Posts Tagged Design

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

HOW TO SET UP A

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.

TINY HOUSE STAIRS

PROS

  • 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

CONS

  • 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

TINY HOUSE LADDER

PROS

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

CONS

  • 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.

Example:

TINY HOUSE STAIRS MEASUREMENT EXAMPLE

MEASUREMENTS

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

FORMULA

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


STEP 1

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

STEP 2

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

STEP 3

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

STEP 4

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

attach back to boxes

STEP 5

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
alternating stair treadsGot a narrow space? Use alternating tread stairs to save space
alternating stiar treads to loftFor smaller tiny houses, use alternating tread to get up to the loft
modified ladder doubles as storage spaceA modified ladder with a shallower angle doubles as storage space
using a loft ladder instead of stairs to save spaceConsider just using a loft ladder instead of stairs to save more space
incorporate a bench seat into your stepsIncorporate a bench seat into your steps as multi-function furniture
using found items to build a stair caseStack found items that add up to a staircase and double as storage
Build in a desk along with your storage for an under-stair officeBuild in a desk along with your storage for an under-stair office
Build in a filing cabinet, stool and desktop under your stairsBuild in a filing cabinet, stool and desktop under your stairs
open shelf storage under your tiny house stairsOpt for open shelf storage under your tiny house stairs
Add kitchen storage under tiny house stairsAdd kitchen storage for cooking and more
Use a mix of drawers, doors and other elements in stair designUse a mix of drawers, doors and other elements
Put kitchen underneath stairs to save roomPut your kitchen underneath your stairs to save more room

Your Turn!

  • What makes you want a tiny house staircase over a ladder?
  • What tiny house stair storage are you drawn to?

Building A Tiny House On A Foundation – What You Need To Know Before You Build

Building A Tiny House On A Foundation - What You Need To Know Before You Build

building a tiny house on a foundation
When I built my own tiny home, I hadn’t really considered building a tiny house on a foundation. But in recent years, more and more people are skipping the trailer and building a tiny house on a foundation.

I get a lot of questions about what it costs to build a tiny house on a foundation, what the legal rules are around building codes, and why you might not want to consider this option.

Can You Build A Tiny House On A Foundation?

Can You Build A Tiny House On A Foundation

Absolutely! A tiny house can be built on a trailer or on a traditional foundation. You could even have a basement if you wanted.

When you start building your future tiny house, you’ll need some type of supporting structure to rest the house on and build off of. There are several types of tiny house foundation options that you can consider for your build. Each of these foundation types has pros and cons, but all will be able to support your tiny home.

Slab Foundation

tiny house slab foundation

A slab foundation is a simple pad made by first creating a wood frame called a form. Then you fill the form frame with concrete to form a slab. In some instances, you’ll lay in rebar or wire mesh to reinforce the pad, but that isn’t always necessary. Typically, 4-6 inches thick is all you’ll need to start building your tiny house, just make sure you pre-plan any drain lines.

PROS

  • Sturdy foundation
  • Relatively affordable
  • Simple to build

CONS

  • Have to preplan drains
  • Lacks flexibility in future
  • No access to run wires/lines

Vented Crawl Space

tiny house with a vented crawl space

A vented crawl space is formed by short walls that you build your house on. Typically, footers are poured around the edge of your foundation and walls are built on those about 2-3 feet tall. This works great because you can run all your wires and plumbing in this crawl space and if there is ever an issue, you can crawl under your home to get access to fix them. Your crawl space walls will have some vents in them to allow for moisture to vent out of. The downside is these places are typically dark, dirty and can lead to moisture issues.

PROS

  • Sturdy foundation
  • Still pretty inexpensive
  • Access to wires/plumbing

CONS

  • More expensive than slabs
  • Moisture can lead to mold
  • Requires steps up into your house

Sealed Crawl Spaces

sealed crawl space under a tiny house

A sealed crawl space is basically a mini basement in your tiny house. It differs from a vented crawl space in the fact that instead of being open to the outside environment via vents, you seal it off and condition the space as part of your building envelope. This is my preferred method because we cut down on potential moisture issues, keep bugs out (mostly), and can use the space for storage! Typically, these will be built using the same walls that surround the outside, but then a floor is poured in after. Make sure your contractor insulates and installs a vapor barrier!

