How to Build a Tiny Home for Under $5000

You can build a tiny house for under $5000! We all like the idea of living in a different way, but getting started is expensive. If you do not have tens of thousands of dollars to spend on your new life, here is how you can do it anyway.

© Photo by Andrea Davis on Unsplash

What Is A Tiny Home?

There is no way to give a universal definition for this. A tiny home can be anything from a trailer on wheels, to a house built into the foundation of an old barn. The sky is the limit when it comes to types and styles of tiny homes.

Some think that anything under 500 square feet (about 50 sq. meters) is small and suitable for “tiny living,” but depending on your preferences, you could go much smaller than that.

Tiny homes are small homes that are between 100 and 400 square feet in size or about the same size as a bedroom or small studio apartment. Some builders use trailers to elevate these homes above the ground while others sit directly on the foundation of their homes.

These types of houses are great for people who want to spend less money on housing costs while still being close enough to walk to nearby amenities such as grocery stores, public transportation stops, health clinics, parks, and schools. If you are looking for a unique way to take advantage of public transportation use, consider living in one of these tiny homes.

You can either buy or build a house that meets your needs and fits into your budget.

Types of Tiny Homes

Container home © Dwell Containers

There are many different types of tiny homes.

1.       Trailers on wheels: trailers with wheels come in many different sizes and shapes. They usually have a hitch that connects them to vehicles like cars or trucks.

2.       House buses: most people are familiar with the school bus yellow color, but house buses can be any shape, size, or color depending on what someone is looking for when they build their tiny home.

3.       Shipping containers: strong steel boxes that are made for stacking or transporting things across great distances, shipping containers-turned-homes offer durability and just the right amount of space in an already built box.

4.       Converted trailers: Let us say you live in an old, beat-up trailer on wheels already; maybe it is not in the best condition but you still love your mobile home. You can live in it while you build your new dream house around you, creating a tiny home with an old trailer.

5.       Cabins in the woods: people have been building small houses in the woods for centuries; there are probably more types of these than any other kind. If you think about it, almost everything is technically suitable for living space if it’s big enough – that means little nooks and crannies everywhere could be turned into something useful if someone wants to make them that way.

How Much Do These Tiny Homes Cost?

© Contemporist

Here I will give a rough estimate on prices depending on what part of the country (or world) you are living in. This is just to give some perspective- not everyone has access to these prices, and prices can change depending on what someone is trying to build.

·         Trailers: $500-1500

·         Converted trailers: $2000-5000

·         Cabins in the woods: $250–$10 000+

·         Shipping containers: $3500-8000

·         House buses: $20 000+

·         Homes built into existing structures (barns, homes, etc.): depends on the structure, but it could be free if you are willing to fix up a building that’s already there!

Building a Tiny Home under $5000

There are many different types of homes that can be built cheaply for around $5k. These include:

Cabin on Wheels

A cabin on wheels is a common type, known as an “RV” or recreational vehicle. These are ideal for people who want to travel and move their home with them. They are semi-permanent structures that may not meet your municipality’s building code, but they are easy to build yourself if you have some carpentry skills. They can be insulated just like regular houses.

Cabin on Running Gear

Cabin on running gear is the most inexpensive way to build a house because no foundation is required; just place it securely somewhere flat on level ground and tie down the corners so it does not bounce away during heavy winds! This style requires more technical carpentry skills than other types of tiny homes, but they are also the easiest to design and build yourself.

Cabin on Skids

Cabin on skids is a mobile tiny house that can be moved from place to place. This type of home can have wheels, skis, or runners so it will be easy to move it when necessary. Some people use this sort of home as a retreat in wooded areas for hunting or hiking in solitude. Other people see these homes as a way to retire at half the cost of living full-time in an RV by spending winters in warmer climates with friends and family.

Tiny Houses Built Into Old Buildings

These are often found in Europe where there is more availability for these types of homes because barns and other existing buildings come up for sale more frequently than they do here in the states.

Due to their unique architecture, these homes can be very expensive to buy — even more so than a regular house. However, if the owner of the building is willing to rent it below-market rates in exchange for help with repairs and upkeep or a joint business venture, this could still be a good deal.

How Do You Build a Tiny Home

© tinyhousebuild

Once you have chosen your design, here is how you can build a tiny home under $5000. Below is how to go about:

1.       Get the Land for It

If you are building on donated land, this will already be taken care of. If not, you may need to purchase or rent the piece of property that your tiny house will live on.

2.       Learn About Local Building Codes

Once your design is chosen, find out what types of structures are allowed in your area so that you do not waste time and money building something that is not compliant.

3.       Find Cheap Materials

This can be done by looking online and in salvage yards for used windows, doors, cabinets, plumbing supplies and other hardware which you’ll need. It is also important to look at affordable roofing options like metal or solar panels instead of shingles since these are expensive works to install.

The needed materials depend on the type of home but the basic ones falling under our budget include:

·         Windows: $500-1000

·         Doors: $500 each (varies depending on type and quality)

·         Cabinets: $200 (used, might be cheaper but it’s hard to tell)

·         Plumbing: depends on what kind of plumbing is already there or you can use a composting toilet

Assuming you have done most of your shopping online, this is when you will need to actually go out and buy all the things on your list. Hopefully, they’re not too expensive by now! If they are still more than $5k, you might want to research ways to cut costs such as using recycled building materials or scavenging for free supplies on Craigslist or Freecycle Network.

4.       Decide On Insulation and Heating Options

This is an important step, especially if you live somewhere cold! You do not want to try to heat your home without any materials in place for this. Thus, decide on a cheap insulation option that will fit your $5000 overall budget.

