Introduction: Tiny Tiny House

Picture of Tiny Tiny House

This is the first tiny house we have built, so it was enough of a challenge to build that the documenting side was let slide to a fair extent. Regardless, I will walk you thorough what we did, and how we did it to the best of my ability.
We used as many natural, unprocessed, and re-used materials as possible, which made it less expensive but much more time consuming than buying everything from the lumber yard. 

Step 1: Preparing the Frame

Picture of Preparing the Frame

As we used an old trailer frame to build this on, we started by demolishing the trailer, separating out the aluminum to be recycled. The plywood floor was saved to be re-used as the sub-floor. Then we went at it with an angle grinder and drill with wire wheel and wire brushes for the hard to reach parts. As we removed the failing old paint and surface rust we looked for signs of penetrating rust which would need welding to maintain the integrity of the frame. Thankfully, we found none.

So we moved right on to priming with a rusty metal primer, and then a coat or two of quality metal paint.  

Step 2: The Floor

Picture of The Floor

As we live near an old steam powered sawmill, we decided to use rough milled redwood 1x6's for the floor, so we ran them through the planner and then the edger to get a beautiful floor. As we were using true one inch thick boards we decided to screw them in with appropriate length screws from the underside so that no fasteners would be visible. To protect it for the rest of the project we covered it with some 1/8 inch plywood pieces we had laying around. 

Step 3: Framing the Walls

Picture of Framing the Walls

We decided to frame the walls with rough cut 2x2s, which made it a little more challenging than it would have been to use consistently sized lumber from the lumber yard. Se la vie!
We did the framing with 3 inch star drive screws, which are stronger and much easier to drive than philips screws of the same length. I Highly recommend them to anyone who has ever stripped out a screw, or a few. ;-)

As it is only 6x10 feet inside, we decided to keep the back wall without windows, and so we put a window in the other three walls. 
Due to the roughness of the lumber we framed with, varying in thickness by up to a quarter inch, the structure started taking on its own dimensions, which we allowed, knowing that it would give it character. 

Step 4: Framing the Roof

Picture of Framing the Roof

As this structure is designed for use around the San Francisco Bay area where snow load is nonexistent, we used 1x3 rafters for the roof and 1x2 framing for the trusses. 
As we framed it out we did our best to remove as much weight as possible while creating a sturdy movable structure, thus the use of 1x2's, 2x2's, and 2x3's at different places in the frame.

Step 5: Siding With 1/8 Inch Plywood

Picture of Siding With 1/8 Inch Plywood

We had a big stack of 1/8 inch ply ready for use so we decided to skin the structure with it for shear strength (to prevent twisting and increase rigidity). Unfortunately the sheets were 5x5 foot, so we had to cut them to fit our random stud spacing and use two to reach the top of the walls. But they were free so we didn't complain much. They were fastened with narrow gauge staples fired from a compressed air staple gun. This was very quick.
We chose to overhang the sheets in the corners and trim them later with a sharp handsaw. We did the same with the windows and roof line, but using a Sawzall where a handsaw wouldn't fit.
The roof was decked with 1/2 inch plywood for strength and lightness.  

Step 6: Lap Siding

Picture of Lap Siding

For the exterior siding we used rough milled cedar and fir boards of an average thickness of 1/4 inch. They ranged in width from 5 inches to 10 inches and we mixed them up randomly to give it an organic feel. These were stapled on the same as the plywood, but lapped so that the staples were hidden.

Step 7: Insulation and Interior Siding

Picture of Insulation and Interior Siding

In the end we decided to go with recycled blue jeans insulation as it is much more likely to stay evenly distributed in the wall than loose wool. Although it is twice the price of fiberglass, it is so much more pleasant to work with that it was well worth it. It doesn't cut with a knife like fiberglass, but can be pulled apart with your hands. As the walls are going to be breathable, we did not want fiberglass particles getting into the air inside the room.

For interior siding we chose the boards with the fewest knots and ran them through the planer and edger until they were straight and beautiful. Then we tacked them up with a finish nailer.  

