Posts Tagged Tiny Home

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?

Solar Panels For Tiny Houses: How I Went Off Grid With My Tiny House With Solar Power

Solar Panels For Tiny Houses: How I Went Off Grid With My Tiny House With Solar Power

solar power for tiny houses

It’s hard to imagine that I’ve been powering my tiny house off solar panels for my tiny house for over 7 years now! Not having a power bill for almost a decade has been incredible. With that in mind, I wanted to get some real-world experience with my system to give you all the full picture of what it’s really like to power your tiny house with solar: how many panels, how much does it cost, and more.

 

Solar Panels For A Tiny House

choosing solar panels for a tiny house

Many people have asked me about putting solar panels on a tiny house because I’m one of the few out there that is totally off the grid in my tiny house. I’ve had to figure things out like how to run my air conditioning off solar, how to cook with solar in a solar oven, and how I use solar generators as backup power in a pinch.

Tiny houses are a great candidate for solar power because the smaller space makes for low power needs. While the traditional home in America uses around 30 KWs per day, my tiny house uses around 3 KWs per day.

Every decision I made during my tiny house build, from choosing LEDs lights, to a super-efficient minisplit system, and an on demand hot water heater all were chosen to reduce my power consumption. Since I built my own house, these decisions were pretty simple and, in the end, didn’t cost me much more. Any additional costs for things like a high SEER rating HVAC system quickly paid for themselves by letting me have a smaller solar panel array and batteries.

How Much Power Does A Tiny House Use?

A tiny house will use around 4 KWs per day. Typically, around 80% of that power will be used for heating and cooling, assuming you cook and heat water with propane or natural gas.

Here is an example of my power usage breakdown:

  • Minisplit (heating/cooling): 3,000 watts per day
  • Fridge: 780 watts per day
  • Lights: 100 watts per day
  • Cell Phone: 30 watts per day
  • Laptop: 240 watts per day

Total: 4,150 watts per day

How Many Panels Do You Need To Power A Tiny House?

how many solar panels for a tiny house

15 solar panels will power a typical tiny house. This assumes an average sized solar panel of around 300 watts, which would generate around 4,500 watts of power from the sun. This would cover all your power needs including some heating and cooling, but require you to have a gas cook range and a propane heated hot water heater. If you live in a particularly cold climate, you’ll most likely need to supplement your heating with a propane heater too.

How many solar panels can you fit on a tiny house roof?

how many solar panels can you fit on a tiny house

Generally speaking, you can only fit around 2 solar panels on a tiny house roof. This presents a real challenge because today you can really only expect to make around 20 watts per square foot of solar panel in ideal circumstances. That means you’re only going to be able to fit around 600 watts of solar production on a tiny house roof, which isn’t a whole lot.

Mounting Solar Panels On A Tiny House Roof

mounting solar panels on a tiny house

Many people want solar panels on the roof of their tiny house, but I opted for a ground mounted solar array, which I highly recommend. Tiny house roofs only have around 200 square feet of space and since most roofs are pitched, you can really only mount panels on one side. This means you only have around 100 square feet of space for panels.

What I did was mount my solar panels on stands on the ground. After considering all the options: roof mounted, pole mounted, solar trackers, and fixed ground mount, I’m really happy with my decision.

solar panels for homestead

The benefits of a ground mounted array are huge: being able to easily clean my panels, clear off snow that covers my panels after a snow fall, keeping the panels cooler (increases their efficiency) and being able to shade my house while placing the panels in an open field.

The biggest benefit of ground mounting my panels is that I could have a way bigger solar panel array. This meant instead of 600 watts on the roof of my tiny house, I could put 4,000 watts on the ground in the field right next to my tiny house.

My Tiny House Solar Panel System:

My tiny house solar panels system

To get your tiny house setup on solar you’ll need the following parts: your panels, batteries, a charge controller and an inverter. Simply put, your solar panels take the energy from the sun an converts it to DC power, that then flows to the charge controller which regulates the flow of power to the batteries or the inverter, the batteries stores power for later and the inverter converts the DC power to AC power, which your house uses.

solar panel system parts list

Here’s the key details of my solar power system:

  • 3,975 (3.9 KW) of panels Schneider SW 4024 – fifteen, 265 watt panels
  • 1,110 amp/hr battery storage
  • 24 volt system

My Tiny House Solar Setup:

  • (15) Canadian Solar CS-6p 265 Watt Poly Black Frame
  • Schneider SW 4024 Inverter
  • Schneider MPPT 60 Charge Controller
  • (12) Trojan L-16 6v 370 AH Flooded Lead Acid Batteries
  • Schneider System Control Panel
  • Schneider Interconnect Panel
  • Midnight Solar MNPV 80AMP Dinrail Breaker
  • Midnight Solar Surge Protection Device AC/DC
  • 50 Amp RV power Inlet

 

How To Build A Solar Power System For Your Tiny House

how to build a tiny house solar panel system

Before anything I needed to determine the best placement for the solar panels to make sure it had good solar exposure and didn’t fall into shadows too much. To do this I used a tool called a “solar path finder” which is a semi reflective dome that you position at the location, then snap a photo.

