How Tiny Houses Work

Characteristics of Tiny Houses

Starting with square footage, most tiny houses can range anywhere from under 100 square feet (9.29 square meters) to around 1,500 square feet (139.35 square meters). As square footage increases, the home layouts usually include more amenities.

A common layout for a small house incorporates an open living space on the first floor, including a kitchen and bath, along with an upstairs sleeping area. Some small houses have multiple bedrooms and bathrooms, and some offer only a sleeping loft and a toilet/shower closet. Still others don't even come with bath and kitchen facilities as a standard component of the plan; they're offered only as upgrades.

These purposeful design layouts are paired with space-saving interior features. Many plans incorporate built-in cabinetry and shelving for more storage space. Appliances tend to resemble those in an RV in smaller homes, while larger homes can have full-size appliances. Many of the homes' manufacturers have even teamed with specific retailers to offer packages thoughtfully chosen for small house environments.

Another feature offered with some of the small units is a set of wheels. Rolling or portable tiny homes tend to fall on the smaller side of the square-footage range along with offering a few less amenities than the permanent versions. Much like a snail taking its home wherever it goes, a homeowner of a portable tiny home has the freedom to hitch his or her house to the back of the car and drive away.

Before a small house can be enjoyed, on or off the road, it must be built. The options for construction extend from prefabrication to build-your-own models. Many tiny houses are available as modular units that are made in sections at a factory and assembled at the home site. While putting together the home on-site can take only days, it's important to note that these options can come with installation and delivery fees.

For the build-your-own option, plans can range from $350 to more than $995 depending on the manufacturer and the unit [sources: Cabin Fever and Tumbleweed Tiny House Company]. Going with the build-your-own option allows the homeowner greater freedom in the choice of materials and can also bring an economic savings. For example, the XS-House model by Tumbleweed is estimated to cost about $16,000 as a build-it-yourself unit, while ready made units run about $36,997 [source: Tumbleweed Tiny House Company].