Posts Tagged Tiny Home

Heating a Tiny House: How To Heat Your Tiny House And Stay Cozy All Winter Long

Heating a Tiny House: How To Heat Your Tiny House And Stay Cozy All Winter Long

heating a tiny house
Heating a tiny house in the winter has it’s challenges. Now that we’ve moved to Vermont from the sunny South we’re doing research into heating appliances. We have been talking to folks in the area about what they use and we’re pondering between a few options.

Choosing Which Tiny House Heater Option Is Right For You:

There are a few things to consider when it comes to choosing a heater for your tiny house and it boils down to a few key things. First off will you be on the grid or off the grid. Off grid winter heating will narrow your options to a few, while if you are on the grid, you have many other options.

Once you’ve determined your grid status, you’ll need to consider the practicalities of your lifestyle. What do you want your life to be like day to day and what is and isn’t going to work for you. Many people idealize a wood stove, but they don’t think about waking up in the morning to a cold house before they can stoke a fire up again. For me I just wanted the simplicity of pressing a button, so I opted for a heat pump in my tiny house.

Sizing your heating system is critical to keeping your house nice and warm without getting too hot. I’ve been in my fair share of tiny houses where a heater either couldn’t keep up with how cold it was outside and I’ve also been in an equal number of tiny houses that were so hot we had to open windows in the dead of winter to prevent us from sweating. For me, I needed a tiny house heater that made about 3,000 BTUs for where I live in N.C. Use a BTU calculator to figure out what is right for you tiny house.

comparison of heating fuel prices

Finally price, money is important. Some setups cost more on the front end and less over time, while some are cheaper to start with and require on going costs or the costs are higher over the long term. I’ll dig into each of these as we go through all the options.

Electric Heater Options For A Tiny House:

heating a tiny house with electric

Electric Heater Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • Easy to find at any store
  • No installation, just plug in
  • Can find the right BTU size for you

Electric Heater Cons

  • Takes up floor space
  • They’re not particularly good looking
  • Expensive to run, draws a lot of power
  • Not practical for off the grid

Electric
Cost

  • $40-$100

Probably the easiest, cheapest option right now and fairly efficient in terms of heating a space our size. We could get through the rest of the Vermont winter comfortably with our current electric heater but it’s certainly not attractive and it takes up floor space. This option also requires you to be on the grid, most of these heaters start at 1,500 watts for a around 5,000 BTUs and go up from there. With electrical loads like that, you’d have to have a very expensive solar array to power that in the winter.

The great thing about electric heaters is that they’re super cheap, we picked our us for around $45 and you can find that at any major big box retailer. The do work well to heat a space and you have two main options: forced air and radiant heaters.

Forced Air is for when you want to heat up a space fast, the fan in them often is pretty loud, but you can heat the space quickly which is nice when we come home from work and want to turn up the heat. While they are noisy, this is a good option for us because we are out and about often, so we turn down the power while we are gone.

Radiant Heat is for when you can take the time to let a space to heat up. These are often oil filled radiators style heaters, which are near silent in their operation and gently heat the air around them. If you’re on the grid and going to be spending a lot of time in the house this is a good option because you can heat the house up and then let it coast.

Since this would only be a temporary situation right now, seeing as we will be hooking up our solar panels this summer and investing in a small wind generator later in the year. We’re also contemplating micro-hydro electric but that’s for another post!

Heating A Tiny House With A Wood Stove Or Pellet Stove:

heating a tiny house with a wood stove

Wood or Pellet Stove Pros

  • Cozy fire is nice
  • Less impact on environment
  • Can be used to cook, heat and more
  • Fuel generally cheap

Wood or Pellet Stove Cons

  • Medium to high initial cost
  • Needs large clearances
  • Hard to find one small enough
  • Takes work and can be messy

Wood or Pellet Stove Cost

  • $800-$2,000

We met a tiny house dweller on a farm nearby who uses a wood fired stove. She loves it because she enjoys the processing of the wood and the look of the wood stove in her tiny house. She’s also able to heat water on top for tea making or dish washing. When electricity has gone out during the winter she has had no problems keeping warm and heating food.

There is a homey feeling to a wood stove that you just can’t quite achieve with gas fueled units. However, a wood stove is messier, with ash falling through and wood chips and bark trailing in from the wood.

Tiny House Wood Stove Options

It’s not easy to find a small wood burning fireplace, most are just too big for a small space. Jotul is a popular wood and gas stove company here in Vermont and folks tell us they are the best. We’re not sure they make one small enough for our space so we’re going to check out their showroom this week. We’ve also been looking at Dickinson Marine wood stoves as well as Woodstock soapstone stoves made regionally over in New Hampshire. Kimberly Stoves are also an option, but are expensive.

Finally Hobbit Wood Stoves are a popular options because it’s one of the few best heating options for small homes due to it’s size. It’s designed for small spaces so it’s a serious contender for wood stoves for your tiny house.

ways to make the most out of a wood stove

There are a few considerations you need to make when it comes to having a wood stove in your tiny house. First is getting a stove small enough for you tiny house, if you don’t size it right, it will generate too many BTUs and leave you roasting inside your tiny house. This happens to most people when they try to heat their small house with wood because it’s hard to find a wood stove that’s small enough.

Next is the space it takes up. Wood stoves require a lot of space just in their size, but also in clearances. You often need to give a good amount of space around the wood stove to make sure it’s safe and doesn’t catch nearby surfaces on fire.

Finally consider your lifestyle and how a wood stove will impact that. Wood stoves require frequent tending, wood needs to be chopped, stacked, then hauled in and finally the stove needs to be cleaned. It’s a lot of hard work and it can be a messy affair when soot gets out. Pellet wood stoves I’ve found to be a happy medium between ease of use, easy temperature maintenance and ease. You can’t really make your own pellets, but there is a strong case to be made for them.

Kerosene Heaters For Indoor Use:

heating a tiny house with kerosene

Kerosene Heater Pros

  • Vented or un-vented
  • Thermostat Controlled
  • Burns very clean

Kerosene Heater Cons

  • Medium to high initial cost
  • Uses fossil fuels
  • Hard to find fuel sometimes

Kerosene
Cost

  • $80-$1,500

Several people have told us that kerosene is worth the set-up and cost of fuel. It burns really hot and it is 90% efficient according to a local gas supplier. In terms of BTU output kerosene beats out propane, but it’s not as clean burning and is more polluting to the environment although they make filters now that reduce emissions.

Kerosene is the cheaper option when compared to propane, but we have found it’s not as easy to find. I’m also most concerned about carbon monoxide so a vented heater would be essential in such a small space. The Toyotomi Laser kerosene heaters are an option, but I’ve read a lot of mixed reviews. Another option is a free standing kerosene heater like a Dyna-Glo heater, which is nice because you can remove it when not using it. The main downside is that it isn’t a direct vent heater, so you need to be careful about air quality and safety. Overall, kerosene seems like a good option for back-up to electric heating,m but after more online research we are considering this option less and less.

Tiny House Propane Heater Options:

heating a tiny house with propane

Propane Heater Pros

  • Vented or un-vented
  • Thermostat Controlled
  • Burns very clean

Propane Heater Cons

  • Medium-to-high initial cost
  • Uses fossil fuels
  • Hard to find fuel sometimes

Propane
Cost

  • $80-$1,500

Clean burning, efficient, relatively inexpensive and easy to find we’ve seriously considered the propane option. Our stove currently helps heat our house and it’s run off propane so hooking up a heating element wouldn’t be too difficult.

