Posts Tagged Design

Skoolie Floor Plans – Designing Your Dream School Bus Layout

Skoolie Floor Plans – Designing Your Dream School Bus Layout

skoolie floorplansComing up with the perfect Skoolie floor plan for your bus conversion involves a lot of big decisions. Trying to figure out a great layout that makes the most of your limited space is something that requires planning and inspiration. So Here are a few tips to design the dream school bus layout for your future Skoolie.


Key Decisions For Your Skoolie Floor Plan

Key Decisions For Your Skoolie Floor Plan

A great place to start is setting some parameters for your build. These are the type of decisions that are difficult or impossible to change, will set the tone of your build and, if done well, can make a design successful.

Which Bus Size Is Right For Your Layout

Which Bus Size Is Right For Your Layout

One of the first things you’ll need to determine is what size bus is right for you. It’s not just about how much space you need— you should also consider how comfortable you are driving it down the road, how easy it is to park, and fuel consumption.

skoolie expertEXPERT TIP: What to consider when choosing a bus size?

One major restriction to keep in mind is for those looking to travel to national parks. The average maximum length allowed into national parks is 27 feet, which would restrict many to a short to mid-sized bus if looking to travel into many national parks. However, some national parks do allow up to a full-sized 40-foot bus.

– Chris & Sarah from Skoolie Livin

A smaller four-window short bus might be right for you if you just want something for a quick weekend getaway — something that you’ll load up after work and head out for a short weekend trip. A smaller bus like this will cost less because fewer materials are needed and it doesn’t need to have all the features of a full-time living bus. When not in use, it will also take up less space in your driveway.

A mid-sized seven-window bus might give you some extra room, without being too difficult to get up back roads as you adventure. I have driven longer vehicles on mountain roads and it’s not for the faint of heart!

If you need as much square footage as you can get, a full-sized bus with 13 windows might be your only option. This works best if you have a family or if you’re planning on living in your Skoolie full time.

4-Window 20′ 7.5′ 150
7-Window 25′ 7.5′ 187.5
11-Window 35′ 7.5′ 262.5
13-Window 40′ 7.5′ 300

Choosing Locations For Your Bathrooms, Sinks and Drains

Choosing Locations For Your Bathroom in a skoolie floorplan

If I’ve learned anything about building on a mobile platform, it’s that you need to plan your drain lines carefully! Nothing is worse than going to install your shower basin only to discover the drain hole is smack-dab in the middle of a chassis crossmember or an axle.

You also need to consider where you’re going to run water supply lines. Unlike your drains which have to be in the lowest part of the bus, water lines can be routed more easily.

The one thing to consider is the locations of your sinks. If you centralize your kitchen sink to be on one side of a wall and the bathroom sink to be on the opposite side of the wall, you can simplify your plumbing a lot!

skoolie floorplan expertEXPERT TIP: Location of gas appliances.

My #1 most important tip is to keep all the propane appliances together to minimize the amount of propane pipe in a school bus conversion. The more propane pipe you have, the greater the chances of a gas leak. This is why most conversions that choose to have an RV range and an RV propane heater stack them with the range mounted above the propane heater. Then their propane water heater is usually not too far away, either.

– Chris & Sarah from Skoolie Livin

Enclosed Vs. Open Spaces

open and closed spaces in a skoolie layout

Many older Skoolie floor plans were very closed off, dark, and filled with partitioned rooms, but more and more we’re seeing conversion layouts that are open concept. Gone are the days of dark spaces — now we use as much natural light from the windows as possible to fill the space.

Two spaces that are commonly closed off into their own rooms are bedrooms (especially with a family) and bathrooms. The obvious need for privacy in these spaces is what makes this necessary, but their placement is vitally important.

While you don’t generally want to close off the space in a Skoolie, choosing a layout that clusters these closed off spaces together to maximize the amount of open space is key. Having a solid wall for your bathroom is a must for most, so consider having it at the very back or as part of the partition between the living space and bedroom.

Determine What To Include In Your Layout

Determine What To Include In Your Skoolie Layout

After living in only 150 square feet for close to a decade now, there is one thing that I see people get wrong time and time again when they first decide to live small: trying to have their space do everything. You want a space that does a few critical things well and, in a pinch, can do things that come up once in a blue moon just okay.

how to find a used school bus to build a skooliePeople often try to take everything a big house can do and jam it all into a very small space. By its nature, making the transition to a Skoolie, you want to live a more simple life.

People think if they “just live in a skoolie” their lives will become simpler, happier, and more adventurous! This is fundamentally wrong and ironically is the reason you don’t have a simple life now. It has nothing to do with living in a Skoolie and everything to do with your frame of mind.

People can live simply in a large home, in an apartment, or in a Skoolie — the important difference is that people who live simply live that way because they’ve done the mental work to shift their life view to one that cuts out all that ties us down.

Because of this, figuring out what your Skoolie floor plan is going to do for you is as important as figuring out what it’s not going to do. It’s the process of shifting your life so you don’t feel the need for it to have all the trappings of a larger home that will get you the life you desire and lead you to a Skoolie design that works for you.

What Your Skoolie Floor Plan Needs To Do

skoolie layout blueprint

There are a few core things every house needs to do and some things that are more specific to you and your life. The biggest piece of advice is to focus on the things that you do every single day. The more time in a day you spend doing those things, the more space and attention should be devoted to it.

The rule of thumb here is things you spend the most time doing on a daily (or weekly) basis are things that your design should support. Things that you do once in a while, for a short amount of time, or on a scale of monthly or yearly shouldn’t be a design focus.
I’m going to set aside the fact that there might be some things you do daily that you should simplify out of your routine here. But to build a practical, functional, and livable space, you need to make sure the space supports your life, not try to fit your life to the space.

There are a few things that all humans need here:

  • A place to sleep
  • A place to go to the bathroom
  • A place to prepare food
  • A place to take care of personal hygiene
  • Storage for personal possessions
hanks skoolie interior

Of course, you are going to want to customize these spaces to suit your life. You need a place to sleep, but if you’re a single person, a full bed might work; if you’re a couple or a family, sleeping arrangements need to be bigger. If you’re a person who doesn’t like to cook, you might only need a small cabinet, a mini fridge, and a hot plate you tuck away. If you love to cook, a bigger kitchen with a full fridge and large stove top might be in order.

Think about what deserves space in your limited square footage.

What You Should Exclude From Your Floor Plan

What You Should Exclude From Your Skoolie Floor Plan

The biggest factor in a good design is not what is included, but is what is left out. A space should be practical, but if you try to do everything with a single space, it will just end up doing a lot of things poorly.

Choosing what to focus on means the space will do a few things very well. If we can design our floor plan to do the right things for us, we will have a beautiful space that is very livable.

skoolie bedroom layoutThe biggest culprit of trying to do too much in a space is what I call outlier activities. These are things you do every so often, but not every day. People’s designs often fall down when they jump through hoops to support these outlier activities.

A great example is a guest bedroom. People will have a whole space that they furnish, heat/cool, decorate, and keep clean so that one night a year a guest can stay there. We want to avoid situations in our design like this where possible.

Other areas I commonly see people trying to bake into their design is what I call aspirational spaces. When making a dramatic change like moving into a Skoolie, it can be tempting to think we are going to redefine our whole lives, do things we always wanted to do, or things we convinced ourselves are part of a preconceived notion of the lifestyle we strive for.

