How to Build a Tiny Home with (Almost) No Money

How to Build a Tiny Home with (Almost) No Money

All About Tiny Houses is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

build a tiny home with no money

Building a tiny house is often regarded as an affordable alternative to traditional housing. However, have you ever wondered if you can build a tiny home without spending any money?

Constructing a tiny home without any money is not an impossible task. In fact, some of the most ultra-conservative practitioners of the tiny house movement had done it. And based on their experience, anyone can start their tiny home almost for free.

Now you might be wondering how is that even possible? After all, a traditional house is one of the most expensive single purchase of an average person in his lifetime. 

Bringing down the cost of building a tiny house to almost zero, requires a certain degree of resourcefulness and creativity. Often, people build no-cost tiny houses out of necessity and just use whatever materials are available on their surroundings.

And no, we’re not talking about building a makeshift shack, but a functional tiny house that can accommodate you and your family comfortably.  

Things that Could Cut the Cost of Building a Tiny Home

Much like building a traditional home, building a tiny house requires a lot of things. Aside from construction materials, you may also need to find a trusty trailer if you plan to build a tiny home on wheels (THOWS).

Below are some of the things you need to create a traditional home and how you can reduce its cost to virtually zero:
 

1. Tiny House Blueprint

“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail,” or so the saying goes. The first thing you need in any construction project is a house plan or blueprint. It details every aspect of the house such as its layout, the materials used in each section, and all the important dimensions. 

Usually, you need to hire the services of an architect or a civil engineer to draw out a structurally sound house. However, these professionals usually ask thousands of dollars for them to design your home. 

Fortunately, you have the option of not hiring a professional builder to design your tiny house. You can simply go online and type in “free tiny house blueprint” on your favorite search engine and it will yield hundreds of results. 

Below are some of the best websites to get your  free tiny home designs:

When choosing the design of your low-cost tiny home, we suggest that you start with the smaller ones first. Tiny homes that are smaller than 200-square feet require fewer materials and are faster to build even without external help. 

zero cost tiny house

2. Building Materials

Most tiny houses are made mostly of wood for flooring, doors, walls and even fixtures. Meanwhile, its windows can either have glass or metal screens; and sometimes a combination of both. 

As for roofs, the most affordable materials are metal sheets, which are also lightweight. Some tiny home owners also use roof tiles, but they are quite heavy and more expensive. Plastic roof is also an option if you live in the warmer states.   

The question now is where can you get these construction materials cheaply or, if possible, for free. This situation will test your resourcefulness. Here are some of the places you can get them:

  • Junkyards and recycling areas usually have construction materials lying around. Some planks of wood, doors or window frames have minor issues but are still quite usable if you remove or fix the damaged part. You can also go dumpster diving around your area for any usable stuff. 
  • Check out the construction sites in their area for leftover construction materials. If the contractor doesn’t give it for free, perhaps you can negotiate to buy them at a reasonable price. 
  • Go around your area and ask your neighbors if they have building materials that they don’t use anymore. It can be as simple as a piece of wood, cables, metal rods, or anything they are willing to give out. 
  • Flea markets are also a great place to find cheap materials and house fixtures. You can also check out the garage sale near you if they have anything that might be useful to the tiny house you are building– such as power tools
re-purposed materials for affordable tiny home build

Websites Where You Can Get Cheap Materials

In most cases, you won’t get all of the materials you need for your tiny home. For example, cinder blocks are quite hard to find in the places mentioned above. Hence, you need to buy them at your local home depot. 

Smaller items like nails, screws, electrical wires are also hard to source out for free. Consequently, insulation materials like fiberglass are not easy to find and often need to be bought. Fortunately, you buy or get for free most of the materials you weren’t able to scavenge online for a cheap price. 

Below are some sites where you can find inexpensive and free materials for your tiny home:

3. Construction Tools

Aside from building materials, you can’t make a tiny home without a trusty set of construction tools. There is a long list of tools you need for erecting a tiny home such as a saw for cutting wood, hammer for hitting nails and a ladder for reaching elevated places. 

However, not every home or person owns a complete set of these tools. So where do you get these equipment, if not buying them from the nearby home depot? Again, depending on the person’s resourcefulness, you can obtain these tools without spending a dime. 

Here are some clever ways to get your hands on construction tools without having to draw money from your pocket. 

  • Borrowing tools and repair kits from your neighbors is a good way to save money while building your tiny home. Just make sure that you are able to get them back once you’re done with the project. Also, handle every loaned tool with care or you may have to pay for them if they get broken.
  • Check if the local highschool in your area has a woodshop. Some schools may allow you to use these facilities, especially if you explain to them your purpose. Make sure you first get permission from the school administration before using any of their equipment. 
  • Ask a contractor a friend or someone in the construction business if you can lend their tools for a while. If they have a workshop in their garage, you may also ask permission to use that facility. Just be polite when asking for the favor and explain your plan so that they better understand your situation. 
  • Some non-government organizations (NGOs) and private groups who construct homes may also provide you with the construction tools you need. Many of these charitable institutions also provide other forms of support including building materials especially for the homeless.
tiny house build construction tools

4. Labor

Depending on how much time you have your time on your hands, building a tiny home by yourself can take a few months to more than a year. If you need to finish your tiny home much faster you will need additional manpower.