The Dickinson heater is an attractive and efficient option and was a contender to the wood stove option in our deliberations, but after talking with many other tiny housers, we heard a lot of bad things. Mainly that they look nice, but don’t put out enough heat. Even though the Dickinson heater says it puts out 4,000-5,500 BTUs, many people have called that into question. It also lacks a thermostat which was a deal breaker for us.

The other really good option if you’re considering this is a Mr. Heater propane heater. This was great in the south because we didn’t always need a big heater, so we could store it away when we needed to, but on those colder than normal nights we could break it out and heat our tiny house up fast. While it uses 1lb propane canisters, we felt it was very wasteful, so we got the 20lb propane tank connector hose (the size your grill runs off of).

What I like about propane is that it’s pretty cheap, I run my tiny house off of it and we spend about $100 per year heating the house, using it to cook and for my hot water heater for my tiny house. The other thing is you can get the tanks refilled almost anywhere and I prefer to use the 20lb tanks because even when they are full, I can carry them pretty easily.

Tiny House Heat Pumps:

heating a tiny house with heat pump

Heat Pump Pros

  • Can heat and cool
  • Thermostat Controlled
  • Takes up no floor space
  • Very efficient

Heat Pump Cons

  • High initial cost
  • Requires some expert help to setup
  • Doesn’t work in very cold climates

Heat Pump Cost

  • $800-$3,500

This is a good option for people who live on grid, because heat pumps are getting more and more efficient. In really cold locations this should generally be avoided because the system functions by capturing any available heat from the air and concentrating it to heat the home. Once you get to around 30 degrees, most units have electric heating coils to boost the system, but that puts you back in the boat of standard electric heating.

The upside to heat pumps is that the provide heating and cooling for your tiny house, which is what I ultimately decided for my system. While it is difficult, you can run a mini split off solar with a large enough system and an efficient enough system.

The main brands you want to look for is Mitsubishi and Fujitsu, both make good units that are a high SEER rating which is a measure of how efficient they are. You’ll want to find a unity that is at least a SEER 20 for on grid use, if you’re off grid you want to be as high of a SEER rating as possible. At the time of writing this, Carrier just launched a new mini split that is a SEER 42 which is astounding.

What’s great about mini splits is you can mount the air handler on the wall so it doesn’t take up any floor space. It is also programmable, so the thermostat can turn on and off when you want and some even allow you to control via your phone so you can turn it on remotely to come home to a toasty house.

Best Heating Options For A Tiny House:

best heating options for a tiny house

Now that we’ve broken down some of the major types of heaters for a tiny house, I want to share what I think are the best options when it comes to heating a tiny home.

1. Carrier Infinity Heat Pump – $2,500

Heat pump by carrierIt’s hard to beat these heat pump mini splits because that can heat and cool all in one unit. Their high efficiency inverter heat pump with a SEER of 42 is insane, I have yet to setup one, but I’m guessing it can heat at around 500 watts which is unheard of.

2. Heat Storm Deluxe Indoor Infrared Wall Heater – $80

convection electric heaterThis is the best alternative I’ve found to the popular Envi Flat Panel Heater which is no longer made. What’s great about this heater is it plugs right into an outlet, its very low profile so it doesn’t take up much space because it mounts right on the wall. The kicker is that since it’s just a plug in heater, you can remove it easily and store during the warmer months. At $80 and a 10 minute install it’s hard to beat it if you’re on the grid.

3. The Hobbit Small Wood Stove – $1,100

hobbit small wood stove for a tiny houseFor those who want to go off grid with your heating you’ll need a very small wood stove and the Hobbit Wood Stove is one of the smallest ones out there. While you could go with the Kimberly Stove, its very expensive. At 18 inches x 12 inches you can’t get much smaller and still feed it wood, so this is a great option for those who want to heat and cook with wood.

4. Mr. Heater – MH9BX Propane Heater – $69

Mr. Heater propane portable heaterThis is a great heater and super practical. It runs off of propane which you get almost anywhere, it’s easily portable and it puts off a lot of heat when you need it. I think everyone should have a Mr. Heater regardless of what heating option you go with as a back up heating source. It can be fuels by 1lb tanks or you can get the hose for grill size tanks.

5. Oil Filled Radiator Heater – $72

oil fille radiator heaterThis is another good option and make the cut for my list because they’re good at heating spaces, you can wheel it in when you need heat, but still store it when it’s warmer weather. The oil filled radiator means you have a nice even heat that doesn’t make much noise. The down side to these is that use up a lot of energy, so if you’re off grid it’s not an option and if you are on grid, power bills can be high.

Considerations When Heating Your Tiny House:

considerations when heating your tiny house

The last few points here to consider are safety, indoor air quality, and insulation. Obviously safety is paramount and many of these flame based heaters can lead to fires if you’re not careful. If you have smaller children, a heater on the floor presents a hazard to kids touching it. Indoor air quality is something to consider too. When in such a small space, as you burn fuels you’re using up your oxygen and putting out gasses like carbon monoxide which is serious business. Venting is always preferable, but it’s a trade off because venting takes up a lot of space and need to be done correctly.

Finally if you’re build your own tiny house, it’s important to make sure your house is well sealed and spending more money on insulation upfront will result in a lot less money being spent later on. Don’t skimp on your insulation and choose the highest quality windows that you can afford.

Ultimately our main criteria for heating units include efficiency, safety, cost and environmental impact. We are deliberate in every choice we make with the house and want to make the best choice for our space, the environment and our wallets. It’s not an easy choice but a very necessary one now that we live in a state with actual winter. It’s definitely going to be easier to heat the tiny house than it was to cool it in the hot, humid Southern summers!

which fuell option is best for heating a tiny home

Your Turn!

  • What do you recommend for heating a tiny space?
  • What options have you considered?

 

A-Frame Tiny Houses: How To Build + Free Tiny House A-Frame Plans

A-Frame Tiny Houses: How To Build + Free Tiny House A-Frame Plans
A-Frame Tiny Houses

What is a tiny house a-frameWhat is a Tiny House A-Frame

A-frame tiny house designFRAMES have always fascinated me as a bit of nostalgic architecture, but also as an interesting snapshot of American optimism. They rose to popularity in a time when many were entering into the middle class and cars became common place.

The idea of the weekend getaway became a thing for the first time and people look to rural parts of the country to build a cabin in the woods. Enter a simple but practical design called the A-frame.

Today’s modern A-frame tiny houses are designed and built with full-time living in mind. Although many people still adore this architectural style as a cabin or vacation home, the shape has really taken off in the tiny house movement.

Now, not all A-frames are considered tiny houses. In fact, there are small A-frame houses and even quite large options. A-frame tiny houses usually fall between 100-400 sq. ft. Small tiny A-frame houses are typically between 400-1000 sq. ft. Both styles are popular for those who want to build their own dwelling and take on tiny house living.

tiny house a-frame sections

pros and cons of a-frame tiny housesPros and Cons of Tiny House A-Frames

Like any architectural style, A-frame tiny houses come with a list of pros and cons. The biggest advantage of the style is that it is relatively easy to construct, which appeals to many who want to build their tiny A-frame on a small plot of land.

The simple design means you do away with side walls entirely, opting for a larger roof plane instead. What normally would be a wall system made up of studs, top/bottom plates, sills, and a complex roof truss structure becomes a single piece of lumber you only have to make two cuts on.

This monolithic roof isn’t without its downsides, though. The sloped roof creates less usable internal space because you can only stand up straight so close to the wall.

A-frame tiny houses tend to skew a bit bigger than most because you need a wider and taller house to have enough livable space within the sloped roofs. If an A-frame style is appealing to you, don’t get too caught up in thinking a tiny house “should” be so many square feet, build a house that works for you!