The photo is then loaded into a program and spits out a whole bunch of calculations.

solar path finder tool for calculating solar gain

 

Calculating Power Production

calculating your power needs

Once you upload the image into the software and then trace the tree line outline, you enter in your location, date and time. It then can calculate how much power you’ll produce based on 30 years of weather patterns for your exact location and tree coverage. Then it spits out all the calculations:

solar pathfinder reading from photo

solar power production chart

 

With that in mind, I knew what I could expect out of the system I had designed. It also was a way to verify my assumptions.

Once I verified that the system was going to be well suited to my needs, I had to build my panel support racking. I did this out of pressure treated 4×4’s that were each 10′ long. These things about 300 lbs each so I don’t have to worry about the wind picking up the panels.

I opted to build them because it was cheaper than some of the turn-key option out there and most of the for purchase ones required me to cement in the ground; I rent my land, so I wanted a mobile solution. If I remember correctly it was about $500 in materials to build this part.

solar panel supports for panels

Many people have asked why I didn’t mount these on my tiny house roof. You technically can mount on your roof, but honestly, the number of panels that you need to practically power your house is too many for the roof.

There are some other major bonuses of being on the ground:

  • Much cooler, roofs are very hot places in the summer and solar panels drop in efficiency when hot
  • I can put my house under deciduous trees, this means in summer I’m in the shade, in winter I get the solar gain
  • Way easier to clean and monitor

solar panels outside my tiny house

Cleaning your panels is pretty important because you loose efficiency as residue (bird poop) builds up. Also, as I learned just a few days ago, when it snows, you need to clear your panels. Cleaning becomes super simple and a lot safer when you don’t have to climb onto a roof via a ladder.

Just this week we got a decent snow, 3 inches, which is quite a lot for Charlotte. The first thing I had to do when I woke up was clear off the panels because, with the snow, they made no power. This was compounded because since it was cold, I needed more heat. I can’t imagine having to drag the ladder out and try climbing on an icy roof… No Thanks.

Choosing To Wire For AC Or DC From Solar

wire your home for AC or DC on solar

Many people have read around the internet that DC (direct current) is a more efficient power way to power things. Generally speaking, everything in a traditional house is wired for AC (alternating current), but if you’re putting solar in a tiny house and building your own house, the question becomes relevant when you’re starting from scratch. Solar panels produce DC power, so you have to decide how you’re going to handle it.

tiny house kitchen powered by solar

Most of the advice to wire a house for DC power comes from older sources who haven’t updated; these could be old articles written on the topic (consider anything more than a year out of date with how fast solar is improving) or from someone who hasn’t caught up with the latest equipment.

Back in the days, the drive to wire a house in DC power comes from two main things: there was power loss through inefficient inverters (converts from DC to AC) and from the fact that on paper DC is, in fact, more efficient.

Where this falls down in modern times is that inverters have come a long way and while there is some loss in power through the converting of AC to DC, it’s quite minimal. The other factor here is that any inefficiencies (of both the conversion to AC and the less efficient nature of AC) can be easily offset by the addition of 1-2 panels to your array.

This begins to make even more practical sense today because if you wire for DC, you’ll be limited to DC powered appliances, which typically cost two to three times the cost of their AC equivalents. That all means that you can actually have more power with AC, even after the losses through inefficiency, for less money. This is because the savings from going to AC appliances over DC will leave you with more cash, even after you buy 1-2 more panels.

To put it simply, convert to AC, add a few more panels to your array and stop worrying about AC vs DC.

Installing Solar Panels For My Tiny House

Installing Solar panels for my tiny house

After calculating the ideal location and building my stands, I installed the solar panels. This part was pretty quick and the stands worked out perfectly. The panels are 250 watt Canadian solar panels. They are wired in groups of three, then paralleled into the system. To give you a sense of scale, these panels are 3.3 wide and about 4 feet tall.

Building My Battery And Inverter Cabinet

building a cabinet for my batteries and inverter

Next, I built a cabinet to house all the gear. I wanted a stand alone space because the batteries are so heavy. At 118 pounds each, plus cabling and other equipment, the whole unit is over 1,100 lbs. The top and bottom sections are divided so that the gasses from the batteries don’t go up into the electrical section for a very important reason.

solar power cabinet

Looking at the cabinet, on the sides of it, you can see the vents. When you use lead acid (LA) batteries you have some off gassing as the batteries discharge and recharge. These gasses are volatile and can ignite, possibly leading to an explosion. To take care of this I installed two vents like this which provide adequate venting.

battery vent

 

Choosing Batteries For A Tiny House Solar Panel System

choosing batteries

I choose lead acid batteries over AGM (absorbent glass mat) because LA’s have more cycles and cost a bit less. Lithium Ion at this point is cost prohibitive, around $10,000 for the equivalent capacity. I choose these 6 volt batteries because it was more economical over other options and trojan is a pretty reputable name in the industry.