PROS

  • Extra storage
  • Access to wires/plumbing
  • Controls bugs and moisture

CONS

  • More expensive
  • Newer approach
  • Requires HVAC

how to build a tiny house

Full Basement

tiny house with a full basement

This is the most expensive option, as you’ll be building down into the earth which requires engineering. The additional square footage gained for storage or additional living space is usually very affordable, but brings with it additional hoops to jump through. Make sure you check with local codes about egress and ensure you have a contractor that properly drains, seals and insulates the basement.

PROS

  • Extra storage
  • Access to wires/plumbing
  • Low cost square footage

CONS

  • Most expensive
  • Requires permits
  • Requires engineering

Skids or Runners

tiny house on runners

This is an option that serves as foundation, but also is somewhat mobile. These are simply large timbers placed on the bottom of the house that act as runners to drag the house along on. These are usually lumber, or sometimes steel, which can give you the best of both worlds.

PROS

  • Mobile in a pinch
  • Low cost option
  • Simple materials

CONS

  • Hard to pass code
  • Can rot away
  • Hard to access under house

Piers or Tubes

tiny house built on piers or tubes

The last type is a footing placed in a grid pattern into the ground with a bracket on top that connects to the under frame of your house. These piers will be laid out in a grid with large timbers running between them to form the sub floor framing of your house. They’re ideal for slopped lots and can be a great option for DIYers.

PROS

  • Affordable
  • Access to wires/plumbing
  • Easy for a DIYer

CONS

  • Requires permits
  • Not always allowed
  • Not an enclosed foundation

Cost To Build A Tiny House On A Foundation

cost to build a tiny house on a foundation

One of the larger costs associated with a tiny house on wheels is the trailer, costing between $3,000 and $6,000 for the trailer alone. A simple slab might only cost you $1,000-$2,000 including labor. So right off the bat you’ll be saving a pretty good chunk of change skipping the trailer.

That said, you’ll have to make sure you’re complying with all codes, because if things go poorly with the city, you can’t just pick up and leave. Permits to build a house vary based on your location, but nationally you’re looking at an average of $1,200 for all your permits to build your house. Add to this that they’ll most likely require you to have a water line and sewer connection, which is always expensive. My city charges a whopping $11,582 for this!

how much does a tiny house cost

If you live in rural locations or out of the main lines of your city, you’ll need to drill a well and install a septic system. Read more here about how I did this on my land.

Many people, myself included, were pushed into off-grid options like a composting toilet and solar power because they’re a bit more affordable. The best part is, after the initial cost, you don’t have any bills to pay. Being pushed to more affordable options like this meant I had to step outside building codes and thus become an illegal dwelling, which then lead me to choose a trailer, so I could move if I needed to.

You can see that while you’ll save some money on the trailer, you’ll have to spend a lot more to comply with building codes and local regulations. After that, building the house will be about the same for the rest of the details.

Pros and Cons of Building A Tiny House On A Foundation

Pros and Cons of Building A Tiny House On A Foundation

There is a lot to consider when it comes to building on a trailer versus building on a foundation. Tiny houses have been traditionally built on a trailer, but that doesn’t mean they have to be. Here are some of the pros and cons of building a tiny house on a foundation:

PROS

  • Can build larger than a trailer footprint
  • Can build different shape then a trailer form factor
  • Can allow for access to under house utilities
  • Increased insulation potential under house
  • Basements and sealed crawl spaces used as storage
  • Allows for future expansion and flexibility
  • More legally accepted

CONS

  • Additional costs to build
  • More sturdy and permanent than trailer
  • You’ll need to pay taxes on the house
  • Slabs prevent under house access
  • Incurs additional red tape costs
  • Requires permits and engineering
  • Not mobile

How Do You Build A Tiny House On A Foundation?

