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