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How to Draw a Tiny House Floor Plan

Whether you’re buying a tiny house, working with a tiny house designer, or designing your own, knowing how to draw a floor plan will help you communicate your ideas and turn them into a real, workable design.

Getting Started

  • Start the old-fashioned way. Most great ideas start out with a quick sketch on paper. But a drawing is most useful when it’s done to scale, allowing you to understand the size of elements and their relationships to each other.
    • Graph paper makes it easy to draw to scale. Find graph paper with a not-too-dense grid, or print your own. Use a pencil, a pen, a magic marker, or whatever works for you.


      Using the graph paper grid

    • You’ll want each square of the grid to equal some easy fraction of a foot, like 3”, 4”, 6”, or 1′. Choose one of these (say 6”) and multiply it by the number of grid squares on your graph paper (say, 30×39). That gives 180×234”, or 15×19.5′ (divide inches by 12 to get feet). So, at that scale on that piece of paper, you have room to draw something up to 15′ wide and 19′-6” long. A 24” square table would be four grid squares long by four grid squares wide.

  • Architectural drawing software. There are lots of software programs out there, some free, some cheap, some very expensive. While professional designers often use AutoCAD, you don’t need anything so serious. The same company offers a free, web-based floor plan design tool. If you have had good (or bad) experiences with other design software, please share it in the comments!
  • SketchUp. A lot of tiny house designers have found SketchUp to be very useful. SketchUp is a free 3D modeling program that is not difficult to learn. With this software, you can design not only the floor plan but also the full three-dimensional design and details for your tiny house. Tutorials are available online, and Michael Janzen from Tiny House Design has done a very helpful video tutorial series on how to draw a tiny house on a trailer with SketchUp.

Knowing how big things are

  • Don’t forget wall thicknesses. It’s easy to do, but if you leave out wall thickness in a tiny house, it adds up. If you don’t know exactly how thick your walls will be, guess. A typical 2×4 stud wall with 1/2” drywall on either side is 4-1/2” thick.


    Drawing a door in a wall

  • Know your doors. Residential doors range in size.
    • Doors range in width, usually in 2” increments (2′-6”, 2′-8”, and so on). The standard front door on new American houses is 3′ wide and 6′-8” tall, but this may be too wide for a tiny house. The old standard front door size was 2′-8”. Consider the size of your largest piece of furniture—will it fit in your chosen front door?
    • Make sure to draw the door swing on the plan. Check that the door swing does not hit other doors, fixtures, or furniture. If you have a tight space, consider a pocket door.
    • Doors near a corner should be at least 3-4” from the corner to leave space for trim.
  • Know your windows. Draw your windows on the plan. Windows sizes vary. Common widths, for basic layout of a floor plan, are 1′-6”, 2′-0”, 2′-6”, and 3′-0”. If windows swing in or out, draw the swing on the plan. For more information on the types and sizes of windows (and doors) out there, look at manufacturers like Pella and Jeld-Wen.
  • Be realistic about furniture. Furniture takes up space. Get out a measuring tape and measure your furniture, and yourself sitting in it. Or look online for a variety of “standard” dimensions.
  • Understand kitchen dimensions. Kitchen base cabinets are typically 24” deep, with a counter that is 25-1/2” deep. Typical cabinet widths are in 3” increments (9”, 12”, 1′-3”, 1′-6”, etc.). Upper cabinets are typically 12” deep and come in the same widths. Ideally, at least 36” of work space should be allowed in front of the cabinets, with 42-48” being more comfortable.
  • Understand bathroom dimensions. Building codes establish some guidelines that are helpful to know, whether or not you’re building to code. For instance, there must typically be at least 15” from the center of the toilet to either side wall, for a total of 30” between walls (although this will be a little tight for some people, who may prefer 36”). There should be 21” clear space in front of the toilet.

A realistic floor plan showing walls, doors, windows, kitchen cabinets, fixtures, and furniture.