  • Simple to construct
  • Low cost
  • Strong shape
  • Low maintenance
  • Durable under weather conditions
  • Retro style
  • Simple and minimalist design
  • Less usable space because of slope
  • More exterior area means less efficiency
  • Temperature control can be a challenge
  • The Loft can be uncomfortable
  • Steep roofs are hard to service
  • Some folks feels the style is dated
  • Limited natural light

tiny house a-frame sections

Free A-Frame Tiny House Plans

If you’re considering building your own A-frame tiny house or small A-frame cabin, good plans can be hard to come by. Studying a set of plans can help you determine a design that works for you, estimate how much a tiny house A-frame costs, what materials you’ll need, and more.

Viewing the floor plan will help you get a feel for layouts in an A-frame tiny house. You can start to envision the possibilities for your own tiny house A-frame and how it might work with your lifestyle.

I’ve put together these plans that you can get for free. They include a 14’x14’ tiny house A-frame and another layout for a 16’x16’ design. Included in the PDF is a full materials list, sample cost breakdown, tool list, and more!

free a-frame tiny house plans

Ray Grayford

Design Tip:

Find a good set of plans that allow you to envision how space will be used and how furniture will fit (especially consider low overhead areas). You may want to consider using a 3-d program such as Sketch-up, or even building a simple wood/cardboard model to scale.

– Ray Grayford – Website

a-frame plans for sale signA-Frame Tiny House Plans For Sale

Once you’ve taken a look at the A-frame floor plans above, you should have a good handle on what you like and don’t like about the A-frame layout. Maybe you’re starting to generate ideas on how an A-frame tiny house could work for you.

If you’re seriously considering building an A-frame tiny house and you’d like additional floor plan options, I suggest exploring some of these A-frame plans for sale below. These tiny house floor plan sellers are experienced and familiar with the requirements of building a tiny house. Investing in a good set of floor plans will ensure first time builders don’t miss important details.

relaxshacks a-frame kits

These little Relaxshacks are a glamorous step up from camping. With a spot for one or two beds, a mini kitchenette, and space for relaxation, these are cute vacation options. This design doesn’t feature a bathroom, but all other features are there, making it an excellent camping choice.

pin-up houses a-frame kits

Pin-up Houses offer a wide range of A-frame tiny houses, A-frame small houses, and cabins. The Alexis is a small-but-roomy 306-sq.-ft. tiny house option with a kitchenette, porch, bathroom, and small loft. There’s a 134-sq.-ft. living room that is nicely sized. The plans include material recommendations.

pin-up houses a-frame tiny house kits

If you’re looking for a simple shelter for camping and weekend relaxation, the Lily is a small but adequate A-frame tiny house design. Lily features storage space and enough room to sleep two people comfortably. There’s no plumbing, but it would make a fun A-frame vacation shelter.

pin-up houses tiny house a-frame kits

The Rebecca from Pin-up Houses is an A-frame small house with two stories, plumbing, and three potential bedrooms. This design shows a great range of A-Frame tiny house possibilities. It would be great for a couple or a small family, with room to grow.

If you’re a first-time tiny house builder, an A-frame tiny house is a relatively simple design that’s easy to build. That said, there are several good reasons to build from an A-frame tiny house kit rather than making your first tiny house from scratch.

Priit Kallejärv

Design Tip:

A-frame houses have a special design and don’t fit to every environment. The steep roof pitch is likely going to be problematic in urban areas. In the countryside, however, there are often less code restrictions to follow, making it more likely to get a green light from the local authorities to proceed with the project.

– Priit Kallejärv – Website

a-frame tiny house kits
With an A-frame tiny house kit, you’ll get precisely the right materials and pieces you’ll need. You won’t have to worry about the planning and troubleshooting, which can lead to expensive mistakes. Even expert tiny house builders make mistakes that can add up, so if it’s your first time, weigh out the cost of your time, planning, and an allotment for any mistakes before deciding that a kit is a more expensive route. In the end, you may save money by opting for one of these great A-frame tiny house kits.

Avrame A-frame tiny houses

Avrame

I really like the look and modular nature of the Avrame A-frame tiny houses. The SOLO series ranges from 141-247 sq. ft. Avrame is based in Estonia, but they offer many resources on A-frame tiny house kits.

the tiny life a-frame tiny houses
Back Country Huts a-frame kits

Back Country Huts

Back Country Huts kits are based in Canada, but they also ship to the United States. These modern styled A-frame tiny house kits are designed for self-assembly with a clear step-by-step guide.

the tiny life a-frame tiny houses
Den A-frame kits

Den

Den A-frame kits are priced out with exactly how much it costs to build an A-frame tiny house from their kits. The spacious design features 14-foot ceilings and a wall of glass to let in light.

the tiny life a-frame tiny houses
M.A.DI. modular A-frame unit kits

Madi

M.A.DI. modular A-frame unit kits are available only in Europe. Still, the designs are beautiful, and the website is worth checking out for inspiration and ideas (even if you are in the United States).

the tiny life a-frame tiny houses
Nolla A-frame cabin

Nolla

The Helsinki designer Robin Falck created the beautiful Nolla A-frame cabin, with a minimalist and energy-efficient design. Again, this A-frame is an excellent design to check out for inspiration as you plan.

Gary Boatwright a-frame house

Design Tip:

Before you start building an A-frame house be sure to research city and county codes and make sure your room sizes will fit with at least 5 feet hight at outside wall or more for appraisal, if need.

– Gary Boatwright – Website

A-Frame on a Foundation VS an A-Frame on a Trailer

So should you build your A-frame tiny house on a foundation or on a trailer? Well, it depends on your needs. The main reason to build any tiny house on a trailer is usually to get around building codes. The other advantage of a trailer is that you gain mobility. Should you decide to move someday, you can take your house with you.

If the building codes aren’t a concern for your area (and be sure to check out the codes thoroughly before you build), then you can certainly build an A-frame tiny house on a slab foundation. A benefit to building on a foundation is that you can make it wider,creating more floor space.

Since trailers have a maximum width allowed by the DOT, you’ll only be able to have an A-frame tiny house 8.5 feet wide, which doesn’t leave a lot of room inside with the steel sloping roof.

a-frame on a foundation

A-FRAME ON A FOUNDATION

Building an A-frame on a slab foundation allows you to size the A-frame cabin or tiny house to your preference. You can create it as wide as you like, which enables you to lower the roof’s angle. If you build on a foundation, take the time to research the different foundation options (pier, slab, crawlspace, or basement). A slab foundation is generally less expensive than building on a trailer, so that’s something you should also consider.

the tiny life a-frame tiny houses

A-FRAME ON A TRAILER

If you choose to build your A-frame on a trailer, you’ll be beholden to the size of the trailer (8.5 ft. wide). That said, there are some significant advantages to building any tiny house on a trailer (which is why I built my own tiny home on a trailer). When you build on a trailer, you’ll build from the bottom up — sizing the flooring and the base first. This video walks through an A-frame tiny house build on a trailer.

a-frame on a trailer

tiny house a-frame sections

photos of a-frame housesPhotos of A-Frame Houses

This blue A-frame tiny house with an orange porch and patio for dining looks perfectly appropriate in the forest setting
From the inside, the A-frame tiny house has a spacious kitchen with plenty of room for a full-size fridge.
The loft of this A-frame tiny house features plenty of room for a standard double bed and nightstand.

the tiny life a-frame tiny houses

This wooden A-frame tiny house with a dining porch is a basic design but offers ample room.
 This A-frame tiny house's interior shows some nice living touches like a small table and a kitchenette with a shelf near the window.
An interior shot of this A-frame shows retro-flare with a woodburning stove and a mid-century styled sitting space.