How Do You Build A Tiny House On A Foundation

The main connection between the walls of the house and the foundation are built off of a pressure treated sill plate, which is just a 2×4 or 2×6 laid on it’s wide side. Between the top of the foundation and sill plate, you want to use a gasket to act as a capillary break between the concrete and the wood, seal the joint for air and prevent bugs from getting in. I usually recommend using a foam gasket with some contiguous beads of acoustical caulking because it will make sure that the connection is always sealed tightly.

tiny house foundation drawing
how to build a tiny house

You’re going to need to anchor the sill plate to the foundation itself with anchor bolts. Sometimes these are laid at the time of pouring, other times people drill holes and add them after. Your local code enforcement will have very specific requirements on the type, spacing, fasteners, and more, so check with them first.

Once you have your sill plate installed, sealed, and anchored, you then use that as your bottom plate of your wall framing. Consider how you’re going to run your floor joists when you pour your foundation — a good contractor will help you work out all the details on this front. Below is a great diagram of this process. If you like these details, my book, “How To Build A Tiny House” is loaded with these, including 160 custom diagrams with details like this.

 

Tiny House On A Foundation Design Ideas & Photos

Tiny House On A Foundation Design Ideas

Here are some great tiny houses built on foundations that can help you get some inspiration for your own home. Keep in mind that your local municipality will have specifics on building codes concerning details, building methods and sizes that you’ll need to comply with.

Orcas Island Cabin

Orcas Island Cabin

This is a dream cabin of only 400 square feet built by Vandervort Architects that I’d love to stay in myself. A simple house with rich woods on an island in the Pacific Northwest.

Orcas Island Cabin view
Orcas Island Cabin interior
Orcas Island Cabin exterior
Orcas Island Cabin plan

Escape Cabin

This one is a personal favorite because of the large screened porch and the smart bedroom layout. This small house on a foundation is around 400 square feet and is built on a steel frame, so it can be transported in a pinch. Check out this house and others from Escape.

tiny house escape cabin
escape cabin kitchen
living area in escape cabin
esacpe cabin bedroom

Muji Hut

muji hut

I have personally thought about building one of these on my land — the simple design is super minimalistic while still having a lot of functionality. A simple room with a bed and a heater is all you need for a weekend getaway. I figured I could have some hidden storage in one of the walls and a simple outdoor shower off the back.

muji hut exterior
simplicity of a muji hut
modern design muji hut
muji hut interior

The Rocker

the rocker

This was designed by Viva Collective with an innovative L-shape that allowed for a great deck to be added. This goes to show that you don’t need to be confined by a trailer and the results can be stunning!

the rocker tiny house
the rocker interior
bathroom in the rocker house
the rocker tiny house bedroom

Shipping Container Trio House

shipping container trio house

This is an interesting shipping container home that is made up of three different containers. Shipping container homes are growing in popularity as an affordable home option. They can be had for a few thousand dollars and provide most of the structure of the home.

shipping container trio exterior
shipping container house kitchen
shipping container bedroom
shipping container living area

Should You build A Tiny House On A Foundation?

Should You build A Tiny House On A Foundation

In the end, I think you need to decide if you’re willing to jump through all the hoops and deal with the red tape of building on a foundation. Having a legal house is peace of mind, but that comes at a cost of extra permits and requirements. Many people opt for a trailer because it skirts most of those issues and costs, but for those who want a tiny house outside the normal trailer footprint, a tiny house on a foundation is a great option.

Your Turn!

  • Trailer or foundation, which do you choose?

Living in a Shed? An In Depth Guide To Turning A Shed Into A Tiny Home

Living in a Shed? An In Depth Guide To Turning A Shed Into A Tiny Home

how to live in a shed

When it comes to Tiny Houses, they come in all shapes and sizes. Many people have asked me about building a tiny house shed as an affordable option to having your own tiny house.

A tiny house

I think what’s important to keep in mind is that tiny houses have made a name for themselves because they’re willing to break the mold. Diversity of what Tiny is, is in itself, part of what makes it so fascinating to me. As people take these ideals, we share in the Tiny House Movement and manifest itself in so many forms, we find creative ways to live in small homes.