Special considerations

  • Plumbing walls. If you have a plumbed toilet, the plumber needs to be able to run a vent pipe vertically through it, so try to locate it near a wall at least 2×4 if not 2×6, and preferably an interior wall.
  • Shear walls. In a long, narrow house, side-to-side forces from wind and potentially earthquakes will put the most strain on the short end walls. Typically, the sheathing on those walls is what resists these shear forces, so try not to fill these walls entirely with doors and windows that reduce the sheathing area. Also, try to keep doors and windows a little away from each exterior corner, for extra strength (24” is great if you can get it).
  • Passive solar design. Orientation and window placement are key aspects of passive solar design. Check out my post on passive solar from a couple weeks back for some tips.

Looking for inspiration?

  • Look into small house books (I recently picked up Compact Cabins by Gerald Rowan and have found it very helpful) or free plans on the internet (such as Michael Janzen’s free tiny house plans at Tiny House Design) for ideas.
  • Learn a little bit about feng shui. I don’t personally buy into (or even understand) all the depths of feng shui; that said, I’ve found it to be useful source of principles for home layout and design. About.com has an extensive section on feng shui. Take what you find useful, ignore what you don’t.
  • Simplify, simplify, simplify. A simple plan is easier to build and may feel less cluttered. It can be made interesting and beautiful by vertical variation (window and ceiling heights and so on) and material choices, and I’ll talk about both of those things in the coming weeks.

Note: Last week I announced that this week’s article would be about insulation. While that is an interesting topic (at least, if you’re a building science geek), it’s not really specific to tiny houses—the same principles apply to all houses. If you were really looking forward to a thorough discussion of insulation this week, sorry to disappoint—but I’ll link to few resources that go into the various options in depth: an article on insulation materials from the Department of Energy
and another on thermal control in buildings   from the Building Science Corporation.

Have you been designing your own tiny house floor plan, or are you not sure where to start? Share your designs, and lessons learned, in the comments below! Next week, we’ll switch axes and talk about the vertical dimension in tiny houses.

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Vincent Baudoin

Vincent Baudoin is a designer and builder with a background in public interest design, sustainability, and integrated design-build.
{ 61 comments… add one }
  • Teri
    February 20, 2013, 4:09 pm

    I tried SketchUp and made a real mess of things. I’d love a 3D model of my floor plan so I’m going to keep trying until I figure it out (I’ll check Michael’s tutorial). In the meantime, I love TheMakeRoom at http://urbanbarn.icovia.com. It was so easy to work with right out of the box. You can add furniture, walls, doors, windows, etc. to specific size, shape & style and add links to appliances, etc. that you plan to use.

    • February 20, 2013, 4:38 pm

      Thanks for the link, Teri!

      In my opinion the key to SketchUp is learning to group drawing elements once you make them. Once you make a wall or table or something, make it a ‘Group’ or ‘Component’ and it won’t stick to the other elements and make a big mess.

      • Teri
        February 20, 2013, 9:53 pm

        Thanks for the tip, Vincent. I’ll give it another shot. It was funny and aggravating when I first tried it, lines going every which way and they wouldn’t let go! I ended up with fireworks on LSD instead of a Fencl.

  • alice h
    February 20, 2013, 6:23 pm

    Another handy tool is an architect’s ruler with a variety of scales marked on it so you don’t need graph paper. Once you pick your scale your markings are numbered as if they were feet and inches.

  • Michael Carmack
    February 20, 2013, 8:19 pm

    Tiny houses aren’t hard to design or build when you devote the time to do your homework / research. I have found some flaws in the current building trends though through my research. Most of these homes are being built on woefully inadequate trailers that will not hold up to the abuse of over the road travel. The houses are being built the same way. It’s not hard to find a trailer manufacturer and have them build you a custom trailer capable of lasting through the abuse and also able to protect your home as well.