the tiny life a-frame tiny houses

A solar-friendly roof allows lots of light into this A-frame tiny house, making the space efficient and bright.
The windowed sides on this A-frame tiny house lift to allow fresh air and create more space.
The interior of this A-frame tiny cabin is perfect for camping with a small kitchenette and two sleeping areas.

the tiny life a-frame tiny houses

This A-frame tiny house features a dormer to create more loft space in the second story.
An interior shot of this A-frame tiny house shows a roomy dormered bedroom decorated in white.
This A-frame small house kitchen is enormous, thanks to a layout that runs along with one of the walls.

the tiny life a-frame tiny houses

An interior of a small A-frame cabin shows how roomy the living room can feel with elevated ceilings and a woodburning stove.
 A loft space in this A-frame features plenty of room for several beds.
This small A-frame house has a spacious bathroom with plenty of white to keep the room airy and open.

the tiny life a-frame tiny houses

This architecturally beautiful A-frame house has a glass front and an alternative shape, making it a unique choice.
The interior of this alternative A-frame tiny house shows an area for sleeping, a wood stove, and a dining table.
The kitchenette in this A-frame tiny house is small but adequate, with a cupboard, stovetop, and tiny sink.

tiny house a-frame sections

pictures of a-frame house exteriorsPhotos of A-Frame Exteriors

This A-frame tiny house has a bright green door and horizontal wooden siding for rustic appeal.
A blue A-frame tiny house looks fantastic with a geometric wooden pattern on the front door.
The windowed peak of this A-frame tiny house shows a beautiful high ceiling with plenty of light from the hanging fixture.

the tiny life a-frame tiny houses

This small wooden A-frame cabin has room for sleeping and a small porch
A black A-frame tiny cottage makes a perfect reading nook, outdoor guestroom, or small bedroom.
A wooden A-frame tiny house is a nice camping spot on the beach with a porch and windowed front.

the tiny life a-frame tiny houses

A simple sided A-frame tiny house in tan and brown makes a great starter home for tiny house newbies.
This A-frame time house nestled in the woods has a large deck for gathering and entertaining.
A highly-pitched roof on this A-frame tiny house adds to the space while covering the porch.

tiny house a-frame sections

pictures of a-frame house loftsPhotos of A-Frame Lofts

This A-frame loft has room for two people to sleep quite comfortably in twin beds with a nightstand in between.
This A-frame tiny house loft has a spacious bedroom with a double bed and two small foot tables.
The sleeping loft of this A-frame tiny house overlooks the mountains with a large window.

the tiny life a-frame tiny houses

A tray table makes an A-frame loft a perfect place to enjoy breakfast in bed.
This A-frame loft has enough room for a substantial king-sized bed — the perfect spot for reading a book.
Dark walls look stunning with the sky windows in this A-frame loft bedroom with a large king-sized bed.

the tiny life a-frame tiny houses

Shelving above the sleeping space is a great way to add storage space to an A-frame loft.
A-frame loft bedrooms can be maximized with shelving, plants, and décor to make the most of the small space.
High wooden ceilings make this A-frame loft bedroom an excellent spot for sleeping. Blue and yellow pillows and a nightstand complete the look.

the tiny life a-frame tiny houses

Another shot of this A-frame loft that sleeps a family of four or five comfortably.
A hammock in your whitewashed A-frame loft provides a different place to sleep, especially if you use the space as an office.
This A-frame loft has plenty of windows to look out on the snowy landscape below.

A-Frame Experts

A-FRAME EXPERT CONSTRUCTION TIPS

Jake Davis-Hansson

Because A-frames don’t use conventional framing, there is a lot less information about structural things like spans, member sizes, fasteners and so on. Make sure all parts of your design have been looked over by a structural engineer.

– Jake Davis-Hansson – Website

the tiny life a-frame tiny houses

Priit Kallejärv

It is always smart to have 1 person in your team with a construction background to eliminate possible mistakes. Obviously all the special parts (plumbing, electrical system, HVAC etc.) should be done by a specialist.

– Priit Kallejärv – Website

the tiny life a-frame tiny houses

Deek Diedricksen

Take your time and enlist help when it comes to raising the A’s and in the sheathing and roofing phases (for larger a-frames), you’re dealing with an extremely steep roof pitch with most of these and lugging and affixing huge plywood sheets from a ladder can get tiring, not to mention dangerous, in a hurry. Consider some good scaffolding, too.

– Deek Diedricksen – Website

the tiny life a-frame tiny houses

Ray Grayford

Consider using a metal roof as it is fast, efficient, and lower maintenance than other choices. Also, if the A-frame will have electrical power, use mini-split heating/cooling units to save on space that would be required for duct-work.

– Ray Grayford – Website

a-frame step by step guide

Ready to build an A-frame tiny house? I’ve broken down the tools and guidelines here to help you plan your big build. An A-frame small house, cabin, or tiny home is a good way for first-time builders to learn as they go. The A-frame shape is a simple design, and if you opt to build from a kit, the process can be even easier.

Of course, there are plenty of pre-built options out there as well, but if you’re hoping to save money and DIY, this is a great option. A-frames also make nice vacation homes, satellite offices, studios, or guest rooms. Watch this video for more details on what it takes to build an A-frame tiny house.

How long does it take to build an A-frame? How much will your A-frame cost? It all depends on the simplicity of the design, your experience, and materials. A simple A-frame shed or camping space may take only a day or two and cost less than $5000. A more robust design could take weeks or months and cost thousands more.

tiny house a-frame sections

Common Tools For Building An A-Frame

You can build an A-frame tiny home with a pretty basic set of tools, but you might want to invest in a few labor-saving ones. If you’re starting from scratch, plan on spending about $1,500 dollars for everything you’ll need.

While you can go middle of the road or buy some used tools for many of these, there are a few tools I’d buy brand new and consider paying a little extra for higher-end versions. The first one is an impact driver and drill set with four batteries — this is going to be a tool you use a ton and for this I’d budget between $300 to $400. You don’t want to cheap out or buy used, particularly when it comes to batteries.

I’d also splurge a little and purchase a basic 6-gallon compressor, with a brad nailer, a finish nailer and a framing nailer. While you can certainly use a hammer for this, you’ll move a lot faster and save a lot of energy if you have an air powered set of tools. You usually can get a compressor with a hose and 2 smaller nail guns for around $350 and a framing nailer (I’d consider used for this) for $100-$250.

The final thing I’d splurge on is a good level and maybe a laser level, too. Cheaping out on these things will only hurt you later, as making sure things are level and plumb is critical.

Common Tools for Building an A-frame

Estimated Usable Floor Space in an A-frame

How much space will you have in your A-frame tiny house? It’s always best to calculate the space you’ll need before you start to build. It’s also essential that you know the building codes in your area so you can get the proper permits and be sure the dimensions are up to code. With an A-frame, the useable floor space is the biggest question. Use the grid below to help you measure and plan.