With that said, using a shed as the shell for your tiny house is a great way to get things started. I myself have considered is a prefab shed and today I was able to go see a model that I have been toying with the idea of purchasing and putting in the middle of a plot of land.

Can You Legally Live In A Shed?

get your permits

Like Tiny Homes, making this legal and meeting building codes is rather difficult when you say you want to live or dwell in it. One big advantage of the prefab shed option is that these structures are so prevalent that in many places you can just drop one off and you’re good. Some places require a permit, but it’s a formality more than anything, city hall needs to get it’s slice anyway they can.

These sheds will almost always pass code if you’re using it for storage. That means the shed would officially would have to be just a shed. It can a bit more complicated when you are not placing the shed behind a primary dwelling. This is where I find myself.

The real lynch pin when it comes to living in a shed legally if you want to connect sewer, water and power.

Connecting Water To Your Shed

water connection for a shed

Fortunately, you can get water to most properties without much hassle. Of the three main utilities, water is the simplest because it’s not terribly complicated or pose much risks. I did this on my current property in the mountains where I got a well and where my tiny house is in the city, I was able to connect to the city water for “landscaping” with zero issue.

You just pony up the cash for the permits and the install, run it to a frost proof hydrant (again saying it’s for landscaping) and get your inspections if needed. Once the inspectors are done with their checks and you have all your documents in hand, drop your shed, and connect it off the books.

NOTE: Because water is so easy to get, you can get it and the bill will provide “proof of residence” for other things like the DMV, getting a post office box etc.

Connecting Power To Your Shed

electrical hook up to shed

Getting electricity in your shed is slightly trickier because this is the part where code officials start to get warry you’re planning on living in the shed. That said, it’s not uncommon to want to have power in a shed for tools etc. What I suggest you do is get your water installed on the land so it’s about 20 feet into the property, wait a few weeks while you get your shed pad graded and shed dropped off.

Now next is what I’d do, but realize I’m not responsible for any consequence if you do this. Once the shed is dropped off, stage the inside with a few shed-like items: A lawn mower, a table top on some saw horses, a few tools scatted on top. Make it look like this is a real shed used for actual storage. That way when the electrician comes to install and the inspector does their inspection, it looks like your using it as a storage shed.

You’re most likely only going to get approved for a 50 or 100 amp service compared to a normal home is usually 200-amp service. That should be totally fine for your needs in such a small space.

Connecting Sewer To Your Shed

sewer connection

Here is the biggest hurtle and frankly I’ll be honest and say you’re not going to get any code official to let you install a flush toilet in a shed unless it’s totally above board and designated as a dwelling. I don’t mind using a composting toilet, but having water and power is a must.

For toilet you could use a composting toilet, you could use a porta potty service, or you could consider getting a septic system installed (if it’s possible). Septic systems will start to get people asking questions if they see a septic installed, a water line run to the property and power run to a “shed”. It won’t take much for anyone looking at your property or reviewing parcel tax and permit records to put two and two together.

Can You Live In A Shed?

can you live in a shed

When I was talking with the sales person at the shed store, she told me that they have had several customers live in these sheds. They call these buildings “sheds” loosely, with models up to 1000+ square feet. He had an entire wall of photos where people had converted a shed into a house, upfitting the outside with porches, accents, etc.

Why Should You Live In A Shed?

why you should live in a shed

Living in a shed comes with a lot of advantages, between their wide spread availability, cost and ease to obtain.

Easily Permittable

The ease of getting them legitimized is the biggest appeal to me. There aren’t many things these days that are easier to do, in many cases you can just drop them on your property and be done. Often municipalities have rules like “if the structure is not a dwelling and no dimension is greater than 12 feet, no permit is required”.

Very Affordable

The model I show here is 192 Square Feet. Included are the windows, doors, installations, taxes, anchoring, site leveling and delivery all for the price of $4,200! Figure adding in permits, running power, insulation and drywall (doing the work myself of course) I am looking at a sweet house for around $6,000. You could then deck it out with Ikea swag for another $500 and have a really nice place! The only drawback is there is no loft for a bed, so you have to deal with that. Possibly you could use a murphy bed.