Step 8: Windows and Door

Picture of Windows and Door

As we were re-using the old trailer's aluminum windows we made a frame with rounded bottom corners to fit it out of old-growth redwood. It was tricky and it would be much simpler to install normal windows from a house. 
The door was a very tricky thing. We decided that it had to be rounded as there were so many straight lines already. This was eventually accomplished by cutting the curve out of a big slab of 2x12 redwood, adding other framing and then sheathing the outside with 1/8 inch ply and then covering both sides with planed cedar, fir and redwood thin boards.

Step 9: Roofing

Picture of Roofing

I was not present for the installation of the roof, so there are no pictures, but I can tell you what was done. 8 foot sheets of 1/2 inch plywood were laid across 1x3 rafters, over the already in-place ceiling and insulation. We used a fairly large overhang, about a foot all round to make it look less like a box the way a lot of tiny houses do. This also protects the walls, door and windows from rain. We bought metal roofing to size for about $240, which should last a few decades.

Step 10: Trimming It All Out

Picture of Trimming It All Out

We wanted to use at least a little raw wood which we cut down ourselves, and so we quartered a 3 inch fir tree on a band saw, then rad it through the edger many times until it was a good quarter round. These were put in the corners of the room. The window boxes were trimmed with 1/4 inch fir and most everything else was trimmed using old growth redwood. The facia boards are cut wavy for cuteness. 

Step 11: Finished!

Picture of Finished!

Well there you go. Probably $1500 in raw materials and hundreds of hours processing them and putting it all together, not to mention figuring out the inevitable complications that come up. We are now advertizing it on SF Craigslist for $8500 and are hoping to make more to-order in the near future. If you are interested, check us out at:

I hope this inspires you to build your own tiny house, don't forget to have fun....


MarkSindone (author)2017-09-28

This tiny house is actually pretty amazing! But I couldn't live in a tiny home that didn't at least have indoor plumbing. I can't imagine what I would need to do if I had to go and there wasn't a decent place around for me to go at! For a house that incorporates that, it would need to be at least twice the size, no?

dieter dittrich (author)2016-11-06

Great to see people going small and recycling and repuprosing with awesome craftsmanship, job well done.

sdrumm (author)2016-10-13

Nice Job!, truly my favorites are the details. In particular the DOOR!!!! (gorgeous!)& the random wavy trim details very creative.

paulbsa (author)2013-09-15

My major concern is also about weight. Did you consider the weight limit of the trailer frame, axle, and wheels? The wood, occupants, and stuff inside will all be heavy. Also, what type of jack stands will you be using to level it out and secure it when parked?

AmyCat59 (author)paulbsa2016-09-02

Yes, trailer wieght limits are why I'm reading through all the comments to see if he ever answers the weight question. I'm looking to build a little vardo (gypsy wagon) or "Tudor"-style Tiny House On Wheels for use at events like RenFaires (not full-time living), and the FIRST thing I'd need to know is finished weight before buying a trailer... Long before you've overloaded your tow vehicle, you'd be in danger of overloading the dinky tires or the suspension on many cheaper trailers! Blow-outs on your T.H.O.W. wheels (even at non-highway speeds) can really mess up your home!

Electrolight (author)2016-08-04

I've looked at lots of tiny houses, but I always come back to this one in amazement. It's easily the best looking tiny house I've seen from the exterior. It looks so picturesque and welcoming.

jonkun227 (author)2014-06-02

Dude, you have issues. Yes, unprovoked bear attacks are rare, but they do happen (you even provided a perfect example of such instances). All he said is that if that he would prefer to have something substantial between him and the bear. You are reading your own issues into that in order to take offense on behalf of the bears. He is talking about leaving the bears alone and the bears leaving him alone, with the help of a wooden structure if it happens to be a bear as quick to take offense as you.

woodshd3 (author)jonkun2272015-11-16

Very well said, bosmaru lacks something called, "Common Sense"

legamin (author)2014-05-13

now if you could work out a jointed bi-frame folding tunnel connected tracking quad axle 50' wheeled home at 8' wide with pull-outs and hot tub.... I'd be right there behind you to finance that endeavor....(unfortunately the only company that can do this for us is in Italy and 2 years out on custom orders).

