Posts Tagged Tiny Home

Van Life: Enjoy The Journey To Your Next Adventure

Van Life: Enjoy The Journey To Your Next Adventure

living the van lifeAre you ready for the ultimate in freedom lifestyle? Van life has the potential to be as romantic as it sounds—just you (and maybe your significant other, or your pet … or both) on the open road.

I met Van Lifers Wesley and Savannah (and their pet hedgehog Hermie, who has more Instagram followers than I do) at our Portland conference. I got to check out their fantastic van and I just fell in love with the whole idea of living the van life. I can totally see myself driving around the U.S. seeing all the national parks in a van like theirs. After meeting them, I’ve been very tempted to hit the road and become a YouTuber as I tour around.

Living in a van as an alternative or “less-traditional” approach to the tiny life is certainly an awesome option. Van life lends itself to portability like nothing else, which is why this lifestyle is perfect for many outdoor enthusiasts and those who have wanderlust. After all, if you love spending time mountain climbing, biking, or surfing, living in a camper van provides the perfect way to take your home base right into the outdoors.

What is Van Life?

what is the van life

Consider it a step up from camping. With van life, you’re converting a van into a camper or a tiny home. Van life offers a nice cozy shelter, plus the ultimate mobility of a car. It’s perfect for singles or couples looking for the pursuit of Instagram-worthy adventures on the open road.

You may scroll through the awesome pictures of #vanlife on Instagram or watch YouTube videos of people who make living in a van work well. It’s the ultimate in simple, minimalist lifestyle options. Most converted camper vans offer significantly smaller square footage than a traditional tiny house.

The biggest factor about living the van life is asking yourself if you can handle living (and driving) in your tiny house. This is especially something to consider if you’re taking your relationship on the road. While tiny living itself presents logistic issues in terms of privacy and space, van life takes those challenges to the next level.

van life on the road

But for many van lifers, freedom, and adventure are worth the sacrifice. Besides, as I learned more about the van life, I realized it’s really not far from living in a traditional tiny house like mine. It’s all about learning to simplify and owning only what you need to survive. Minimalism isn’t difficult once you get the hang of it and let go of your attachment to owning “stuff.”

Most people who live the van life do it because they love travel, exploring, and adventure, and they love being outdoors. This makes van life an especially popular option in warmer, outdoorsy areas like California, Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado.

Van life has been around for decades, in fact. Think back to the images of VW vans decked out with shag carpeting and custom murals as they journeyed to Woodstock. Eventually, van life gave way to the more practical, family-style camper van that was popular in the 80s and 90s. Over the last two decades, however, there’s been a return to the original love of the free and easy lifestyle of van life. Young couples realize taking their lives on the road (and sharing their adventures online) is exciting, fun, and yes, even comfortable.

ask the experts

Advice you’d give to someone just starting the van life?

Vanning Ain’t No Joke website
Lee, Neil and Andrew

“Try the life out in your car for a while. Go on road trips in your car or SUV before you fully commit to the lifestyle. There are a lot of ups and downs, and pros and cons, in vanlife, just like in life. While the freedom to do as you please is appealing, there are still so many chores vanlife requires on a daily basis, like, finding where you are going to sleep for the night, every night.”

gone with the van
Gone With The Van website
Brett & Yulia

“Learn to minimize and prioritize the necessities but also things that you love. As you are minimizing, keep high quality multifunctional things.”

the road is our home
The Road Is Our Home website
Rob & Emily

“Try it first. Hire a similar vehicle for a week or more and try to get a feel for vanlife. Create different scenarios, sleep in different environments try to replicate real van living, source water from various places for example and be honest with yourself.”

one chick travels
One Chick Travels website
Kaya Lindsay

“If you’re taller than 5’10” make sure you double check the width of your van!”

The Pros & Cons of Living in A Van

pros and cons of van living

The challenges of van life come from living in a very small space, of course, which is an issue for tiny lifers as well. Vans being vehicles present other challenges too, such as weather that’s too hot (vans have AC, but when you’re stopped, it gets very warm) and too cold (most vans aren’t awesome when driving in the snow). There are ways to insulate your van, which will help with temperature control, as can connecting to an alternative power source. There’s also general car maintenance that’s necessary, but the cost of caring for a van is typically lower than caring for a more traditional dwelling.

Most people who live the van life are young with mobile careers, allowing them to work from anywhere. Some earn a living as social media influencers living the van life and sharing their gorgeous photos online. Some are sponsored by companies who support their outdoor lifestyles (surfing, skating, climbing, running, etc.).

the van life

But not all van lifers are Millennials and younger folks. Van life is also a great option for adventurous seniors. After all, many original “hippie” Baby Boomers are approaching retirement age and they still have a fondness for the freedom of van life. What better way to see the world than traveling around in your camper van, living the original van life dream?

Are you wondering if living in a van is right for you? Here are a few great resources I’ve found with honest takes on the pros and cons of van life:

The greatest aspect of van life is that you can go anywhere! Settle in any spot for the night, camp out in your van and move to the next spot tomorrow. Van life is always an adventure. With many options for DIY van conversions and customization, you’ll have a comfortable bed, kitchenette, and storage added to the van, making it essentially a very tiny house on wheels.

So, if you’re ready to pack up and hit the road, consider van life a great option. Check out these van life photos to get inspired!

ask the experts

Best thing about the van life?

Vanning Ain’t No Joke website
Lee, Neil and Andrew

“Surprisingly, the community. The people and the connections we’ve made on the road feel like we have a pretty extended van family. Sometimes we catch ourselves van-pooling for months at a time with strangers, but it feels like we have known each other forever. We trade stories and skills like climbing and surfing. We connect with each other and make lasting relationships. We always say we have friends all over the world because of vanlife.”

gone with the van
Gone With The Van website
Brett & Yulia

“The freedom to bring your home to many amazing places in this world and often have the best views right out of your bedroom window.”

the road is our home
The Road Is Our Home website
Rob & Emily

“It’s the perfect balance of comfort and freedom.”

one chick travels
One Chick Travels website
Kaya Lindsay

“The freedom, and the low cost of living.”

What Are the Best Vans to Live In?

what are the best vans to live in

There are several vans that appear on almost everyone’s van life list. These conversion van options range in price, performance, and details.

The most popular vans for living the van life, seem to be:

  • Mercedes Sprinter
  • Mercedes Metris
  • Classic VW Bus
  • VW Vanagon (with or without Westfalia pop-ups)
  • Ford Transit Connect
  • Dodge ProMaster
  • Nissan NV 200
  • Converted Cargo Vans (like Chevy)

What it really comes down to is whether you plan to go with used/pre-owned and do the buildout yourself (unless you find a conversion van that’s already outfitted), or you buy a newer camper van. Obviously, much of this question comes down to a matter of your budget and your preference for DIY van conversions and customization (which is one of the aspects of van life many find appealing).

Most van-lifers recommend going with a used van and converting it into a camper. This is especially true for many of the classic vans like the VW Bus, which is no longer manufactured (although rumor has it, they’re releasing an electric version in the near future). If you buy used, you’re limited by your budget and the availability of a conversion van that suits your needs.

vintage vw bus

Like any car purchase, you’ll want to shop around carefully, unless you find a great deal you can’t refuse. Think about what you’re looking for in a van. Read reviews, consider gas mileage, cargo room, headspace (if any), and options.

