Tiny Houses: Advantages and Disadvantages

a Tiny houses can be defined as a home that is between 100 and 500 square feet in size. They are at the center of a fascinating social and architectural movement that has gained a lot of visibility lately.

People who live in these tiny houses (the size of an average American home is currently 2600 square feet), speak of a simpler, better way to live. If you aren’t claustrophobic and are able to adapt to prolonged living in very small quarters, then the reasons given for their choice of dwelling can be pretty compelling.

Tiny house advantages

The cost of a tiny house can be a mere fraction of that of an average American home. If you are able to build one yourself, your investment can be as little as $11,000. If you are having it built for you, it can range anywhere between $20,000 to $50,000 dollars. This means you can quickly become mortgage free. When you consider that the average American spends between 1/3 and ½ of their salary on paying rent or a mortgage, the money saved can be significant indeed.

Here is an interesting infographic with additional numbers on the tiny house movement

Along with financial freedom, you can experience the freedom of having fewer possessions. You’ll also experience a significant reduction or elimination of many of the chores associated with owning a regular home, which in turn, frees up more of your time.

Tiny house owners also speak of their contribution to sustainability thanks to a reduced use of materials and energy. They also speak of a stronger connection with their community. Living in such a reduced amount of space forces one to have a more active lifestyle outside the house.

A challenge to zoning and construction codes

Because they are so small, these houses face zoning issues (They are often below municipal square footage minimums) and non-compliance to construction codes. This is why many are built on trailer platforms. Moving is a way to try get around the rules. Most municipalities have nothing precise pertaining to tiny houses, however, given the growing popularity of the movement; many municipalities are now considering the issues that they raise. For example, there has been recent mention of tiny houses in a bulletin from the state of California.

Tiny house disadvantages

Not being to code can be stressful to tiny house owners. If denounced by neighbors, would they be forced to relocate? Also, although the house is to spec with building codes, it is still much more vulnerable to storms and bad weather than a regular house. Tiny homeowners can also feel a sense of real vulnerability when in close proximity to nature’s more violent side.

You must carefully consider living in such close quarters with pets or loved ones. Studies show that the more crowded the living area, the more those in it are subject to sickness. With a family and pets, hygiene in such a confined space can become a real problem. The question of whether it would even possible to raise a family in a tiny house also arises. Some seem to be succeeding, though.

Building tiny houses

If you work in or are familiar with construction, you’ll quickly realize that the Building is basic in all its systems and an interesting combination of new and old.

  • On-grid or off-grid, and can combine the use of solar energy, electricity or gas. It can even be passive (zero energy consuming).
  • Wood framing or steel frame construction. A Steel frame can make the house mobile (added to a trailer).
  • Insulation is usually provided by Structural Insulated Panels, which are a high-performance system for light construction.
  • Sheathing is usually a combination of OSB, Plywood and house wrap, such as zip panels.
  • Self-contained water, sewer and electricity. Toilets can be flush type, composting or even incinerating. Black water (toilet) and grey water (Shower, sink, washing machines) can be separate systems.
  • Radiant floors or a Jacuzzi add-on.
  • Moisture control is key. The area is small and will fill with moisture quickly. Cooking or showering need adequate ventilation.
  • It certainly requires creativity to incorporate the proper amount of storage space into the design.

Tiny houses require a significant change in lifestyle if you want to live in them full time. Therefore, they are not for everyone. On the other hand, there is nothing stopping you from building one for the purposes of a vacation retreat, or for your elders to be closer to you without loosing their independence. Whatever their use, they are definitely an exciting construction project.

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