    Here’s what I’ve come up with on the trailers. The frame needs to be sturdier and more rigid. The current axles and suspension on the current trailers that I’ve seen everyone building on are horrible. The axles need to be stronger and able to support conventional size rims and tires so that you can easily change and service them. Also, the suspensions or lack thereof is horrible. It doesn’t take rocket science to design a suspension that uses heavy duty leaf springs and heavy duty shocks to absorb the abuse the road dishes out to protect your trailer and your house. Also, the frames need to have a solid bottom built into them with space for expandable foam insulation and a grey water tank and a excrement / waste tank for the toilets and the plumbing, pumps, etc. An access port needs to be designed to be able to maintain and service everything. Also, the water system needs to have a potable water tank and use PEX plumbing for all of the water lines. Also, I would encourage a hot water on demand gas water heater and a small electric model. Most of the currently designed small homes don’t have the plumbing to be able to unhook and travel over the road and camp until you can find a suitable site to set up. This will allow you to be much more adaptable and also able to travel.

    The next thing that I haven’t seen discussed is the current use of “Stick Built” house techniques. This can get very heavy and also isn’t really suitable for over the road travel on a continuous basis. Most of the current tiny homes aren’t designed for any type of extended travel on a regular basis. My solution to this is to employ lightweight steel frame construction. You get added strength, able to withstand flexing, etc., and you also save on weight. The entire frame of the house needs to be built using steel frame construction. There isn’t any learning curve as you use the same building techniques as you would if you are using wood and can use the same tools. No nails will be used so steel strapping and screws will hold everything together. Once the frame is put together you need to keep in mind that you want to keep down the weight, ensure that your home is well insulated to combat heat and cold and also well thought out so that it will last. You need to use insulated windows and doors with Low “E” glass. Many of you will possibly be living “Off The Grid” or could be. PEX tubing needs to be used for plumbing. You need to wire your home for electricity, speakers (if you want surround sound, etc.) and internet connectivity as well as cable t.v. ports. Once this is done expandable foam insulation can be sprayed in the walls. Rigid Foam panels with fiberglass can be used for the exterior sheathing and then wrapped with a breathable vapor barrier. On top of that I would recommend vinyl siding to keep down the weight or some other easily maintained and lightweight material. On the inside of your house you need to be employing the use of LED lighting and other energy efficient fixtures because I feel that any house like this also needs to have a solar system (i.e. solar shingles for the roof) and a battery bank with an inverter and charge controller so that you aren’t dependent upon the power company if you are off the grid. They have come a long way with the solar shingles and many look like conventional shingles or even terrazo tiles used in the Mediterranean. Make sure that you have your trailer builder build a ventilated space in the front of the trailer for your generator, your battery bank for your solar system and also any propane tanks as well as service for circuit breakers and other maintenance items.

    Now, on the inside you need to take the time to do your homework and design a setup that is both comfortable and functional. I would look to sailboats and other maritime vessels and look at how well they employ the use of space.

    If you take the time to think things out and use the proper equipment you will have a home that will serve you well for a very long time. I hope this has helped some of you get some ideas.

    • Clarke
      August 20, 2014, 6:23 pm

      Do you have any designs for trailers ??? Clarke

  • et
    February 20, 2013, 9:40 pm

    Draw a box the size of the inside dimensions of your house, not necessarily on graph paper
    Make paper cutouts of furniture, windows, fixtures etc
    Move the cutouts around to find a way that it all fits comfortably.

    Simplify. It may be surprising to realize how much you can get rid of.

  • TomLeeM
    February 20, 2013, 9:49 pm

    Perhaps Sketchup for Dummies might be of some help?

    I think this article is very informative. Thanks.

    • Teri
      February 20, 2013, 9:54 pm

      I’d buy it!

  • alice h
    February 21, 2013, 12:01 pm

    You don’t necessarily need to stick to “regulation” sizes. Countertops can be 20″, even 16″ or 18″, especially if you aren’t using standard appliances. You just need to make sure the sizes you choose work for you. A big part of designing your own is the freedom to do what pleases you, always allowing for good health and safety practises of course. Using cardboard or whatever mockups can give good 3D feedback before you commit to a design. How much of your 24″ counter do you really work on and how much is used to store “stuff”?