However, getting contractors and carpenters usually require you to pay them for their work. As such, you need to figure out how you can get people to work on the project for free?  Well, this is really more of a question of how many people are there in your inner circle who are willing to help you out.

Not everyone might be willing to help you out because they might be too busy with their schedule. However, people tend to contribute if they know that it will lead to a good cause. Creating a tiny home is in a lot of ways good for the environment because it leaves less carbon footprint. 

Here’s how you can get people to help you build your tiny house:

  • Invite friends or relatives for the tiny house building project. Tell them it is a unique experience in which they can learn a lot about building their own small homes one day. Don’t forget to make them feel comfortable and offer them food for their hard work. 
  • Ask for the help of like-minded people from the tiny house community. You will be surprised how many people would love to reach out a helping hand. After all, one of the tenants of the tiny house movement is to bring back the communal nature of homeowners in their areas. 
  • Reach out to volunteer groups for their assistance. While many of the NGOs are focused on building homes for the homeless, many of their members are willing to do it even for regular people. Explain your situation beforehand and why you badly need their help to finish the project on a much earlier date. 
constructing a tiny home at less than $2000

Websites Where You Can Get Help From Volunteers

Believe it or not, volunteerism is still quite alive in the US. There are numerous groups which are willing to help you with your endeavors without asking for anything in return. However, you must explain properly why you badly needed help or how dire your current situation is. 

  • Habitat for Humanity

This is an awesome group that helps people build their own homes. The nonprofit group has a huge network all over the country. Aside from volunteers, they also provide building materials for the needy and homeless. 

  • Operation Tiny Home

The group has hundreds of volunteers who are willing to dedicate their time to build a small home. Many of their members have years of experience in tiny home making or have built their own tiny houses. Aside from manpower, they can provide you with useful insights into the tiny home lifestyle. 

  • Tiny House Citizens

Volunteers from the Tiny House Citizens have constructed numerous tiny house communities across the country. They provide stable housing for homeless individuals and even community support. 

At the end of the day, if you want to build a tiny home with the least amount of money you need to sacrifice both your time and energy. That being said, asking for people’s help is also a great way to speed things up with the project. However, don’t forget to help them in return if they ever need help from you in the future.   

Constructing Your Own Tiny House

Once you have gathered all four of these important elements- a blueprint, construction materials, tools, and volunteers the next step is the build. If you are building the project by yourself, you need to allot at least 8 hours a week to finish the project in half a year. 

During the first days of the build, you need to ensure that all of the materials are stored in a dry and secure place. It will also be quite helpful if you sorted out the components based on each part of the house. For example, all flooring materials go into one pile, while another may contain those for roofing. 

build a tiny home with no money

Below are some of the general steps in building a tiny house and their time frame:

  1. Setting the foundation (i.e. cinder blocks, concrete, or wood blocks) usually takes about a week
  2. Laying out the floor and main pillars will consume about seven to ten weeks depending on the number of people working on it. 
  3. Installing the roofs will take roughly two to four weeks depending on the type of roof you want. Plastic roofs are much faster to install, while roof tiles take a bit longer.
  4. Putting the doors and windows takes about a week and can be done even by just one person.
  5. Setting up the house water, electrical and sewage system takes roughly eight weeks and may require some professional help.
  6. Finally, creating some of the house wooden fixtures like chairs, tables, and cabinets may take another two weeks. 

If you organized a group of volunteers to help you on the build, it’s important that you assign them on tasks that matches their abilities. Some volunteers may only know how to lift stuff and basic carpentry, so you shouldn’t assign them on the more technical aspects of the build. 

It would also be helpful if you can get their availability for the build, so you can get a timeline when the project will be finished. This will also help you in other matters such as budgeting for the food you will feed your volunteers during a build day. 

Overall, building your tiny house may take half a year or even more. If you worked with volunteers make sure to thank them for their service at the end of every build they and especially when the project is over. Inviting them into your finished tiny home for dinner and a few beers is one way to celebrate the group’s accumulated efforts. 

Cleaning the Trash During Your Tiny House Project 

Aside from building the tiny home, another thing that will probably keep you and your group of volunteers busy is disposing of your trash properly. Building a house usually produces 10-20 percent of the materials used as trash. 

window panes re-purposed materials for tiny home building

So, what do you do with all of those garbage and excess materials? Here are some helpful tips:

  1. If you have repurposed materials left after the build, you can donate them to organizations that give them away. You can also store them temporarily and use them later to build a small structure like an outdoor kitchen or a small shack.
  2. You can recycle any materials such as metal, glass, cardboard, and paper for later use. If you have excess wood boards, you can use them to build your bed, a simple desk, or even your compost toilet.
  3. Donate leftover paints and wood blocks to your local artists who can make those into a work of art. If you know someone who is into upscaling, you can give these excess materials to them.
  4. Wood shavings and small pieces of wood can be used as firewood. But before you burn them, make sure that they are not treated wood which releases harmful chemicals when lit.
  5. If you know someone who is also building their own tiny home, perhaps you can donate these excess materials. Aside from the leftover stuff, perhaps you can also share with them your experience and what you learned about building a tiny home. 