Explore these resources to help you figure out which van is best for you:

Once you get an idea of what you’re looking for, I recommend you start shopping around. There are many vans for sale out there, but you want to purchase one suited to your lifestyle and plans.

ask the experts

What van did you choose?

Vanning Ain’t No Joke website
Lee, Neil and Andrew

“2007 Dodge Sprinter (used)”

gone with the van
Gone With The Van website
Brett & Yulia

“2014 Mercedes Sprinter 170 wheel base passenger van. We bought it used.”

the road is our home
The Road Is Our Home website
Rob & Emily

“Mercedes Sprinter – used”

one chick travels
One Chick Travels website
Kaya Lindsay

“2006 Dodge Sprinter Van – used”

How Much Does It Cost to Convert A Van into A Camper Van?

how much does it cost to convert a van

Much like any used vehicle purchase, cost varies depending on a lot of factors; mileage and condition of the van, where you buy it, and how picky you want to be.

As you’re shopping for conversion vans (or vans to convert into camper vans) you’ll want to check your local listings as well. I’ve seen great vans on Craigslist, third-party seller sites, and even eBay. You can find affordable vans priced between $2,000 and $8,000. Factor in the history, age of the vehicle, and the number of miles. You can always do an engine rebuild, but it’s not cheap. So, if you’re new to the van life, search for a van that runs (or plan a repair in your budget).

Building out the camper van interior is an additional expense too. The cost completely depends on the materials and equipment you plan to use and the overall look and functionality you’re seeking. Converting a van for full-time living will look different than weekend warriors seeking short term travel with a camping option.

van life conversion cost

Here are a few very different van conversion cost breakdowns from people who completed the van life conversion (Some include the cost of living on the road month-to-month as well!):

As you see, it definitely depends on many different factors. There’s also the possibility of finding a VW Vanagon Westie or another conversion van that’s already got a portion of the build-out included. The VW featured a popup tent top with plenty of standing room, a small kitchenette, fridge, swivel seats, and fold-down bed in the back (roomy enough to sleep four). These are out of commission but finding a classic may mean you simply need to make updates and cosmetic customization.

ask the experts

How much did your van conversion cost?

Vanning Ain’t No Joke website
Lee, Neil and Andrew

“$22,000 (Van and Build)”

gone with the van
Gone With The Van website
Brett & Yulia

“Our materials were under $25K. We self-converted our van so this cost does not include the labor.”

the road is our home
The Road Is Our Home website
Rob & Emily

“£12,000 gbp”

one chick travels
One Chick Travels website
Kaya Lindsay


How Do You Convert A Van for Living?

how to convert a van for living

The short answer is it completely depends on how particular you are and how much time you plan on living in your van. If you plan to live on the road full-time, then there are the basics to cover: sleeping, cooking, hygiene, electricity, heat, and water.

Many older vans are very roomy in the back, so it’s pretty simple to put down a mattress or a sleeping bag and sleep in your van. While it isn’t the glamorous “influencer version” of van life that you’re imagining, it’s certainly an option in a pinch.

Most van lifers want their van to feel comfortable, clean, and homey, so they start doing a little updating and customization. This is where the conversion van idea factors in—you’re converting the van for sleeping/living. Some vans come with built-in conversion accommodations, like the aforementioned VW Westies (with seats that fold down into a bed), others require a little more attention.

traveling in a van

If you’re looking to really deck out the van for living, you’ll want to consider your options, just like you would when building a tiny house. You can install solar panels on the top of the van (it’s fairly similar to the way I installed solar panels on my tiny house). You can put in a fridge, an additional battery source for power, water for washing and cooking, and even build in storage.

One of the drawbacks of most vans is they don’t have a built-in bathroom. With a space that tiny, it’s not so pleasant or practical to live (and drive) close to your toilet. The obvious answer is you need to stop at rest stops and truck stops on the road whenever you need to use the restroom. (Note: Many van lifers also keep empty bottles on hand as nighttime/emergency urinals.) For washing, consider a solar shower, gym showers, or taking advantage of campground showers wherever you go. For some people, this is a drawback, but others don’t mind.

As for other issues like heating and insulation, there are advantages to van life. Being in an inconspicuous traveling home means you can park and sleep almost anywhere, including indoor parking garages (but you may need to pay, of course). There are heating options, like small indoor-friendly propane heaters with oxygen detectors, crucial for sleeping in a small space.

If you’re wondering about the other logistics of living the van life, there are many great guides online with step-by-step van conversion information. These resources feature in-depth product reviews and other information you’ll need. Some are also specific to the make and model of your van.

If you’d like to live the van life but you’re not quite ready to take on a full van conversion/buildout yourself, simply look for a used conversion van. You can also get a custom van built for you (although they’re quite expensive).

Here are a few van customizers:

ask the experts

What was the hardest part of converting the van?

Vanning Ain’t No Joke website
Lee, Neil and Andrew

“Getting started. It always seems pretty overwhelming, like you are never gonna finish and see the fruits of your labor. But, the more you chip away at it, project by project, the more you see it start coming to life. You see places in your framing that you don’t want to go to waste and you get creative and come up with ideas that can really blow you away. It really is a fun process.”

gone with the van
Gone With The Van website
Brett & Yulia

“Shower / bathroom was the hardest part of the build and it took the longest but it was definitely worth it, we love having it in the van. When building a bathroom, it is important to waterproof everything and know where your grey and black water going to go.”

the road is our home
The Road Is Our Home website
Rob & Emily

“I think the hardest part was the design. We spent months planning our layout as we wanted something bespoke to us and our requirements. Drawings or sketches on paper or computer can be really beneficial but a simple trick that helped us the most was getting a roll of masking tape and a tape measure and lay an outline of the plan inside the empty van. This really helped us visualize the overall layout.”

one chick travels
One Chick Travels website
Kaya Lindsay

“The electrical and battery. I recommend hiring someone to do it for you!”

How Do You Earn Money on The Road?

how do you earn money on the road

The biggest question most van lifers (and anyone who lives a nomadic lifestyle) face is how to earn a living. Granted, van living offers more freedom and less expense than many more conventional lifestyles. Still, there’s always gas, car repairs, parking expenses, maintenance, food, and general living expenses that will arise.

Living a minimalist lifestyle is no question if you’re living the van life. In such a small space, you’re really faced with paring down to the most basic items you need. Most van lifers report it’s a little isolating and claustrophobic at times, so they put in the effort to get out often, find personal space (if they’re living with a partner), and keep their van very clean inside. When you’re living and also working in your van it becomes extra important to stay aware of your mental health needs.

As for making money on the road, earning money in creative ways seems to be a millennial talent, which is probably why millennials adapt to the van life so well. There are many ways to earn money on the road, but most involve working online (so Wi-Fi is important)!

van life roadtrip

Many van lifers document their journeys in the form of monetized blogs, YouTube channels, or social media accounts. Others create and sell products like DIY van conversion how-to-guides, using affiliate links and sales to earn money off their books.