If you want to do crafts often and have a dedicated space for crafting, make the change now! If after six months or a year, you are crafting daily, then work it into your design. If you want a dedicated meditation space or yoga space, make it part of your daily practice for a long time, and then and only then should you include it in your design.

extra space in a skoolie floor planWhen making the leap to a simpler life, we often aspire to do or be certain things, but it’s difficult to make lasting change. There are two sides to this coin: don’t wait to live simply, do it now! And realize you have so little square footage that you can’t afford to not use every inch daily.

The last area you should watch out for is what I call transition spaces: places that take up square footage as connectors between areas of your Skoolie. Hallways are a great example of this — they’re wasted square footage that is only used for a few seconds as you walk through them. With such a small space, utilizing every inch matters.

School Bus Floor Plan Dimensions

School Bus Floor Plan Dimensions

Dimensions can vary between models and brands, so it’s best to figure out a rough plan and then get actual measurements from the bus you buy for conversion. Below are some general guidelines of dimensions so you can have a rough idea of what things might look like for your own Skoolie floor plan.

  • Interior – floor to window: 30.5″
  • Interior – floor to top of ceiling: Most are 72″ to 78″
  • Window width: Short windows are 25″ wide, Long windows are 32″ and 35″
  • Window height: 24″
  • Window sill height: 30.5″
  • Distance between wheel wells: varies based on model
  • Average size of wheel wells: 48″ in the front and 39″ in the back.
  • Front door width: 29” door with 27” opening

How To Design Your Skoolie Floor Plan

How To Design Your Skoolie Floor Plan

Planning is a big part of your design process. If I’ve learned anything about building, it’s that an hour spent planning often saves me many hours and wasted dollars later.
Laying out your Skoolie floor plan in broad strokes is a great place to start, then once you have a general vision, you can get into all the details and technical bits. So how do you start?

First off, you hopefully have taken some time to figure out what your design needs to do for you, what should be included, and, most importantly, what’s not going to be included. Take some time to distill these things into a checklist and use it to guide your design. As the saying goes: form follows function.

As you start to put pencil to paper or start clicking your mouse (I’ll go more into that soon), start with your design constraints and accurately map those out. These are things that you need to work around because you can’t change them.

Skoolie Design Constraints:

  • Length of your bus
  • Width of your bus
  • Location of doors
  • Wheel wells
school bus turned skoolie

These are realities that you simply can’t change, so start by mapping them onto your floor plan and consider making copies so you don’t have to rewrite them in every iteration of your design later as you experiment with different layouts.

The next big decision is where to place the bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen. Start with general locations, thinking about how your daily life would flow with these areas placed where you have them. Most people place the bedroom at the very back of their bus and build in a large storage space under the bed.

skoolie expertEXPERT TIP: How To Design Your Skoolie Layout.

Imagine using the space and think about the flow of using the storage space. Every spot in a skoolie really should be designed purposely for how you will use the overall space to live, including sleeping, hanging out, cooking, working, playing, etc.

– Chris & Sarah from Skoolie Livin

Once you have a general idea of the location of your three big areas, start to fill in the gaps in between them, keeping in mind the other items on your checklist. You’ll want to make sure you have good storage, a place to relax, and possibly a place to do your work from.

Families and couples should also consider the needs of each person. If you have kids, do you home school? Where will their toys be kept? If you’re a couple, do you need a quiet space to work, do hobbies, etc.? How will each member have privacy if they need some time to themselves?

Another consideration that you should take into account is how the weight of your Skoolie is balanced. You want to consider the weight of the built-in features, furniture, appliances, possessions, and even people. One major area people don’t consider is water tanks — at 8.5 lbs per gallon, even a small fresh water tank or tank hot water heater can add up to a lot.

skoolie floorplan expertEXPERT TIP: How You Should Balance Your Weight.

The easiest way to balance a bus is with a center aisle layout, as you can easily balance weight on both sides. Then, make a list of every item you plan on installing into the bus like the fridge, range, water storage tanks when full, and batteries. It is best to try to even these out on each side of the bus as much as possible.

– Chris & Sarah from Skoolie Livin

Take some time to consider several different options. It’s good to spend some time designing your Skoolie and then give it some space for a while so you can come back to it with fresh eyes. If you’re more than one person, make sure you get their feedback too.

The last thing I’ll mention is a few critical things people often forget:

  • Trash Can: Where will you put your trash?
  • Pantry: Make sure you have enough room to store food.
  • Laundry: Where will you keep dirty laundry before washing it?
  • Hot Water Heater: Where will you locate the tank or unit?
  • Electrical Panel: Where can you place it to be out of sight, but still easily accessible?
  • Shoes: Where will you store shoes that aren’t being worn?
  • Tools: Where will you keep items to fix your bus with?
  • Large Items: Can your couch, appliances, shower stall, and mattress fit through the main door?

How To Draw Your Skoolie Floor Plan

How To Draw Your Skoolie Floor Plan

At some point, you’re going to need to actually sketch your ideas onto paper to finalize your design. There are two main ways people go about this.

Graph Paper And Pencil

Graph Paper And Pencil for skoolie design

Sometimes going old school is the way to go when it comes to designing, especially when you’re making large changes in the beginning of your design process. Using graph paper is a quick way to get started. Start with getting your final dimensions by measuring your bus, then determine the scale you want to use and draw your design out to scale.

Once you’ve finalized a hand-drawn design, I’d suggest taking that and laying it out in a digital design software.

Skoolie Design Software

Skoolie Design Software

If you want to go higher tech or want to finalize your drawn plan digitally, using some sort of software is the way to go. While there are many good options out there, Sketchup is a great option that is pretty user friendly, has lots of free online tutorials, and is free to use.

There is a learning curve to Sketchup, but I find it to strike a good balance between simple enough to learn but powerful enough to do what you need it to do. After getting your main dimension mapped out, save the file as a template in case you want to try other designs. I also save my file as I make updates under a versioned file name. That way, if I mess something up, I can roll back to an earlier version more easily.

Sketchup is really nice because there are a ton of free YouTube tutorials, too. If you’ve never used Sketchup before, start with some basic tutorials and then you can search for specific tools or techniques as they come up.

Since the design is digital, you can quickly snap measurement labels between different parts of your design to see if you’ll have enough space to open doors, walk through the space, etc.

Skoolie Floor Plan Design Inspirations

Skoolie Floor Plan Design Inspirations

13 window / 40ft (full size) for a family with bunk beds

large skoolie floorplan

11 window / 35ft (full size) Skoolie floorplan bench seat

creative skoolie layout

7 window / 25 ft (mid-size) with open floor plan

skoolie floorplan for bus

4 window / 20 ft (short bus) with full kitchen

creative layout for skoolie floorplan

Skoolie Layout Design Tips

Skoolie Layout Design Tips

Here are some things to think about when it comes to creating a skoolie layout for your bus conversion.

  • Wait till you have your bus for real world dimensions
  • Consider what areas need to be private vs. semi-private
  • Balancing the weight of your bus is crucial for safety
  • Consider the locations of things you cannot change about your bus
  • Don’t forget to consider ventilation in your bathroom


Your Turn!

  • What are you going to include in your Skoolie floor plan?

How Much Does A Tiny House Weigh? How To Calculate The Weight Of Your Tiny Home

How Much Does A Tiny House Weigh? How To Calculate The Weight Of Your Tiny Home

how much does a tiny house weigh

tiny house tipped over on highwayUnderstanding how much a tiny house weighs is a critical step that, if done wrong, can easily lead to disaster, sometimes with deadly results.You don’t want to end up in a situation like with this tiny house where a lot of people were hurt.

