $300–$1,000
Insulation $500–$1,000
Lumber $500–$2,000
Interior Siding $500–$1,500
Shower Stall $400–$1,500
Water Heater $500–$1,500
Materials Price
Toilet $20–$800
Light Fixtures $1,000–$2,000
Vent Fan $50–$200
Appliances $400–$4,000
Flooring $300–$1,000
Fasteners/Adhesives $1,000–$1,500
Paint $50–$200

how much does a tiny house cost cta

Four Of My Favorite DIY Cargo Camper Videos

Four Of My Favorite DIY Cargo Camper Videos

I really love the garage this DIYer incorporated into his camper. If you’re an adventurous traveler, this is an awesome way to bring along your camping or sports equipment.

If you’re building your camper to travel with kids, check out this video. It features two different space-saving bed styles, plus seating for a family of four.

Here’s a great cargo camper tour with tons of custom DIY design ideas. This build showcases both an elevator bed and a chest fridge, which are great for small campers.

This video shows a detailed tour of a nice, modern camper. I love the look of this design and the custom bathroom is definitely impressive.

FAQs About Utility Trailer Campers

FAQs About Utility Trailer Campers

There’s a lot to think about if you’re considering converting an enclosed cargo trailer into a camper. The best advice I can give is to do your research, plan ahead, and enjoy the process! Here are some common questions I get that you might also be wondering about.

Are Enclosed Trailers Safe To Sleep In?

With the proper ventilation, yes! There are a few different ways to get airflow in your trailer, and if you’re worried about fresh air, windows can easily be installed in a trailer.

If you’re going to be using propane to power your camper, you’ll want to install a carbon monoxide detector. These are standard in all RVs and should also be installed in cargo campers if gas is being used.

If you’re traveling with pets, you may also want to invest in a temperature monitoring device. This will allow you to check the temperature of your trailer camper from your phone while your pets are home alone. You’ll be notified if something goes wrong and the temperature jumps or drops to dangerous levels.

How Much Does A Cargo Camper Weigh?

A converted cargo camper can weigh anywhere between 2,000 and 6,000 lbs., depending on size and other interior factors. Here’s a great video that goes into detail on weight and vehicle tow capacity

What Kind Of Hitch Do I Need For My Tailer Camper?

Receiver hitches are divided up into five classes. The lower the class, the smaller the vehicle and weight pull capacity. For an SUV pulling a smaller sized trailer camper, a class 2 hitch should do the trick. Large vans and small pickup trucks would work well with a class 3 hitch. For larger trailers and tow vehicles, a class 4 or 5 hitch would work best. Be sure to do your research on what kind is best for your setup.

What Kind Of Truck Do I Need To Pull My Cargo Camper?

People assume they need to rent large trucks to tow trailer campers, but you’d be surprised at how much weight an SUV can pull. You’ll have to do some research on your vehicle to find the exact pull capacity, but I’ve put together some tips on how to find your vehicle towing capacity.

Do Cargo Campers Need To Be Insured?

Since a camper is not motorized, it technically does not need to be insured. You may, however, need to register your camper at the DMV. Some states require this to make sure your trailer camper is safe for the road. Be sure to check with your state, or the states you’ll be driving through, on camper regulations.

Are Converted Cargo Campers Welcome At RV camps?

Campgrounds will allow all types of converted vehicles, but RV parks will sometimes require an official RV registration. You can register a “non-motorized” vehicle as an RV, so it is certainly an option. If you plan to visit an RV park, be sure to check for this requirement.

Can I Have A Toilet And A Shower In My Cargo Trailer Camper?

Yes, there are many options for toilets and showers in cargo campers. Portable toilets and composting toilets are the most popular options because they don’t require water. Read more about waterless toilets in my post about tiny house toilet options.

As long as you take into account a water source (and likely a water heater), you can certainly install a shower in your cargo camper. I’ve seen a lot of V-nose spaces utilized for this. The tricky thing is providing privacy without taking up the space for a wall or door, so I would recommend hanging a curtain around the toilet and shower.

Can You Put A Window In A Cargo Trailer Camper?

A window is an awesome addition to any enclosed cargo camper. Once you’ve measured and cut out your window opening, installing the window frame is quite simple. Having a window allows you to enjoy the view and fresh air, and can really make all the difference in a trailer conversion.

Can I Go Off-Road With My Cargo Camper?

With the right size trailer and hitch, you can certainly drive off-road with your cargo camper. Depending on the quality and style of the trailer you converted, you may want to consider upgrading the suspensions and tires to help driving over rough terrain.

Your Turn!

  • What’s on your must-have list for your cargo trailer-turned-camper?
  • What’s the biggest challenge you’re facing on your DIY camper?

Tiny House Office Setup Guide: Work from Home in a Small Space

Tiny House Office Setup Guide: Work from Home in a Small Space

tiny house office

NAVIGATION

With more and more people working from home these days, I’ve been asked about my tiny house office—how do I stay productive? How do I work from home in a small space?

One of the biggest things that attracted me to tiny houses and simple living in the first place was having more control over how I worked and earned a living. I wanted the flexibility with my time that a remote job and financial freedom could bring.