Van life is also favored by outdoor enthusiasts, so many van lifers are sponsored by lifestyle brands and outdoor products they promote on their social media accounts. They may also be professionally involved in sports like surfing, mountain climbing, running, or snowboarding, and secure sponsorships from equipment brands.

One thing is for sure—creativity is the key to earning money on the road…along with the ability to live and survive on a shoestring budget. While a 9-5 might not work with a nomadic lifestyle, there are always temp jobs, seasonal work, and other options for those who want to live the tiny life in a van but need to take a break from the expenses of life on the road.

road by ocean

Here are great resources from van lifers who’ve learned how to earn money on the go:

Living the van life is the ultimate freedom lifestyle. Pick up and travel anywhere at any time. Everything you own is with you. It’s just you and the open road (and maybe a sidekick or two). If this sounds like the lifestyle for you, you may want to consider your van life options. Share your adventures on YouTube and you just might end up inspiring others to join the van life!

ask the experts

How do you earn money while traveling?

Vanning Ain’t No Joke website
Lee, Neil and Andrew

“While we dabble in design (graphic and web design) projects, photography, and videography, as side hustles, we also have been dabbling in flipping vans. There seems to be a lot of people trying to get into the lifestyle, but are overwhelmed with the entire process of learning and researching, and then doing. Plus, people don’t have the time. We do. And, we enjoy the process, as well as, sharing our tips, knowledge, and our mess-ups via our Vankookz YouTube Channel.”

gone with the van
Gone With The Van website
Brett & Yulia

“Currently, we don’t live in a van full time but go on extended trips. We custom build vans for new van lifers and travel in our self converted Mercedes Sprinter between projects. We are working on expanding our YouTube channel to potentially allow us the financial freedom to travel more.”

the road is our home
The Road Is Our Home website
Rob & Emily

“Any way in which we can. We’ve done all kinds of work from labouring to web design, pertinent to temporary, there’s always work available. Use it as an opportunity to learn new skills along the way.”

one chick travels
One Chick Travels website
Kaya Lindsay

“I’m a freelance writer.”

winding road

Your Turn!

  • What would you like about living van life?
  • Where would you want to travel if you lived in a van?

Skoolies: Surprisingly Beautiful Mobile Tiny Houses (Not Just for Hippies)

Skoolies: Surprisingly Beautiful Mobile Tiny Houses (Not Just for Hippies)

skoolies mobile tiny homesDo you have wanderlust? Do you want a tiny home to take with you as you explore the world? A converted school bus (aka a skoolie) might be the right answer for you!

Here’s the deal with skoolies. I started out as a skeptic. I had this vision that skoolies were old dilapidated buses with cramped, dark interiors. I thought they were strictly for Deadheads on their way to their next concert. Then I met my friend, Hank.

hanks skoolie interior

I was interviewing Hank for my book, Tiny House Living. His bus was beautiful, like jaw-dropping beautiful. It showed me that you can have a big, open, very good-looking space filled with natural light. It was Hank’s bus that won me over to the whole idea of skoolies and I was sold. Now, I’m seeing a whole new era of skoolies that embrace open spaces filled with light and great, aesthetic details.

So, before you dismiss skoolies as a tiny house option, check out how you can live a great tiny life in a school bus tiny house.

What Is a Skoolie?

what is a skoolie

In the simplest of terms, a skoolie is a used school bus modified for living. Skoolies are converted into RV homes for living the tiny life on the road.

Now, skoolies have been around for a long time. In fact, I remember going to college in Asheville, North Carolina and seeing old hippies living in converted school buses. The buses would line the roads all over downtown and you’d see these old guys out there playing music—busking for gas money to carry them to their next destination.

school bus turned skoolie

While bus conversion life has come a long way in terms of design and possibilities, the principles still remain the same. Skoolies are perfect for those who love the freedom of a tiny house on wheels! Converted school buses are wonderful for adventure, travel, and exploration. Plus, living in a school bus is quite comfortable. With smart planning, a skoolie will easily accommodate a family, a couple, or a single person on the road.

My friends Chris and Kelly from The Just Right Bus came to our annual conference twice, and I got to see their awesome skoolie. Their bus has a whole bathtub in it! They have AC! It’s roomie and beautiful! Kelly is a potter (I have a skoolie magnet she made for me on my fridge in my tiny house) and Chris is a medical student. They both live in the skoolie to save money as a way to keep costs down during Chris’s med school training. Skoolies can literally be the perfect tiny home for anyone.

skoolie kitchen

There’s also a big DIY element to converting a used school bus. You see, the bus itself has great bones to start with. Typically, all a skoolie owner needs to do is rip out the seats and customize the inside to their desired specifications. As soon as it’s set up, you’re ready to hit the open road.

Used school buses are perfect for conversion because they have diesel engines built to last a very long time. School systems “retire” buses early, usually when they hit about 100k miles, but often there are (hundreds of) thousands of miles left in the engine. Plus, diesel engines are easy to rebuild, making skoolies an investment that keeps on running for years and years.

Many school systems sell their used buses to countries like Mexico, where they’re used for years. There are several places to purchase used school buses for private use (as I’ve outlined below). From there, building your school bus tiny house is similar to any tiny house build.

If you’re experienced with building or customizing your tiny home already, skoolie conversion is fairly simple. Besides the obvious limitations of the shape and shell of a school bus, you can really turn these into almost any type of home you’d like. Skoolie living is great for those seeking the simplicity and customizability of a tiny home, but the mobility of an RV.

ask the experts

Why should someone consider a skoolie or bus conversion over a camper or RV?

rolling vistas
Rolling Vistas website
Zac Anderson & Tiffany Everett

“Our main reasons for choosing a skoolie over an RV were cost and the endless possibilities for customization.”

skoolie homes
Skoolie Homes website
Jeff & Missy Miller

“Skoolies are designed to carry our most precious cargo: our children. Thus, they are built strong and sturdy. Skoolies are customizable to each owner allowing more space right where you need it instead of predesigned RV’s. In addition, a converted bus cost less for more space and design appeal than on RV.”

Vicaribus website
Heather, Nick & Miles

“The customization aspect. You get to build it exactly as you want it instead of how a RV manufacturer wanted it. They also handle being in a crash much much better and can generally hold more weight.”

How Much Does A Used School Bus Cost?

how much does a school bus cost

So, of course, a big question when it comes to converting a school bus into a tiny house is how much does a used school bus cost in the first place?

Keep in mind, there are a lot of cost factors to consider when you look at buying a used school bus. It first depends on the type of school bus, the mileage, and the condition of the bus. If you plan to gut it and rebuild the inside, then you’ll often find a good deal on the shell.

Another piece to consider is the engine. Because diesel engines are easily rebuilt or refurbished for a few thousand dollars it may be smarter to opt for more miles and a lower price. All other factors being the same, you can still do a lot with a great shell and frame.