I was with you all the way on this build until you started using narrow gauge brads. Over time,with sheer and vibration they will fail one by one but in the end, spectacularly. A ring shanked nail of appropriate length and extra wide head should have been used. They are more expensive and the guns to pneumatically insert them have have custom piston push rod heads made to accommodate them. (It's better to have a lot of a few hundred thousand made to order out of a galvanized steel and be sure you lube your gun often during use.) but if you want your product to reflect the amazing care you obviously have in building these (and want a reputation for quality). Also..anchor your roof and roofing. The lift aerodynamics of its directionality along with the cyclone force winds that it will regularly face during transport will create lift that could cause random shards of roofing, if not the entirety, to peel off and litter the highway. Good luck!

stuffman (author)legamin2014-05-13

Agreed. I'm not sure what I'd have done differently to make the roof less of a sail, but there's a reason most tow-behind trailers have a round profile. It's to minimize upward force of the wind, and help with aerodynamics. This seems really cool, but I don't know how roadworthy it really is.

ganeshruskin (author)stuffman2015-07-31

Again, it is not roadworthy. It is house worthy..

legamin (author)stuffman2014-05-14

I've seen a couple of responses to this engineering inefficiency. One is to create a 'Barn Style' peaked roof with a leading and trailing peak angled 45deg into and out of the direction of the wind (from towing). This also increases the stability against side buffeting. Unfortunately the drawback of this form raises the overall height and requires a well tuned stiff suspension. This, on the other hand, is desirable in every handling and parked aspect...a win win if you please. There are preformed roofing models that can be prefabbed quite inexpensively and so are very repeatable. In the end you would only need a four inch side overhang to keep water from hydrostatically retreating onto your beautiful siding. And as far as towing in the rain... There is a 'shrink wrap' type product that is made for buildings on 4-6-8+' rolls. You wrap the entire frame outside before windows or ply or siding. Then use a heat gun to thicken the material and adhere it firmly to all surfaces. You do this on your rafters pre boarding or roofing as well. Pay special attention to go back and re wrap corners, around outsides of windows - doors and all of the leading edge, wall and up over the 45 deg. Roof set at least twice. There is something to be said for "breathing and healthy" walls...but in the modern trade we refer to that as 'Drafty'. Superior quality trailer windows, as you said you would be using, and ceiling vents in living area and bath (1 vent per 3sq. m as a rule is very adequate. My trailers vents are 20 years old and still seal just fine. I think your onto a great thing for people who are sick of the government (or whoever) trying to interfere in their lives and need an affordable alternative. My wife and I among them. Best of all luck.

ganeshruskin (author)legamin2015-07-31

Does this look like an RV to you?

It is a frisking house! A tiny, tiny house. It has moved once, on a second trailer, to a spot 60 miles away, and there it will live out the remainder of its natural life…

Rodeodog (author)2015-07-23

I agree wholeheartedly with you about the poor maligned bear, in fact, everybody should adopt a family of them to help protect them! However, if I was out in the wild and a bear, for any reason, thought my space was better than his, I, too, would be praying for wood walls to keep our spaces apart, rather than fabric!

Rodeodog (author)2015-07-23

Nice!!! I only wish I had the youth, skills, and energy. Good Job!

megglie (author)2015-07-12

Well, you have impressed this very old woman who moved to San Francisco in a motorhome... how much more fun to have come in one like this. How I wish I had married a wood craftsman rather then an engineer. My grandfather would have loved your work... he owned a lumber company in Michigan and taught me how to use tools. Wish you were my grandchildren... I'd help you build.

Smushles (author)2015-07-03

Hi all, what size trailer would you recommend for something like this? I've seen a few trailers ranging from 8x6 all the way to 16x8! I'd be looking to live in something like this permanently/fairly long time - right now it's just thoughts for when I'm older. (would need a microwave/mini fridge/small living space and bed space) - I'm thinking probably as big as I can get but I thought I should ask the experienced builders

tomas75a (author)2015-06-12

Off topic

DawnC4 (author)2015-06-10

Love everything about this! Including the babywearing!! Kudos!!

stachkarl (author)2015-06-08

Your project is really neat. I was interested in it because it's similar to deer stands that I build. I side the exterior and interior of my stands with sheet material and install more windows, but I build them basically the same as you have. I've been using pink rigid foam for insulation, but this is the second time recently that I've heard about blue jean insulation. I'll have to check availability in my area. Thanks for sharing your project, and I wish you good luck in turning this into a business.