Another angle to this is they offer payment plans of $70 a month, makes it pretty affordable, considering I have friends that pay over $1500 a month in rent.

Easily Transportable

The other advantage to these houses is that you can move them! Not as easily as a house on a trailer, but it’s possible. This is because they deliver these sheds on flat beds or even tow trucks sometimes. They even have these little crawler machines to maneuver the shed into place where a truck might not be able to get into tight back yards.

Widely Available

Unlike tiny houses where the closest builder might several states away, there is probably several shed sellers in your city. These sheds are everywhere it seems, so getting a shed is pretty simple and you can even price shop between them.

How To Convert A Shed Into A Tiny House

how to convert shed into living space

Once you buy a shed, you’re first going to want to get all your utilities to the site and setup before you do anything. Get your water, power and sewer squared away, get your copies of all the approvals, then wait a few weeks. I’ve found that sometimes there are a few little loose ends that need to happen and you don’t want an inspector around while you convert your house.

1
Set A Level Pad And Grade For Drainage
Before the shed even gets delivered, I’d suggest at the very least scraping the grass away and putting down 4-6 inches of ¾” gravel. Consider burying your water and sewer connections at this point and hide the ends so the inspector doesn’t ask questions. Have the gravel base extend in all directions about 1-2 feet beyond the footprint of the shed. Make sure the space is totally level and compact the base with a plate compactor.While you’re at it, consider how the water will flow around the shed, put in French drains if any slopes will push water towards it. Also consider where the water will flow off the roof if you have gutters, consider trenching a drain pipe to flush water away from the shed.
2
Make Utility Connections To Your Shed
Once the shed is delivered on the pad you created, the inspector has come and gone, then bring your connections from wherever they are to the shed and inside. If you pre-buried your connections, uncover the connection points, and connect them. Test everything before you close up the walls.
3
Deal With Moisture On The Bottom Of The Shed
If there is one thing I don’t like about these sheds is they use OSB or similar products, which just don’t stand up well to moisture. If you have the option, I’d pay extra for plywood and make sure it is treated. The underside of the floor where it faces the ground is a place that moisture can build up and bugs can eat into.I suggest that you have you shed on blocks just high enough for you to crawl under so you can access things easier. This is even the case if you don’t need to use blocks for leveling. Having access and air flow is really great and super important to keep your floor dry and rot free. I’d also apply a thick coat of exterior deck oil based paint to the underside of the shed to seal the wood from moisture.
4
Adjust Your Shed Framing
In many cases shed builders use a smaller dimension framing than traditional 2×4’s. If you can, request your shed to be done with 2×4’s so all your building materials will work (insulation, electrical boxes, etc which are all sized for 2×4 cavities).If your walls aren’t framed with 2×4’s then you might have to figure out alternatives to every other step coming up because all building materials are sized to accommodate a 2×4 wall. You also are going to want a deeper cavity to insulate, a 1×3 wall like some sheds are will end up being a very cold home.If you can’t order the shed to have 2×4’s then you’ll need to build the wall inwards, if you go through that trouble consider getting a slightly larger shed and then you might as well go for thicker walls for more insulation.
5
Rough In Your Electrical, Water and HVAC
Next put in your electrical lines, water lines, internet connections, any HVAC needs etc. I’d also consider putting outlets and lights on the outside of the shed too.If there is one thing I’ve learned about outlets is that it’s hard to over do outlets. Because it’s a small space, you want outlets right where you need them. Consider everything you’ll be plugging in and put outlets there. Additionally, if there is any runs of wall more than 5 feet with no outlets, just put one there. Outlets are $1.50 for a box and another $2 for the receptacle itself, these are super cheap so don’t skimp here.
TIP: I’d also suggest taking a video and photos of the walls so you can remember where things are in the future if you need to fix something.
6
Seal Up Every Little Crack