There several styles of school buses as well. The standard school bus is 34 feet (a 72-seater). Flat-front buses are referred to as pullers (front engine) or pushers (rear engine). School buses with a more traditional “nose” in the front are referred to as dog-nose buses. Dog-nose buses are said to be more accessible for engine work. You’ll also want to assess what size bus you’re looking for. There are many people who prefer short buses or mini-buses. With the right interior work, small buses are quite beautiful and livable.

skoolies - school bus conversion

The basic answer to the school bus price question is buses range from under $1,000 (for a real fixer-upper) to $20,000+. It seems the mid-range of $5,000-$10,000 is a good starting point to aim for (but realize it may require additional funds and sweat-equity to become livable).

There are great resources to help you decide what type of bus to buy such as:

ask the experts

How much should people budget for buying a used bus?

rolling vistas
Rolling Vistas website
Zac Anderson & Tiffany Everett

“Our total costs, with the purchase of the bus was around 20k. I have seen people spend a range from 10k all the way to 40k on these things. I think a lot of it depends on the size bus you’re building out, your previous knowledge level/skill set, and how much of a perfectionist you are.”

skoolie homes
Skoolie Homes website
Jeff & Missy Miller

“The costs of used buses is on the rise. When we bought our first bus it cost $750, the second was $1800 and the third was $4500. We tell people to budget between $4500-$7000.”

Vicaribus website
Heather, Nick & Miles

“Probably about 3-5 times as much as you think it’s going to cost – then if you actually guessed correctly you will be excited about all the money you have left over for your travels.”

How to Find A Used School Bus

Once you decide a skoolie conversion is within your price range and fits your lifestyle goals, it’s time to start looking. I would research the type of used school bus you’re looking for first (size, make, model, year) and then you can search for a bus almost like a car. There are used school bus dealers online that are easy to work with.

Online retailers of pre-owned and used school buses are:

Of course, eBay and Craigslist are also great places to start searching for used school buses as well. If you are open to any type of bus that comes your way, then you may find a great deal—even local! I’ve seen quite a few buses for sale, now that I’ve become aware of the whole skoolie phenomenon.

skoolie interior

Finding a bus to buy in town or nearby is helpful especially if you’re planning to rebuild or refurbish the engine. (Keep in mind, transporting a school bus by towing isn’t always cheap, so look for something you can drive, at least a short distance or plan accordingly.)

Depending on your comfort level with DIY work, check the body for issues like rust and other concerns, but I would recommend you don’t get too hung up on aesthetics because there are a lot of possibilities once you’ve purchased the basic used school bus to work with.

You’ll also want to keep the length of the used school bus in mind. There are short, mid-sized, and full-sized options. How comfortable are you with driving a full-sized bus? Since it’s not for commercial use, a CDL isn’t typically needed, but some states may require you to complete additional driving tests for “heavyweight” vehicles. Check with your local DMV so you’re prepared to drive your skoolie when it’s ready to hit the road.


How to Convert a Used School Bus into a Skoolie

how to convert a bus into a skoolie

So, you bought a used school bus, now what? The process of converting your new school bus into your new tiny home follows similar principles to any other tiny home build. You’ll want to look for inspiration, find and/or design a layout, and plan carefully. As I’ve said many times, great tiny home building starts with great planning.

There are many guides out there to help you through a school bus conversion. Most school bus conversions cost between $5,000-$30,000 (similar to a tiny house with an existing outer structure) depending on how much DIY effort you’re willing to put in and your familiarity with the tiny home building process. You’ll also need to figure costs associated with upkeep for a road vehicle (tires, vehicle maintenance, etc.).

When you think of how you’d like your converted school bus layout to look, it’s important to consider not only the aesthetics of your skoolie, but the functionality. You’ll need to consider insulation, plumbing, electric (and if you plan to use solar, how to power up on the road). Will you connect to shore power or do you plan to boondock (when you camp/park without a nearby power source)? These factors will also need consideration when you plan for water and plumbing.

skoolie bathtub

There are so many great resources to help guide you through your school bus conversion. A few helpful skoolie conversion resources I’ve found are:

If you aren’t the DIY-type (or if you would like help designing your skoolie floor plan), there are companies who specialize in building and customizing skoolies.

Like any tiny home build, you’ll want to consider all the needs of your family as you design the skoolie layout (or work with a converted school bus floor plan designer). If there are multiple people living on the converted school bus, how will you plan for privacy? Consider bathroom, kitchen, and washing needs. How will you set up for relaxation and make the bus feel like home? A unique challenge of buses is that there are lots of windows—this is great for light, but not always great for privacy, so consider how you will plan around the windows.

ask the experts

What was the hardest part about building your skoolie?

rolling vistas
Rolling Vistas website
Zac Anderson & Tiffany Everett

“Can we say everything?! We had no experience in anything related to construction, metal work, plumbing, electrical or mechanics, so every step was a big one for us. I would say the hardest part was the plumbing, though. We struggled with planning the plumbing, deciding where to run pipes and hang the tanks. We put this part off until way too late in the build which complicated things even further because we had already built most of the furniture and walls.”

elizabeth spenccer
Making Me Brave website
Elizabeth J.W. Spenccer

“Our skoolie was converted by Wind River Tiny Homes. They did an amazing job and took lots of the frustration out of the building process for us. The big learning curve came for us once we had the bus converted and were on the road, in the winter, trying to maintain the engine and keep the systems from freezing!”

Vicaribus website
Heather, Nick & Miles

“Everything had to be custom made from cabinets to couches to bed frames to curtains. Everything is an abnormal shape or size and therefore had to be created accordingly … allow that’s also half the fun. Making our wet bath waterproof was also a huge pain in the ass.”

Skoolie Regulations

skoolie regulations

Regulations are often sticky territory. As I’ve discussed in my post Tiny House Building Codes: 5 Myths Busted, there are often grey areas when it comes to tiny house coding, rules, and regulations. The same applies to skoolies.

For example, the issue of a CDL varies state-to-state and depending on how many “passengers” you’re driving. BUT if your skoolie functions as a home and not a bus, then technically you aren’t a commercial driver. So, again, check with your DMV to understand the guidelines on school bus RV conversions. There are also rules on modifications required to ensure the bus can’t accidentally get mistaken for a school bus.

skoolie with a view

There’s also the question of where to park. RV parking rules are the best guidelines to follow since skoolies are essentially the same as an RV. So, any place you can park your RV should also accommodate your skoolie. You may need the same permits for campgrounds, RV parks, and temporary parking facilities.

Other spots with skoolie regulation information and resources:

Skoolie life is a great option for people who want the ability to explore the world on wheels. Of course, the option to move your home around is convenient for many reasons as well. It may seem like a quirky choice, but if you’re looking for a DIY tiny home option within an existing structure, a school bus is a great way to go.

ask the experts

If you could go back and do it all over again, what would you do differently?

rolling vistas
Rolling Vistas website
Zac Anderson & Tiffany Everett

“We have talked about this a lot and we are actually really happy with our bus and don’t truly wish to change anything. If we are being very picky, I would say we would have made our bed larger, made our kitchen counter a little less deep, and left our base-boards a natural wood color so they don’t show so much dirt. That one is an easy fix though.”

elizabeth spenccer
Making Me Brave website
Elizabeth J.W. Spenccer

“We would insulate the floors. We did spray foam insulation on the walls and ceiling as well as replaced the windows, but a fair amount of cold still comes through the floor. We would also install a propane heater. Before you convert a bus be sure you are aware of the problems of carrying insurance. We were shocked that we could only get liability insurance to cover our converted bus. I have done extensive research and talked with a lot of other skoolie owners who have had the same problem. It is my only complaint with skoolies.”