Size Foot Print Usable Sq/Ft
8′ x 8′ 64 sq/ft 10 sq/ft
10′ x 10′ 100 sq/ft 40 sq/ft
12′ x 12′ 144 sq/ft 60 sq/ft
14′ x 14′ 256 sq/ft 144 sq/ft
16′ x 16′ 324 sq/ft 198 sq/ft
18′ x 18′ 400 sq/ft 260 sq/ft
20′ x 20′ 400 sq/ft 260 sq/ft
22′ x 22′ 484 sq/ft 330 sq/ft
24′ x 24′ 576 sq/ft 408 sq/ft
Size Foot Print Usable Sq/Ft
26′ x 26′ 676 sq/ft 494 sq/ft
28′ x 28′ 784 sq/ft 588 sq/ft
30′ x 30′ 900 sq/ft 690 sq/ft
32′ x 32′ 1,024 sq/ft 800 sq/ft
34′ x 34′ 1,156 sq/ft 918 sq/ft
36′ x 36′ 1,296 sq/ft 1,044 sq/ft
38′ x 38′ 1,444 sq/ft 1,178 sq/ft
40′ x 40′ 1,600 sq/ft 1,320 sq/ft
42′ x 42′ 1,764 sq/ft 1,470 sq/ft

tiny house a-frame sections

A-Frame Interior Height Chart

How tall will your A-frame be? The size of the flooring dictates the pitch of the roof (determining your interior height). Use the chart below to help you calculate your ceiling height. Remember, if you want to include a loft, you’ll want a steeper pitch (or a bigger floorplan).

A-Frame Interior Height Chart

tiny house a-frame sections

Materials For Building A Tiny House A-frame

What materials will you need to build an A-frame tiny house? Of course, many of the materials are dependent on the design specifications, size of your tiny house, and plans. But for the most part you’ll use the same ones, just in varying quantities based off the scale of your build.

There are some instances where choosing a lower cost item is a great place to save some money, while skimping on others is foolhardy. The two areas I suggest not skimping is your roofing material and insulation.

Your roof is the thing that protects everything else from water damage, so here I’d spend time and money to make sure it’s done right. I’d start with a good roof decking of plywood instead of OSB, and on top of that I’d opt for Ice and Water Shield instead of standard tar paper. Finally, if you can afford it, a standing seam metal roof with hidden fasteners is expensive, but it will last 50+ years and have no spaces water can leak in from.

Your insulation is another place that you should not try to penny pinch on. Because so much of your A-frame tiny home is roof, you want to keep the heat in. To do this, I’d make sure you frame with larger timbers to give yourself more room to insulate, shooting for an R 30-40 insulation.

Cement Footers for an a-frame

Cement Footers

Cement footers keep your tiny house from seeping moisture and cold temperatures. These footers form the cornerstones of your home.

Plywood Sheets for building tiny houses

Plywood Sheets

Plywood sheets will help you form the walls of your A-frame tiny house. You’ll need to check your design so that you purchase enough to fit the exact dimensions.

door for a-frame tiny house

Doors

Depending on your A-frame tiny house’s size and layout, you will need a front door and potentially a back door and interior door for the bathroom.

windows for a-frame tiny houses

Windows

One of the drawbacks of the A-frame is that the interiors can get quite dark. Plenty of windows will help you let in light.


2x4 boards for construction

2x4x8′

When you frame your A-frame tiny house, you’ll need plenty of 2 x 4’ boards. These will be used to form the “frame” of your roof, walls, and flooring.

2x10 boards for building

2x10x12′

Wider 2x10x12’ boards are often needed for an A-frame tiny house build as well. Again, check your design specifications to ensure you purchase the right number of boards for framing.

2x12 lumber

2x12x16′

To reach the height of a highly pitched ceiling, you may require longer boards for framing your A-frame tiny house. Again, your design and tiny house plans should guide you.

skylight for tiny house a-frame

Skylight

Many A-frame owners love a skylight. These can be installed right in the roof to let in more light on the sides of your A-frame tiny house.


best insulation for a-frame

Insulation

Unless you’re building a very small camping shed or A-frame garden studio, insulation will be necessary for your build.

fasteners for construction

Fasteners

High-quality fasteners will help hold the boards in place and keep your A-frame strong and secure.

asphalt roofing shingles

Roof Shingles

When you calculate your shingle requirements, you’ll need to plan on the A-frame’s unique shape and roof size.

weather shield paper

Weather Shield

An A-frame is mostly roof, so it’s essential to take all the necessary steps to build out the roof, including using the proper weather shield to keep moisture, snow, and ice out of your building.


cedar shingles

Cedar Shingles

For an A-frame tiny house, cedar shingles are an excellent, high-quality option that can last for years with the right staining and treatment.

stain for exterior wood products

Stain

Any wooden tiny house will require plenty of high-quality stain to ensure the wood stays waterproof and protected from weather and time.

toungue and groove interior siding

T&G Interior Siding

To finish the interior walls of your A-frame, I suggest tongue and groove siding. This wooden siding is easily painted any color (or stained) and looks great, eliminating the need for drywall.

flooring for a tiny house

Flooring

Select sturdy, high-quality solid wood flooring for your A-frame tiny house. You can stain the flooring or tile on top once you’ve created the basic structure.

tiny house a-frame sections

step by step guide to build an a-frame tiny house

Basic Steps to Build an A-Frame Tiny House

Set cement footers for an a-frame foundation

Set cement footers for foundation

tiny house a-frame sections

Install posts and level off to same height

Install posts and level off to same height

tiny house a-frame sections

Set floor joists for tiny house

Set floor joists

tiny house a-frame sections

Fill in floor framing

Fill in floor framing

tiny house a-frame sections

Install insulation in between floor joists

Install insulation in between floor joists

tiny house a-frame sections

Install plywood over floor joists

Install plywood over floor joists

tiny house a-frame sections

Build main roof and walls of a-frame

Build main roof/walls

tiny house a-frame sections

Install plywood on a-frame roof

Install plywood on roof

tiny house a-frame sections

Install weather shield or felt paper

Install weather shield or felt paper

tiny house a-frame sections

Install metal or shingle roof

Install metal or shingle roof

tiny house a-frame sections

Install wall insulation on interior walls

Install wall insulation

tiny house a-frame sections

Install finished flooring

Install flooring

tiny house a-frame sections

Construct front and rear wall framing

Construct front and rear wall framing

tiny house a-frame sections

Finish front and rear walls and add doors and windows

Finish front and rear walls and add doors and windows

tiny house a-frame sections

free a-frame tiny house plans

Ray Grayford

Budgeting Tip:

Try to keep dimensions in 2′ increments, so plywood and other lumber is incorporated easily and with little waste. Use standard insulated window sizes where possible, as custom glass shapes are more expensive.

– Ray Grayford – Website

A-Frame Tiny House Costs

As I’ve mentioned above, determining the big question, “How much is an A-frame tiny house?” isn’t so simple. You’ll need to consider the size, the materials, the layout, and all your needs. Still, I certainly know it’s easier to plan when you have a ballpark figure to work with.

Using the A-frame building plan above, I’ve calculated the materials estimate for a 16’x20’ A-frame tiny house. Again, this doesn’t necessarily factor in any of the interior extras — this is simply the shell for an A-frame.

Materials Estimate for a 16′ x 20′ A-Frame Tiny House

Item Quantity Cost Subtotal
Cement Footers 16 $45.00 $720.00
Plywood 34 $47.32 $1,608.88
2x12x16 34 $29.48 $1,002.32
2x10x12 12 $24.64 $295.68
2x4x8 40 $5.96 $238.40
Door 2 $800.00 $1,600.00
Windows 7 $350.00 $2,450.00
Skylights 2 $450.00 $900.00
Insulation 34 $21.98 $747.32
Fasteners 1 $800.00 $800.00
Shingles 18 $29.79 $536.22
Ice and Water Shield 6 $79.89 $479.34
Cedar Shingle Pack 15 $35.98 $539.70
Stain 3 $19.48 $58.44
T & G Int Siding 480 $5.38 $2,582.40
Flooring 460 $4.00 $1,840.00
$16,398.70

tiny house a-frame sections

Your Turn!