My batteries should get about 4000-5000 cycles (11-14 years) before I need to replace them. I figure in about 5 years battery technology will have progressed so much I’ll change early. New batteries will cost me about $5,000 of the lead acid variety.

solar batteries for a tiny house

 

Wiring My Batteries For 24 Volts

wiring batteries for 24 volt

The batteries are wired in series parallel. The batteries are 6 volt each, in series of 4 the create a 24 volt unit. Then I have two of these 24-volt units in parallel. The reason I choose to go 24 volts over a 48 volt (which is more efficient) was that the equipment was a little cheaper and it allowed me to future proof my setup.

Future Proofing My Solar Panel System

future proofing my solar setup

Going with a 24 volt system also allowed me to select components that I could add more panels and batteries very easily without doing equipment upgrades (just a factor of the abilities of the units I choose). This way I can add up to 15 panels and a lot more batteries without upgrading the electronics. A big draw for me to the system I choose was that I can also stack these inverters, so if I ever go to a normal sized house, I just add another unit and it just plugs into my current one.

Wiring A Tiny House For Solar

wire for a tiny house for solar

In this photo going left to right: Din Breaker Panel, Charge Controller, Interconnect w/ control panel, inverter.

solar power connection panels

In general, the power flows in the same manner (but not exactly).

  • Breaker Panel: manages power from solar panels
  • Charge Controller: manages power to batteries etc.
  • Interconnect: a main junction box and breaker, holds control panel interface
  • Inverter: takes power in many forms then outputs to the type of power you need

 

How To Connect Solar To A Tiny House

how to connect a tiny house to a solar array

Once the power goes through the system it outputs from the inverter as AC power. This AC Power flows out through a huge cable that you can see sticking out of the bottom of the inverter then goes right. From there it runs to this:

This is a 50 amp RV style plug. The reason I did this was twofold. City inspectors are less picky when it comes to non-hard-wired things. This setup also lets me roll into any RV campground and hook up seamlessly.

The plug goes into a 50 amp RV female receptacle. This is important that you don’t have two male ends to your cord. This is dubbed by electricians as a “suicide cord” because if you plug into a power source, you have exposed conductors that are live; accidentally touch them, you complete the circuit and zap!

how to connect solar panels to a tiny house

You want a female end to your cord so that you reduce the chance of being shocked. I also turn off my main breaker at the power source when I make this connection, then turn it back on.

If all these mentions of watts, volts, amps, amp hours etc are making your head spin a little, you may need to go back to the basics. I have an ebook called Shockingly Simple Electrical For Tiny Houses which guides you through all the basics. As of now, it doesn’t go too deep into the solar aspects, but the basics of electrical, wiring, power systems and determining your power needs are covered in depth and designed for those who are totally new to the topic.

So once the power passes through the power inlet it goes to the panel. Near the bottom you can see the backside of the power inlet, it has a large black cord coming out of it, into the box and ties to the lugs. From there it goes out to the house.

Grounding Your Solar Array

grounding solar panels

Here is my grounding wire for my system. This is actually one of two, another is located at the panels themselves. My house is also grounded to this through the cable hook up and to the trailer itself.

A really important note: ground depends on a lot of things, one of which is if you house electrical panels is bonded or not, if you don’t know what that means, read up on it, it’s very important.

ground solar panels

Using A Backup Generator

using a backup generator

The other component of this system is the generator which I used for the first two years and then opted to upgrade my system because they were such a pain to use. In the winter months, I sometimes needed to top off my batteries every now and then, basically when it’s been really cold and very cloudy for a week or more.

I had a Honda EB2000i already which I really like. It’s very quiet and small. The one downside to the Honda is that it only does 1600 watts and only 120V and I needed more power and 240V. To charge my batteries, I had to have 240 Volts, which lead me to get another generator, a 5500 watt 240 volt Generac for $650. This generator proved to be a major headache and lead me to upgrade my system just to not have to use it anymore.

Here is a video that compares the two generators in terms of size, noise, output, and price.

Tiny House Solar Panel System Costs

how much does solar for a tiny house cost

The big question when it comes to doing solar or not is of course cost. Everyone would like to have solar, but costs are a real barrier. My decision was made pretty easily when the power company informed me that I would have to pay $15,000 just to run their power line to my house, only to have a power bill each month.

My initial version of my solar panel array and batteries cost me around $14,000 with the added benefit of no power bills ever again and a $7,500 tax credit back, the decisions was a simple one. I later upgraded to a larger system for another $5,000, of which I got another $2,500 tax credit.

So, for me, I was able to actually save money from day one. That said, I had to bank roll that huge cash payment which most people cannot do.