The weight of tiny houses is a very important thing to get right. You don’t want to exceed weight limits of your trailer or tow vehicle, and you need to understand weight distribution to ensure you can tow it safely.

How Much Does A Tiny House Weigh? 8,500 lbs., On Average

average tiny house weighs 8500 pounds

A tiny house’s weight really depends on the size of the house itself. The size of a tiny house has a large impact on the weight, obviously.

Below is the average weight for tiny houses of various sizes.

tiny house dimensions

Various Tiny House Weight Measurements

tiny house weight measurements

There are a few numbers you’re going to want to consider when crunching the numbers on your tiny house. These are important to understand for different things like trailer load capacity, towing, and safety.

tiny house trailer weight ratings

Tiny House Dry Weight

The dry weight of a tiny house is how much the house and trailer weighs without any people, water or moveable furniture. This is useful for transporting because you shouldn’t have people or loose furniture in the house while towing. Include built-in furniture and storage into the dry weight.

Gross Vehicle Weight Rating – GVWR

The GVWR is the total weight that the trailer can safely hold. Not to be confused GCWR with includes the weight of the trailer, the weight of the house, and the weight of everything you might put inside.

Gross Combined Weight Rating – GCWR

This is the weight of the tow vehicle, the trailers, the tiny house and the people/contents all combined. This is important because the Department of Transportation has certain rules about the maximum weights of GCWR for operating on roads and highways.

Gross Axle Weight Rating – GAWR

The major factor of a trailer’s capacity is the axles it is built upon. GAWR is what your individual axles are rated at by the manufacturer. Keep in mind this is per axle, so if you have two, three, or four axles, you multiply the rating of one axle by the number of axles to determine the approximate trailer capacity.

I want to caution you that if you upgrade your axles to a higher spec, it won’t mean towing more weight is safe. This is a very common line of thought with DIY tiny house builders and can be dangerous because your trailer frame also needs to be upgraded to handle the additional weight.

Gross Trailer Weight – GTW

This is simply the weight of the materials that the trailer is built from.

Payload Weight Rating

This is what your tiny house trailer can carry after you take into consideration the weight of the trailer itself. So if you have a trailer with a GVWR of 8,000 lbs., but the trailer itself weighs 2,000 lbs., your payload weight cannot exceed 6,000 lbs.

Tongue Weight

Since a trailer is balanced (unevenly, by design) to transfer some of the weight onto the tow vehicle itself, you want to make sure you’re not putting too much weight on the tongue.

In some cases, if you have too much weight on the tongue, but are still under the weight rating of the trailer and tow vehicle, it might just be a matter of shifting the weight distribution around. You should make sure you design your house with the proper weight balance in mind.

how to build a tiny house

How To Calculate The Weight Of A Tiny House

How To Calculate The Weight Of A Tiny House

A tiny house’s weight is made up of the trailer that the house sits on, the materials you build your house with, and the contents of your tiny home.

Tiny House Trailer Weights

Tiny House Trailer Weights

The trailer itself needs to be calculated in when considering the weight of your tiny home. Trailer weights can be found on the manufacturer’s website or spec sheet. This is one of the main reasons that I like buying tiny house trailers new, because then you know exactly what you’re getting.

Here are some typical trailer weights:

Trailer Length Trailer Weight
16 ft. 2,300 lbs.
18 ft. 2,500 lbs.
20 ft. 2,700 lbs.
22 ft. 3,000 lbs.
24 ft. 3,300 lbs.
26 ft. 3,500 lbs.
28 ft. 3,700 lbs.
Trailer Length Trailer Weight
30 ft. 3,900 lbs.
32 ft. 4,100 lbs.
34 ft. 4,400 lbs.
36 ft. 4,700 lbs.
38 ft. 5,000 lbs.
40 ft. 5,300 lbs.
42 ft. 5,700 lbs.

The upper limit of your tiny house weight is determined by your trailer’s weight rating, but just because you trailer is rated for a certain weight doesn’t mean you can or should go all the way up to that limit.

tiny house building checklist

Weight Of Tiny House Building Materials

Weight Of Tiny House Building Materials

It can be complicated to figure out exactly how much a tiny house will weigh when you’re designing your tiny home. Here are the weights of some common building materials (listed in lbs.):

Framing Lumber and Sheathing:

2×4 @ 16” o.c = 1.1 plf
2×6 @ 16” o.c. = 1.7 plf
2×8 @ 16” o.c. = 2.2 plf
2×10 @ 16” o.c. = 2.9 plf
2×12 @ 16” o.c. = 3.5 plf
5/8″ plywood = 1.8 psf
3/4″ plywood = 2.3 psf
1 1/8″ plywood = 3.4 psf


Wood board = 1.5psf
Board & Batten = 2.9 psf
Vinyl Siding = 0.52 psf
Counter tops:
Granite = 20 psf
Marble = 19 psf
Laminate = 4 psf
Butcher block = 7 psf


2″ (nom.) decking = 4.3 psf
1″ (nom.) hardwood floor = 4.0 psf
Linoleum = 1.5 psf
3/4″ ceramic tile or quarry tile = 10.0 psf


20 gage metal deck roofing = 2.5 psf
18 gage metal deck roofing = 3 psf
0.05” thick polyvinyl chloride polymer membrane = 0.35 psf


1” fiberglass batt insulation = 0.04 psf
1” loose fiberglass insulation = 0.14 psf
1” rigid insulation = 1.5 psf
Blowing wool insulation R-38 (16” deep) = 0.62 psf
1″ Glass wool = 0.3 psf


Skylight: metal frame w/ 3/8” wire glass = 8 psf
Windows: glass, frame and sash = 8 psf

Other Materials:

3/4″ gypcrete = 6.5 psf
1/2″ gypsum board = 2.2 psf
5/8″ gypsum board = 2.8 psf
Plaster (1″ thick) = 8.0 psf
Acoustical tile = 1.0 psf
1″ Cement plaster = 12.0 psf
1″ Rigid fiberglass = 1.5 psf

plf = per linear foot       •       psf = per square foot

Weight Of Tiny House Contents

Weight Of Tiny House Contents

The final piece that will make up your tiny house weight is the things that go inside your tiny house, including furniture, clothing, and even water. People often forget to consider this, but it can really add up.

Weight Of Furniture

Furniture is something that can add a lot of poundage to your tiny home. Consider too that you might decide to change your furniture in the future, so give yourself some breathing room in case any new furniture is heavier.

For example, when I first built my house, I started with a single sectional piece that was about 75 lbs., but later upgraded to a much nicer recliner that was around 230 lbs. So make sure you have some wiggle room built into your calculations

Item Weight (lbs)
Flat Screen TV (small) 35
Flat Screen TV (medium) 56
Flat Screen TV (large) 140
Entertainment Center (small) 210
Entertainment Center (large) 420
TV Stand 175
Three seat sofa 287
Four seat sofa 350
Sectional sofa (4-piece) 1050
Sectional sofa (5-piece) 1295
Loveseat 224
Armchair 105
Recliner 105
Rocker 84
Item Weight (lbs)
Futon 210
Coffee table (small) 70
Coffee table (large) 105
End table 105
Ottoman 35
Cabinet (small) 70
Cabinet (medium) 140
Cabinet (large) 245
Cabinet (curio) 70
Glass cabinet 140
Desk (small) 154
Desk (large) 245
Bookcase (per section) 140
Bookshelf (small) 70
Item Weight (lbs)
Stereo 28
Speakers (standard) 35
Speakers (large) 70
Blinds/Shades 21
Curtains/Rods 28
Area rug (small) 35
Area rug (large) 70
Clock 35
Grandfather clock 140
Floor lamp 21
Table lamp 14
Mirror (small) 21
Mirror (large) 49
Window A/C unit 40

Weight Of Clothes:

You might be a tiny houser that loves shoes or has a large wardrobe, so you’ll want to account for that weight too. I personally keep a very simple wardrobe, which really consists of a uniform.

weight of clothing

Weight Of Water Tanks And Hot Water Heaters

Water is heavy, 8.33 lbs. per gallon to be exact, which can add up when you really think about how much water you use in a day. Many people want to have a water storage tank so they can go off the grid. Others are trying to decide which water heater is right for them. For either of these options, weight can be a big deciding factor.