    • February 23, 2013, 11:36 pm

      Entirely true! I think, however, that an understanding of some of the “norms” of construction is valuable for any beginner, especially if you are hoping to find used items (cabinets, doors, etc.) or buy them in stores.

      But nobody should feel stuck with these standard items and sizes. Tiny houses are a great opportunity for creative design. Exercise those creative muscles and then figure out how to make it happen!

  • LaMar
    February 21, 2013, 4:38 pm

    I have designed many small houses using grapgh paper and sketchup. I hav an associates in drafting which helps.

    I have several house designs on my youtube for anyone interested and I will do a custom small house design if people need one:



  • Janice Smith
    February 21, 2013, 5:14 pm

    I love to use SmartDraw 2008. It has drawings of furniture that you can resize to match what you actually have / want to use, as well as landscaping items to finish the exterior of your home, etc.

  • Teri
    February 21, 2013, 7:23 pm

    Ok, I watched a few of Michael Janzen’s videos and while they’re entertaining, I’m convinced I should keep far, far away from SketchUp!
    Is there anyone out there who could work up a 3d model of my floor plan for a very , very small fee? You can email me directly at [email protected]

  • Erik Markus
    February 21, 2013, 10:34 pm

    Start by making a list of things you NEED or Must have.
    This is personal. Don’t worry about what one would typically find in a home. Maybe you eat out, and don’t need a kitchen. There you go, you saved yourself expense and work. Maybe you want some custom feature, like built-in speaker system, or an alarm system with cameras, or a heated floor, or a large refrigerator. Knowing your personal needs ahead of time, will make it easier to custom fit those items where they will work the best for you.

    I HAD to have a full-size front load washer(no dryer) , full size double kitchen sink with single handle faucet and pull out hose, large 6′ desk, sleeping loft that would easily accomodate a queen size mattress, a thru-wall A/C, 2 entrance doors, a large (by tiny house standards) kitchen, 12 volt lights and wiring, a 40″ wide bathtub with single handle faucet, an RO drinking water system, a porch on the end, very well insulated, victorian cottage theme, natural materials(no or limited particle board), compost toilet with liquid diverter, at least 2 sky lights (1 in the sleeping area), and not have any gas appliances.

    My first design included a “full” bath with tub, sink, and compost toilet. I later realized, I could open up space by eliminating the bathroom and bath sink, putting the toilet in a separate closet, and have the tub in the hall. So glad I did. No cramped little tight space. Frankly, in a Tiny house, a bathROOM is redundant and unnecessary.

    I also realized, because I’m vegan, I don’t need a “stove”. A toaster oven and single burner plug in unit work just fine. And, if I want to take them outside and cook, so all the heat, humidity and smell stay out there, all the better.

    I ended up with a 34′ Tiny house I just love. I built it on a budget but I made sure the trailer frame was more than adequate and I bought brand new axles, rims, and tires. This was in addition to completely stripping, priming, and painting the “I” beam frame and springs.

    You don’t want to go to all the work of building a home, and have it collapse because the frame isn’t adequate. In my case, my home weighs about 9000 lbs. and the frame and axles can handle 12,000 lbs.

    A word of advice. If your thinking of taking that old 1980ish, 24′ camping trailer that has been in your family all these years, or buying that $500 trailer, of the same vintage, off Craigslist and “needs work”- with the intent of stripping off the old camper and building your new tiny house on the frame. – don’t.
    Camping trailers in particular, are designed to be light weight, and that includes the frames they are built on. You can figure that a 24′ camper is going to weigh anywhere from 4000 to 5000 lbs. However a tiny house of the same length is going to weigh from 6000 to 10,000lbs, depending on materials used. If the trailer is rated at 6500 lbs, “when loaded”, you could easily have a break down.
    Also a good idea to have electric brakes on your axles.
    Figure on a metal underbelly, to keep out humidity, mice, and bugs.
    Avoid putting water lines in walls or floors, or under neathe the home, if you can avoid that. At least have all junctions readily accessible.
    If you can eliminate all gas appliances, your not only making a statement politically, your eliminating health risks, and safey risks.
    Figure 2x6s for the floors and ceilings, and 2x4s for the outside walls. The extra thickness is for extra insulation.