Here is a rough break down of costs for my upgraded solar panel system:

  • Inverter: $4,500
  • Charge Controllers: $1,200
  • Control Panel: $300
  • Batteries: $4,000
  • Solar Panels: $4,000
  • Breakers + Boxes: $800
  • Battery Cabling: $300
  • PV Wire + House Tether + Romex: $500
  • Electrician (labor): $2,000

Is Solar Practical For Tiny Houses?

can you run a tiny house on solar

In general, I think for tiny houses in one spot, solar is very realistic. Even if you don’t start out on solar, the cost savings of living in a tiny house can let you save up for the install pretty quickly. When I rented an apartment, I was paying $1500 a month, compared to my tiny house that costs me about $15 a month (not a typo). Living in a tiny house allowed me to save a ton of money while having a comfortable home.

So that’s the surface level details of the system, I’m going to be doing something in the future which will be a how to size, choose parts, hook up and all the other details of doing solar for your tiny house.

Your Turn!

  • Do you want to do solar for your tiny house?

 

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?

Designing Your Dream Tiny House Bathroom – Advice From A Full Time Tiny Houser

Designing Your Dream Tiny House Bathroom - Advice From A Full Time Tiny Houser

Designing your dream tiny house bathroomA tiny house bathroom is the subject of many of the questions I get from people interested in making the leap. Everything from what kind of shower do I have, do I have a sink in my bathroom, what about a toilet? There’s a lot that goes into a tiny house bathroom design and since I’ve been living in my tiny house full time since 2014, I thought I’d share some advice on how to design your dream tiny house bathroom.

The Basics Of Tiny House Bathroom Design

basics of designing a tiny house bathroom

Before we get into all the details let’s take a step back and think about what a bathroom is and does. This is an important step because we can orient ourselves correctly to what the function of the design needs to be. This lets us get clear on what the bathroom really needs to be included and what should be cut out.

Depending on your habits, on a given day, you will wake up and brush your teeth. Then you might hop in the shower, wash, step out of the shower and dry off. You’ll dry your hair, maybe with a hair dryer, brush it and maybe style it. From there you might put on some jewelry, maybe a watch or earrings. You’ll put away your dirty clothes and put on new clothes. You might then do your makeup if you wear it and so on.

Later in the day, you’ll need to go to the bathroom, so you use the toilet. You think to yourself the toilet could use a wipe down, so you reach for some cleaning supplies. You have a headache, so you go in search of some medicine. You may think to yourself it’s time to change the towels, so you put them in the hamper and reach for clean ones; while you’re at it, you think to change the bed sheets too.

Think through your day, what are the things you do regularly and every now and then. Write down everything you do in your bathroom, everything you reach for, the things you store there, the items required to make it all work. Then take a moment to ask, what don’t I like about my bathroom? What is a need – as opposed to a want – that isn’t being met by my current bathroom?


 

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do I use this or do this daily, weekly, monthly?
  2. Does this absolutely need to be on this list?
  3. Is there a way I could eliminate the need for this item or function entirely?
  4. Do I have multiples of an item and why? Could I reduce it to my favorites?
  5. What am I trying to achieve, what are other ways to achieve the same thing?

Write all this down and then take a figurative step back and look at everything

Once you work through your list, clear out the extraneous bits to hone down to the bare essentials. At this point I suggest you do a dry run in your current bathroom. Pare down to the bare essentials you want to take with you into your tiny house bathroom and see if it works for you. Is it practical? After a few weeks you’ll find there are things you really do need and a few that you don’t miss. You now have a solid list of what your bathroom needs to do and what needs to be in it.

How To Design A Tiny House Bathroom

how to design a tiny house bath

There is a lot that goes into a tiny house bathroom, there is plumbing, fixtures, lighting, electrical and all sorts of materials that have to work together. The kitchen and the bathroom are two of the most complex rooms in the house and they require a lot of planning. Spend the time here to make solid plans and your time and effort will pay dividends for years to come.

Start by working from your list you just created of what your bathroom needs to do and has to hold. My suggestion is to actually pull out all those items and figure out the ideal location and organization for them, then design your storage around those items. I’d also take what you think you need in terms of storage and double it for room to be more flexible and grow into if need be. Storage in a bathroom will make or break a tiny house.

So now that we know exactly what our storage is going to be and look like, we want to layer in our fixtures. These are a critical component of any tiny house bathroom. Typically, you have a sink, shower, vanity, cabinets, toilet, mirror, towel rack and maybe a tub.

For some people they couldn’t imagine life without a tub, others are fine with a shower. Other have a lot of hair care items and makeup. Whatever your thing is, try to take a step back and see what really needs to be there. Again, I’d encourage you to try it out in your current bathroom.

For example, what would life be without a bathtub , just taking showers? What if you only kept enough makeup to fit into a small plastic caddy, the rest you set aside in a box in the closet for your experiment? What if you had a maximum of three bottles of product in your shower? Just try it, if after a few weeks in your current bathroom it’s still not working, you’ve proven that these are important. You’ll also discover that you didn’t really need some things you thought were “a must”.