Biodynamic (author)2015-06-07

I love the baby wearing. I'm a dad of 6 and have wrapped or slung every one of them. The house is awesome too! I would love to build one, but I'm afraid a 6*10 might be too tight for a family of eight.

jesse.shern (author)2014-11-19

Is there very much interest for these tiny houses

bettina-sisr (author)jesse.shern2015-06-07

yes, these are very 'hot' right now, not only like this one for traveling, but as single family homes. As newer generations get older, they bring with them their way of living, and a lot of people today do most of their "living" out of doors, so the house size is not the status symbol it used to be (for a lot of other reasons as well, but you get where I'm going)

shyrell (author)2015-06-07

Inside pics please! How did you set up the inside?

martind17 (author)2015-04-07

How about height restrictions for travelling on roads did you take those into accounts. I'm asking because I'm trying to think of what they are (yes I could look them up easily for highways!)

drey.vyenielo (author)2015-02-03

Wow beautiful work! So I came across your project while doing a little tiny house "how to" search online, and think I see my beautiful old friend Gill working in some of the first photos! I'm so curious is it you Gill? You should come up for a visit to mount shasta and help us build a tiny house here. Would love to see you again soon, Bless- Dreyl

jloder2 (author)2014-12-31

I absolutely love your article, and it's been extremely helpful to me, as I'm in the planning stages of building something similar to this, but I just wanted to let you know, that's not how you spell the phrase, "c'est la vie." I give you credit for being close, though.

G Dewey P (author)2014-12-22

What an amazing effort. I love it, and your approach!

jesse.shern (author)2014-11-19

Is there very much interest for these tiny houses

alisterdark (author)2014-09-19

Do you happen to know about how much this beaut weighs? I'm lookin to build one 'round the same size.

Grunambulax (author)2014-09-05

Brilliant. This is a great project. I hope you got your asking price on Craigslist because given the quality and originality I think the price is more than fair. I really loved the door. Did you wind up transporting it? There is a comment about the aerodynamics and I could see where that would be an issue. I'd think that if you could build some kind of spoiler to put onto the leading edge it might make travel more tolerable. From the comments below it's clear that people have strong opinions about both screw heads and bears.

xyztina (author)2014-09-01

Very cool! Out of curiousity, what size what your trailer frame? Thanks for sharing!

Kurt E. Clothier (author)2014-07-31

This is really beautiful, and you did an amazing job!

I have to wonder how heavy this thing really is, and if that trailer frame could really support it. My wife and I travel for work and live in a Fifth wheel trailer. I have done some extensive work to it, so I am very familiar with how it is put together. There is a minimalist steel frame, but all of the wall and ceiling framing is aluminum. The only place there is any actual wood is the top layer of the sub floor (above about 2" of solid Styrofoam. The walls are layered fiberglass, solid Styrofoam, and a thin inner panel. All of the built in cabinetry is wood, but it is fairly thin, using supports covered with thin panel as opposed to solid pieces.

Again, this thing is beautiful, but I would probably use more lightweight materials in a future build.

mrandle (author)Kurt E. Clothier2014-08-23

People do this all the time without too much issue. I saw a documentary about it and the trailer is more or less there to circumvent building permits. They aren't usually meant to be too road worthy. I imagine the hardest part would be balanceing the tongue weight for towing.

Kurt E. Clothier (author)mrandle2014-08-23

Very true. Even still, building permits aren't the only obstacle... We travel for work and have to keep a permanent address for tax purposes, although we could claim to be itinerant. You break quite a few laws living permanently in a mobile home (as in one that is moving around, not in a trailer park), but we have met a LOT of people who do just that. I don't agree with the laws, but it is what it is.

mrandle (author)Kurt E. Clothier2014-08-23

Good point. I think though that this allows you to park it on your own property and not need a build permit. As for the moving around I wonder what counts as a permanent address? Would a P.O. box work? I'm from Canada so not sure what the rules are.