Vicaribus website
Heather, Nick & Miles

“We wouldn’t put in a shower. It was a lot of time, hassle and money and we never ever use it. We’re either trying to save water or somewhere that has showers that you can stand up in.”

skoolie travel

Your Turn!

  • Would you consider living in a converted school bus?
  • What are your biggest concerns with school bus conversion?

How Much Does A Tiny House Cost: From Someone Who’s Done It

How Much Does A Tiny House Cost: From Someone Who's Done It

how much does a tiny house cost

If you were like me when I first started I have one big question: how much does a tiny house cost to build?  Now that I’ve actually built my own tiny house and come out the other side, I wanted to do the full tiny house cost breakdown for others that want to live in a tiny house on wheels.

How Much Does A Tiny House Cost?

the average price of tiny house

The average tiny house costs between $10,000 and $30,000 to build yourself, double those numbers if you hire a builder to build it for you.  But that is only part of the picture and depending on options, the price can vary a lot.  Many people are hoping to build their tiny house at a certain price point because of budget constraints or other factor, so the real question becomes, what’s the difference between a $10,000 tiny house and a $50,000 tiny house?

Tiny House Cost Breakdown

tiny house cost breakdown

What’s great about tiny houses is they’re really an approachable size, so it’s pretty easy to think through a cost breakdown for each part of a tiny house.

  • Trailer: $3,500 to $5,500
  • Windows: $500-$$6,000
  • Metal roofing: $500 to $2,000
  • Insulation: $500 to $3000
  • Siding: $1,000 to $2,500
  • Lumber: $1,000 to $5,000
  • Interior finishes: $500-$4,000
  • Electrical: $750 to $3,000
  • Shower: $400 to $1,000
  • 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

Tiny House Building Materials List:

tiny house materials list

When it comes to getting a true sense of a tiny house cost, you need to understand the different materials that go into your tiny house.  When I first started my build, I had never done anything like it before, but what I realized is if I break down the house into different parts, I could make it even more manageable, that’s how we’ll figure out costs.

The big thing to know is most of your budget will be dedicated to your trailer, doors/windows, roof, and mechanical.  These are things that I wouldn’t skimp on at all, I’d buy the best I could afford.  This will account for 80% of your costs.  For an example my trailer cost me $3,600, my doors and windows were $6,000, roof was $2,600, and HVAC was $1,800.


tiny house trailer

The trailer for your tiny house is one of those places you don’t want to skip and you don’t want to mess around.  I’ve see it now a hundred time, someone trying to save money by getting a used trailer.  Unless you are already handy with metal working and have some experience, you won’t save any money going the used route because fixes, repairs, reinforcements, a new paint job and new tires and wheels will leave you broke.

I have personally watch over 100 people try it and fail to save a dime.  What’s worse, they worry about their trailer not being good enough, which is a nightmare when you home is relying on it.

The next thing I see is people overspending for “tiny house trailers” that are purpose built.  The differences are minor and all you’re really paying for their markup.  None of the tiny house trailer sellers actually make them, so go to the source: Big Tex Trailers, Kaufman Trailers, etc.

Estimated Costs:  20 foot trailer: $2,800, 24 foot trailer: $3,000, 30 foot trailer $4,500

Windows For A Tiny House

tiny house windows

I spent a lot on my windows because they were all custom, but if you buy standard window sides and don’t mind white vinyl windows you can save a ton.  My windows cost me around $6,500 for double pane, argon filled, low-e glass that was tempered glass.  You definitely want tempered glass that are high quality and good efficiency.

Windows are one of those things that it can be tempting to try to save money on by going low quality, but you’ll pay for it in your electric bill month after month for the rest of your life.

Estimated Costs: $120 per window for stock sizes, $250 per window for custom options

Doors For A Tiny House

tiny house doors

I wanted to try my hand at building my own door and this was one thing that I struggled with immensely.  Even with the help of my Grandfather who is quite a skilled woodworker, we had a tough time building the door.  If I had to do it all over again I’d go with a metal or composite door bought from a manufacturer.

The problem you face with doors is they have to be exceedingly accurate and that is compounded by how wood moves, warps, and twists.  We employed a lot of techniques to stabilized the wood within the door, but in the end my door is still far from perfect.  Do yourself a favor, have a door manufacturer build your door for you.

Estimated Costs: $500 for self built door, $800 for basic manufactured door $1,500 good to high-end manufactured door

Roofing Options For A THOW

tiny house roofing options

The roof is a critical part of a tiny house, it keeps your investment safe from water.  It’s not something to do casually, you need to really nail it or it can spell disaster for you.  For a tiny house on wheels that you might want to move, metal roofing is the only practical option.  I opted for standing seam metal, which is amazing, but a ribbed metal or corrugated metal roof can work too.

The tricky parts of doing a metal roof is in bending all the custom bits to fit your edges, valleys, drip edges, and skylights.  That last one, skylights, are notorious for leaks on any roof, so make sure you follow the manufacture directions, most of them sell kits that cost an arm and a leg, but I’d just bite the bullet on that, it’s that important.

If you’re thinking of asphalt shingles, don’t bother.  They are too heavy and they get torn off while driving down the road.

Estimated Costs: $1,000 for ribbed metal, $2,000 for standing seam

Insulating Your Tiny House

tiny house insulation

Much like windows, insulation is one of those things that you spend a little more and you save each month for years.  The return on your investment is huge, so don’t skimp here.

In the early days I’d suggest a few options like standard fiberglass bats, foam board, and even sheep’s wool.  Now that I’ve been working with tiny houses for over a decade, I see how those options have their failings.  I now unilaterally recommend closed cell spray foam.

The benefits of spray foam are many, but ability to seal your thermal envelope, it’s water resistance, and its ability to prevent condensation issues are leaps ahead of any other option.  Not only that, but it has the highest R value per inch out of any other practical option.

So this is an easy one, go with closed cell spray foam.  If you have a contractor that recommends open cell, send them packing.

Estimated Costs: $3 per square foot for 3 inches thick (R 21)

Lumber To Build Your House

tiny house lumber

This can have a wide range of prices depending on what finish quality you go after, but for your standard framing pieces it’s all about the same.  There are two real buckets of lumber that you’ll need: framing and finish.

Framing for a tiny house will be very affordable, a few hundred dollar, up to about $1000 for the whole house depending on it’s size and any specialized beams like Glue-Lams.  There isn’t much price difference here, with the exception of treated vs untreated lumber.

Finish woods are where you can spend some real money, from a few hundred to a few thousand.  At it’s simplest you could build out your interior cabinets and built ins with MDF which runs about $35 a sheet.  My preference is Birch Ply which runs about $50 a sheet because I can stain it or paint it, it’s a much nicer project.  The only non sheet good products you’ll use is timber beams for your accents and loft framing.  For that I spent about $80 per beam and had 5 of them.