  • Water in pipes: 2.7 lbs. per foot of water line
  • Water in tanks: 8.33 lbs. times the volume of your tank
  • Water in tanked hot water heater: 8.33 lbs. times the volume of your hot water tank
  • Water in tankless hot water heater: 5 lbs.

why you should consider a tankless hot water heater

Tiny House Weight Examples

Tiny House Weight Examples

To put these weights into perspective, here are some popular tiny houses that you might have seen around and their weights.

You’ll see that some of these houses are heavier even though they are on shorter trailers than others. Wall height, cladding materials, windows and other features all impact the weight of a tiny home.

10-Foot Tiny House 3200 lbs

10-Foot Tiny House – 3,200 lbs.

16-Foot Tiny House 5400 lbs

16-Foot Tiny House – 5,400 lbs.

18-Foot Tiny House 8000 lbs

18-Foot Tiny House – 8,000 lbs.

20-Foot Tiny House 8800 lbs

20-Foot Tiny House – 8,800 lbs.

24-Foot Tiny House 10500 lbs

24-Foot Tiny House – 10,500 lbs.

20-Foot Tiny House 9800 lbs

20-Foot Tiny House – 9,800 lbs.

35-Foot Tiny House 13500 lbs

35-Foot Tiny House – 13,500 lbs.

26-Foot Tiny House 11500 lbs

26-Foot Tiny House – 11,500 lbs.

34-Foot Tiny House 14000 lbs

34-Foot Tiny House – 14,000 lbs.

how to build a tiny house

Tiny House Trailer Weight Distribution

Tiny House Trailer Weight Distribution

The weight of your tiny house is only part of the picture — how you distribute that weight is also a really big deal.Balancing your weight side to side and front to back is critical. Having the right amount of weight on the tongue is important too, as too much or too little can be dangerous.

Here is a great video demonstrating this:

This is a place where you’re going to want to loop in a professional engineer to calculate the load balances for you. You yourself are taking on the liability and responsibility of building a tiny house, (you get the idea, I’m not responsible) so do your homework.

Typically, you’re shooting to have the tongue weight be 10-15% of your tiny house’s Gross Trailer Weight. No more, no less. You’ll commonly see people suggest that you want 60% towards the front of the trailer, and while this is a good rule of thumb, sometimes having 60% of the weight forward will result in a tongue weight higher than the 10-15%, which is dangerous.

Your Turn!

  • What trailer weight rating are you shooting for?

Guide To Building A Gooseneck Tiny House And Fifth Wheel Tiny Homes

Guide To Building A Gooseneck Tiny House And Fifth Wheel Tiny Homes

Guide To Building A Gooseneck Tiny House
Many people are interested in building a gooseneck tiny house, also known as a fifth wheel tiny house. These houses are built on a special style of trailer, often referred to as a gooseneck, that attaches to your tow vehicle with a fifth wheel towing connector.

While I built my tiny house on a normal trailer, I’ve had the chance to step foot in quite a few gooseneck tiny houses. It’s easy to see the appeal because there is a lot going for this approach.

What Is A Gooseneck Tiny House?

What Is A Gooseneck Tiny House

At its core, a gooseneck tiny house is simply a tiny house built on a gooseneck trailer, which has major benefits of having a more room inside and being easier to tow. The other aspect which draws people to this style of tiny house is that you can have a full height bedroom without needing a ladder.

Gooseneck Tiny House Floorplans

Gooseneck Tiny House Floorplans

One of the key features of a gooseneck tiny home is that you can build over the neck of the trailer. Since you can build over the hitch, you can have a larger living space as compared to a normal bumper bulled trailer. Most people opt to put their bedroom over the hitch with a few steps leading up to it.

To get an idea of gooseneck tiny house designs, here are some different floorplans for a gooseneck tiny house.

32-Foot Gooseneck Tiny House Floorplans

32-Foot Gooseneck Tiny House Floorplans

A tiny house built on a 32-foot gooseneck trailer will give you about 331 square feet of living space in your tiny house. Here are some tiny house floorplans that are built on a 32-foot gooseneck trailer.

Gooseneck Tiny House Floorplans for 32-Foot trailer
 Floorplans for 32-Foot Gooseneck trailer
Floorplans for 32-Foot trailer
Tiny House Floorplans for 32-Foot trailer

34-Foot Gooseneck Tiny House Floorplans

34-Foot Gooseneck Tiny House Floorplans

A tiny house built on a 34-foot trailer will give you approximately 350 square feet of living space. Here are a few floorplans for a 34-foot fifth wheel tiny house.

Gooseneck Tiny House Floorplans for 34-Foot trailer
Floorplans for 34-Foot tiny house
Tiny House Floorplans for 34-Foot gooseneck trailer
Gooseneck Floorplans for 34-Foot trailer

38 Foot-Gooseneck Tiny House Floorplan

38 Foot-Gooseneck Tiny House Floorplan

A tiny house built on a 38-foot gooseneck trailer will have about 380 square feet of living space. At this size, you’re going to have to consider what type of tow vehicle you’re going to need, because these can be very heavy. Here are a few floorplans for a tiny house built on a 38-foot gooseneck trailer.

38 Foot Gooseneck Tiny House
38 Foot Floorplan for a Gooseneck Tiny House
38 Foot Tiny House Gooseneck Trailer
38 Foot Tiny House

40 Foot Gooseneck Tiny House Floorplan

40 Foot Gooseneck Tiny House Floorplan

A tiny house built on a 40-foot gooseneck trailer will have about 400 square feet of living space, which is a decent sized tiny house. [Link to tiny house dimensions post] It’s at this point that you’ll have to start watching out for weight ratings and axle limits for a CDL license when you tow your tiny house.

Floorplan for a 40 Foot Gooseneck Tiny House
40 Foot Tiny House Floorplan
40 Foot Tiny House Floorplan For a Gooseneck trailer
40 Foot Floorplan for Tiny House gooseneck

tiny house resources

tiny house dimensions

Tiny House Dimensions

Gooseneck Tiny House Plans

Gooseneck Tiny House Plans

Right now, there is only one set of plans for sale that I know of for a gooseneck trailer tiny home. These are designed by my friend Macy Miller, who built this house herself. I’ve spent time reviewing a lot of tiny house plans and these in particular are one of the best out there.

minimotives house
minimotives floorplan
minimotives tiny house
minimoties tiny house layout plans
minimotives tiny house interior
minimotives floorplan layout

The first thing you notice about the plans are the gorgeous 3D graphics! They help make the building plans easier to read and are visually appealing. There are so many zoomed-in details, cutaways, and isometrics, and they’re all beautiful. The 3D diagrams are rendered in color and labeled clearly so a builder can easily discern all the details. The plans are also very thorough at 32 pages. Pages measure 17”x11”. They could be printed or viewed digitally. There’s no tool list, but the materials list is very detailed.