If there is one thing I’ve learned about these sheds is they aren’t very air tight and because of that, bugs can get in too. The space where the roof meets the top of the wall and around the soffit/facia is usually so poorly done you can see day light!I’d start with sealing everything with a good silicone caulk. Follow all the junctions, seams, and transition points. First seal from the outside, then seal again from the inside. I’d also caulk where the walls meet the floor, the corners and inside the framing where the studs meet the sheathing. This will seem excessive to many, but a shed is so small that it will take a few hours to totally seal it up tight.Once you have that done, I’d move to spray can foam and fill in any hard to reach gaps. I’d also fill places you’re not going to be able to insulate easily and I’d go over any seams to safe guard from any leaks. Again, this is considered overboard by many, but a few hours and $50 of prevention will pay dividends, keep air and water out and the bugs at bay.
Note: You should make provision for fresh air exchange and humidity control. When you seal up the space and live in such a small space you need to take air quality seriously. I’d suggest having a mini split system that does heating and cooling (where it dehumidifies too) AND an Energy Recovery Ventilation unit (ERV). The ERV will take your indoor air, heat or cool the incoming air through an exchange, then adjust humidity levels too. The ERV will cycle your air so the indoor air is always fresh and the correct humidity.
7
Insulate Your Shed Walls And Ceiling
You have two main options for insulation spray foam or bat insulation. Bat insulation is a good option, easy to install and not that expensive. You an get bats that are sized right for your wall cavities to minimize the amount of cutting you need to do.The other option, and the one that I’d recommend, is closed cell spray foam. I specifically suggest closed cell spray foam because it is also a great vapor and air barrier. Spray foam is also a very high R value so you’ll keep your house hot or cold longer with the same amount of wall thickness.Many people will suggest open foam because it’s cheaper or some make the argument it’s easier to find the leak if a leak occurs. Because the shed is a small space, it will be more expensive, but since it’s small, you might only be talking a few extra hundred-dollar difference. The notion that you can spot leaks easier is something I flat out reject, you just bought a brand new shed and spend a few hours sealing everything, it’s not going leak any time soon and if it does, the closed cell foam adheres to the back of the roof decking, minimalizing the spread of any leaks. Open cell will allow the water to flow through it and into your wall cavity leading to mold.
8
Insulate Your Shed Floors
You want to insulate your shed floor or else you’ll have a condensing surface and your feet will be cold on the floors. You can do this by insulating under the floor on the bottom of the shed or laying foamboard on the floor and putting a new layer of plywood on top.If it was me, I’d do both. I’d order a shed that had a taller wall and then spray closed cell foam on the underside, then lay down 2 inches of polyiso foam with a compatible adhesive, then lay down a thick plywood subfloor on top of it, again with adhesive.The two downsides to laying in the foam on the sides is that you’re building into the space, reducing your overhead height (hence why getting a taller wall option on your shed is a good idea) and also your front transition of your front door will be a little weird, so you’ll need to work that out. Both are solvable problems and warm floors are a must have in my book.
Tip: If you do build up into the space by laying down foam, consider doing an in floor radiant heat!
9
Drywall, Floors And Trim
Next I’d suggest finishing with dry wall because it’s cheap. You want to make sure you are sealing all the joints and transitions of the dry wall for air tightness. This is because if you make this air tight, no water vapor can enter the wall cavity and hit a cold surface to condense, build up moisture and cause mold. This article on the proper way to air seal drywall is a great resource for this.[https://www.buildingscience.com/documents/information-sheets/air-barriers-airtight-drywall-approach]Once you’ve put up your drywall, spackled and sanded your joints, go ahead and trim out your doors and windows, then paint the whole thing. Install your floors at this point, then add your baseboards to hide the rough edges of the floors.
10
Final Finishing
At this point I’d drop in my cabinets, counters and other finishes. Consider using off the shelf premade things that are pretty affordable and make it easy. Your local big box store or Ikea will have good options for this. Bring in your appliances, add your lighting fixtures to the roughed in boxes etc. There you have it, you’ve converted a shed to a tiny house!

At this point I’d drop in my cabinets, counters and other finishes. Consider using off the shelf premade things that are pretty affordable and make it easy. Your local big box store or Ikea will have good options for this. Bring in your appliances, add your lighting fixtures to the roughed in boxes etc. There you have it, you’ve converted a shed to a tiny house!