Estimated Cost: $500-$4,000

Flooring Options For Your Tiny House

tiny house flooring

Flooring is one area that you can look for savings on. You can find reclaimed flooring, you can buy short lots of flooring, and you can even go with a cheap option now and upgrade later.  I’ve even seen people do a finished floor with plywood.

So when it comes to flooring you can really run the gamut depending on the price you want to spend.  For me I went with a solid hardwood maple floor that was about $4 a square foot.

Estimated Cost: $0.50-$8 per square foot

Electrical/Plumbing In A Tiny House

tiny house electric and plumbing

Wiring and plumbing your tiny house can be done pretty affordably if you want to do it yourself, if you need to hire a trades person, then it’s going to cost you.  it’s important to note that by law in many places you need a permit and the work needs to be done by a licensed electrician or plumber.

In my area an electrician costs between $75 and $150 an hour, plumbers are about the same.  For me, what I did was have the electrician do the main breaker panel connection and setup, then I did the rest of the work.  For the plumber, I had everything done and just had him come in and do all my crimps for me and check over my work.

The thing with electrical and plumbing most of the money and the variability in the price is in the labor, the parts are what they are, you’re not going to be able to shop for better prices because they are such a commoditization type of goods.  The copper, brass, etc that makes up the raw materials are what they are.  Figure about $300-$500 in electrical stuff and $300-$500 in plumbing items.  This doesn’t include finished stuff like faucet, shower, etc, just the actual connections.

Estimated Cost: $750-$3,000


tiny house fixtures

I’m lumping in things like your lights, bathtubs, shower stalls, sinks, mounted fans, etc.  You can do this very cheaply outside of the shower, I’ve found that you can only get so low with a simple 32″x32″ shower stall for around $400.  You could technically do it cheaper, but I’ve found they often fail and lead to massive water damage.

Sinks can cost $50 or cost $500, my sink cost me about $225 for a nice stainless steel under mounted sink.  My light fixtures were pretty cheap, a bunch of $10 puck lights and a $80 ceiling fan.

Estimated Cost: $1,000-$5,000

Fasteners And Adhesives

tiny house fasteners and adhesives

This is one category that people always forget to budget for and it’s something you can’t reuse or find second hand.  You need quality fasteners and glues that are new because you need to know exactly what you’re getting for safety sake.  Code also has very specific rules around this.

For me I spend around $1500 for all my nails, screws, metal strapping, glues, and various metal ties.

Estimated Cost: $1,500


Tiny House Costs: Build Vs. Buying From A Builder

Here’s the truth, if you want someone to build you a tiny house, it’s going to cost you big time.  Tiny houses came into being because you could save yourself so much money because of two things:  They’re smaller in sized and you could build it yourself.  There is no way around it, having a tiny house builder build you a tiny house will cost more money.

The rule of thumb I tell people is take the cost of the materials and then double it.  About 50%-60% of the cost of a home (tiny or traditional) is in the labor.  So a tiny house that costs $10,000 in materials, will cost about $20,000-$25,000 from a builder.  A tiny house that is $30k in materials, will cost around $60,000-$75,000 for a builder to build it for you.  If you use a builder, make sure to get a contract!

This leads me to the big take away, tiny houses only really make sense if you can build it yourself and the really good news is that I believe literally anyone can build their own tiny house, even if you’ve never build something before.  It’s totally doable and if you want to live in a tiny house, you shouldn’t pay a builder in my opinion, you should build it yourself.

You’ll save a ton of money, learn valuable skills and you know your house will be built right because you did it, not some builder who’s trying to turn out a house each month to earn a profit.

The good news is anyone, yes even you, can build a tiny house.  If you’ve never used a tool in your life, never built anything, if you aren’t that strong or don’t know how… You can build a tiny house.  I put all the info together for you in my book:  How To Build A Tiny House.

Tiny Houses Cost Money, But It’s Worth It

are tiny houses worth the effort

When I made the leap to living in a tiny house I was concerned due to how much it was costing me.  But I knew if I could live in my tiny house for 2 years, it would be the same amount as me having paid rent in an apartment in my city.  Now looking back, it’s been over 5 years of living in my tiny house full time and I couldn’t be happier.  With more money in the bank than ever while working less hours, it’s a winning combination.

Since going tiny, I’ve left my corporate job for a better self employment path, I work way less hours, make more money and spend more time with friends, family and traveling.  It’s an amazing lifestyle and it all starts by taking charge of your life and going tiny.

Your Turn!

  • What costs are you considering when it comes to your tiny house?
  • What budget are you working with for a tiny house?

Tiny House Plans For Families

Tiny House Plans For Families


As more and more people join the tiny house movement, a lot of folks with families are looking to make the leap. But of course, fitting more people in a small space presents a big dilemma. Tiny home floor plans don’t always accommodate multiple people.

I get the question a lot: “How do I make a tiny house work with a family?” People want to know how they can enjoy the family life and still live comfortably in the small space of a tiny home. Plus, there are additional considerations that come along with children—toys, learning space, storage. Yes, kids are small, but they also come with a lot of “stuff.” It seems tough to live in a tiny home as a family.

Well, never fear! There are plenty of families who embrace tiny house living successfully. It’s all about having the right tiny home floor plans and doing some careful preparation before you move. Here’s what you need to know as you explore tiny house plans for families.

What to Consider Before You Start Designing Tiny Home Floor Plans

what to consider when choosing a tiny house floor plan for your family

Of course, moving into a tiny house requires planning. There’s the general planning—how to go solar powered, dealing with water and septic, and of course, finding land for your tiny home. The planning needs of living the tiny life are especially relevant if you’re moving with kids and multiple people. Before you begin designing tiny house floor plans and looking for land, there are some considerations to explore.

If you’re looking to move into a tiny home with your family but aren’t sure how to handle the logistics of tiny house living with kids, you have options you can explore. There are many ways to make small space living work with a family, here are a few methods consider:

  1. Rent or buy a small house with enough minimum room for the family to live comfortably. As you’re looking for space, aim to keep the per person square footage reasonable (and cost-effective).
  2. Build a slightly bigger tiny house; maybe expanding to 10-feet-wide and up to 40-feet-long. Remember, most tiny houses are well under 400 feet BUT, there’s no rule that says you MUST fall under that 400 foot house guideline. If you’re wondering how to live in a small home with a family, you may simply need a slightly bigger (but still small) space.
  3. Start with a single tiny house when your kids are small, then add on or move to a bigger house later as your kids get older and need more room. Babies need less space than older kids, and it could be a great time for your family to explore tiny home living with a starter house.
  4. Consider building multiple tiny houses: adults’ and kids’ houses, sleeping houses, or living and kitchen houses. You aren’t limited to only one structure. Create multiple tiny homes on the same plot of land or add another structure to accommodate the needs of your family.

The point here isn’t to get tied up in what a tiny house is supposed to be, but what works for you and your family. People email me all the time wondering what is considered a tiny home, or worried they must live in a traditional tiny house that’s around 150 square feet. Nope!