The plumbing illustrations are rendered in 3D from different angles and very clearly labeled. There’s also a page dedicated just to the electrical diagrams separate from other floor plans and layouts for easy reading. Color coding helps the builder see the circuits more clearly. For the beginner, there are some great side diagrams explaining basic wiring.

How To Build A Gooseneck Tiny House

How To Build A Gooseneck Tiny House

If you want to build a tiny house on a gooseneck or fifth wheel trailer, the process is pretty similar to that of a standard tiny house, with the exception of building over the fifth wheel neck. The best way to think about this is just building two sections of house, one mounted on the main trailer and the other mounted on the neck.

A Gooseneck Tiny House

As you can see, there are two section of this tiny house. The main body and the upper loft of the gooseneck. You’re going to want to make sure that your roof height doesn’t exceed the maximum height allowed by law. [LINK to tiny house dimensions post]

Step 1: Design Your Tiny House

Step 1: Design Your Tiny House

Start by having a rough idea of your layout to make sure the square footage will work for you, then get your trailer. I’d suggest getting your trailer before you commit to a final design. This will help you when it comes to actual dimensions and visualizing what it really will be like.

tiny house resources

planning your tiny house

Planning Your Tiny House

Step 2: Anchor Your Tiny House To Your Gooseneck Trailer

Anchor Your Tiny House To Your Gooseneck Trailer

Anchoring your tiny house is a very important step, especially with a gooseneck tiny home. A gooseneck trailer is much heavier than a regular trailer, but that also allows you to put more weight on it. The result is that your tiny home will be a load that, if not anchored properly, can be disastrous or even deadly.

tiny house resources

Anchor A Tiny House To A Gooseneck Trailer

Anchoring Your Tiny House

Step 3: Build The Subfloor

Build The Subfloor for a tiny house

The first system you’re going to build is your subflooring. This is the base that will sit on top of your trailer deck and later is what you’ll add your finish flooring on. A very important point here is to make sure the anchoring extends from the trailer through your subflooring and up into the wall studs to secure all three together.

tiny house resources

tiny house subfloor

Framing The Floor

Step 4: Framing The Walls Of Your Gooseneck Tiny Home

Framing The Walls Of Your Gooseneck Tiny Home

On top of your subflooring, you’re going to build your wall framing system. You want to make sure that your anchoring comes through your bottom plate and ties into your vertical studs with the proper metal brackets. I’d suggest 16 inch on center framing, but you might consider 24 inch framing if you need to lighten up on weight.

tiny house resources

framing a tiny house

Framing My Tiny House

Step 5: Framing Your Roof

Framing Your Tiny House Roof

Your roof tops off your walls and should be covered in roof decking and tied in with hurricane brackets at each stud. Your roof trusses should land exactly on top of your wall studs, which will allow the weight of the roof to be carried down from the rafters, through the studs and onto your trailer.

how to build a tiny house book

Step 6: Add Sheathing

Add Sheathing to a tiny house

On the outside of your tiny house, you’re going want to use sheathing to tie it all together. I suggest using a glue and screw approach for extra strength.

tiny house resources

Tiny House Sheathing

Step 7: Add Doors And Windows To Your Tiny House

Add Doors And Windows To Your Tiny House

Dropping in your windows and doors won’t take long, but you want to make sure you get your flashing details right.

Step 8: Adding Siding And Trim To Your Tiny House

Adding Siding And Trim To Your Tiny House

Adding siding to your tiny house is a pretty straight forward process once you get the trim done around your windows and doors. You have a few options for siding: board & batten, fiber cement, and wood siding. I wouldn’t suggest going with vinyl siding as it’s very easily blown off while driving down the road.

tiny house resources

tiny house building checklist

Tiny House Building Checklist

Step 9: Installing Utilities: Electrical And Plumbing

Installing Utilities Electrical And Plumbing

For this step, you might want to consider looping in an electrician and a plumber. But for those of you who want to do it on your own, it can be done. I’d suggest using PEX in your tiny house to plumb it and keeping your electrical system pretty simple.

tiny house resources

simple electric for tiny houses

Simple Electrical For Tiny Houses

tiny house plumbing

Tiny House Plumbing

Step 10: Finish Your Gooseneck Tiny House Interior

Finish Your Gooseneck Tiny House Interio

Obviously this is a pretty involved step, but the final process of building your gooseneck tiny house is to finish the inside. You’re going to want to apply your interior wall finishes, build out your kitchen and bathroom, add your built ins, and lay down your flooring.

Here are some posts that can help you with all this:

tiny house resources

designing your tiny house bathroom

Designing Your Dream Bathroom

tiny house kitchen ideas

Tiny House Kitchen Ideas

how to set up a tiny house loft

Tiny House Loft Solutions

tiny house closet

Building My Closet

Gooseneck Tiny House Video Tours

Gooseneck Tiny House Video Tours

Here are some video tours of gooseneck tiny house interiors to get some design inspiration for building your own tiny house on a fifth wheel trailer.

how to build a tiny house

Your Turn!

  • Why do you want to build your tiny house on a gooseneck trailer?

Tiny House Dimensions: What Size Can A Tiny House Be Without Breaking The Law?

Tiny House Dimensions: What Size Can A Tiny House Be Without Breaking The Law?

tiny house dimensionsOne of the first questions I asked when building my own tiny house was how big should a tiny house be? There are several ways to answer this question, but it really comes down to whether you’re going to build your tiny house on a trailer or on the ground.

Most people want a tiny house they can tow down the road to travel or move if the need arises. So the focus here will be on tiny houses built on a trailer.

The Height Of A Tiny House: 13.5 Feet Tall

The Height Of A Tiny House

How high a tiny house can be is really governed by the height limitations of the Department of Transportation (DOT). More specifically, you want a tiny house that can fit under bridges and overheads while you drive down the road.

Most bridges on your major highways and on many side roads are built to have a clearance of at least 13.5 feet. That means you’ll want to consider building your tiny house just shy of that to be on the safe side.

My friend drove his tiny under a bridge where the sign stated it was 13.5 feet tall, but since it’s construction, had been repaved. My friend ended up pealing his ridge cap off his tiny house because of it.

The Width Of A Tiny House: 8.5 Feet Wide

The Width Of A Tiny House

The width of a tiny house is also dictated by the DOT if you’re on a trailer. In most states, you need your trailer to be less than 8.5 feet wide or you’ll need a special wide load permit. Understand that this measurement goes from the two widest points, which is usually your wheel wells. You should measure from the outside of the fender or tire to the opposite side of the fender or tire.

My suggestion is that you build your tiny house to be as wide as you can, but account for any roof overhang that might stick out. Build around the wheel well so that you have just enough insulation around it to maximize internal dimensions.

The Length Of A Tiny House: Up To 30 Feet Long

The Length Of A Tiny House

Here’s the really important thing to understand about tiny house dimensions. Because our height and width are constrained by the maximum size set by the DOT, if we want to increase our square footage, it means we have to extend the length of the trailer because we can’t build in any other direction.

Another element to this is your tow vehicle. In most cases, your maximum length will be 53 feet minus the length of your truck. Trucks suited to tow a large tiny house are typically 20-23 feet long, so your tiny house can be up to 30 feet long.

I should also note that the DOT primarily uses weight as its primary determining factor of upper limits. If your truck and tiny house on a trailer is over a gross vehicle weight (GVW) of 26,000 lbs, you’ll require special permits and a CDL driver.

