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Building a Tiny House: Your Ultimate Guide


Tiny home living has been steadily increasing in popularity in recent years, which is to be expected given the housing crisis gripping the country (nearly half a million Australians report unmet housing needs).

Tiny homes offer a cheaper, quicker-to-build alternative to your average home leading many Australians to explore building a tiny house to mitigate housing unaffordability. The popularity of building a tiny house in Australia has increased so much that councils across the country are changing zoning and building permissions to allow Australians to build a tiny house in backyards, which can double as rental units or granny flats for those who already have an established property.

If you’ve been looking at tiny homes for a while and asking, “How can I build a tiny house?”, then this article is for you! Provincial Homes are custom home-building experts that can help you either build your own tiny home or build one for you!

What are Tiny Houses on Wheels?

First, let’s establish the difference between a fixed-dwelling tiny house and a tiny house-on-wheels, also known as a THOW. Tiny houses-on-wheels are custom-built tiny homes that are placed onto flat-bed trailers and are fixed to the trailer, rather than a concrete foundation. As these are mobile units, THOWs are not considered ‘dwellings’, per-se, instead, many councils consider them to be ‘caravans’.

Tiny houses-on-wheels are great options for those who may wish to travel and bring their home with them, or are more nomadic, taking temporary jobs for six months at a time in a particular town or city.

What is the Average Size of a Tiny House?

When building a tiny house in Australia, there are no set dimensions that your tiny house ‘must’ be. However, the largest tiny homes are typically no bigger than 50 square metres, with the average size being around 37 square metres. After all, why build bigger when the whole point of tiny houses is to live more with less?

While there are no set dimensions for fixed-dwelling tiny houses, when building a tiny house on a trailer, it typically must not exceed a maximum height of 4.3m, a maximum width of 2.5m, and a maximum length of 9 m. Its weight cannot exceed 4.5 tonnes. Even if you only put your tiny home on wheels to move it once, these are the limitations you must follow for road safety when moving the THOW.

Benefits of Building a Tiny House

There are myriad benefits of building a tiny house versus buying a normal-sized home, regardless of whether you subscribe to the philosophy of living well with less.

Customisation Options

When it comes to building a tiny house on land, you have myriad customisation options that simply don’t exist with a traditional fixed dwelling. And if you’re building your own tiny home, you can design it however you like! There are box-style tiny homes that are more traditional rectangles, but then there are tortoise-shell tiny homes that are circular in design. Modular tiny home options even include using shipping containers for tiny homes!

If you already have a home but are seeking to downsize and find a cheap piece of small land with an older home that’s ripe for a knockdown-rebuild project, then building a tiny house where the old building once stood could provide you with more land to use.

Cheaper Cost of Building & Living

Because your footprint is way smaller than that of a traditional home, the overall cost of building a tiny home will be cheaper. And because tiny homes are often considered caravans (particularly if on wheels), the answer to “Do you need a building permit for a tiny house?” is probably not. Because of this, you could build your own tiny home, as you do not need a qualification to build a tiny home.

However, given that you’ll be living in it, we do not advise you to build your own tiny home without having it inspected by a professional builder once it is completed.

Less Maintenance!

One of the main draws of building a tiny home in Australia is less maintenance to do on a tiny home. Whether that’s simply cleaning the home or worrying about things like basement clearing or other typical large-home maintenance that’s just not a thing in tiny homes.

More Freedom of Movement

This is particularly true if you own a tiny home-on-wheels. By building a tiny house on a trailer, you avoid specific charges and taxes that are levied against fixed dwelling buildings by councils and towns, but you also give yourself the ability to just pick-up and go. Now, of course, if you have a tiny home on wheels, you’ll need a truck or other vehicle that’s capable of towing it. But, even at that, these costs pale in comparison to the cost of buying and upkeep of your average Australian home.

How to Build a Tiny House?

Before you happily embark on your build a tiny house project, you should know the basics involved in building a tiny house.

Choose Your Location Wisely

Unless you plan on building a tiny home-on-wheels, your location matters. While Australia is relaxing it’s legislation surrounding the permanent dwelling status of fixed tiny homes, you must obtain all of the necessary permissions when building your tiny home.

If you’re building a tiny home in your backyard, as a granny flat or rental option for folks, you will likely need planning and building permission. So, before you go and build your tiny home, ensure you have your paperwork in order.

Choose a Competent Tiny Home Builder

If you’re not building your tiny home yourself, it’s important that you choose a builder who understands the complexities of ‘building tiny’. Explore your builder options and look at previous projects, customer reviews, and testimonials before selecting. However, if you are building your own tiny home, then let’s move on to the next steps.

Choose a Shape!

The great thing about tiny homes is that they offer a design flexibility not found in your average Australian home. Because of this, they can be designed to fit nearly any specification, shape and size. Let your imagination run wild, while considering the square footage of a tiny home (typically 37 square metres). Tiny homes can be your typical box-shape, rectangular, circular, have a pointed roof, or an A-Frame design.