The “best” tiny house floor plans for families look different for each situation. Each tiny house family is unique, so if you’re considering moving into a tiny home, forget the square footage rule unless it’s right for your situation. Tiny houses have thrived because they are flexible housing solutions, not a rigid definition. There are no strict rules saying your tiny house floor plans must follow a certain square footage. Create your own guidelines for a tiny home that works for your lifestyle.

Considerations To Choose Your Tiny Home Floor Plan
Tiny house floorplan considerations

Whether you choose to go with a pre-designed floor plan for your tiny home or you customize tiny house floor plans for a family, it’s important to consider all your needs. When it comes to designing tiny house floor plans for families, there are unique factors to think about when planning the layout.

The first step is to create a list of needs. What does your family need to function? To put another way, what does a house need to provide you with to live your life? What needs does your tiny house floor plan cover? Could you combine ideas using several tiny house plans for families?

I like to think of this room by room as I look over tiny house floor plans. When I’ve helped people decide on their tiny house needs, I’ll go around the person’s current space and look at what function and activity takes place in each area.

tiny house for a family of 4For example, when you assess the kitchen, you may want to consider: pantry storage (10 ft3), food prepping area (a sink, 6 ft² counter top, a trash can, a cutting board), dish storage, dish washing area (4 ft² for a dish drying rack, a place to hang towel, soap and sink storage). You see the idea here. Remember to consider: storage, number of rooms, and the needs of each occupant (including the small ones).

The goal is to operationalize every action in the tiny house, making sure to only write down the core functions, true needs, and the minimum space needed to achieve them. This is challenging, but it will give you a clear picture of exactly how much space you and your family will need to plan for in your tiny house.

Needs to consider as you look at tiny house plans for families:

  1. Play and sleep spaces for kids.
  2. Storage for toys.
  3. Food storage.
  4. Large enough prep and cooking space for bigger meals.
  5. Area for learning, quiet study, or homeschool space.
  6. Winter clothing storage for kids.
  7. Extra bedding and blanket storage.
  8. Storage for outdoor toys, sports equipment and bikes.
  9. Bathroom needs (washing out dirty diapers, for example).
  10. Laundry and sanitation needs.

For a full picture and examples of how to make tiny house living with a family work, check out this video. These two parents used smart strategies for designing tiny house plans for their family. They designed the tiny house they’ve lived in for the past few years along with their two young children. They’ve come up with many creative ways to make the tiny house lifestyle work with kids:

It’s certainly possible for a tiny home to accommodate all the needs of a family, but it will require additional planning and consideration (and probably some creativity). For example, if you live in an area with warm weather for most of the year, you may be able to have your homeschool lessons outdoors in nature’s classroom. If you need to store extra outdoor equipment or winter items, you could consider renting a storage space, or using a trailer to store extra items when they aren’t in use. Tiny house living means thinking outside the box.

Sample Tiny House Floor Plans for Familiessample family tiny house floor plans

Here are samples of small house designs with multiple bedrooms that might work for you and your family. These tiny house plans for families will help you get started with the brainstorming process and give you an idea of the layouts that are possible to accommodate multiple people.

Please note, these are just floor plans, not step by step instruction guides or building plans, but they should help give you an idea of the available tiny house plans for families.

8x24 tiny house floor plan for a family

This 3 bedroom tiny house floor plan includes an upper and lower level. It’s suitable to accommodate two twin beds AND a queen-sized bed. It would be a great tiny house floor plan for a family of four, with a dining/workspace that could be converted for play or study as well. The kitchen and bathroom are small but cover all the basic needs of a family. There is also some storage space and options to add storage under and above the beds, in the kitchen, and throughout the home.


This 2 bedroom tiny house layout is one of my favorite tiny house floor plans for families. With bedrooms and a nice-sized great room, this space offers all that you would need for a small family. Best of all, there’s a covered porch, which is great for a little privacy to use as a learning spot (it could be a great option for homeschool). There’s a dining area and kitchen with prep space as well. This tiny house floor plan packs a lot of functionality into a small area.


These tiny house plans for families offer a one or two-bedroom layout. The one bedroom would be perfect for a couple or a family with an infant. The two-bedroom layout gives space for families of three or four. This floor plan features a shared dining/living space that’s roomy and offers extra spots for storage of items like blankets, books, clothes and toys.

Two Bedroom Tiny House Plans for a family

This 2 bedroom tiny house floor plan is another option with a longer, narrow layout. The covered porch is roomy enough for reading, study, or play. There’s two nice-sized bedrooms, and with some creative bedding options (bunkbeds, or even a Murphy bed) there could be enough room for several kids in addition to two adults.

simple small house for a family to live in a tiny house

The footprint of this tiny house floor plan is squarer, but similar to the option above, with a nice-sized covered porch. The living room is roomy and the bathroom (with a bathtub) is right off the two bedrooms. The kitchen opens into the living room, which is nice for a busy family—one space for all your needs.

The Challenges of Designing a Tiny House for a Family

challenges designing for a family in a tiny house

If you choose to design your own tiny house floor plan (or work off a plan that you adjust for your family), the possibilities are endless. Decide on a layout that will accommodate your family’s needs and preferences.

I think the two biggest challenges when it comes to designing a tiny house for a family are: eating and sleeping. In the kitchen, you’ll need more storage and a larger food preparation and eating area. For sleeping, each kid will need their own bed and possibly even their own bedroom. There’s also clothing storage, toys, and other needs to consider.

When it comes to family-sized storage, realize not all your possessions need to get crammed into your tiny house. As I mentioned before, you can use a trailer or off-site storage if you need more space in your tiny house. You can read about my extra storage space, which is a cargo trailer, here. Families could easily do something similar with storage: maybe even sub-divide the trailer into compartments for each person.

wardrobe in a tiny houseAlso think about rotating wardrobes if you need more living space for your family in your tiny home. Many people keep a winter set of clothes and a summer set of clothes, which works well for families with kids. You can store bulky winter clothes like coats, boots, gloves, and snow pants out of your home to create more room. Store out-of-season clothing in another spot too, like a trailer or storage unit if possible.

Families have more mouths to feed, of course. Bigger meals mean you’ll need to consider extra cooking space for your family in your tiny house. Each family has different cooking habits and preferences, so design your tiny house kitchen around your needs. If your family enjoys freezer meals or you use frozen food storage, you’ll need to include space for a freezer. If you prefer canned vegetables, include a can rack and storage space. Design a space to accommodate your preferences.

The extra bedding spaces is a major challenge for families in a tiny house. When you design or decide on your tiny home floor plans, I think there are two approaches to sleep space: 1) Plan for bedrooms for every person (or a parents’ room, boys’ bedroom, girls’ bedroom). Or 2) plan spaces that are multi-functional and convert into a bedroom or sleeping space (see ideas for convertible spaces below).

Tiny House Plans: Convertible Spaces


Making a tiny house work for families means creating multi-function areas that can be used in many different ways. Beds take up one of the largest footprints in your home, so naturally, finding a way to make bedrooms convertible is a big space-saver.