  • Have you considering building an A-frame tiny house?
  • What size are you thinking of building your A-frame?

the tiny life a-frame tiny houses

Tiny House Electrical Guide – Wiring & Powering Your Tiny Home

Tiny House Electrical Guide – Wiring & Powering Your Tiny Home

tiny house electrical guide
When building, tiny house electrical questions are bound to come up. I know I had a million of them:

  • How does a tiny house get power?
  • How do I wire a tiny house?
  • What kind of wire, outlets, and breakers do I need?
  • How much will it cost to wire my tiny house?

I want to dig into a lot of these bigger questions, then point you to a great resource that goes into a ton of detail on wiring your tiny home.

How Does A Tiny House Get Power?

How Does A Tiny House Get Power

For the most part a tiny house is set up just like a regular home, but some people who are more mobile opt to have a temporary connection as opposed to a permanent one. Whatever your approach, there are some technical details you need to follow.

Temporary Power Connections – 50 Amp Plug

50-amp plugThis is my preferred method and how I power my tiny house. I use a 50-amp plug from an RV supply store for about $30, plus an extension cord that I assembled myself by purchasing the ends and wire. The wire for a 50-amp drop cord is pretty pricey — $3 a foot if pre-made or $1.50 per foot if you do it yourself.

Essentially, this is just a giant outlet that pumps a lot of power through it. I’ve found with my local code enforcement that if I use this approach, it being “temporary” is a critical factor in being legal.

If my tiny house was hard wired, that would open up a huge can of worms legally speaking. Being that it is “temporary” by nature of the plug, building inspectors instantly lost interest, which is exactly what I wanted.
The other benefit of this approach is that you can roll into almost any RV park and plug in, which makes this a win-win in my book.

Tiny House Power Extension Cords

Tiny House Power Extension Cords

If you’re using a temporary power connection to your tiny house you’ll need a way to connect the house to your power source. The simplest way to do this is to buy an RV power cord. Keep in mind this needs to be sized properly to be safe.

Permanent Power Connection

Permanent Power Connection

The only real difference here is wiring the power line directly to the panel, without a plug. First you need to have your power box and power access installed and inspected. Then it comes time to actually connect the power to your house.

This is usually done by the power company who brings the line to your house and connects it to your power box. The key thing to remember is that each municipality will do this a little differently, and it will need to be inspected.

The National Electrical Code – NEC

The National Electrical Code

The National Electrical Code is the main code reference for you to refer to when it comes to all things wiring. This book is pretty dense, but for most things, you’ll be able to figure out the different key sections you need to know as you start to wire your tiny house.

Hiring an electrician is, of course, advisable to help you get the details right, and an inspection is always required. Electricity in a tiny house is a big deal, as doing anything wrong can create a dangerous situation that could lead to a fire or even death. Proceed at your own risk, as I’m not liable here.

guide to building codes and zoning for tiny houses
simple electrical for tiny houses

Calculating Your Tiny House Electrical Needs

Calculating Your Tiny House Electrical Needs

It’s a good idea to figure out how much power your tiny house will need and use for a couple of reasons. First, you want to size your power source coming into your house correctly. If you’re living off the grid, you need to make sure your solar panels for your tiny house are sized properly. You also need to make sure your circuits, wires, breakers, etc. are sized properly to make sure they are safe and up to code.

The good news is that calculating this in a tiny house is really simple. Since we’re so intentional about what comes into our house and we are often designing and building the house ourselves, we know exactly what is going to go in it. When I was wiring my tiny house and figuring out my solar panels, I literally had a list of everything that needed power in my tiny home.

The Basics: Amps, Volts, & Watts

The Basics of Amps Volts and Watts

I’m not going to get into a comprehensive guide to electrical theory, but there is one thing to understand that will make this all a whole lot easier:

watts equal amps times volts

That seems simple enough, but let’s take it one step further. If you remember back to your algebra days, sometimes your teacher would give you an equation where you had to solve for one variable, but it required you to move it around. If you were solving for X, you had to manipulate the formula so X was on one side of the equal sign and the rest of the variables were on the other side.

You moved things around by dividing, multiplying, and so on to shift things around where you needed them. That’s what we need to do here in a lot of cases because we may know two parts of the equation, but not the third.
For example, if we knew the watts and the volts, but didn’t know the amps, we could do this:

watts divided by volts equals amps

Another example is if we know the watts and the amps, but needed to know the volts:

watts electrical equation

So the one thing that makes this so much easier is realizing that watts, amps and volts are related. The interplay between them is proportional to the others.

A practical example is if a toaster says it’s 1200 watts and you need to know what the amps are for some reason, we can do the math quickly. Houses are most often 120-volt circuits (more on that below). That means we know two variables:

  • 1200 watts
  • 120 volts
  • We need to solve for Amps

solve for amps

How Much Electricity Do Items Use

How Much Electricity Do Items Use

Here is a chart of common things you’ll find in your tiny house and how much power they use.

common household items electric usage

120 Volt Vs. 240 Volt

120 Volt Vs 240 Volt

Much of your house in the USA is running on 120-volt circuits, but that will vary in other countries. Also in US houses, you will commonly find circuits that are 240-volt used for larger appliances, HVAC and other large power draws.

One thing that confused me at first is that sometimes people say 220 volt, 230 volt or 240 volt when talking about these types of circuits. There are technical differences, but largely they are referring to the same thing.

I say 240 volt, but what it really means is that instead of a single 120-volt wire going to that outlet/appliance, there are actually two 120-volt hot leads going to it. A 120-volt lead plus another 120-volt lead adds up to 240 volts.

In 240-volt wires, you’ll typically find a red wire and a black wire, which are the “hot” leads. You’ll also find a single white wire that is neutral and a bare copper or green wire that is ground.

Doing The Math

Doing The Math

I’d start by first making a full list of all the electrical items in your house (plug in and hard wired) and list them in a column on a spreadsheet. Then next to that column, have another column for watts, amps and volts. If you’re wanting to implement solar power, you can add an extra column for hours you’ll use each item in a day.
Then start filling in everything you know about each item. To find that information you can do the following:

  • Check the label, which usually lists some of the electrical numbers.
  • Go to the manufacturer’s website and find a spec sheet or manual for the item.
  • Use a Kill-a-watt plug in meter or clamp meter to measure it directly.

Tiny House Wiring Diagram

Tiny House Wiring Diagram

Let’s start out with an overview of how a tiny house is wired for electrical. Wiring your tiny house is dependent on your design and use, but in general, people wire their tiny house like this:

  • Left side of the main floor
  • Right side of the main floor
  • Loft
  • HVAC
  • Kitchen
  • Appliances
  • Other large draws

Each circuit should be designed for its expected load + 25% (as stipulated by code). That usually means a 20-amp circuit breaker on each circuit of your house except for appliances and HVAC, as they often are large draws.

I did mine a little differently. Here is a functional diagram of how my tiny house is wired:

power distribution from main breaker box

Here is a layout diagram of how I placed my electrical connections when I built my tiny house. You can see how this diagram differs from the functional diagram by showing the locations of the outlets, lights, fans and other connections. The functional diagram just shows how they’re all connected.

tiny house wiring diagram

how to build a tiny house

Electrical Drawing Symbols

Electrical Drawing Symbols

When reading a diagram or making your tiny house plans, electrical symbols are shorthand to know what goes where. They can quickly tell you what is going on within a house.

standard electrical symbols

Tiny House Electrical Materials List

Tiny House Electrical Materials List

There are a lot of elements that go into wiring a tiny house. Choosing the right components and connecting them correctly is key to a safe install. The NEC dictates many if not all of these considerations, so make sure you follow those guidelines.