  • Teri
    February 22, 2013, 1:35 am

    Erik, very good advice, but a question: if you’re not putting water lines in the walls, floors, or under the trailer, where do you put them?

    • Erik Markus
      February 22, 2013, 9:06 am

      Good question,
      I designed my home so that all the plumbing fixtures were next to each other. So on one end is the washer, then the kitchen sink which has underneath: the water filter, the whole house filter, the water heater, the junction where all fittings come together, an exterior faucet, the main water shut-off, a back-flow preventer, and on the floor is a form fitted metal base so if there is any leaks the water will be contained. Then next to this is the bathtub, then the toilet, and at the other end is a small water softener and the storage pressure tank for the RO filter.
      Fresh water lines can easily run behind bathtubs, behind furniture, and inside cabinets.

      My water softener is in a storage area. The only piping that is seen is a small bit in the toilet area, but the pipes are clear and you really don’t see it.

      There are a couple of reasons to run your water lines inside:
      first, if you ever have a leak, you’ll easily be able to see it, find it, and fix it. If you do it yourself, it won’t cost you much.
      second, if you live in an area where it freezes, your lines will be safe inside the home where it is heated.
      third, installation does not need to be done while building the home. You don’t have to bury the lines in walls and floors, which is good also because,
      fourth, buried lines can sometimes be punctured by nails or screws or even cut into, during the construction process. Believe me, it’s a big mess, when this happens. Sometimes water lines can get pinched inside walls/floors which can end up restricting flow and cause breakage.
      fifth, if you ever want to upgrade or change out your plumbing lines, its very easy. It’s like changing an extension cord.
      sixth, if you decide to move things around a bit, say move the sink 2′ over, you have the flexibility.

      I’ve been living in my home since July 2012. During this time, I’ve changed a few things under the sink, and I’ve had a few leaks, which is typical. However, because I had the metal pan, any water was contained, and didn’t soak into the floor. The main cold water line also sweats in the winter. No biggee. When it drips, its onto the pan.

      The drain lines are very simple or a straight shot. I have a 1 1/2 ABS line that exits the bottom of the home, after coming up through the metal underside, there is a “t” for a trap, in the floor for the bathtub, then it travel straight up into a wall where there is another “T” for a stand pipe for the washer and RO filter, then another “T” for the kitchen sink, a “Y” for a clean-out plug or air gap, and then up to the top of the wall, 90 degree and outside where it provides venting.

      Ideally the underside of your home should have only the inlet for the water line, and the exit for the drain line, sticking out 6 to 12 inches(this is assuming you aren’t doing any type holding tanks). The holes for these two protrusion should be close to the size of the pipes and well caulked to keep insects from crawling in. This is a favorite entrance for them. They are attracted to the temperature and humidity that will accumulate on the water lines that will connect your home to your main utilities. They will crawl on the lines and march right into your home. So make sure the holes are well caulked and tight fitting.

      Just the other day I was checking my water connection and there was an earwig at the valve, by the meter. I watched as it started marching from the valve onto the pipe, and toward the home. I felt confident in knowing, it wasn’t gettting in. Over the years, I’ve seen so many situations in campers, mobile homes, and even old fashioned ‘stuck-to-the-ground’ homes, where these connections are so sloppy and left open to the elements.

      If you have gas appliances, you will need to run your lines underneath and make holes for each drop. It gets messy. As I said, if you can avoid gas, you will be so much better off. Not only do you have to have the lines underneath and have these holes at each appliance, you will have venting in your home for each one, which cuts down on efficiency and potentially exposes your home to the elements. Just some FYI, an example of the dangers of gas appliances. During the 1994 earthquake in California, most mobile home fires started as a result of gas lines that broke as homes were shuffled about.
      I heat my home with light bulbs. It makes no noise and there is no loss of heat.