When it comes to bedding and sleeping spaces for kids, look for furniture and designs with multiple functionality. Many of these furniture design ideas are commonly used in apartments and other small-space dwellings and they work great when adapted for tiny homes. You can often find convertible furniture at stores like IKEA, with multi-use pieces.

Think outside the bedroom too. Use convertible furniture in the living room or in an office workspace during the day. At night, using multipurpose pieces, the room can become a kids’ bedroom or sleep space. Homeschool parents can use a dining table as a workspace, or a porch as a classroom.

Here are some great multi-function convertible furniture pieces to consider:

Day bed for kids beds in a tiny house on wheels

A futon that lays flat to become a bed, then a trundle comes out for another bed.


A trundle bed (I like the tent which is fun for kids, but also allows them to close the flap for privacy or alone time).

Here is a elevated trundle that has two beds and storage for kids in a tiny house

An elevated trundle that has two beds and storage.

A standard trundle bed for childrens bedroom

A standard trundle bed

A double bed, bunk bed Murphy style for kids in a tiny house

A double bed, bunk bed Murphy style


Two bedrooms in a small space.

samll space pantry in a small house

Space-saving pantry and kitchen storage that folds away.

kitchen storage in a tiny house

Stairs that convert into extra kitchen storage.

classroom storage for homeschooling kids in a tiny house

Classroom storage for homeschool.

Is a tiny home possible for a family? You bet! It simply means thinking of new ways to use and maximize small spaces. While it requires storage strategies and creativity, much of tiny living success starts with your tiny house floor plan. Review the tiny house floor plans for families and consider what your family will need for their space. With planning and research, a tiny home can work for everyone!

Resources for Families Considering the Tiny Life

My most popular posts of families who live in small spaces are:

I’ve also posted ideas for small houses that could lend themselves to being used for a family or adapted:

Tiny House Builders – The Complete Tiny House Builder Directory

Tiny House Builders - The Complete Tiny House Builder Directory


Looking for quality tiny house builders is an important step if you want someone to build you a tiny house on wheels.  In this tiny house builders directory, I’ve tried to share the best of what’s out there.

While I’ve listed this tiny house directory by state, don’t forget that since tiny houses are mobile, you can have your home built almost anywhere and then driven to its final home.  Builders typically charge between $1-$2 per mile to deliver, so the cost can add up, but if you have your own tow vehicle, you can pick it up yourself and save.

This also means you can shop for the best builder, getting quotes for prices, learning from previous customers and meeting the builder face to face.

What To Look For From Tiny House Manufacturers


Choosing a builder or manufacturer for your tiny house is a big decision and not something you should take lightly.  In my time working in the tiny house world I’ve continually heard horror story after horror story of how things have gone wrong.  Don’t let your dream home turn into a nightmare.

If you want to buy a tiny house, you must do your homework and be skeptical at every turn, because I’ve seen my fair share of tiny house builders come and go.  In fact I’d say it’s the norm, not the exception.  Many people are wanting to cash in on the trend and not all are honest about it.  So here are a few steps to make your tiny house buying experience safer.

Ask For References

It’s really incredible how many people don’t do this, it’s one of the best ways to safeguard yourself from a bad builder.  A good custom tiny house builder is proud of their work and encourages you talk with their past customers.  I once had a builder who wanted to come to the Tiny House Conference and I notified he had some bad builds, so I asked him “can you send me some references?”

He hemmed and hawed, gave excuse after excuse.  Red flag!  Its an easy thing to do, call several of the past customers.  Ask how their house is today, how was it like working with the builder, where they communicative, how did they deal with problems that arrived, etc.  Don’t just make one phone call, make several.  Tiny Houses are expensive and you should leave this up to chance the best you can.

Get A Contract From Your Tiny House Builder

Time and time again I’ve seen this, people don’t get things in writing.  They jump right to the build and they don’t spend time getting everything down on paper.  This is the best time to find out where you and the builder are thinking differently.  You want to make sure you have a solid plan laid out and agree on how you’re going to resolve disagreements.  Read my post here about Making sure you always have a contract

Have A Payment Schedule Tied To Progress

When it comes to building a tiny house, you want to make sure you just don’t write a blank check.  Make sure you spread out the payments over time and then tie those payments to milestones.  If you have 4 payments along the way, you can check in on it and then they’re incentivized to keep moving on the project.  Being very clear on when they get paid and what they have to do in order for you to pay them will let you safeguard them running off from all your money.

Spend The Time & Money To Draw Tiny House Plans

The first step in every build should be the design stage.  You need to be very clear on what you want and get that on paper.  Having real plans drawn up by an architect is critical as it is an addendum to your contract which allows you to better specifically call out each detail of your house.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people not do this and get a house very different than they were expecting.  All because they didn’t work it out on paper.

Include A Detailed Material List

Here is one area that scammy builders get away with things.  Let’s say you want a window in a certain place, you want flooring of a certain color, or a light in the loft.  What are the details of those things?  I can buy a cheap window that looks awful for $60 or I can buy a fully custom window that costs $1,000; how have you documented which it should be?  You need a full material schedule for everything.

If you don’t take the time to do this a builder can charge you a high price for something saying it will be “high quality”, but then choose a budget option to meet the requirement.  What does high quality mean, what were you expecting?  Define each material and quantify the quality as best as you can.

Learn How To Build A Tiny House

You need to actually know how to build a tiny house, even if you aren’t going to build it yourself.  Why?  Because I’ve seen a lot of “professional builders” building houses incorrectly.  In some cases I’ve seen “tiny house builders” build them unsafely!

You need to know and you need to check their work at every step.  Take photos of the process and make sure to get the details.  Develop a paper trail for your own records and to have a way to make sure the work is being done properly.

If you don’t live in the same location as your builder, require them to Skype or Face Time you with video each week of the process.  Then make the trip, no matter how far, to go see it in person after the framing has been done.  Ask for this up front.

Hire A Building Inspector

Yup, that’s right.  Hire someone to come in and assess the tiny house.  Do this at the end of framing and then right before delivery.  This lets you have a third party evaluation, plus it let’s the builder know that there is a certain quality expectation.

You want to know how to make a bad builder turn tail and run?  Tell him you’ll have a building inspector checking their work along the way.  A good builder will welcome the review, a bad one will make excuses or disappear.

Should I Get A RVIA Certified Tiny House


The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) is a association of builders that make RV and those with the certification means they meet certain standards.  Many people ask about this because they think it’s required, but it actually isn’t.  Builders like it because it sounds impressive and they can charge a higher fee, it allows some to get financing and in some cases it let’s you find a parking spot more easily.

There is a catch.  If you get an RVIA certified tiny house you are then officially a RV, sounds good right?  Maybe not.  In my city it is illegal to even park an RV in any residential area and you’re not even allowed to “camp” or live in it, even for 24 hours.  People who try to live in a RV in my city will get a fine and this is a very common thing across all of the US.

So being defined as an RV actually hurts you in many places.  It often means that you have to be in a campground, which many places limit your maximum stay.  Once you’re designated an RV, it cannot be undone or changed.  In my opinion it limits you to much and for most people in the USA, its actually a deal breaker because your city won’t allow it under any circumstance.

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