At the end of the build, make sure that you dispose of your trash correctly– especially plastic. After all, it’s one of the ideas that defines tiny house living which is to leave as little footprint a  

Building a Tiny Home for Under $2,000

We scoured the Internet and looked for people who actually found success in constructing a tiny home with almost no money. Two stories caught our attention, because of the low amount they spend to build your dwellings. 

Both stories also have shown ingenious ways of getting the cost down such as using repurposed construction materials. Furthermore, the owners of the two houses were able to finish their projects without using complicated construction tools and equipment. 

how to build a tiny house on wheels with no money

1. Rob Green’s 100-square-feet Tiny House

The first one was Rob Greenfield’s tiny house project that only cost $1,138. His 100-square foot tiny home is made mostly from repurposed materials which he got from build sites and charitable organizations. As for labor, Rob employed the help of some of his friends who were more than eager to help him build his small abode. 

While most of his materials and labor were free, Rob also had to spend on things which he can’t get for free. He bought things like nuts, screws, bolts, glass windows and other house parts which he can’t find in dumpsites and recycling facilities. 

It took Richard and his team of 40 volunteers a total of 225 hours of work to build the tiny house. 

At the end of the project, they were able to build a fully functional home with its own dining table, a comfortable bed, cabinets, and multiple storage spaces. It’s also connected to the power grid and has its own kitchen outside. Rob collects rainwater which he uses as drinkable water once it’s treated by a purifier; as well as for hygiene purposes. 

2. Lamar Alexander’s 400-square-feet Tiny Home

A homesteader from Utah, Lamar was able to build a 400-square foot rustic cabin with a budget of less than $2,000. Lamar is an advocate of financial freedom through tiny homes. He lives mortgage-free and has an off-grid residence in a family-owned land where he lives a simple lifestyle. 

The 14-foot by 14-foot cabin he designed has a wooden floor and a full loft. It’s spacious enough to house a bedroom and even a home office. It also has its own living area, bathroom, and kitchen. According to Lamar, the house can accommodate six people. 

The initial cost, however, does not cover the amount needed for its gas power source, appliances, fixtures,and solar panels. However, considering that the tiny house built on a foundation already has plenty of floor space– a couple of thousand dollars is well worth it. 

Mr. Alexander’s simple abode can be used as a bug-out dwelling or a starter home. You can buy his Ultimate Off Grid Guide ebook for just $7.00. Here, he teaches not only how to build your own tiny home, but also other essential stuff like creating a solar composting toilet. 

How Much is an Average Size Tiny Home Unit?  

If you are curious about how much money you need to buy a tiny house unit vs. building one- we have the answer.  

An average tiny home usually costs between $19,000 and $39,000. There are several factors that decide its final price such as the design of the unit, its floor area, and the materials used.

The most expensive part of a mobile tiny home is definitely the trailer which costs about 20 to 25-percent of the entire structure. Used trailers cost $2,000 to $4,000 depending on its size, condition, and layout. The number of axles and its load rating also affects its price.

tiny house building without spending a dollar

Meanwhile, buying a brand new trailer will set you back around $4,000 to $8,000 dollars. The advantage of buying a new trailer is that you can be assured it doesn’t have any hidden issues or damages. 

Finally, a customized trailer is worth around $8,000 to $10,000; sometimes more. Customized trailers are retrofitted based on the design of the floors of a tiny home. Tiny home builders, like Tumbleweed Houses, can customize a tiny home trailer based on the needs and preferences of their customers. 

In retrospect, building a tiny home out of store-bought materials and employing contractors costs around $7,000 to $12,000. Doing the math, you can save $5,000 to $10,000 or more if you use repurposed materials and do the build yourself.  

Conclusion

Building a tiny home with almost no money is not an impossible task. Many people have done it, and you could too. If you want to start a journey into financial freedom and a simpler way of life, then constructing your own affordable tiny house is the way forward. 

Related Questions

Is it cheaper to buy or build a tiny home?

Generally speaking, it’s much cheaper to build your own tiny home because it removes labor costs. However, one of the primary concerns about a self-built tiny home is the structural integrity of the home and whether it’s been done with the same quality as professional builders. 

Furthermore, a tiny house bought from tiny home builders usually has certification from the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), which you need for THOWs. 

What’s the Cheapest Tiny House Build Out There?

Many tiny home builders usually don’t get online exposure after they have built their affordable tiny house. However, we have come across a couple who were able to build a 70-square foot tiny home for only $420. Liam and Rachel made the house entirely from repurposed materials and were even featured in HappenFilm’s documentary.  

All About Tiny Houses is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

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