      I’m going to start posting videos on my experience building and living in my Tiny home. That is at Livinghouse47 on You-tube.

      • Teri
        February 23, 2013, 6:34 pm

        Thanks for the you-tube, Erik. It’s really helpful to see your well-planned pumbing system. Such a simple and good idea to use the washing machine pans!

      • Joe
        February 4, 2016, 7:48 pm

        This sounds pretty great. Is there a link to the youtube video? Can’t seem to find it.

      • March 29, 2016, 8:15 pm

        One of my most important priorities is having a bathtub. Your idea of having it open sounds cool. If possible I would greatly appreciate being able to see either pictures or the floor plan or both.

        Thank you,


  • Jerry
    February 22, 2013, 1:58 am

    Sketchup seems tricky at first, until you learn to use the hints it gives you. To draw a line on an axis (left/right, up/down, forward/back), you either move the mouse till you see the line change to the appropriate color (red, green, or blue), or you hold one of the arrow buttons on your keyboard, left for green, right for red, up/down for blue. Always start with a square on the ground, and work off of it. Never start a line in the air, always start it off the ground or a piece you’ve already drawn, then erase whatever lines you don’t need later. Here’s an example of what can be done with Sketchup, first on is my tiny house model, the second shows it’s components in an exploded view:

  • February 22, 2013, 4:18 am

    Why front door is opening inside? It’s taking so much space! Isn’t it better to open it outside?

    Am I right you offer to use the kitchen’s wash basin after visiting WC? Is there really no ability to do that in a sanitary room?

    • Stuffnonsense
      February 23, 2013, 1:11 am

      Snow. If you live in a southern climate, then a sliding door makes sense. But if a door opens out, it is blocked by snow drifts. It is also likely to knock the visitor down when the homeowner answers the door, unless the door has glass in it (which is less usual in northern climes). And if the homeowner doesn’t know there is someone at the door and opens it to go outside, the chances of injury are even greater.

    • Erik Markus
      February 23, 2013, 1:31 pm

      “Am I right you offer to use the kitchen’s wash basin after visiting WC? Is there really no ability to do that in a sanitary room?”

      Most tiny houses do not have bathroom sinks. It’s redundant. The tiny lifestyle is about avoiding and deleting unnecessary items. Some people may have a bathroom sink on the MUST HAVE list, nothing wrong with that. You really have to ask yourself, do I really need it?

      Some cultures have certain traditions, beliefs, and etiquette about how you use a bathrooom. If a bath sink is a requirement for you, I have seen some wall hung sinks that are very small and project out of the wall only 9″. They have the faucet off to the side and are only 6″ in depth. They work well for simply washing ones hands.

      As for swing of the entrance door. Traditional home entrance doors usually swing inward, though, as you point out, they require more space on the inside. I have out swinging doors on my home. They are a bit generic as they have no windows, but they are well insulated. Some wood doors are very nice to look at, but offer little in insulative value. Wood doors are also susseptible to warping and that can make them leak air even more on the edges.

      I chose the doors I have because I was on a tight budget and I knew, if I want to upgrade later, it would be reasonably easy to replace.

  • Michael
    February 22, 2013, 8:36 am

    I have drawn up a plan for a “tiny” (not so tiny) house and was wondering if anyone has any suggestions about “code” (the less the better!) I remember watching Little House on the Prarie when I was a kid and realized that a family of five lived in what would be considered a “tiny house” – in MINNESOTA, no less! The house I’m working on is based on the “salt-box” style roof which gives a considerable loft that is over a porch. In the county in Florida in which I live, you’re allowed to build up to 120 sq ft without an “engeneered drawing”. My question is: Does anyone know if that would include the “loft space” or if it would be the “footprint” of the building? Also, with the “loft” being over a “porch” are porches considered “square footage” (that would throw me out of the 120 sq ft range and require an “engineer”. With the loft and/or porch not being considered in the square feet, I have squeezed in 200 sq feet in a 10×12 :o) Really cute design that has everything one would need to live quite comfortably with an increadible amount of storage – and it sleeps six (four without ‘converting’ anything). Any input would be helpful in “figuring it all out”. (PS: This would have to be built without the trailer – unless I think of something else ;o) -m

