What Defines a Tiny Home?

tiny wooden home near forest

You’ve likely heard about the tiny home phenomenon, but you may not know exactly what defines these little living spaces. Believe it or not, there is a difference between homes that are small and tiny homes.

They're Under 400 Square Feet

The actual size of a tiny house is what technically puts it into its category. A tiny house is defined as “a dwelling that is 400 square feet or less in floor area excluding lofts”. At the beginning of this so-called “movement”, there was no real explanation for these homes. However, in 2017, International Residential Code (IRC) was written, vetted, and voted on to come up with this size determination.

Eventually, the International Code Council (ICC) agreed on this ruling and size. While 400 square feet is the maximum size for a house to be considered an official tiny home, there are some that are as small as 100 square feet. Given the average size of tiny houses in the U.S., you could fit about 144 of them on a football field.

This size varies greatly from what “normal” sized houses typically are in the U.S. The median size of a new, single-family home sold in 2015 was a whopping 2,520 square feet (as reported by the U.S. Census Bureau).

tiny home interior with ladder, windows, and front door

They’re Usually Not Financed

Most regular homeowners finance their house purchase through a mortgage. However, one of the things that sets tiny homes apart is that most owners of them don’t finance them the same way. In fact, 68 percent of U.S. tiny home homeowners have no mortgage, whereas only 29 of homeowners of regular houses can say the same.

They Have a Lower Cost

Most tiny homes cost much less to build and maintain than normal homes, which is one of their draws. The nation’s leading builder in tiny home construction, Tumbleweed Tiny House Co., builds made-to-order tiny homes that cost between $57,000 to $70,000. However, tiny homes could cost as little as $15,000 to build, depending on what materials are being used to do so.

These prices deviate greatly from that of regular homes.In 2015, a new single-family home cost and average of $271,300 to build (as reported by the U.S. Census Bureau). With that being said, even the most luxurious tiny homes are much cheaper than the average, new regular sized home.

Different Building Materials

As mentioned above, the cost of a tiny home can fluctuate based on what it’s made out of. There are many different materials that tiny homes can be constructed out of, unlike regular homes. Something as simple as a large shipping container can be made into a tiny home—and a low cost one at that.

shipping container tiny home apartments

Reclaimed materials is another popular, low-cost and creative material to construct a tiny home out of. Finally, some opt to create a tiny home in a vehicle or on the back of a truck, making it a mobile living space in addition to being small.

Lower Carbon Footprint

Many individuals who live in tiny homes these days do so as they’re interested in lowering their carbon footprint and doing something good for the planet. Smaller homes mean less energy consumption, resulting in lower utility bills and a more green way of living overall.

Little Storage Space

One of the trademarks of tiny homes is that there isn’t much storage space associated with them, which seems like an obvious point to make given their size. Interestingly, though, many individuals who move into tiny homes like this fact, as it requires them to shed most of their material belongings and live a simpler life. Those who live in these spaces live with only what they need and have fewer wants for material items, which they tend to see as a positive.

tiny home with wood interior, beds, and kitchen

Fewer Permitting and Zoning Obstacles

Although every city and state is different, in most areas there are few permitting and zoning regulations placed on tiny homes. This makes it easier and quicker to construct these homes and to start living in them than that of a regular home, which requires filing for permits, adhering to city regulations, and passing inspections.

Tiny homes have gained quite a following in recent years, and they’re worth looking into if you want to save money, do good for the environment, and live a simpler life.