Tiny House Square Footage

Tiny House Square Footage

Tiny Houses can range from 60 square feet up to 400 square feet when built on a trailer. Of course, you can build bigger if you build on a foundation. Typically your tiny house can be up to 8 feet wide inside, so your length will be the main variable that impacts square footage.

You’ll notice that a lot of tiny houses tend to be around 200 square feet — that’s because most people don’t want to have to tow a really big trailer. A 24-foot or 26-foot trailer is very cumbersome to tow, and since most people are pretty nervous about that size, going bigger isn’t very practical.

Also consider that the higher the square footage of a house, the larger the tow vehicle needs to be.

Here is a chart of the various trailer dimensions and their corresponding square footage sizes:

Trailer Length Trailer Width Square Footage
8 8 64 sq/ft
12 8 96 sq/ft
20 8 160 sq/ft
22 8 176 sq/ft
24 8 192 sq/ft
26 8 208 sq/ft
28 8 224 sq/ft
30 8 240 sq/ft
34* 8 272 sq/ft
36* 8 288 sq/ft
43* 8 344 sq/ft

*Gooseneck trailers only

When Do I Need a CDL To Tow My Tiny House?

When Do I Need a CDL To Tow My Tiny House

A Commercial Drivers Licenses (CDL) is required based on a few rules such as size or weight. While this is set by the federal government, it’s left up to individual states to set their own standards and oversee licensing.

Type of License Description Vehicles You May Drive
Class A CDL Required to operate any combination of vehicles with a gross combination weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, provided the towed vehicle is heavier than 10,000 pounds. Tractor-trailers (also known as Semi, Big Rig or 18-wheeler), Truck and trailer combos, Tanker vehicles, Livestock carriers, Flatbeds. Most Class B and Class C vehicles, depending on endorsement requirements
Class B CDL Required to operate operate any single vehicle that isn’t hitched to a trailer (commercial trucks that have an attached cab and cargo area with a combined weight greater than 26,000 pounds, as well as trucks with a detached towed cargo vehicle that weighs less than 10,000 pounds). Straight trucks, Large buses (city buses, tourist buses, and school buses), Segmented buses, Box trucks (including delivery trucks and furniture trucks), Dump trucks with small trailers. Some Class C vehicles with the correct endorsements.
Class C CDL Required to operate a single vehicle with GVWR of less than 26,001 pounds or a vehicle towing another vehicle that weighs less than 10,000 pounds, or transports 16 or more passengers, including the driver. Double/Triple Trailers, Buses, Tank Trucks, HazMat Vehicles

Tiny House Trailer Dimensions

Tiny House Trailer Dimensions

An important part of this equation is understanding that the trailer you build your tiny house on is another limiting factor. If you can only build up to 13.5 feet tall, you actually have to subtract the height of the trailer to determine the interior useable space. Also account for wall and roof thickness in your calculations.

What this means is that for every inch of trailer height, you’ll have an inch less of space inside. The biggest determination of trailer height is your trailer style, of which there are three main types. Keep in mind the numbers below are averages and you’ll see some variations between manufacturers.

Utility Trailer Dimensions For A Tiny House

Utility Trailer Dimensions For A Tiny House

The most common trailer style to use is a utility style trailer. These are sometimes referred to as “bumper pull” or a “drop axle trailer.”

tiny house utility trailer

A typical utility trailer is around 13 inches from ground to bottom of trailer, 18 inches from ground to top of trailer deck, and 25 inches from ground to top of the wheel well.

tiny house utility trailer dimensions

Your common utility trailer will be exactly 8.5 feet wide from the outside of the wheel to the outside of the opposite wheel. Your wheels with wheel wells will typically be 15 inches wide, giving you an inside dimension of 72 inches between the wheel wells of your tiny house trailer.

tiny house utitlity trailer width dimensions

Popular Utility Trailer Sizes

Trailer Size Description
8 feet x 20 feet One of the most popular sizes because of its ease in transporting for tiny house dwellers who intend to spend a lot of time on the road.
8 feet x 24 feet This popular size allows more livable space while staying close enough to 20’ to still be comfortable to tow.
8 feet x 30 feet For those who have a family or prefer more room inside your tiny home, this length allows for more livable space while still being relatively easy to pull. Typically preferred for folks planning to live full-time in their homes.

Gooseneck Trailer Dimensions For A Tiny House

goosneck trailer dimensions

A gooseneck trailer uses a fifth wheel attachment point to tow with and is characterized by the hitch going up, over, then down again for towing. People like these because they’re a bit easier to tow and make tighter turns.

gooseneck trailer for tiny house

The other advantage to these is that you can build over the arm of the gooseneck, allowing you to have a longer tiny house. Normally you’d have to subtract the length of your tow vehicle from the maximum of 53 feet. Since the gooseneck actually goes over the truck bed, you regain some of that space.

The downside to goosenecks is their trailer decks are often thicker (but can hold more weight). Your typical gooseneck trailer will measure 17 inches from ground to bottom of trailer, 32 inches from ground to top of the trailer deck, and most often the wheel wells are flush with the deck height, so the top of the wheel well will also be 32 inches from the ground.

tiny house gooseneck trailer dimensions

Your common gooseneck will be exactly 8.5 feet wide from the outside of the wheel to the outside of the opposite wheel. Your wheels with wheel wells will typically be 15 inches wide, but built into or even under the trailer deck, giving you a full width of 8.5 feet since there are no wheels to block your building on it.

tiny house gooseneck trailer width dimensions

How Much Living Space Can You Have In A Gooseneck Trailer Tiny House?

Length of Bed: Trailer Size Length of Goose neck Total Length of Trailer Total Livable length
12′ 8 20′ 19′
14′ 8 22′ 21′
16′ 8 24′ 23′
18′ 8 26′ 25′
20′ 8 28′ 27′
22′ 8 30′ 29′
24′ 8 32′ 31′
26′ 8 34′ 33′
28′ 8 36′ 35′
30′ 8 38′ 37′
32′ 8 40′ 39′
34′ 8 42′ 41′
36′ 8 44′ 43′

Popular Gooseneck Trailer Sizes

Trailer Size Description
8.5 feet x 26 feet The most popular size, a 26-foot gooseneck allows for 33 feet of livable space since the extra length will ride above the vehicle pulling your home.
8.5 feet x 36 feet This is the maximum length for a gooseneck trailer. With the additional living space sitting above the hitch, a tiny house of this size will actually have 43 feet of livable space and 44 feet in total length.

Deck Over Trailer Dimensions For A Tiny House

Deck Over Trailer Dimensions For A Tiny House

While it is an option, a deck over trailer isn’t too popular because of how much vertical height you sacrifice, eating into your inside dimensions for living space. However, some people like this style of trailer because it makes for a simpler building process where you don’t have to worry about building around wheel wells.

tiny house deck over trailer

As mentioned, the downside to deck over trailers are that their trailer decks are much taller to go over the wheel well. Your typical deck over trailer will measure 24 inches from ground to bottom of trailer. It will measure 30 inches from ground to top of the trailer deck. Finally the wheel wells are under the deck, the wheel well right under the bottom of the trailer member, so the top of the wheel well will be 24 inches from ground.

tiny house deck over trailer dimensions

Your deck over trailer will be exactly 8.5 feet wide from the outside of the wheel to the outside of the opposite wheel. Your wheels with wheel wells will typically be 15 inches wide, but built in under the trailer deck, giving you a full width of 8.5 feet since there are no wheels to block your building on it.

deck over trailer width dimensions

Popular Deck Over Trailer Sizes

Trailer Size Description
8.5 feet x 20 feet One of the most popular sizes because of its ease in transporting for tiny house dwellers who intend to spend a lot of time on the road.
8.5 feet x 24 feet This popular size allows more livable space while staying close enough to 20’ to still be comfortable to tow.
8.5 feet x 30 feet For those who have a family or prefer more room inside your tiny home, this length allows for more livable space while still being relatively easy to pull. Typically preferred for folks planning to live full-time in their homes.

