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DIY Tiny House You Can Build for $3,500 that’s Mobile

Most tiny house builders have simplicity in mind but few take it to the lengths that Jenine Alexander did when she built her 128 square foot home in 2009. Using Craigslist to gather building materials, Jenine built a beautiful, cozy home for less than $3,500!

After three years of traveling on her bike, Jenine dreamed of having a place to call her own. To avoid sky high real estate and land prices, she rolled up her sleeves and got online. Jenine built herself a cozy home with very little impact on her wallet or the environment by using determination, creativity and a Craigslist account.

Yup, Craigslist. Other than screws, hinges and other fasteners, all materials she found free or cheap, used or salvaged, primarily through Craigslist.

Unable to find used plywood for sale, Jenine built her house frame out of fir she salvaged from an old chicken coop. Quaint double-pane windows, found used, let California sunlight stream into her charming home. Refrigerator insulation, salvaged via Craigslist, keeps the house warm. The beams in the house’s ceiling she picked up from a man who, once he heard about the project, offered her flooring as well.

Jenine Alexander's Tiny House Tour with Faircompanies and Kirsten Dirksen

Photo Courtesy of Nicolas Boullosa and Faircompanies on Flickr

Jenine enthuses about waking up in a house she’s built with her own two hands. Every nook and cranny in this DIY tiny house has a story for her – where she got the materials, the people she met along the way, how her plans changed as she built and what she hopes to improve upon in the future.

Picking up pieces here and there, choosing used and salvaged over new, Jenine built a cozy home with simple luxuries for less than the average American spends each year on mortgage payments alone. Her tiny house boasts granite countertops; a wide wall of spices in labeled glass jars; a stove and baking oven; a roof that pops up like a big skylight; and a loft with lots of possibilities.

Inside Jenine Alexanders Tiny House made out of Reclaimed Materials

Photo Courtesy of Nicolas Boullosa and Faircompanies on Flickr

Though not the fanciest of tiny houses, Jenine’s creation feels both comfortable and functional on the inside. The house has comfortably fit nine people, Jenine says, and has two sleeping spaces.

Like most tiny houses made from scratch, Jenine’s home can be altered and designed further. She hopes to tuck mesh racks between the rafters so she can dry her own food and herbs. She wants to make the roof easy to prop open so on warm days she can let the sunlight fully into her home.

Jenine encourages anyone interested to take on building a tiny house, regardless of their budget or construction experience. Diving in is the first step; from there, just stay creative and flexible. All you need is confidence and Craigslist.

2nd Sleeping Area in Jenine's Tiny House

Photo Courtesy of Forge Ahead Puppet Productions

Video Tour of Jenine Alexander’s DIY $3500 Tiny House

This video is available thanks to Kirsten Dirksen and Nicolas Boullosa of Faircompanies.

Length: 6:22

Visit Jenine Alexander at Forge Ahead {BUILDING} Productions.

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Written by Newt Stremple for Tiny House Talk

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Alex is a contributor and editor for TinyHouseTalk.com and the always free Tiny House Newsletter. He has a passion for exploring and sharing tiny homes (from yurts and RVs to tiny cabins and cottages) and inspiring simple living stories. We invite you to send in your story and tiny home photos too so we can re-share and inspire others towards a simple life too. Thank you!

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{ 49 comments… add one }
  • Avatar MaryJ January 5, 2012, 3:02 am

    I got so much pleasure from watching this – Jenine radiates real joy in her achievement in building her own little home and it looks so welcoming and cosy.

    • Avatar Alex January 5, 2012, 7:46 am

      So glad you enjoyed it Mary. 🙂

  • Avatar naser January 5, 2012, 6:16 am

    i like traler home it got all detal
    the woman how build it she is an iron woman

    thak you

    • Avatar Alex January 5, 2012, 7:46 am

      Iron woman, lol, I love it naser.

  • Avatar Angeline January 27, 2012, 7:41 am

    Hey, does anyone know what her blog is called?

  • Avatar christie March 12, 2012, 12:01 am

    what an inspiration! i wonder how tall her house is and if it is street legal. i think that the legal limit for trailers is 13′ tall.