How Big Is A Tiny House Bathroom?

how big is a tiny house bathroom

A tiny house bathroom usually ranges 25 square feet to 50 square feet. My rule of thumb is it should be 25% of your ground floor, assuming your bed is in a loft. The reason for this is that while a bathroom is very necessary for using a toilet and hygiene needs, you typically only use it for 1-2 hours a day; that’s a lot of square footage only to use it for so little of a time.

What Are The Dimensions Of A Tiny House Bathroom?

tiny house bathroom dimensions

The width of a tiny house bathroom is usually driven from the width of your shower. The smallest shower I’ve been able to find at a big box hardware stores is around 32” by 32”, in an ideal world I’d rather go for a 36” wide shower, but your design may not allow for it.

The length of a tiny house bathroom is usually the depth of your shower + the depth of your toilet + walking space in between, usually 4-6 feet.

That all adds up to about 3 feet wide by 10 feet long at minimum. If you have a tub, especially a stand-alone tub, your square footage will balloon to 2-3 times that.

Tiny House Bathroom Layouts

bathroom layouts for tiny house

The layout of a tiny house bathroom can be challenging, so here are some tiny house bathroom floorplans that might spark some ideas.

tiny house bathroom with glass shower
tiny house bathroom layout with corner shower

A glass corner shower is a great way to pack a lot into your little bathroom. Since you have a glass wall, you gain several inches as compared to a standard frame wall, which usually ends up being at least 4 inches thick before you add your shower stall walls. The glass also extends your sight line, making the space feel bigger while still doing a lot. A prefabricated shower base keeps water where you want it while reducing costs and time to install. At $100-$150, it’s about as cheap as you’re going to get, plus you don’t have to worry about slopping your floor correctly because it’s done for you.

tiny house bathroom with composting toilet and laundry
tiny house bathroom with laundry floorplan layout

This is such a great layout because not only does it have a good amount of storage, but it also integrates a combo washer/dryer into the space while adding a lot of counter top space. Featuring a full tub, a great sink, and a composting toilet, it has a lot going for it. This space also has a very light pallet and good natural light from the windows. Subway tiles make this look great and vinyl flooring means wet floors are no big deal.

small bathroom layout in a tiny house
super small floorplan for a tiny house bathroom

I feel like this layout is the perfect mix between full function and a really efficient use of space. A stand-up shower stall is roomy enough to clean up but doesn’t take up the space of a shower tub. A great little nook allows for plenty of storage for linens and bathroom items, and a small sink is just enough space to do most of what you need.

A tiny house wet bath
tiny house wet bath floorplan

Here is a wet bath concept that allows you to draw back the curtain to open up the space. Small white tiles make upthe space, but the dark wood sets it off with a contrasting texture. It’s also great to see a tiny house bathroom with a flush toilet, instead of a composting one.

tiny house bathroom with soaking tub
tiny house bathroom floorplan design with tub

This layout was interesting because it had a deep soak tub for a small space that doesn’t take up much more room than a normal shower. It’s the best of both worlds, a shower size cove with a tub function. This bathroom also features a nice homemade composting toilet that’s simple to build and affordable.

Should I Build A Tiny House Wet Bath?

tiny house wet bath

wet bath and composting toiltA Wet Bathroom in a tiny house is a small room where everything is essentially in the shower. The toilet seals up, the floor is seamless between the shower floor and the bathroom floor. Everything is designed to be wet, which allows you to minimize your bathroom foot print.

Should you do this? In short, no. You certainly can if you want, but from every single friend of mine that tried it, they ended up wishing they hadn’t. I’ve also spent time on boats and in RV’s that had these and I found them to be workable for the short term, but for day to day living, I felt like they were way more hassle than they were worth. I also really like keeping the toilet firmly separated from my shower, call me a germaphobe if you want.

The biggest thing is I like to step out of my shower, the wet space, onto my bathroom floor, the dry space. I don’t need much space, but I do want some space to finish toweling off, to put on clothes and stand in dry socks while I comb my hair and brush my teeth. Wet baths serve their purpose and work great for a weekend or short trip, but think about it being your reality every day of your life, and you might come around to my thinking on this.

Take Bathroom Ventilation Seriously In A Tiny House

ventilation for a tiny house bathroom

One thing that is tricky in any bathroom, let alone a tiny house bathroom, is ventilation. If you don’t choose the right materials and vent properly, you’ll end up with mold issues and poor indoor air quality. If you are running HVAC, it will have to work harder to maintain a comfortable environment.

I suggest you have a fan that you can set on a timer, so that it vents while you’re taking a shower, but continues to run for 30 minutes after you’ve headed out for the day. Add to this a way to dehumidify your air in the tiny house as a whole, you’ll have a comfortable and safe living environment.

How To Choose Tiny House Bathroom Fixtures

how to choose tiny house bathroom fixtures

The right fixtures (sinks, vanity, showers, tubs, etc) will make or break your tiny house bathroom. Take your time choosing the right items and if you aren’t 100% thrilled with them, keep looking. It can be hard to find some of these because they’re not always something your local hardware store carries or in some cases, they may not even be able to special order!