Here are some of the key elements and my recommendations for them:

Tiny House Electrical Panel / Breaker Box

Tiny House Electrical Panel

breaker boxThe breaker box is the central hub of power for your entire tiny house. The power comes from a power source (the grid, solar panels, etc.) and then is broken down into smaller runs called circuits. My suggestion is to have at least 10 spaces in your box for an approximately 100-amp box.

In many cases, your power company will default to a 200-amp service, but you may be able to request a smaller one. Although it isn’t a bad idea to have a larger service and slightly larger box than what you think you need in case a need pops up in the future. Often the cost difference isn’t a ton.

Wire For A Tiny house

Wire For A Tiny house

The wiring for your tiny house will typically be done with Romex (a brand name used broadly to describe this type of wire), also known as non-metallic sheathed wire that is typically used in residential wiring.

One quick point I want to make about terminology. You have wires and cables. Wire is a single solid copper conductor, while cable is several strands of smaller copper conductors combined into a bundle. For the layman, we use the word “wire” casually, but for clarity, realize that what people often call a wire is often actually a cable.

wire types for tiny house


Wire Sizing

Wire Sizing

This wire/cable comes in a variety of sizes measured in wire gauge. The thing to remember about wire gauge is the bigger the number, the smaller the wire. Typical wire sizes for residential are 14 gauge, 12 gauge, and 10 gauge.

WIRE GAUGE RATED AMPERAGE COMMON USES
14-2 Romex 15 A Lighting Circuits
12-2 Romex 20 A Lighting & Outlets, Refrigerator
10-2 Romex 30 A Electric Water Heater, Baseboard Heaters
10-3 Romex 30 A Electric Clothes Dryer

Understanding Romex Labels

Understanding Romex Labels

Romex also come with different numbers of conductor strands that are bundled up to make the wire. Typically, you’ll have Romex with 2 conductors (plus a ground conductor) or 3 conductors (plus a ground conductor).

The wire labels on Romex packaging are a combination of the wire gauge, followed by the number of conductors that make up the cable. For example, a cable that is made of 2 conductors (plus a ground) that are 14 gauge in size, will be labeled 14-2.

12-3 romex label

Conductor Wire Color Coding

Conductor Wire Color Coding

In most cases, wire colors are used in a standard way, but you should never assume this. Usually the conductors in the wire are exactly the same, just with different color coatings for ease of keeping track of which one is which.
The most common convention for wire color coding is the following:

  • Black for your hot lead
  • White for your neutral lead
  • Red for your second hot lead in 240 volt
  • Bare copper or green for your ground
two wire cable color coding
three wire cable color coding

Color Coding Exceptions

Color Coding Exceptions

Wire colors often aren’t substantially different. When you encounter a wire, they are probably done correctly, but then again, if you didn’t wire it, you don’t actually know for sure. So be smart.

There are other cases where the colors will be different. The main one that comes to mind is in a three-way switch, it isn’t uncommon to find that the white wire is used as a “traveler” in the three-way circuit and could in fact be hot. To signal this, standard practice is to wrap tape around the white wire at all the boxes to signal this, but that doesn’t always happen.

If you know of other exceptions or tips, drop them in the comments!

how to build a tiny house

Circuit Breakers

Circuit Breakers

Breakers are safety devices that stop the flow of power when there is an overload or a short in the circuit. That means that they need to be sized properly for the application that they’re being used for. Below is a chart to give you an idea of common pairings.

In my tiny house, I had a 30-amp double pole circuit breaker for my minisplit and the rest were 20-amp single pole breakers.

wire gauge and circuit breakers

GFCI – Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters

You’re probably familiar with these because you see them in bathrooms. These are special breakers designed to stop the flow of electricity if it detects a “ground fault” in as little as 1/40th of a second. The idea here is that in wet environments, more risk exists. Code prescribes where these are used, so make sure to follow it.

AFCI – Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters

Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters

This is one you might not be as familiar with, but similar to GFCI, it stops the flow of electricity when it senses an arc. Arcs can happen from improper wiring, a nail being driven through wires, insulation being compromised, or some other issue. These are now generally required in all bedrooms and have been shown to reduce the risk of house fires pretty significantly. Refer to your local codes for guidance.

Grounding A Tiny House

Grounding A Tiny House

Grounding is a backup pathway for electricity to flow from the source to the ground so it can dissipate. You can ground your tiny home by connecting the breaker box ground bar to the trailer and to a grounding rod.

A grounding rod is a 10-foot copper rod driven into the earth with a copper conductor tied to it. You want to make sure there is a direct flow from the ground connection at outlets to the ground bar in the breaker box, and from there to the ground rod.

As a safety measure, we also ground the house to the trailer as well, so that if you’re driving down the road, current can flow down into the trailer and either dissipate through the foot of the hitch or arc a smaller distance from the trailer to the ground.

12-Volt Wiring For A Tiny House

12-Volt Wiring For A Tiny House

Many people have asked me about 12-volt wiring for a tiny house — mainly those who want to be off the grid. A lot of this comes from things you read on the internet saying that 12-volt DC wiring is more efficient than AC power, mainly because of the need to convert power from DC to AC.

This is generally a bad idea. Most of the advice to do this comes from a time when inverters were not as efficient as they are today. Solar energy has come a long way very quickly, so often articles and forum posts you’ve read are out of date. Even something as new as 6 months ago is considered out of date because of the pace at which solar is improving.

batteries for a tiny houseThe other argument for DC wiring on a 12-volt setup is that DC is more efficient in general. This is true, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Consider that if you wire for 12 volt, all your appliances need to be 12 volt. That means the appliances you need to buy are around 3 to 5 times the price, and your options are very limited.

Any inefficiencies from the DC to AC conversion process can be overcome with the addition of an extra panel or two to your solar array. Switching to AC lets you have a huge range of options for a fraction of the cost of DC appliances. The costs savings alone, even after factoring in the price of an extra solar panel or two, will bust any myths about using DC.

So for this reason, I do not recommend anyone wiring their house for 12-volt DC power.

How Much Does It Cost To Wire A Tiny House?

How Much Does It Cost To Wire A Tiny House

The cost of wiring your tiny house will generally be around $500 in materials and around $1,000-$3,000 in labor if you hire an electrician. This does not include lighting fixtures and appliances, as they have a wide range of price points.

ITEM QUANTITY COST EACH
Romex-250 feet 1 $42.65
Outlets/Switches 15 $14.49
Outlet/Switch Covers 15 $0.49
Electrical Boxes 15 $0.68
Wire Staples – 225 pack 1 $4.83
Breaker Box 1 $43.67
Breakers 10 $4.18
GFCI  Breakers 2 $46.15
AFCI Breakers 1 $52.31
Led Puck Lights 3 $29.43
Bath Fan 1 $24.56
Total $625.31

Your Turn!

  • What’s your plan for wiring your tiny house?
  • Are you going to be on the grid or off the grid?

How To Build A Tiny House With Slide Outs

How To Build A Tiny House With Slide Outs

How To Build A Tiny House With Slide OutsMany people have asked me about tiny houses with slide outs as a way to extend the living space in a tiny house. So today I wanted to break down how to actually build a tiny home with slide outs, the costs, and the pros and cons of using them.

What Is A Tiny House Slide Out?

What Is A Tiny House Slide Out

A slide out in a tiny home is essentially a box with expanding walls for additional living space that collapses inside the tiny house for transport. This is common in RV’s for couches, beds and additional living space.

Pros Of Tiny House Slide Outs

Pros Of Tiny House Slide Outs

The biggest benefit of having a slide out, also known as a bump out, in your tiny home is, of course, the additional square footage. Here are a few things to think about when it comes to the benefits of slide outs.