    • ET
      February 23, 2013, 1:20 pm

      Talk to your local officials about size and other requirements. They are the one that make the requirements and will be interpreting them.

    • February 23, 2013, 11:51 pm


      ET is exactly right, your local officials should be your first stop as you will want to establish a positive relationship with them from the start — you want them helping you make this work, not thinking of reasons to block it.

      For a bit more discussion of floor area calculations, look here:

      My guess is that the inspectors would care most about the footprint and would not count the loft space as additional square footage, but again, I Am Not A Florida Building Inspector. 🙂

      • Mary
        February 24, 2013, 3:53 pm

        I disagree with ET and Vincent. Do NOT involve your building department, except to anonomously pick up publications from their office. They earn their pay by enforcing regulations as they interpret them to mean and don’t have jobs at all in these times unless they find something to do. It will very likely be cheaper to hire an architect or local contractor for advice. Instead, read the local building laws on the internet and talk to your neighbors. Your neighbors are the ones who will turn you in if you do something wrong. The inspector doesn’t just show up one day. Don’t violate the setbacks! I believe also that it is easier to get forgiveness than permission.

        • Teri
          February 25, 2013, 4:53 pm

          Mary, you’re right! I started a small business in a home and I needed to add one toilet. Everyone said to just put it in, but no… me being a good girl scout I went in to get a permit for it. I opened Pandora’s Box and 13 months + 200K later I was open for business. I’ve learned my lesson!

        • Sarah
          February 28, 2013, 12:19 am

          After drawing homes for 20 years in Ohio, I appreciate this article. I know our codes very well and am just sharing my insights.
          I agree with Mary and say that you should absolutely read your code before talking to anyone in detail. Read the building code and zoning. I would say that the loft should be labeled a “Mezzanine” and clearly mark the head clearance heights. In our state, less than 7′ from floor to ceiling is not considered or allowed to be ‘occupied’ (or livable)and therefore would not count in the square footage. There are also large exceptions for mezzanines since they are not a true story (2nd floor). Of course this is also assuming you do not have a full set of stairs and it doesn’t cover the entire footprint of your home. You would also not be allowed to have a ladder access to anything except storage or mechanical, sometimes that is just about labeling.
          Absolutely read the codes portions that are applicable to you, read the definitions of everything – square footage, occupied, mezzanine, egress windows, exits, etc. It seems your state code is available online, but residential is often a completely separate code, also check local zoning ordinances, deed restrictions, and if this is not attached to a foundation it is possible you could fall under modular code instead.
          An exterior concrete slab that is covered by a roof overhang is not square footage. Most places base square footage solely on interior gross space. If you are not required to have railings for the porch because it is close to the ground, then you can add them later.
          If needed you could hire someone later, but I recommend going to a local drafts-person who does residential work with your building official. You can call the code official and anonymously ask for 3 recommendations, which is how I get the vast majority of my work. A small firm of residential architects is possible later, but they also may want to do more than needed. There are some great code officials out there, but I agree with Teri too.
          All building departments here require computer drafted plans with great detail, all exterior elevations with grade and an intricate building section or two if needed plus topographic survey if this is being put in place.
          My final 2 cents is to go big on anchoring your roof all the way to the foundation so all stays well in high winds.
          Hope it all goes well!

