Tiny House Living Series: Q and A



This series discusses the “What”, the “How” and “Why” of Tiny House Living

The tiny house living concept raises a lot of questions for tiny house visionaries on their quest for freedom, simplicity, and personal fulfillment. In this series we answer some of their queries and explore the lifestyle a little more deeply.

We hope you find this series enjoyable, thoughtful and thought-provoking!

Tiny House Living: Cost Versus Lifestyle Value

At some point, people new to the tiny house living always ask the same question: “Is it cheap to build a tiny house because it’s so small?”

In a word, no. It’s true that it’s much more affordable to own and maintain a tiny house once it’s built rather than a conventional house, but the most expensive parts of a habitable dwelling are the core systems; climate control, plumbing, electrical, and appliances. All those systems provide a quality shelter. In a tiny house those systems are used and viewed at close quarters and often need to be specialized. For example, Tumbleweed’s plans call for the smallest, safest propane fireplace designed for use on boats, so there’s very little danger of fire. It’s a beautiful little piece of clean modern design, and it also happens to be quite expensive!

Other appliances offer similar challenges. I buy bathroom ceiling fans for my tiny houses because I value the active ventilation they provide. But I spend a good bit of money on them because I prefer extremely quiet fans. In a big house you can flip the fan on and walk away. However, in a tiny house, if the fan has a high decibel rating it will be roaring away in close proximity.

Further, many tiny houses are beautiful gems of custom construction. Created with an exceptional level of quality throughout the build. Cedar plank siding, stainless steel siding nails, all plywood sheathing, rigid foam insulation, solid wood floor and wall coverings, premium low VOC finishes and more.

There are some moments when it feels like it’s cheap to build a tiny house. When buying flooring, for example, it hurts a lot less to multiply your cost per square foot by 120 than by 2000. This is delightful when you price materials and do the math, but it can get you in trouble. If you’re like me, you might have a tendency to shop higher end because of the smaller figures involved. I have to watch myself and make sure I’m selecting upgrades that are more than simply cosmetic. I stick to options that provide superior performance or meet my personal environmental impact criteria.

In the end, you might be startled to find out that the tiny house is amazingly economical, until you calculate the cost per square foot.

In our next segment we’ll go into more detail on all the upsides to the tiny house lifestyle; quality, control, financial freedom, environmental benefits, and the profound relief of simplifying our lives.

Pepper Clark
-Workshop Presenter & Designer

  • kaashaashxáaw

    I like the concept of paying upfront for the total cost of the home then paying only utilities and property taxes once it’s built.

    • Won Word

      And if you go solar, you can reduce your monthly expenses even more!

      In my apartment, I’ve reduced down to 300kWh per month; this would be much lower if the place was properly insulated so I wouldn’t have to run the A/C as often. With a smaller refrigerator and gas range, my usage would go even lower.

      Swapping out my lights with LEDs lowered my usage the most.

  • susan whitehurst

    Hi, I want to build a tiny home in Mexico. Anybody got any hints, suggestions, avoid-these, anything. Where to start? Shall I build it here and trailer it down?

    • Paprika Clark

      I talked to a woman who built her own adobe house on the ground in Mexico and she told me they didn’t require building codes or permits at all, and she just did whatever she wanted. I don’t know if that varies by location. I also don’t know how getting supplies varies in Mexico. Since you’re building on a trailer, you could try to figure out what appliances and fixtures may be harder to find in the style you want in Mexico and haul them down there on your trailer.

  • Teri Foster

    Hi Pepper!
    Can you share the brands/styles of quiet ceiling fans you use in your bathrooms?
    Thank you!

    • Paprika Clark

      Hi Teri,

      I’ve used NuTone and they work well, and I’ve also heard good things about Broan.

  • Kels

    Hey Tumbleweed! We are huge fans! What a great post about the economics of building these tiny houses.
    My family and I wish we could attend a workshop, but we have religious engagements on Sunday. I hope that someday you might be able to hold an all day workshop on Saturday or a Friday/Saturday gig.
    Also, I’m very interested in the idea of designing my own aspects of a tumbleweed and I’d love to have more information/advice on what kind of knowlege/advice you guys might have in that area.
    Thanks so much!
    (I’m also loving these people’s posts about rooftop gardens and water collection! You guys should look into expanding the sustainability of your houses!)

  • Kathryn Kroll

    I am in my 10 year planning stage right now, creating floor plans to make it fit ME in my future life. Is there someplace on this site that gives estimated WEIGHT of these units? What would a 24ft unit weigh? part of the plan is figuring out what size truck I will need to buy to haul this around.

    also, can you do a comparison of roof shapes-pointed vs curved/Vardo styles?
    thanks for the dreams!

    • Paprika Clark

      Hi Kathryn,

      I have a much longer answer to this that will be a blog post soon, but the short reply is they average about 400 pounds per linear foot. Best of luck!

  • Greg Erwin

    Could a pop out be added?

  • Susan Haufler

    Live Large, Tow Tiny!

  • curtis k

    Change direction or you may end up where you are going.

    • geoffrey clausen

      And if you don’t know where your going you may end up there !

  • Cindy Price

    Write a bumber sticker: Live Tiny Dream BIG!! Tumbleweed Tiny House Co.

  • Randy Dutchak

    I was curious about storage tanks for liquids. Are any of these designed with water and sewer tanks in mind? I’ve read about how these can be comfortably lived in in winter conditions, however, I can’t find any mention of water and sewer being protected so they can still be used. If someone wanted to live in these where temp’s get below freezing, Not being able to use the amenities for 6+ months of the year would be counter-productive.
    Thoughts, suggestions?

  • Sara Goforth

    How do you anchor the bed so the trailer can be moved?

  • mas

    Has anyone designed a elder/senior friendly version? Wider door, ramp, . . .

    • Faith Olivia Babis

      I was wondering this too. I could walk up stairs, but I have a disability that prevents me from climbing ladders. One of the cottages apparently had stairs at one point, but was replaced with a ladder to provide more room in the great room. I’d prefer to have the stairs and lose the space in the great room. The cottage that is the next size up has stairs, but is larger than I want and more expensive. To have stairs instead of a ladder for this model should have remained an option.


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