Tiny House Bathroom Sinks

tiny house bathroom sinks

The first question you need to ask yourself is, do you even need a sink in your bathroom? I thought about what I did in my bathroom sink and came up with this list for myself:

  • Get a drink of water
  • Wet my toothbrush and rinse
  • Rinse my razor while shaving
  • Wash my hands

I think I started to consider sinks that might fit that need and I realized I really only needed a very small sink, really just a few inches wide really. I found that it was really hard to find really small sinks. In fact, there were only a few options out there and they were kinda expensive and still bigger than I was hoping.

small sink for a tiny house bath
The first was the Lordear Corner Sink which was 18 inches long, 10 inches wide and 4.3 inches thick for $55 without a faucet. That was way too big for what I wanted, I was hoping for something that was roughly 10 x 6, so it didn’t stick out into the bathroom space so much.
small corner sink
The other common option was the Aweson small corner wall mount vessel sink which was $85 which might have worked but the only corners I had in my bathroom were on the backside of the toilet, so I’d have to awkwardly reach over the toilet to do anything.
Ryan's bathroom sink in his tiny house

In the end, I looked at all the options available to me and I realized that I had two options: expand my bathroom footprint by about 4 square feet or just use my kitchen sink. I decided 4 square feet just to have a separate sink wasn’t worth it. If I wasn’t living alone it might be a different story, but being on my own, it was a simple decision.

This is what I ended up with for my bathroom sink in my tiny house: I used these Hang Away toothbrush Clips holder to store my toothbrush up off the countertop and they work great. I added a wall-mounted mirror that folds neatly out of the way and I had a setup that met all my bathroom sink needs! I tuck my toothpaste right above the sink on an open shelf and all the extra bathroom toiletries I keep in my bathroom itself.

Tiny House Shower Options

tiny house bathroom shower options

A shower is about the smallest way to wash yourself practically. For a good part of the year I actually shower outside in my outdoor shower, living on 32 acres I don’t have to worry about putting on a show for anyone and showering outside is amazing. For the winter months, I move inside to my shower which is 32” by 32” and while it’s pretty workable, I wish I had a 36 x 36 shower, that would be perfect!

tiny house shower
tiny house shower option
tiny house shower design

source

Your shower is going to be whatever you can get locally, so I’d just head over to your local hardware store and ask them for option, plan on having to special order it, which typically take 4-6 weeks. I’d suggest going with a one-piece unit made of fiberglass, this will prevent water leaking in from the seams of a panelized system.

The downside to this is you’ll need to put it inside your walls when you tip them up and build the house around the shower stall because you might not be able to fit it through the front door. There might be a larger window hole that you could slide it through right before you drop in that window.

As for tiny house shower brands, I’d stick with the name brand options you can find at most stores. If it’s a larger brand they all do a good job with their build quality, so just go with what works for your design and your needs and you’ll be fine. I’d avoid custom systems because they’re often much more expensive and fall prey to having seams where water could get through.

Tiny House Toilet Options

tiny house toilet options

You have a few options for toilets in your tiny house, while I initially wanted a standard flush toilet, I ended up with a basic composting toilet after I got a $50,000 quote to run the sewer line to my house. That wasn’t in the budget and I also didn’t want all the inspections that came with it, so I ended up with a basic bucket system.

TOILET OPTIONS

STANDARD FLUSH TOILET

Pros

  • Widely available
  • Inexpensive
  • Simple use
  • No real maintenance

Cons

  • Requires sewer hookup
  • Subject to more codes
  • 1-3 gallons per flush 3
  • More complicated plumbing
composting toilet in a tiny house

COMPOSTING TOILET

Pros

  • Simple setup
  • Cheap to build
  • Materials widely available
  • Doesn’t use any water

Cons

  • Has that “ick” factor
  • More smells to content with
  • Requires emptying
  • Guests might not want to use
incinerator toilet made by incinolet

INCINERATING TOILET

Pros

  • Off-grid option
  • Less “ick” factor
  • More approachable by guests
  • Doesn’t use water

Cons

  • Requires venting and power
  • Some smells
  • Reviews are mixed
  • Expensive

Now that it’s been 6 years using a composting toilet, I don’t even think about it much. It’s a much different story when people come to visit. Using the composting toilet requires a tutorial and conversation with everyone that comes to the house, it’s kinda a hassle to be honest. By in large, most of my guests just stop off at a gas station before they come over or wait till we are out at a restaurant. Being a guy makes this much easier for me.

lugable loo review post

Tiny House Bathroom Vanity

tiny house bathroom vanity

In your tiny house bathroom, you’ll need a place to put your sink, if you have one, plus you’re going to want to pack as much storage in as you can. Think back to your list of what you wanted to keep in your bathroom and design around that. I’d go as far as laying out custom storage solutions and custom build pull out drawer organizers and other storage features.