  • Avatar MsDawn Burton August 21, 2012, 9:19 pm

    I love it, I am just wondering about how she did the roof so it opens and if she has any issues with it leaking.

    • Avatar Abigail June 20, 2014, 2:36 pm

      She made sure that there was an overhang on it as well as how she sealed it to prevent water from coming in. All she said she needed to work on was the hinge mechanism as well as the trim on the inside. =)

  • Avatar Frieda Gelber May 20, 2013, 4:07 am

    There are many free land giveaways in the USA.

    • Avatar Helen October 17, 2013, 2:33 pm

      Please tell us where there are free land giveaways!!


      • Avatar Frieda Gelber October 18, 2013, 12:08 pm

        Just google:
        free land giveaways

        So many answers appear, many in Kansas. Good luck!

      • Avatar Joyce August 29, 2017, 11:10 pm

        Kansas has many small towns offering free building lots. Some communities require a size and cost range on the home to be built while others require families. Other small communities may have other requests. Once you find a list of communities offering free land, contact their chamber or city clerk for info.

    • Avatar Joyce March 23, 2016, 7:35 pm

      Research carefully for the type of land you want. Many communities will offer free lots with restrictions such as type of home or number of family members. Some of the small communities in central Kansas request school age children for applicants.

  • Avatar tom michel May 8, 2015, 5:49 pm

    Oklahoma and Kansas have tornados, just yesterday the flying debris was so bad in Kansas I almost got hit by a scarecrow and tin man lol, tiny built things will not hold up try concrete

    • Avatar two crows October 4, 2015, 9:02 am

      I lived in Kansas and Missouri for over 50 years. Never got hit by flying debris. Aamof, numerous friends tried to dissuade me from moving to Florida due to the hurricanes. Go figure. 🙂

      THOW’s can survive in Kansas just as easily as anywhere else. Everywhere has risks. Here in hurricane country [St Pete, FL] a group is working on getting a gypsy wagon community up and running.

      Meanwhile, you probably won’t find many land giveaways on either coast [both of which have their own risks, anyway.] The midwest is where there is land available. I say, go for it!

    • Avatar Joyce March 23, 2016, 7:45 pm

      Few states are exempt from strong winds. Travel trailers, semi-trucks and tiny homes are all subject to roll over with strong winds. Kansas has many small homes and many are on a foundation or anchored down. Underground homes survive tornadoes but are at risk for flooding and cave-ins some of which are caused by earthquakes or blasting. All homes are at risk for fire or explosion. If you can acquire some form of hazard insurance, take it to protect your investment. Enjoy what you live in wherever you park yourself.

  • Avatar anna May 8, 2015, 8:28 pm

    I have a very old trailer 35 ft I see from your program how you tranfer
    one thing into a great new thing
    I would like for you to do it to my old trailer
    My trailer is in PA an this old gal would be very thankful
    thank you

    • Avatar Dave TheDrawingGuy August 10, 2016, 11:29 pm

      Hello Anna
      I saw that you have a trailer you need to have comverted. I’m not sure who you were asking, but I am interested in your project. Please let me know if you’re still in need of help.

  • Avatar Gloria October 3, 2015, 11:29 am

    Great little home! Gave me lots of ideas. Love the roof. The pillows idea is priceless for me (I live in sweats).

  • Avatar Valerie October 3, 2015, 12:42 pm

    Good job with the less money to make it work for your tiny space. Although I would add shower and toilet.

  • Avatar Liz October 3, 2015, 12:57 pm

    Wow – – – I am so impressed with what this young woman has done!
    Love all her ideas. She is a real inspiration. Way to go Jenine!!
    Best to you always.

  • Avatar Beth @ An Unusual Life October 3, 2015, 2:04 pm

    I couldn’t be more impressed. Congratulations Jenine, you really did it and for so little money. If you were my daughter…I would not only be incredibly impressed but proud of what you have accomplished.
    Ah-mazing! I often get stalled due to feeling like I won’t have enough money but here you prove that very little is needed indeed. Thank you! I will forge ahead.

  • Avatar SteveDenver October 4, 2015, 5:45 am

    She is INSPIRING! When she talks about learning on-the-fly, “If you are open to making mistakes” really resonates with me. One very successful friend of mine told me that he has had so much success because he has been willing to face the specter of failure. He has six thriving ventures, but doesn’t keep track of all the ones that tanked because there are so many.

