6 Big Problems With Building Tiny Houses (2023)

Minimalism is in. A growing number of people are adopting a lifestyle that’s scaled down both physically and financially, taking on only the bare minimum of material possessions and living space in order to function. Mental Floss’s own Shaunacy Ferro reported on her experience in a tiny house plan, an elfin piece of real estate that’s often less than 500 square feet.

Tiny house advocates celebrate the ease of relocation, a smaller carbon footprint, and no looming mortgage to worry about. Unfortunately, there are also some hazards to tiny house plans that don’t get quite the same amount of attention. Take a look at a few perils of downsizing.

With no fixed septic system in place for tiny or portable houses, less-is-more enthusiasts have to make some difficult decisions on how best to get rid of their waste. Some toilets divert solids to be used as compost, while other, “dry” toilets essentially act as a giant diaper, wrapping and storing your deposits for future disposal. Either way, tiny living quarters can sometimes have odor issues. To combat this, newer toilet models actually incinerate poop, reducing it to a pile of ash for removal. If setting your eliminations on fire seems extreme, then so might the entire idea of minimal habitation.

2. Zoning laws are no little problem for tiny houses.

It can feel exhilarating to build a tiny house and have the freedom to pull up stakes and go wherever you like. Except you really can’t. City and town zoning laws often dictate what minimally constitutes a house—like square footage or number of rooms—and it might not include the specs of your Keebler-sized tiny house build. Minnesota, for example, mandates that homes of any type have minimum ceiling clearances, ventilation, and heating standards [PDF]. Other areas insist that new single-family homes measure 1000 square feet or larger.

You may assume giving up your dreams of a finished basement and half-bath may result in substantial cost savings. Depending on what part of the country you live in, that may not be so. Nationwide, tiny homes can cost twice as much per square foot as houses built at a more common scale. One company, Tiny Home Builders, offers models at $61,000. Why so much? Downsizing can often mean premium features, like a tankless water heater.

You can find some ultra-modest options for $25,000, but a house with top-end amenities can creep into the six figures. That doesn’t include the price of buying or leasing land to put it on. If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, the cost of materials can start at $10,000. Some homeowners opt to buy a “shell,” or prefab exterior, for a reduced price, but it can cost thousands to fill the empty interior.

4. Obtaining insurance for tiny houses can be difficult.

Insurance companies deal in precedents and manage their expectations accordingly. They know if you’re in a flood zone, if you’ve recently driven through your garage door, or if you have a waterbed. What they have more trouble accounting for is a house without a foundation, that may or may not be up to building codes, or the fact you’re towing it across the country. As a result, securing insurance for tiny homes can be problematic, and you may find yourself paying a premium for the coverage.

The dream of discarding worldly possessions is often easier said than done. Many people have mementos, belongings, collections, and other ephemera that they don’t have room for but don’t necessarily want to part with. That’s why some tiny house occupants end up renting storage units for things they no longer have the space for. While rarely a budget-busting consequence, it is an added expense that downsized dwellers should be aware of.

6. Someone might steal your tiny house.

Homeowners often worry about the potential for burglaries, but tiny house residents need to worry about something else entirely—having their entire abode stolen. In 2018, a woman in St. Louis discovered the wheel-mounted house she had left parked in a commercial lot turned up missing. It was recovered 30 miles away.

[h/t The Conversation]


6 Big Problems With Building Tiny Houses? ›

One of the disadvantages of tiny house living is that you give up full-size bathrooms and kitchens. You have less counter space in addition to storage space which can make cooking and getting ready in the morning a bit bothersome and something you'll need to adjust to.

What are 3 negative features of a tiny house? ›

Disadvantages of Tiny Houses
  • Less Living Space. A tiny house doesn't have room for a full-sized luxury kitchen or bathroom. ...
  • Less Storage Space. ...
  • Limited Entertaining Capability. ...
  • Zoning Rules. ...
  • Financing.

What are the disadvantages of tiny homes? ›

One of the disadvantages of tiny house living is that you give up full-size bathrooms and kitchens. You have less counter space in addition to storage space which can make cooking and getting ready in the morning a bit bothersome and something you'll need to adjust to.

Why you don t want to live in a tiny house? ›

As other tiny-home dwellers point out, building and living in a tiny home takes a toll. You're spending more time drying clothes that don't really dry, more time sweating out summers that never really cool, and more time testing the bounds of relationships and patience with a partner or family.

How many years do tiny homes last? ›

Tiny homes can last between 30 and 50 years with careful maintenance. Naturally, many different things will affect this, such as the materials used to build it and the construction method. A tiny home without a base typically breaks down faster than those on wheels.

Are tiny homes safe in bad weather? ›

If your tiny home has proper weatherproofing, the structure is safe from lightning storms and thunder. Taking precautions during storms is important, as heavy rainfall can cause wood and electrical damage.

Do tiny homes depreciate quickly? ›

Resale value: Tiny houses are not guaranteed to appreciate in value in the same way a traditional home does. Tiny homes can actually depreciate in value, especially if it is highly customized. These homes also fall into a niche market, so it may be more difficult to sell your home down the line.

What are the challenges of living in a tiny house? ›

Challenges of Tiny House Living
  • You'll have less storage space. ...
  • You'll have less personal space. ...
  • You must be up to date with the laws. ...
  • You must get creative. ...
  • You'll have to sort out your things. ...
  • You'll have to learn to do more with less.

How are tiny homes insured? ›

Can you insure a tiny home? You won't be able to cover a tiny home with a standard home insurance policy. However, depending on the insurer and your state, you may be able to insure your tiny home with a mobile/manufactured home insurance policy.

Can you permanently live in a tiny home? ›

Yes, one can permanently live in a tiny home in California, and people are doing this. Even many tiny home communities have popped up around the state, making living tiny easier. Firstly, one must ensure the prebuilt tiny homes meet California Building Codes.

Are people happy with their tiny homes? ›

One in three homeowners said they wish they had chosen a larger home, compared to only nine percent who wished they had downsized. There has been plenty of criticism around tiny living.

Do tiny houses hold their value? ›

Generally, no. It's helpful to think of tiny homes on wheels as cars, trucks, travel trailers or even RVs. These are individual assets that depreciate over time. This means that while a traditional home may go up in value over time, a tiny home on wheels is likely to go down.

Can tiny homes survive the winter? ›

Tiny house owners have to winterize their homes to ensure everything runs smoothly when the cold weather arrives. Pipes can freeze and burst, so tiny house owners need to spend time and money insulating pipes, tanks, and water connections that are on the outside and underneath their home.

Do tiny homes get hot? ›

Tiny Homes can heat up faster, thanks to their compact size, especially during summer, compromising your home's comfort. If you're looking for ways to cool off in your Tiny, read on.

What is the longest a tiny house can be? ›

In most cases, your maximum length will be 53 feet minus the length of your truck. Trucks suited to tow a large tiny house are typically 20-23 feet long, so your tiny house can be up to 30 feet long.

What are 5 advantages of living in a tiny house? ›

Tiny homes have a tiny footprint

They also have much greater flexibility for positioning on site, meaning you can take advantage of any passive heating and cooling potential and find the best way to hook into existing services, live off-grid, pay back into the grid, or use renewable energy sources more easily.

Is it hard living in a tiny house? ›

In general, a tiny house is a lot easier to maintain because of its size. But dirt and clutter build up quicker and are noticeably faster. In a small space, you clean more often.

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