10-Foot-Wide Trailer Dimensions For A Tiny House

10-Foot-Wide Trailer Dimensions For A Tiny House

These trailers don’t differ too much from the above style trailer other than measuring 10 feet wide or more. If you decide go with a tiny house that is 10 feet wide, you’ll need to have a special oversized permit to transport it. You might also be required to have a CLD driver with flag escort vehicles depending on the state.

A typical trailer built to be 10 feet wide will be done in the style of a utility trailer. You’ll find that these trailers are typically around 13 inches from ground to bottom of trailer, 18 inches from ground to top of trailer deck, and 25 inches from ground to top of the wheel well.

10-Foot-Wide Trailer For A Tiny House

Your common utility trailer will be exactly 10 feet wide from the outside of the wheel to the outside of the opposite wheel. Your wheels with wheel wells will typically be 15 inches wide, giving you an inside dimension of 90 inches between the wheel wells of your tiny house trailer.

Tiny House 10-Foot-Wide Trailer Dimensions

Popular 10-Foot-Wide Trailer Sizes

Trailer Size Description
10 feet x 26 feet One of the most popular sizes because of its ease in transporting for tiny house dwellers who intend to spend a lot of time on the road.
10 feet x 30 feet For those who have a family or prefer more room inside your tiny home, this length allows for more livable space while still being relatively easy to pull. Typically preferred for folks planning to live full-time in their homes.

Tiny House Interior Dimensions

Tiny House Interior Dimensions

As mentioned, the biggest determination of your interior space will be from the deck height of your trailer, then of course your trailer length. Since you can only build up to 13.5 feet tall, you’ll have to subtract your trailer deck height and then also account for wall and roof thickness.

Tiny House Interior Width: 80 inches wide

Tiny House Interior Width

Because most wheel wells are a pretty standard size, you’ll have 72 inches between the wheel wells themselves. If you choose to build your walls above them, you can achieve a maximum of 80 inches wide from the inside of one wall, to the inside of the wall on the other side.

Tiny House Interior Length: Up To 29 feet long

Tiny House Interior Length

The length of your trailer will determine this dimension. A good rule of thumb is to take your trailer deck length and subtract 8 inches (4 inch thick walls times two).

Tiny House Interior Height: 10.5 feet tall

Tiny House Interior Height

Your inside height will be a function of your trailer deck height, minus your roof thickness, minus your subfloor, minus your flooring.

You can have a tiny house up to 13.5 feet tall. Often trailers are around 24 inches from ground to top of the deck, your sub floor is usually 4 inches thick, your flooring is up to an inch thick, and then your roof will be anywhere from 4-6 inches thick from inside finishes to the top ridge cap of your roofing.

I’d suggest also subtracting 2-4 inches as a safety margin.

Tiny House Loft Interior Dimensions: Up To 4 Feet 2 inches tall

Tiny House Loft Interior Dimensions

Don’t forget to check how your design will impact your tiny house loft height. Your main floor in your tiny house can be just barely taller that you are, giving you clearance for your head as you walk under your loft, but if your roof is too thick or you give yourself too much head room under the loft, you’re going to have a very small loft.

Let’s say, after accounting for roof thickness, trailer height, floor thickness, etc., you have 10.5 feet of inside vertical space. If you are 6 feet tall, your loft inside height will be about 50 inches tall. This is because you need to account for the loft floor supporting beams and decking.

tiny house loft




Typically, your loft is built on 4x4s with a ½-inch piece of plywood on top. On top of that, you’re going to put your mattress, which can be anywhere from 4-12 inches thick. So crunch your numbers to make sure your loft height is going to work for you.

The final thing to consider is your roof style. If you have a standard hip roof, the peak will be directly in the middle of your bed, which is great if you’re a solo person and can sit up right in the middle. The sides of the hip roof will slope down on either side based on your roof slope, typically a 12:12 or 6:12 pitch.

You could also choose to have a shed style roof running from side to side or front to back. You could put the high end of your shed roof over the loft to maximize your headroom there.

Tiny House Dimensions For Canada

Tiny House Dimensions For Canada

In Canada, the size constraints are pretty much identical to those in the United States. While there are some variations between the provinces of Canada, because there is so much trucking between the two countries, they have pretty much matched each other.

Tiny House Dimensions For Australia In Meters / Metres

Tiny House Dimensions For Australia In Meters

I used to live in Alice Springs, so I’ve always been interested in tiny houses in Australia, particularly because housing costs are so insane there.

Centre-axled trailers (legally known as pig trailers) must not exceed 12.5 metres overall. The maximum distance from tow hitch to centre-line of the axle(s) must not exceed 8.5 metres. The rear overhang must not exceed the lesser of 3.7 metres, or the length of the load carrying area (or body) ahead of the rear overhang line.

Legal maximum towing weights in Australia, for tow vehicles under 4.5 tonne, the maximum laden trailer weight is the lesser of that allowed by the tow vehicle, tow hitch, or the maximum trailer mass. This overrides earlier legislation limiting towed weight to 1.5 times the tow vehicle’s unladen weight.

Determine The Right Size Tiny House For You

Determine The Right Size Tiny House For You

As you can see, there are a lot of variables that come into play determining the size of a tiny house, most of which stems from the trailer you choose. The main variable you can control to size your tiny house is modifying the length. A longer house will give you more square footage.

Your Turn!

  • What size trailer are you going to build on?

Tiny House Stairs: How To Build Them And Clever Design Ideas With Photos

Tiny House Stairs: How To Build Them And Clever Design Ideas With Photos

Tiny House Stairs and How To Build ThemMany people don’t like the idea of climbing a ladder in their tiny house, so building in a set of tiny house stairs is an option that has become more and more popular over the years. Some are even looking to save space by using stairs with storage to make it easier to get up to their tiny house loft.

When I started my build, the idea of stairs in my tiny house never crossed my mind, but with the built-in storage under a set of stairs, this is a really smart option. Like many things, if I had to do it all over again, I might too have built some tiny house stairs with storage.

Why You Should Consider Tiny House Stairs

Why You Should Consider Tiny House Stairs

Take it from me, a guy who has lived in his tiny house for almost 8 years now, climbing a ladder each night and coming down each morning can wear on you. When my ladder is set up to get into my loft, I can’t move between the living room and the kitchen, which means I have to set it up and take it down each time I want to use it. The point is, a set of stairs in my tiny house would be really nice!

When people first started building tiny houses, the houses were much smaller. At the time, the largest tiny home I saw was 150 square feet, built on an 18-foot trailer. These days people are going bigger, usually building off of a 24-foot trailer, or even all the way up to 30+ foot trailers.

If you’re going to build a tiny house on a 20-foot trailer or smaller, you’re most likely going to need to use a ladder because tiny house stairs take up a lot of room. For most people, a set of stairs is a great idea when you have more room in the larger trailer sizes. You’ll need enough run in your stairs to get up to your loft and just enough width to still have a usable living space next to it.