When it comes to choosing your shape and overall frame design, tiny homes offer almost limitless options. Bear in that it will need to fit on a trailer, even if you’re only moving it from where it’s being built to where it will be placed, or are building a THOW.

Choose Your Building Materials

Because tiny homes are smaller, they offer greater design flexibility regarding your building materials. Typically, tiny home framing is done with wood and offer metal roofing as a lightweight alternative to wood or asphalt shingles. Remember that your overall weight cannot exceed 4.5 tonnes when transporting your tiny home. So, choose lightweight materials if possible.

Build the Framing and Clad the Interior Walls

Building the frame is the first step in building your own tiny home. This can be done in the same way as a house—build your supporting walls, floor, and ceiling joists. It can be done far quicker and with less material than your average house! Once your framing is complete, your tiny home is ready to move to its final position (if it is a THOW).

Insulate the Walls & Floors

Although Australia could never be called a cold climate, insulating your walls and floors might be necessary if you plan on putting your tiny home onto wheels and travelling with it to other climates. If you’re not putting your tiny home onto wheels, then as much insulation might not be as necessary. Once you’re done with insulating, install your flooring and wall panels, whether you’re going for plasterboard with paint, or something simple like wainscotting on the lower half, with paint above. Ceilings could be left open in a tiny home, as they are much lower to the ground.

Once the structural work is completed, it will need to be inspected by a qualified inspector, usually these are sent out by your local town council. However, if you’re building a tiny home on a trailer, you may need to hire your own structural engineer to perform the inspection.

Connect Plumbing and Electrical

Your next step once you have finished flooring and walls is to connect your plumbing lines and electricity. Depending on the size of your tiny home, you may require a small sceptic tank on your property, or (if on wheels), you may have to work out a different waste disposal solution.

Have an electrician come and install your electrical wiring, sockets and switches before hooking your home to the electrical grid. Because they are smaller, tiny homes are sometimes better suited to renewable energy solutions like solar panels and solar hot water heating! Consider these in your build!

Once this is completed, you will need an inspection completed to satisfy the local planning department.

Furnishing Time!

Once you have water and electricity, it’s time to select your (smaller) furnishings for your tiny home. If you’re planning on having a THOW, it is important to select furnishings that can be easily collapsed down or rigidly secured in place when your tiny home is on the move. Following furnishing your tiny home, you may be able to move in!  

Is a Tiny Home Right For You?

If you often balk at the cost of living, or daydream of owning a home, but realise quickly that you’d never be able to afford one in the current housing market, then a tiny home might just be what you’ve been searching for.

Whether you’re a small family (say, two or less children and two adults), a single person, or an elderly couple looking to retire and downsize, a tiny home provides a fantastic housing solution. The smaller footprint means less maintenance, lower building costs, less property taxes and more design flexibility. They’re the perfect entry dwelling for those looking to get on the property ladder for the first time!

Final Thoughts

The great thing about building a tiny home is that you don’t have to compromise on living well just because you’re downsizing the space where you live. In fact, living tiny will provide you with more money in your pocket to do the things you’ve always wanted to do, but couldn’t, because “something came up with the house.”

At Provincial Homes, we understand that Australians are looking to live simpler with less of a footprint, and as custom home builders, we relish the challenges that come with building tiny! To get started on your own tiny home design, contact us today!

Frequently Asked Questions

As the tiny home revolution in Australia enters full swing, we’ve been receiving hundreds of questions about tiny living and tiny home building. Here are some of our most popular.

What are the main legal and zoning considerations when constructing a tiny home?

Unfortunately, localities and states in Australia have yet to catch up with the tiny home building revolution. This means that sometimes there are restrictions on how long your tiny home can be placed on a piece of land – sometimes that length is 30 days, other times it is 120, or somewhere in between.

Another legal consideration is whether your tiny home will be on wheels or not. If so, you will likely not require a building permit, as THOWs are considered caravans. You may also not need to abide by the Building Code of Australia. However, fixed dwelling tiny homes must abide by this code, so you’ll require inspections of your tiny home at various stages of it’s construction.

What are some design considerations for maximising space and functionality in a tiny home?

There are a few interesting design features that you can build into your tiny home to maximise space and functionality. These include:

     Sliding doors, rather than ones that open outward.

     Multifunctional furniture, or modular furniture like Murphy beds that fold into the wall.

     Under-stair storage. If you have a loft in your tiny home, then using the space under the stairs (installing drawers or small cupboards, for example) is a great way to use dead space.

     Sofa-beds are great for single individuals or couples looking for a perfect multi-functional furnishings.

     Purchasing compact appliances that are specifically for apartments (like “apartment-sized” stoves/washing machines), is a great way to save space in the kitchen or laundry area.

Can I build a tiny house myself, or do I need to hire professionals?

It is certainly possible to build a tiny home yourself, providing that you understand and build it to Building Codes of Australia specifications and your work passes inspections. Unless you’re building a tiny home-on-wheels, in that case, you may not need a building permit.

However, this is going to be your home! It will be worth spending the extra money to hire professionals who know what they’re doing, rather than attempting it yourself and finding out that it’s not up-to-code, or discovering later down the line that there’s a major issue.