How much does a “Tiny House” cost?

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Let’s expand our question: How much does a Tiny House, a cabin, a mother-in-law cottage, efficiency apartment, etc…. cost? More than $5000, despite what you’ve read on the internet. You may be a able to build a weather tight shed but if you want insulation, double pane windows, running water, electricity, and climate control (air conditioning) it’s going to cost a little more…. How much more? Read on……..

Keep these two number in mind – $30,000 and/or $100 per sq. ft.

Certain costs vary with the size of the structure. Framing, siding and roofing costs will rise as the overall square footage grows, but the cost per square foot will decrease. An online quote from a national small shed company shows a cost for a 8′ x 14’unit, 112 sq/ft, of $4469 or $39.90 per sq/ft. ¬†A larger 16′ x 20′ unit, 320 sq/ft, has a base price of $8479 or $26.50 per sq/ft. So in our basic example, the more you build the less it costs per sq/ft.

Now we need to add some features that make our shell into a house. Things like insulation, interior walls, paint, etc…. For the purpose or our exercise we will double our cost per square foot. Our little house now costs between $53 and $79 per sq/ft.

What else will make this a home? How about a toilet, vanity and shower? As an estimate lets use $700 for the shower, $150 for the vanity and $150 for the toilet. And we need a place to cook so a sink, faucet, compact refrigerator, 2 burner electric cook top and two base cabinets with a basic counter top will cost approx. $1500 if we shop for the items on sale. And last but not least we need a hot water heater, approx $250, and an air conditioner with heat will be approx $1700 (I prefer min-split a/c system).

So we have added another $4450 to our grand total. This price does not change as our house grows in size. Our cost per square foot on our little 112 sq/ft unit (probably to small to fit all this stuff) is now just over $118 per sq/ft and our larger 320 sq/ft unit is still just under $70 per sq/ft.

So here’s our totals so far:
8′ X 14′ – 112 sq/ft = $13,437 or $119 per sq/ft
16′ x 20′ – 320 sq/ft = $21,460 or $67 per sq/ft
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But we’re not through yet, we need a somewhere to sleep, a place to sit, and probably some shelves or a closet for storage. If we buy these items new or if we build them in place (such as a bench with built in storage) they still cost $$$. And we need to hook up our house to electricity, water and sewage. (Yes, you can build this to live off grid but that is an entirely separate set of expenses) Again, we are going with a rough estimate – Electrical installation and connection to power already on the property, approx $3200. ¬†Plumbing installation and connection to existing water and sewer, approx $2800. Beware, electrical and plumbing prices are highly varied across the country, the prices mentioned are only estimates for our exercise.

Adding another $6000 brings us to $19,437 ($173.55 sq/ft) for our 8′ x 14′ and $27,460 ($85.80 sq/ft) for our 16′ x 20′.

We still have lots of finishing touches to add and we might want to upgrade those low cost shingles to a metal roof. A porch would be a nice place to sit on those summer evenings. More expenses……..

Remember our two numbers we started with? $30,000 or $100 per sq/ft? How did we compare? Our ultra tiny 8′ x 14′ unit is packed and every space has been used. It’s not uncommon for ultra tiny units to exceed $300 per square foot, but we have stayed on a tight budget and probably finished in the mid $20’s including our finishing touches. Our larger, and more practical efficiency unit with 320 sq/ft went over the $30,000 mark with finish out and comes in at slightly below $100 per sq/ft.

So how much is your little house going to cost? Remember, we are building a small home, not a shed in the woods: Plan on spending over $25,000 (probably over $35,000) and even though we might build ultra-tiny, don’t expect a huge savings. A sink and toilet in a 3000 sq/ft home costs the same as it does in a 112 sq/ft tiny home.

Kevin Catlett
C3 – Owner, Dreamer, Builder