Tiny House Stairs Vs A Loft Ladder

Tiny House Stairs Vs A Loft Ladder

Choosing to go with stairs over a ladder is a big design decision and one that’s not easily fixed in a tiny house. While there are some really great benefits to having stairs, there are also some draw backs. Here are some pros and cons spelled out.



  • Easy to get up into your loft
  • Lots of storage below stairs
  • Allows for bed to be lofted, saving space
  • Adds a visual element to the house
  • No ladder to get in the way


  • Additional costs in lumber and hardware
  • More complex of a build
  • Takes up a sizeable chunk of space
  • Can’t use space above stairs
  • More complex building process



  • Takes up the least amount of space
  • Pretty simple construction
  • Lowest cost method
  • Can be used on multiple lofts
  • Can be stowed away


  • Harder to get up in the loft
  • Blocks ground floor
  • No built-in storage
  • More risk of falling
  • Requires woodworking skill


How To Build Tiny House Stairs For Your Loft

How To Build Tiny House Stairs For Your Loft

The easiest way to approach building stairs for your tiny house is to think of it as a series of boxes that are stacked together to form your stairs. I find this approach to be the simplest for DIYers because trying to figure out all the rise and run calculations of traditional stairs is complicated.

The other benefit of this approach is that using a series of boxes allows you to have the structure ideal for maximizing storage space. Traditional stairs have stringers that block you from fully using the space under the stairs, but using my stacked box method, you can use all the available space. It’s also easy to install shelves or drawers and apply cabinet doors to the front of these, because essentially what you’re creating is a beefed up version of a cabinet carcass.

Finally, this method is great because you have some flexibility in the future, as you could potentially unscrew the boxes from each other and rearrange them to better suit your needs. Now let’s talk about how to actually build these.

Calculate The Dimensions Of A Tiny House Staircase

Calculate The Dimensions Of A Tiny House Staircase

There are a few critical dimensions to your staircase: width, rise and run. The width of the stairs is the dimension across the stair tread. The rise is how much your stairs will gain vertically over the run of the stairs. The total stair run is the longest dimension of the stairs, from the first step to the top of your loft.

Since you’re going to use the box method, I’d suggest taking the total stair run and divide it by how big your steps are going to be. You’ll have to play with the numbers here because you want something large enough to fit your foot comfortably as you walk up and is practical for your storage needs. I’d suggest starting with boxes 12 inches wide on the outside.

Calculating Number Of Steps

Calculating Number Of Steps

The easiest way is to take the total stair run and divide it by how wide you want your boxes to be. Keep in mind you want your stairs big enough to fit your foot and the steps up to be manageable. Ideally each step will be the same height so you don’t trip on varying heights of steps.




  • Total stair run: 10 feet (120 inches)
  • Total stair height: 7 feet (84 inches)
  • Typical stair step height: 7”


84 inches / 7 inches = 12 steps @ 7” tall

120 inches / 12 steps = 10 inches per stair step run

Layout Your Tiny House Stairs Storage

Layout Your Tiny House Stairs Storage

Because we’re going to use a collection of wooden boxes to actually build the stairs, let’s first start with roughing out the general composition of these boxes, then play with the location.

You might want to make a comprehensive list of what is going to go into your stair storage. Things like your wardrobe, cleaning supplies, pantry, book cases, a place to file important documents, office supplies, etc. Start with your tallest item and your largest item, as you’re going to want to make sure you accommodate these first. You can get a good idea of how I approached this when I designed my tiny house closet.

Once you know what you need to store, mock up the storage boxes with simple graph paper, maybe even cut them out so you can play with different configurations. Think about how often you’re going to use the items, putting things you use everyday in the most easily accessible spots, while lesser used items should be stored down low or up above eye level.

The tops of your boxes are also going to make up the actual steps, so ensure that the dimensions are going to be the proper width for your stair step run and rise. The other boxes that make up the lower parts of the stairs, those not part of the actual step, can be any size, but ideally still standardized boxes so they all fit together.

What I suggest is to come up with a few standard form factors so your steps are modular and can be moved around into different configurations and still fit together into a form factor that gives you the right overall dimensions. Realize that the top steps can only be as wide as a step, but your lower boxes could be double or triple width because they don’t make up the steps, they just support them.

deign your tiny house stair modules

creating tiny house stair modules

Building Your Boxes

Building Boxes for tiny house stairs

Because these boxes are going to be load bearing, we want to make sure they’re very strong. If you’re not skilled at woodworking, simple boxes will do the job. I’d use at least ½-inch thick plywood with a decently smooth finish, even if you’re going to paint it. For my cabinets, I chose a Baltic Birch Plywood that was about $50 a sheet.

The easiest joint to use on your boxes is a standard butt joint — just lay one end onto the other. Use high-quality screws to fasten, but also glue each joint with wood glue. Wood glue will actually hold stronger than the screws will, so don’t skip gluing each joint.

Determine the dimension of the sides of your boxes and cut your lumber to its finished dimensions, and keep in mind your butt joints. You’ll want to account for the material that will be laid on its edge and subtract that material thickness.

Assemble your sides into the box frame, gluing and screwing as you go. Make sure you check that the box is squared up and then attach the bottom (or back) of the box. You’ll want the bottom edge of the sides to rest on the bottom’s wood. Pre-drill your holes, screw and glue.

Tools For Building Boxes


Measure height, length and depth (width of stair treads) where the staircase will fit. The rise and tread width will vary depending on how tall the entire staircase is. Determine size, shape and the placement of individual boxes and how they fit into the overall staircase layout.

measuring size of staircase


Measure and cut the top, bottom and sides of each box.

Construction Tip: Sides should support top board.

right and wrong way to build boxes

step box construction


Glue and screw top, bottom and sides together using simple butt joint. Be sure to double-check that all corners are perfectly square and flush.

glue and screw boxes together


After the glue has dried, cut and attached back to each box with screws.

attach back to boxes


Assemble individual boxes into staircase configuration. Tie boxes together with 1-1/2″ wood screws.  Then, attach entire staircase assembly to wall with longer 3″ screws. Make sure to hit the wall studs so that entire stairs are securely anchored in place.

assemble boxes into stairs and screw together

A nice touch to make your boxes feel a lot nicer and look polished is to use a 1/8-inch round over bit in a hand router. This will round out the edges with the smallest radius so the edge is more comfortable to the touch and helps give it a more finished look. Round over bits should come with a bearing on the end so it can easily be run over the edge for a nice consistent trim.

Clever Stair Storage Ideas

Clever Stair Storage Ideas

Here is are some pretty clever ways to build your stairs with lots of storage for your tiny house.

curved stairs in a tiny houseKeep it simple with curved stairs, a large wardrobe and a few baskets
box storage under stair treadsMake your stairs into drawers! Use this often-wasted space for storage
built in storage for stairsPull-out storage built into tiny house stairs
pantry under stairsPull-out pantry to grab food while you cook
use steep steps to save floor spaceUse steep steps to save space up to your loft
keep space big inside underneath stairsKeep inside space big and open for lots of storage
use color on stair drawersAdd a pop of color with your cabinet faces. Notice the shoe storage?
use minimalistic design for tiny house stairsKeep it minimalistic with a basic plywood for those on a budget
removable stair treadsHave removeable treads for deep storage options
hatch on stair landingTake advantage of awkward spaces with a stair landing hatch
narrow part of stairs for shoe storageUse the narrow part of the stairs for extra shoe storage
pull out shelves on tiny house stairsMake it easy to get at things in the very back with pull out shelves