5.       Find an Affordable Contractor

This is optional, but having a professional help you build your house can be beneficial if it is your first time and you do not have the know-how to do it yourself. If not, look online to see if there are any other DIY enthusiasts in your area to share supplies and labor at a lower overall cost.

Hire a carpenter to put together the wood frame and exterior shell (most of these construction companies will include an estimate for this as well as materials needed in your final bid).

6.       Start Building

At this point, you already have in mind a tiny house design that fits your needs, whether it be an A-frame, cabin/chalet style or other shape. Think about how long you plans to stay in the home as well as how many people will live there with you before choosing a layout that works best for you. Below is a simple procedure for building your preferred tiny house.

·         Lay down flooring you wish to use such as laminate, hardwood or tiles, studs for walls, roof beams, insulate it etc. Some types such as ceramic can be difficult to install yourself so it might be smart to hire out this process too if you are not very experienced with home renovation projects.

·         Install appliances and fixtures like toilets, sinks, and shower stalls/cabins.

·         Build furnishings such as beds, tables, chairs from recycled or thrift store furniture.

·         Add insulation and interior wall panels.

·         Place orders for custom 3D printed items online or use a 3D printer to create decorative figurines and other decorations that personalize your decorating scheme. You can even have wallpapers designed to match your own style preferences. This is an easy way to save money while being creative.

7.       Finishing Touches Ideas

Tiny homes do not have to be boring or unsightly! With modest budgets and careful planning there’s no reason why your tiny abode can’t make a big impression with beauty as well as functionality.

Paint walls bright neon colors or dark earthy tones depending on preference and decorating scheme. Surround yourself with accessories and furniture items that make you happy! Open up the space as much as possible so it feels airy, colorful, and spacious.

Insulation for Your Tiny Home on a Budget

© Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

Insulating your tiny house is an important step in any building project. Proper insulation allows you to keep the heat and air conditioning inside the home, while keeping out hot and cold drafts. There are a few different options for insulating a house depending on how much money and time you want to invest.

Here are ways to include insulation and heating into your budget.

·         Wall insulation: Your outer walls should be covered with 1-2 inches of rigid insulation like foil backed foam or fiberglass batting. This will add strength to the wall while serving as an effective barrier between your livable space and outside elements. Add another layer of 2-3 inches over this for more fluffiness!

·         Flooring: Your floor should also be insulated using smaller pieces cut from a rigid material that can fit into any gaps or crevices.

·         Floor heating: You can use electric or hydronic floor heaters to keep your feet warm in the coldest of temperatures. They may be more expensive than other options but offer instant heat, so you will not have to worry about waiting for it to warm up.

If you do not want to invest in electric or hydronic heating, here are some ways to get free or cheap heat for your tiny home:

·         Wood burning stove: A great solution if you live somewhere with access to wood (and maybe firewood) during colder months. This not only heats the air inside, but also keeps you nice and cozy! Just do not forget that if your windows are open while the fireplace is on, all that warm air is going to escape!

·         Solar gain: While you will not be able to utilize this all year round, it is a great option during the summer months. If you are in a warmer climate, consider taking advantage of the sun with extra windows or glass doors!

·         Carpet/rugs/fuzzy blankets: A lot of insulation comes from your body heat, which means anything that traps more of it will help keep you warm! Even if it is not cold out, having large rugs or even blankets on your floor can make a big difference.

Lighting a Tiny Home on a Budget

·         Ceiling lights: one of the cheapest forms of lighting you can install in your tiny home. You can use multiple small LED fixtures throughout to get maximum light without spending too much on wiring or having to hire an electrician.

·         Sconces: If you want more full-bodied lighting, consider using wall-mounted sconces instead. These will offer a lot of light for their size, but they do usually require an electrician unless they are battery powered.

·         LED strip lights: Strip lights come in all shapes and sizes and are typically very affordable compared to other types of overhead lighting. They also give off a decent amount of illumination when used sparingly throughout your house.

·         Desk lamps: Finally, if you really want to make your tiny home feel like home, consider using desk lamps instead. These are usually very low profile so they can tuck away almost anywhere, but will provide ample overhead lighting with the right bulb.

Making Your Tiny Home Comfortable

It may be a tiny home, but still on your$5000 budget, you will still want to make it as comfortable as a standard home.

You can do this by heating and lighting it well as already mentioned. Do not forget to install kitchen appliances such as stove, refrigerator, sink/drain board, cabinets, countertops,  as well as shelving/storage elements

Door hardware is often overlooked in tiny homes since it is not as crucial as something is like a toilet or sink. However, with the right finishes and handles it can really help bring your place together aesthetically without costing too much money. Keep an eye out for hardware at thrift stores or garage sales to save even more on renovation costs.

Recently, some tiny homes have started using reclaimed barn wood on walls and countertops to make them feel like they fit in with the rustic charm of the environment.

All flooring depends on personal preference, but hardwood looks classy and will be easy to refinish if scratched or scuffed over time. Laminate floors also come preassembled so that may be an easier option for first- homebuilders as well.

Uses of Tiny Homes

Tiny homes can be used as college dorms, seasonal cottages, home offices, backyard guesthouses, and extra rooms for growing families.

If you are not planning on living in one full-time, think about how you would use the space to its fullest potential. The more efficient and well thought out your design is, the better it will serve its purpose as a multi-functional living space.


Tiny homes are growing in popularity as building technologies keep advancing. They are awesome because they help solve many different problems for people of all ages.

If you wish to build your tiny home under, the above guide will help a great deal. All you have to do is identify a design, shop for affordable materials and begin your layout by either contracting a professional or through a DIY. All in all, you will be set to go and soon you will be enjoying the comfort of your tiny home.

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