Find the right tool for your job

Tool Review: What You’ll Need When Building a Tiny House

How to Build your DIY Off Grid Tiny House

Photo: Pexels

The novel coronavirus pandemic created an undeniable shift in how people live their lives. Wasteful lifestyles are not only expensive; they’re also hazardous to our planet and to ourselves. As difficult as isolation and physical distancing might be, many people are starting to realize the benefit and beauty of returning to a simpler way of life in nature. With some DIY skills and the right tools, homesteading in a tiny home might be more accessible and beneficial than you realize.

If you’re feeling inspired live a sustainable, eco-friendly lifestyle, you’ll need to start with the right tools and materials. Whether you’re building an accessory dwelling unit in your backyard or a tiny house in the countryside, here’s how to get started:

What is Considered Tiny?

Before joining the tiny house movement, you might be wondering how small your home needs to be. Will your home need to be 500 square feet or less, or is less than 1,000 square feet small enough? As it turns out, the size of your tiny home will largely depend upon where you’ll live. Local regulations determine the square footage requirements and permits you’ll need. For instance, Go Downsize notes that some parts of Florida require home dwellings to be at least 375 square feet, while Walsenburg, Colorado, waived minimum square footage requirements.

However, before you start building your home, be aware that tiny houses are not yet legal in all areas. Your ability to build a tiny home isn’t just up to your DIY capabilities; it’s also dependent upon local safety and zoning restrictions. Prior to starting construction, contact your local authorities to see what’s legal and obtain any necessary permits. If you’re having trouble finding a spot of land to permanently park your tiny home, you may need to get creative, such as building a tiny house on wheels.

Where to Start

Once you’ve decided to join the tiny house movement and you know where you’ll build your home, you’ll need to determine a plan of action for completing the build. Some people might prefer to use DIY skills to customize and maintain a pre-built tiny house. If you have plenty of experience with larger woodworking or home building projects, you might feel up for the challenge of building your entire home on your own. Regardless of what you decide, here are some options to consider:

Have a Home Shipped to You

Although there are countless sites offering tiny house giveaways each month, your chances of winning a new home are, frankly, quite low. Instead, you’re better off using a pre-existing tiny house kit. For instance, you might purchase one of the popular Amazon tiny house kits that are available for a few thousand dollars.

If you have a higher budget, Boxabl is an up-and-coming brand that gained popularity for their unboxable tiny home. For less than $50,000, you an have a fully-furnished accessory dwelling unit delivered to your doorstep and “unboxed” in your backyard. Each home is built to be energy-efficient with materials that are more resistant to natural disasters like floods or fires.

Download Tiny House Plans for a DIY Build

Another option is to download tiny home plans from a tiny house construction company, from sites like Amazon, or from your favorite woodworking or DIY site. While some companies charge a small fee for tiny house plans, there are also a wide variety of free plans to choose from. For instance, if you’re familiar with woodworking or Do-It-Yourself furniture building, you’re probably already familiar with famous woodworker, Ana White. Consider downloading the free Ana White tiny house plan from White’s website. While you’re at it, you might also search for plans for crafting homemade furniture to furnish your new space.

Tiny House Shells for Sale

Lastly, if building the entire house by yourself sounds like more time and effort than you can spare, consider looking into a tiny house shell for sale. A pre-built tinyhouse shell can be an ideal option if you’re up for the task of customizing and maintaining your home, but don’t have the time or the DIY skills to build the entire shell on your own. Start by searching for shells in your local area, but keep in mind that you might have to travel to get your shell, unless the builder offers shipping and delivery.

Choose the Right Materials for Your Tiny Home

You’ll not only have to consider which materials you’ll need, but also the climate, location and accessibility of your property. Weigh your options when it comes to materials, such as:


When it comes to roofing, a metal roof would be the most affordable and durable. Metal roofs are particularly well-equipped to withstand the elements in wet or rainy climates. Meanwhile, clay tiles can help provide extra insulation in arid climates and deserts. If you live in a climate that gets a lot of rain or dry heat, be aware that wood shingles are not a sustainable choice for long-term use in wet areas or extreme temperatures. On the other hand, asphalt shingles can handle most elements, from snow to sun.


Fiberglass insulation is both affordable and simple to install. For a natural, organic option, consider denim or cotton insulation. If you’re building your tinyhouse frame with cinder blocks, choose hollow blocks that allow you to stuff more insulation inside. 

Windows and Doors

Windows and doors: Before building your DIY tiny home, be sure to measure the exact dimensions of any windows and doors you’ll need. The window an door dimensions will impact your build — and might even impact your home design. Before you get too creative with your home design, keep in mind that custom windows are generally expensive and may not hold up to the elements as well as standard windows and doors.

Get the Best Tools for a DIY Tiny House Build

Just because tiny houses are smaller than standard homes doesn’t mean building your tiny living space will be simple. In fact, building a Do-It-Yourself tiny house requires critical thinking and planning in advance. To ensure success, comfort, and quality of life, you’ll need to get creative about maximizing your space.

As you prepare to build your first tiny home, you’ll need specific tools. Here are a few must-haves:

  • Hand-held circular saw: A truly universal tool, this affordable, accessible saw can come corded or cordless. You’ll need this tool to cut wood for framing, trimming out, dados, and a mix of small and long cuts. 
  • Hand-held drill: An essential tool, look for a corded hand-held drill with paddle bits, diamond tip bits, hole bits, orbital sander attachments, auger bits, and more.
  • Finish nailer: Make sure heavy baseboards, cabinets, and crown molding are secure with 15 and 16 gauge nails.
  • Portable air compressor: From sanding to wrenching to painting, air compressors use the power of air to supercharge your constructing powers.

Off-Grid Tiny House Considerations

If you plan on building an off-grid tiny house, you’ll need to take some extra steps. Living off-grid means you may not have access to water, electricity or sewage. Depending upon your location, consider designing and building your home using materials that will help boost conservation and sustainability. One key consideration is your power source. For instance, electricity will be a luxury while living off-grid, so you may want to consider battery-powered or cordless tools and solar power. Before you get started, also check any local laws governing tiny homes. Remember, living off the grid is not legal in all municipalities. 

Join the Tiny House Movement

Living a sustainable, tiny lifestyle is an adventure on its own. When you combine eco-friendly living with the simplicity and serenity of a tiny house that you built with your own two hands, you’ll tap into a whole new appreciation for your quality of life. Although the transition to the tiny house movement will be a challenge at first, you might find that this new way of life is very rewarding in the end. Start by researching where you’ll build your home and what tools and permits you’ll need. Luckily, many of the tools you’ll use to build your home will also be essential in maintaining it. Tiny living can be peaceful, fulfilling, and healthy. Many people feel whole and uplifted after taking the leap into building a tiny home and embarking upon a more sustainable lifestyle.