 

How Much Does It Cost To Convert A Shed Into A Tiny House?

cost to convert shed into house

Converting a shed will cost around $75 per square foot including the cost of the shed. Depending on the shed size, utility connections and fixtures/appliances. This assumes you’re buying a pre-built shed. It could be done more cheaply if you build the shed yourself (shed companies typically mark up 60% above material cost).

Example costs:

  • Shed: $3,500 to $10,000
  • Windows: $500-$6,000
  • Insulation: $500 to $2000
  • Interior finishes: $500-$4,000
  • Electrical: $750 to $3,000
  • Water heater: $500 to $1000
  • HVAC: $500 to $1,500
  • Toilet: $20-$800
  • Fixtures: $1,000-$5,000
  • Appliances: $400 to $4,000
  • Interior wall: $500 to $1000
  • Flooring: $300 to $1,000
  • Fasteners/Adhesives: $1,500
  • Paint: $50 to $200

Living In A Shed While Build Your House

living in a shed while building your house

Many people want to live in a shed while they are building the permeant house. I myself have considered this for building my home on the property I bought in the mountains. This again falls to the legality issue. Dwelling in a shed is often not allowed because how small it is.

Additionally, I’ve found that if you do this, the code enforcement staff will require everything you normally are required to having in a full house, jumping up the cost dramatically.

Ultimately, the real answer is yes and no. Legally no you can’t. Is it possible, totally!

How do I turn my shed into living space?

This is something I have a lot of experience with, tiny houses are working on the same scale as a converted shed. There are a few critical things you want to consider when converting a shed into a living space.

Top Ways To Turn A Shed Into A living Space

  1. Run power to the shed for lights, electronics & HVAC
  2. Choose a way to climate control – Heating & Cooling
  3. Seal cracks to control moisture and bugs
  4. Insulate and Drywall for a clean look
  5. Install a durable flooring option
  6. Use a light color pallet, good lighting and natural light

Shed Design Ideas And Tips

tips for desinging your shed home

There are a so many ways to take your living space in a shed to the next level. Many of them can be borrowed from tiny houses for design inspirations. Here are a few guides I’ve created to help you design the perfect shed to live in!

Small Bathrooms For A Shed

A bathroom is one of those spaces in a shed you have to get right, there is a lot going on between power, water, fixtures and storage. Check out my post on how to design a small space bathroom.

designing a bathroom for a shed

Kitchen Designs For A Shed

The kitchen is another critical area if you want to live in a shed. You don’t have a lot of room to pack a lot into a small space. When I designed my tiny house kitchen there was a lot that went into it. Learn more about small kitchen concepts and how to design them.

kitchens in a shed

Appliances For Small Sheds

One challenge I’ve found is getting appliances for small spaces. You can’t always go to the big box hardware stores and find an appliance that will fit in your shed’s kitchen. Choosing the right appliance for small kitchens is important, here’s how to choose the right one for you!

small space appliances

Consider Adding A Sleeping Loft In Your Shed House

A sleeping loft can add a lot of room in the ground floor if you’re tight on space. Sleeping lofts are pretty straight forward, but I figure out a few tricks to make them really well.

save space in a shed with a loft for your bed

Add Solar Panels To Your Shed

Solar is a great option if you can’t get power run to your shed. I’ve written several post about how to setup solar, so here are some great I wrote about how I did it on mine.

Setting Up Solar Guides

Converted Shed To Living Space Photos And Ideas

bedroom in a shed

shed living area

gambral roof shed converted to living space

living space in shed house

bedroom in converted shed home

kitchen and bedroom in a converted shed house for living

modern cozy shed home

cottage style shed converted into a living space

 

guest room in a shed

living space with sitting area in a shed

tiny bedroom in a shed

guest room and office space in a shed

guest room in converted shed

rustic shed conversion to live in

 


a Tiny House made from a shed

Living In A Shed In Your Backyard – Is It Right For You?

Converting a shed into a house or living space is something that a lot of people have done and it’s totally possible. They are a great way to have a house quickly and pretty affordably. So I wanted to ask you all what do you think of this idea? Do you think living in a shed is right for you? Is anyone here doing this?