Kurt E. Clothier (author)mrandle2014-08-23

Different places (states) have different laws concerning residency. Even individual townships and counties have laws that try supersede one another. The USA government structure is a major cluster-F when it comes to this sort of thing. There really is no "one law to rule them all" in this sort of matter, but the short story is that it even illegal to "live permanently" in an unsanctioned residence (i.e., a homemade tiny, tiny house on a trailer frame) on one's own property in many place in this great nation.

P.O. boxes also do not work. You can have mail sent (and packages through the postal service, but not private deliveries like UPS), but it cannot be used as a permanent tax residence. (We definitely looked into that). Although, in some places (such as some island towns in Hawaii) they do not have residential postal service... everyone has to have a P.O. Box. So, again, there is no one rule to go by.

sicarius veritatis (author)2014-06-28

Just want to say great job in taking the initiative to take on this project and make it yours. I have been researching the Micro-House lifestyle for about six months and working on a few ideas and I like the influence you guys give. While my basics are fundamentally different than what you ultimately have so are my needs both based on geographical considerations and m.o.e. but I still appreciate the hard work you all put forth.

morkwa (author)2013-09-15

You say that you use "star drive screws" in your project, - get yourself
some Robertson head "square drive" screws and you will find yourself
throwing the slot, phillips and star drive screws as far as you can into
the bush, going into the bush to find them and then throwing them as
far as you can again, - that's how much more satisfied you will be with the Robertson
screws and not to mention the pleasure of pitching those other ones
as far as you can (twice over)

ganeshruskin (author)morkwa2013-09-16

No thanks. Have you ever used star drive screws? I like square drive screws marginally more than philips, but star drive aka torque bit are hard to strip, I mean you have to TRY.

seriously, give them a try....

jonkun227 (author)ganeshruskin2014-06-02

Star and TORX (not torque) are two different designs. Star has 5 points, TORX has six. Getting these mixed up are one of the leading reasons people have trouble with either design. But personally I prefer Robertson and wish that nothing else (except maybe hex socket head in some cases) existed.

morkwa (author)ganeshruskin2013-09-16

you could be right - by star drive I thought you meant Pozidrive
Here in Canada in construction the robertson is the most used
as it only takes one hand (once it's inserted on the bit) to drive the
screw in. Anytime I come across something put together with phillips or slot or pozidrive and has to be taken apart these screws are
immediately chucked into the garbage and replaced with square drive.
I have skinned too many knuckles and stripped too many screws
to bother with those other three kinds. Don't see too many star drives
here - only in special applications.

wikkit (author)morkwa2014-05-14

They're talking about Torx, which is even more resistant to stripping than square drive. But more expensive.

astral_mage (author)ganeshruskin2013-10-10

unless thier comin from CHINA then thier easy as pie to strip.

john3347 (author)morkwa2014-05-14

Star drive screws are only one tiny step "better" than Phillips screws. The square drive screws that used to be almost universal in mobile home construction are FAR, FAR better at holding the screw to tighten it adequately. The only drawback to the square drive screws is that they are near or completely impossible to remove after they get very rusted. Star drive screws are even more critical to exact driver/screw alignment than even Phillips. The driver has to be in exact alignment with the screw. Good point, morkwa.

psavas (author)2014-06-01

This is a great little portable house; would be fun to take something like this to Burning Man. :)

You mentioned you were trying to lighten the load as much as possible when framing out the build; is there a reason you didn't go with metal studs instead of wood? I realize you were trying to be eco-friendly, but it seems to me in the long run, if you're towing this structure around, a lighter weight would overall be better.

nejo0017 (author)2014-06-01

Your build is really buityful!

Best from Berlin

fixfireleo (author)2014-05-22

dude, get real. what did i say about shooting bears?

rrvau (author)2014-05-20

I'd hate to try towing this trailer. The aero would be awful. If you use if as a transportable structure you could come home to an empty space sometime. Would that be vehicular theft or residence theft?

Viksri8 (author)2014-05-19

This is Awesome!

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