  • Avatar Jacob Morningside October 4, 2015, 12:58 pm

    Olympia has many independent thinking and living women of character and intelligence such as Jenine. But, Jenine is definitely an example the highest qualities to be found in any person. I can hardly wait to see her at the CoOp and tell her what an inspiration she is!

  • Avatar Peter March 7, 2016, 11:06 am

    Here is the DIY shed that I built with step by step pics: http://diyatlantamodern.com/2012/07/25/diy-modern-shed-project/

    This could easily be finished into a tiny house by insulating, running electricity and plumbing, etc.

    – Peter May (diyatlantamodern.com)

    • Avatar [email protected] An Unusual Life March 12, 2016, 5:19 pm

      Peter, thank you so much for the step by step pictures. I often feel intimidated by the unknown and your pics have soothed my fears. I think I’m ready now to build my house!

  • Avatar Arlie Boutwell March 23, 2016, 6:58 pm

    Is this the same tiny house she is selling for 40K ? If so wow some markup.

    • Avatar Alex March 24, 2016, 12:08 pm

      Yeah just remember that the $3,500 doesn’t include all the time she spent scouring around for reclaimed materials, taking apart old items to re-use, and of course, designing and building it. We have to recognize that there is monetary value in creative people’s time.

  • Avatar Peter Piper March 23, 2016, 9:04 pm

    Why are you moving out? That looks like a dream home to me.

  • Avatar Roberta Yates March 23, 2016, 9:41 pm

    What about dogs and/or cats?
    How friendly are these homes for them, I wonder. Maybe there’s a market for a tiny dog house to add-on.
    Not such a lunatic question when you think about it.

  • Avatar Patricia April 16, 2016, 1:02 am

    I love this idea. I’m sure there will be restrictions, as far as zoning. Where would your water & electricity come from? Your toilet flushing? I know there are answers, I would want to think it through completely. And my last question is why is Janine selling after all her hard work. Were there unforseen issues?

  • Avatar coffeewitholiver August 10, 2016, 7:27 pm

    Janine’s Tiny Home is the single one that inspired me to actually start building all those years ago (It feels like decades). I was able to use a ton of repurposed/inexpensive stuff in mine, but I cannot match either her costs or her ingenuity. I also have trouble feeling pride in what I’ve accomplished with my own build…she reminds me to accept what I’ve done wrong, what I’ve done right, and just…what I’ve done.
    Thanks Alex, for bringing her back into the spotlight.

  • Avatar ZACHARY E MOHRMANN August 10, 2016, 9:04 pm

    A chicken coup loft…? I hope she had it power washed and sanitized before she took it apart and started using it for building material, because I would hate to hear she got like H1N1 or something as dreadful as that because birds are like breading grounds for all kinds viruses … But she had some really good ideas like the storage pillows, and the wood crate shelving…! Nice job for $3,500.00 though…!

  • Avatar John August 10, 2016, 9:26 pm

    Great job! You noted urine odor in your commode … Use just a little vinegar in the tub and you’ll fix that problem. Yes, a LITTLE is all it takes. As with most tiny house projects less is more!

  • Avatar Donna Dean August 11, 2016, 8:13 am

    do you build tiny houses at the Naples, Fl address that people can view?

    • Avatar Alex August 11, 2016, 4:12 pm

      No, sorry, Donna. I just run this blog and newsletter.

  • Avatar Wanda August 31, 2016, 12:01 pm

    I was wondering were u start why you buy with weels the floor a trailer with hook ups already install.were and how to make or buy the floor part

  • Avatar Ana December 30, 2016, 8:05 am

    Hello, I am a single mother of a beautiful 8 y/o little girl from NJ. We became homeless a few months ago after I lost my job and now we are temporarily staying with family. Soon we wont have anywhere to live. I have been looking into building a tiny home for a long time. I only have savings and minimal building skills but I am a fast learner and very determined. If anyone can help please email me [email protected] I appreciate your input but please nothing negative about my situation. Thanks

  • Avatar Sheila Plourde July 2, 2018, 3:25 pm

    This is cute and very comfy looking. Great job to the lady that built it.

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