But remote work from a tiny house isn’t without challenges. Planning and organization make all the difference. Here’s how I set up my tiny house office, and a realistic overview of how to create a small workspace that works!

My Tiny House Office: How I Stay Productive

How I Stay Productive in my tiny house office

I’ve been working from home for over a decade now—being self-employed, I don’t have an employer that I visit. That means I don’t have to leave my tiny house (ever) if I don’t want to. While this control over my work location is excellent, I’ve discovered over the years that working from a tiny house office is HARD.

To be totally candid, I don’t always work from my “tiny house office.” I often work from either a coffee shop or a coworking space. I like the shift of being able to go into a designated workspace when I need to be productive. But that said, it’s not always realistic. There are times when I need to work from home, like when the weather’s bad or if I only have a few things to do, so I’m free the rest of the day to spend how I see fit.

Working Remotely In A Tiny House

working remotely in a tiny house

If you live in a tiny house on wheels, you may also be working remotely from the road. The freedom and flexibility of the tiny life allow you to work from anywhere you want in the world. Plus, a tiny house means fewer bills. You can live on less. But of course, you still need to find a way to earn something, which often means working remotely in one form or another.

I know many people who switched to a work-at-home job when they downsized to a tiny house just because they wanted to change their lifestyle. Some people are willing to take significant pay cuts to enjoy that quality of life.

The thing about tiny houses is that the space is very limited, so you will rarely see a dedicated tiny house office. Often it will be a desk or workplace set up on a countertop, in a closet, or on a drop-leaf table on the wall. Because you’re trying to maximize your productivity (and minimize your work time), you must keep your tiny house office organized, no matter the setup.

Elements of a Good Tiny Home Office

elements of a good tiny house office

There are certain elements that every great office has, no matter the size. It’s essential that you incorporate these features in your tiny house office because it will make a practical, functional space. If you want to get the most accomplished and own your schedule, you’ll need to create an office space designed with everything you need.

Here’s what I suggest when you set up your small space office.

Desk or Workspace

Desk or Workspace in a tiny house

If you’re spending 8 hours a day on work, you should have a designated space to work in. Having a desk is crucial. Many people are comfortable working from a laptop on their lap for a few hours per day, but if you’re working full time, this position can begin to take a toll on your back. Generally, you’ll need a desk and perhaps even a standing desk solution so you can enjoy the benefits of healthy ergonomics while working.

You’ll need a desk that’s big enough for your computer and screen, and that is large enough to accommodate the work you do. If you use a lot of paper for your job, you may need a bigger desktop.

CHOOSE A DESK TYPE

  • Wall-mounted
  • Fold-away
  • Seated desk
  • Standing desk
  • Adjustable height desk
  • Lap desk

BUILDING A WALL-MOUNTED DESK

Making your own dropleaf desk is simple

  1. Determine the size desk you want and location.
  2. Purchase the right-size fold-down brackets.
  3. Choose your desktop material.
  4. Cut desktop material to size.
  5. Determine the height and mount brackets.
  6. Attach desktop.

Natural Light

natural light in atiny house office

I really like natural light, so I have a lot of windows in my house. Believe it or not, I have 21 windows in my 150 square foot tiny home! I also love working outside. My outdoor home office often consists of a setup on my picnic table in my patio area. I feel more focused with sunlight, and it definitely helps boost my mood.
natural light in a tiny house office

Comfortable Seating

Comfortable Seating for a small office space

Again, this is where some people think it’s feasible to work from anywhere in any position. Often an office chair seems like an unnecessary investment, but if you’re working for several hours a day, you need to be comfortable, even in a small space. Look into the best ergonomic office chair you can find, with plenty of lumbar support. A comfortable chair is well worth the investment (and you can always use it as extra seating in your home).
tiny house office comfortable seating

Storage

storage space in a tiny house office

tiny house stoarge ideasI keep a minimalist office. I don’t use a lot of paper or extra items. I easily store most files within my computer. Depending on your work line, it’s important to plan enough storage and space to have room for all the items you need to do your job well.

If your job requires books, files, or certain supplies that aren’t digitized, be sure to plan room for what you need. Be realistic about the items you need to keep (especially paper) and form a plan to store the items and keep them organized.

Power

tiny house electric power outlets

tiny house electricalIf you’re building your tiny house, it’s crucial to plan plenty of power outlets wherever you think you will need them. Since you’re building your house to suit your needs, you have control over the placement, especially if you’re doing the building. So take advantage of the situation to add plenty of outlets. You don’t want to string cords around your house, especially if floor space is limited.

Also, consider the amount of power you will need to use work equipment. If you’re using solar off-grid, you’ll need to be sure you’re powering enough to charge all your devices, run the lighting you need, and accommodate any resources like a printer.

Internet Connection

internet connection in a tiny home office

We live in a world where almost all information is in the cloud and can be accessed remotely. Having internet access means you can travel around and still do your work. Internet access is vital, especially if you live in a tiny house on wheels or a skoolie. You’ll need to ensure you have a strong hotspot device so you can get internet from (almost) anywhere.

If you need details on setting up the internet in your tiny home, I’ve created a guide to off-grid internet access. This post will help you plan for internet access from your tiny home office.

off-grid internet for tiny houses

Lighting