Maximize Your Space

Tiny House with Slide Outs

In some cases, people want to have as much space as they can for their living space. The biggest tiny house you can have is about 400 square feet, but some may need or want more space. If you’re pushing the envelope that much, you might want to consider a tiny house built on a foundation.

Smaller Trailer

Others hope to build their tiny house on a smaller trailer for easier towing, but still have the benefits of a larger tiny home. If you need a certain square footage, one option is to use a smaller trailer with built in bump outs or pop outs to still achieve that targeted square footage for your needs. Having a smaller trailer makes towing your tiny house easier to turn and generally safer to drive.

Greater Interior Width

Beyond the additional square footage, I think one of the most compelling reasons to consider this is that you can create a much roomier feel inside your tiny house. One challenge with tiny houses is how narrow they can be, limited to only 8.5 feet wide in most cases. Just having the ability to open up the inside area to have ample space for furniture and a clear walking path is huge!

tiny house building checklist

Cons Of Tiny House Slide Outs

Cons Of Tiny House Slide Outs

There are a lot of downsides to having a slide out or bump out in your tiny home, too. Here are a few that come to mind:

Leaks

It can be very difficult for a slide to be installed in such a way that it stays completely sealed in both the open and closed positions, so most slides will develop leaks over time. Water damage is a huge issue with tiny house slide outs.

Moving Parts

If I’ve learned anything about construction it is that every moving part is just another point of failure. Everything that has to move will be a potential place for your tiny house to break and will be difficult to fix. The slide out mechanism for your tiny house will require regular maintenance and repairs.

how to build a tiny houseDrafts And Pests

Sliders are very difficult to make completely weatherproof, even professional installers have a difficult time with this. Air sealing is a major concern when building an efficient tiny house, so introducing potential weak points is a bad idea. It also means pests will have a much easier time entering your tiny house on wheels.

Extra Weight

Slide outs add a lot of weight to your tiny house. You should plan on a single slide adding as much as 1,500 lbs. to the total weight of your tiny house. This means less carrying capacity and can easily make an otherwise easily tow-able tiny house on wheels difficult to haul.

Uneven Weight Distribution

Perhaps the most dangerous issue a slide out can present is uneven weight distribution. A pop out will make a tiny home heavier on one side than the other, which can be very dangerous.

Tiny House With Slide Outs Floor Plans

Tiny House With Slide Outs Floor Plans

Slide out tiny house designs are kind of hard to come by these days, so I wanted to suggest a few possible floorplans that you could use when designing your own tiny house on wheels with pop outs.

Tiny House With Slide Out Floor Plan

 


Floor Plan for Tiny House With Slide Out


Tiny House floorplan


Tiny House Slide Out Floorplan


tiny house plans

How To Build A Tiny House With Slide Outs

How To Build A Tiny House With Slide Outs

The first thing you need to understand is that weight balance in a tiny house is critical to get right. In general, I don’t recommend a DIYer attempting to build slide outs on their own, but we’ll go over the general process for reference. The below instructions are loosely based off the Norco Accu-Slide Slide-Out System.

Build Your Tiny House Trailer Frame

If you’re going to have a tiny house with bump outs, you’re going to need to build a custom tiny house trailer frame. This will need to have the ability to extend footings to stabilize the trailer before the bump outs are extended, plus support the extended room’s weight.

You’ll want to have a solid metal frame made out of 2 to 3-inch square tubing that will serve as the opening for your slide out. Keep in mind that in some systems, you need to actually embed seals, rollers and bezels into the frame, so account for those if your system requires it.

Build Your Tiny House Trailer Frame

Attach Your Slide Out Rollers

The key to this system is a set of rollers that are mounted on the metal frame at the bottom of the opening, which the room is set into and rolls on. These rollers are typically located on the bottom part of the slide out, while the top part is generally pretty loose, but has rubber stripping to try to seal any gaps.

Attach Your Slide Out Rollers

Attach Slide Out Cable System To Your Frame

Attached to the rough frame of your tiny house where the slide out will sit is your cable system frame. This holds the motor and routes the cables to be tensioned properly for the slide out mechanism. Set this portion of the system according to the manufacturing guidelines.

Attach Slide Out Cable System To Your Frame

Drop In Your Steel Framed Slide Out

Your pop out should be framed with a 2 to 3-inch square tubing welded together. This is important because you need this box to be very strong and rigid. The frame should be totally square and plumb, but some systems allow for a slight outward taper to let water run off.

Drop In Your Steel Framed Slide Out

Attach Your Cables To The Slide Out

The cables here don’t actually support the slide out too much, but more balance it. When fully extended, the cables will prevent the top from tipping out, but the bulk of the weight should be on the trailer frame and the top lip of the framed wall (metal tubing).

Attach Your Cables To The Slide Out

Attach Bezels, Stripping, And Seals

Each system will have a unique approach to sealing up your slide out, so follow the manufacturer directions carefully. Keep in mind that some of these need to be inset or other considerations made so that the entire thing will sit flush when closed and seal up tightly when extended.

Attach Bezels to tiny house slide out

Have Support Legs For Long Term Use

While it may not be required, I suggest figuring out some method to independently support the slide out if you’re going to be using it for extended periods of time. Anything longer than a few weeks a year will really need proper support.

Have Support Legs on slide out For Long Term Use

Add A Topper Awning

A topper awning is a rolled-up awning that extends from the inside of the wall cavity out just beyond the outside edge of the bump out. This adds extra protection from the rain and gives a steeper angle to drain water away. Remember that leaks in slide outs are very common, so make sure you do this detail correctly.

Add A Topper Awning to tiny house slide out

Tiny House With Slide Outs Diagram

Diagram of Tiny House With Slide Out


Tiny House With Slide Out Price

Tiny House With Slide Out Price

A tiny house typically costs anywhere from $35,000 to $95,000 when built by a professional builder. Adding slide outs to a tiny house will cost about $4,000 in materials and about $5,000 for labor per slide out.

Many builders no longer accept jobs where a design includes slide outs because even when built properly, they often end up leaking after a few years, leading to call backs. Simply put, for many builders, slide outs are more trouble than they are worth.

Tiny Houses With Slide Out Photos

Tiny Houses With Slide Out Photos

Here is a sampling of tiny houses with slide outs that can be used to inspire your design should you want pop outs in your tiny home.

Tiny House Slide Out Interior Photos

Tiny House Slide Out Interior Photos

Interior of Tiny House Slide Out
Tiny House Slide out interior
tiny house slide out living room
Slide out in tiny house
kitchen slide out in tiny house
tiny house slide out living space
tiny house slide out interior
slide out inside tiny house
tiny house kitchen slide out
side out bedroom in tiny house

 

Tiny House With Slide Outs Exterior Photos

Tiny House With Slide Outs Exterior Photos

tiny house slide out exterior
tiny house slide out design
contemporary tiny house slide out
simple tiny house slide out
tiny house slide out modern design
tiny house with slide out
multiple slide outs on tiny house
tiny house slide out
minimallist tiny house slide out
modern tiny house slide out
slide out designs for tiny house
tiny house bump outs
single bump out on tiny house
tiny house slide out extra space

Gooseneck Tiny House With Slide Outs Photos

Gooseneck Tiny House With Slide Outs Photos

Gooseneck Tiny House
Gooseneck Tiny House With Slide Out
Tiny House Slide Out on Gooseneck Trailer
Slide Out on Gooseneck Tiny House

Your Turn!

  • What do you think about tiny houses with slide outs?

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

Siding:

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

Flooring:

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

Roofing:

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

Insulation:

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

Windows:

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?