tiny house bathroom vanity
This is a great example of a great vanity with open shelving, which you see they’ve put things that they use every day. Open shelving will let you increase the storage space, but not make the space feel as cramped. While you’ll need to dress up these spaces because they are visible, make sure they’re also functional. The one downside to this setup is that the space below the wood slab is left open, that’s a lot of storage space that is being left unused.[/two_half_last]
tiny house bath vanity

I love this color and the vanity walks the line between a functional sink, but not too big while having great cabinetry to maximize the storage in the square footage. There is an outlet right there for things like a hair dryer (make sure you wire it for GFCI) and the counter top is just wide enough to hold soap and a small container for things like tooth brush etc. The last thing I wanted to call out here is the smart design choice of putting a full-length mirror on the back of the pocket door.

Pocket doors are great for small bathrooms and tiny houses in general. You’ll need enough room in the wall cavity to accommodate the door when its pushed into the wall, which is bigger than the door itself. Adding the mirror on the back of this door makes it very functional as you get ready in the morning.

tiny house vanity
If a custom vanity cabinet isn’t in your budget, a lot of the big box hardware stores are now selling standalone furniture vanities, which will let you have a great looking option where you can choose your own counter top, basin and faucet to make an off the shelf vanity feel very custom. I was able to find a similar vanity including a stone countertop , basin, and faucet, for $358!
Here is another off the shelf vanity, I found this one for sale at my local big box store for $119 for the cabinet and sink, no faucet. Faucets are one of those things you can spend a lot of money on, I personally want something that has a metal housing for durability and looks, as opposed to the plastic. Starting at around $50 you can get a name brand budget all metal faucet, but you can spend hundreds if you really wanted to. I’ve found the sweet spot to be between $75-$125 for bathroom faucets (kitchen faucets are more expensive and feature packed).

Tiny House Bathroom Storage And Organization

tiny house bathroom storage

Storage is a big deal, while you want to keep the items you have down to a minimum. Even so, you do need some things and those things need to be organized. If I’ve learned anything from my tiny in a tiny house is a small mess really gets in the way and I know something as simple as a t-shirt on the floor can add to stress in such a small space.

above the door storage

Above The Door Storage

Above your door is a great place to make some extra space on the inside. This is because it’s often vertical space that’s empty and above your natural sight line, meaning it’s out of sight and out of mind. A simple shelf or a cabinet can be a great place to stash towels or bins of less frequently used items.

in-wall storage nooks

In Wall Storage Nooks

I have several of these in my tiny house and they’re great. For most of your interior walls, you don’t need to insulate them, except if you’d like sound dampening bats like Rockwool Safe’n Sound. You also have to consider where your pipes run for your shower, connections for kitchen items, and pocket doors. Assuming you don’t have any of these things, you can add very low profile storage to your walls wherever you need it. Next to your sink, a nook for toilet paper and medicine cabinet are all great examples of how you can build into the walls.

pull-out bathroom organizers

Pull Out Bathroom Organizers

This form factor is a really great way to take advantage of the last few inches in your bathroom. The pull out organizer is tall enough you can house tall items like a broom, which is often a forgotten item to have to store. The tall form of the pull out lets you have a ton of shallow shelves so you can see a lot of what you have and not lose them behind other items like you do in a deep shelf or cabinet.

pull out medicine cabinet

Pull Out Medicine Cabinet

This design is a major improvement over your traditional medicine cabinet because you can open it up and still use the mirror while getting ready. The pull outs will stay open, making things really accessible while you dress.

organize around your sink drain

Organize Around Your Sink Drain

There is a lot of room under your sink if you can avoid the P-trap of the sink drain. You can keep it simple with stacking storage to go on either side of things or you can have a fancy custom made shelving or drawers that go around the drain.

in-drawer power outlet

In-Drawer Power Outlet

There are a few things that we keep plugged in because we use them every day. With a little bit of planning, we can figure out exactly what we need to keep plugged in and keep our countertops clear. Electric toothbrushes, hairdryers , and curlers are all common items that we clutter up the countertop with. Add an outlet to one or more of your drawers to keep them plugged in and ready to go.

drawer organizers

Drawer Organizers

There are a lot of fiddly items that need to be kept in our bathroom. From jewelry to makeup, and other various items that if we don’t keep in check, can create a huge mess. Take the time to figure out what you need to keep in the drawers and either get organizers custom made or buy off the shelf kits.

take advantage of backs of cabinet doors

Take Advantage Of The Backs Of Cabinet Doors

There are some items that we can mount on the backs of the cabinet doors to keep things neat. A special holder made of PVC like these for curling irons or something put on a small low profile door rack.

shower caddies

Shower Caddies For Every Person

I learned this when I lived in the dorm at college, sharing too few bathrooms with too many people. If you have a bunch of people in your tiny house, consider having space for each member to keep a shower caddy. This lets you keep the shower or tub clutter free while still allowing for personal preferences and letting people have what they need at hand. Design specific storage to hold the caddies when not in use and have a designated spot near the shower/tub and near the sink to rest the caddy on to be easily accessible

clear stackable storage containers

Clear Stackable Storage Containers

Use clear storage containers to keep things organized, while still being able to find them quickly. If you use containers of a modular design, you can mix and match sizes while still stacking them neatly. A really great source for modular caddies and storage bins for bathrooms and kitchens is a company called MDesign.

corner hampers and built in hampers

Corner Hampers Or Built In Hampers

A hamper is an essential part of your bathroom and one that I didn’t think about until later. Luckily, I figured out a solution that worked in my tiny house, but you want to make sure you plan for this. A corner hamper is a great way to solve this need and you can find them around for pretty cheap. Also, consider having a custom-built cabinet to hide away your dirty laundry.

above the toilet storage

Above The Toilet Storage

Much like above the door storage, having cabinets above your toilet is a great way to take advantage of otherwise wasted vertical space. Make sure you have enough clearance for when you’re sitting on the toilet and getting up/down too.

take advantage of empty voids

Take Advantage Of Empty Voids

Sometimes your design might have a weird space that isn’t being used very well, places like under the stairs if you have a raised floor, etc. Sometimes you have storage in another part of the house that’s very deep. Instead of having this cavernous storage area where things get lost in the back, split the difference by having two storage spaces that are half as deep on either side of the wall.

Use Nice Containers And Boxes To Hide Necessary Clutter

If you have open shelving or even things behind a door, consider organizing them into nice looking storage containers. There are a small number of things that are just necessary for everyday living, so group them together in ways that make sense, then show them off with a nice looking box or jar.

Final Tiny House Bathroom Tips

tiny house bathroom tips

When designing your dream tiny house bathroom, start with making a list of what it needs to do for you and what things you want to store there. Taking time to plan ahead here will save you a lot of headaches and the complexity of such a small bathroom means every inch matters. Here are some additional tiny house bathroom design tips for you to consider.

Ryan’s Tiny House Bathroom Design Tips

  1. Plan your drains carefully to avoid metal crossmembers of your trailer
  2. Where possible, put the fixtures requiring water close together for easier plumbing
  3. Don’t forget places for trash and dirty laundry, most people do
  4. Don’t forget a place to hang your towels
  5. Consider a place for clean towels, linens and cleaning supplies
  6. Make sure your shower, tub, and sink can fit through the front door or build it in
  7. Use pocket doors to make small spaces more functional
  8. Make sure you have a bathroom vent fan
  9. Always have extra storage, above what you expect your needs to be

Your Turn!

  • What feature is a must have in your tiny house bathroom?
  • What tips do you have about designing your dream bathroom?

Tiny House Magazine

Tiny House Magazine

My good friend Kent over at Tiny House Blog has been working on a neat project for a while now: Tiny House Magazine. I’ve heard rave reviews about it and everything I’ve seen has been really amazing looking. Each month Kent puts out an electronic magazine that covers some really awesome tiny houses and other neat topics. Here is the scoop on the magazine:

tiny houe magazine covers

SPECIAL DEAL: Buy 1 Year, Get 8 Bonus Issues For Free!

Tiny House Magazine Review:

Tiny House magazine has been part of this community for many years now, which translates to them knowing a lot of people and connecting to great stories for them to write about. Having personally been writing about tiny houses for over a decade now, I’ve seen many other publishers, bloggers and the like come and go. Kent (the Editor of the magazine) has been putting out an issue each month for close to 7 years! Which is no small feat to consider that he has been delivering a well crafted digital magazine for so long.

I also know a lot of the writers that make up the team there at the magazine, contributing a lot of articles you simply can’t find anywhere else. Each month I look forward to seeing what’s new in the magazine and it’s always been fun when the new edition comes out. For those of you who want to have a digital magazine delivered each moth, this is the one to check out.

See A Sample Of The Tiny House Magazine:

It’s often hard to explain what the magazine is like without showing someone in person. Being that it’s a digital magazine, I was able to put together some of these samples of the magazine for you to get an idea of it.

You can see samples of the Tiny House Magazine in PDF the 76th edition here and the 68th edition here.

76th Edition

tiny house magazine: issue 76
tiny house magainze feature article cover
tiny house magazine photos of tiny houses
tiny house feature in tiny house magazine

68th Edition

tiny house magazine: issue 68
contributors page to tiny house magazine
tiny house owner feature article
article about simple living in the magazine

Tiny House Magazine Coupons:

I’ve been getting a lot of questions from readers if there is any coupons for the Tiny House Magazine for them to check it out. Here is special deal I was able to convince Kent to offer my readers since I’ve been a fan of his magazine for so many years:

Save $40 and get 8 bonus back issues when you sign up for a year subscription: Click This Link, The Discount Will Automatically Applied

tiny house magazine discount coupon code

Example pages from this month’s edition:

THM11-cover-600
THM11-3-600
THM116-600
THM116-600

THM11-21-600