  • Christina Countryman
    February 22, 2013, 9:46 am

    I am a freelance draftsperson and certified Sustainable Building Advisor also BPI envelope professional. I am just writing to say thank you for your efforts, your work is lovely and the way you make information available to share admirable. When I have the opportunity to study the details I may pop in with some energy efficient suggestions. Seeking to create dwellings to love, Chrys

  • Margo
    February 22, 2013, 12:40 pm

    I so appreciate the detailed comments and advice. Thank you!

  • Erik Markus
    February 22, 2013, 5:46 pm

    I’ve just uploaded my first video talking about the plumbing system in my home.
    I plan to upload more on various issues regarding a range of issues including: video and pictures from the actual building, a tour of the home, a discussion of my experience so far, and more. I hope I can be of help to others.
    Livinghouse47 on You-tube.

  • February 25, 2013, 12:04 pm

    Why reinvent the wheel? Just use Floorplanner.com. Its free (for one house, which is all you need. just reconfigure the house when you want a new design) and so easy to use.

    • Jerry
      February 26, 2013, 3:17 am

      One reason to use a 3D modeling program such as Sketchup is that you can set the camera view at head level, and use the “walk” tool to actually walk into and around your tiny house. This allows you to see what it will be like to be inside the house, possibly preventing very expensive design mistakes.

      • February 26, 2013, 7:06 pm

        Awesome! I didn’t know it could do that. Floorplanner will let you do 3D and “walk around it” but mostly from an overhead position.

  • Erik Markus
    February 25, 2013, 2:24 pm

    When I did the plans for my home, I drew them with pencil and ruler on graph paper.

    Recently, I loaded a program which came with my computer called Punch Home and Landscape. WOW ! It has the rooms already drawn. All you do is click on a room, move it to the work table, click on each side to get the size of the room you want. I was able to recreate a large house I once built in 10 minutes. From these simple drawings it creates working floor plans, utility schematics, 3-D images, you can even spin the design and add landscape and decorating elements.

  • SueQ
    October 18, 2013, 1:32 pm

    Thank you for this immensely useful info and the links to software.
    Though I designed a plan for my large vacation home using grid paper. The house is wonderful and beautiful, but I think some things would have been better had I had use of design software.
    Thanks again for this thoughtful gift.

  • LaMar
    February 21, 2014, 2:30 pm

    I have several videos to teach people how to design tiny houses and houses on wheels using Sketchup.


    It takes a little practice but for a realistic 3D design it is probably the easiest to learn and with the housebuilder plugin it can do framing very easily which is great for making material lists and understanding the construction process.


  • TomLeeM
    April 10, 2014, 8:24 pm

    I bookmarked this site. I want to come back to it often. 🙂

  • Michelle
    April 11, 2014, 8:23 am

    A point for measurements to consider: disabled access.
    If you had an injury or temporary illness, would you have room to easily move about on crutches through doors/passages? What about paramedics with a stretcher? It only takes a little thought to plan key spaces to allow the flexibility.
    A home with a downstairs bedroom could have spaces big enough to take a wheelchair through doorways and into a wet room. This would allow independent living to continue wihout major adaptation. Sliding doors would really come into their own here.

  • Frank Upstate NY
    April 11, 2014, 12:17 pm

    Thinking that SIPS, MAKE the most sense in ANY project,…but especially in TinyHouses. Lighter, stronger, easier to heat, and allow for more space inherently when dimensioning- all things bring equal or Bettet with R-factors.

    • Jerry
      April 12, 2014, 10:37 pm

      SIPS seem like a great idea, so long as you keep in mind their unique issues. With SIPS, you have major issues running wires and pipes in your walls. You can run them along the floor behind baseboards, or behind some wainscotting, but beyond that you are looking at some form of exposure. Repairs are also a major issue, especially those involving framing, infestations, leaks, and anything else that could occur inside the walls. They are also heavier than stick framed and fiber insulated walls, which is an important consideration in tiny houses built on a trailer, not an issue on a foundation.

  • Lynda
    September 15, 2014, 7:33 pm

    I have been using Floorplanner.com
    Easy Peasy to use – Sketchup gave me a headache! Have fun designing:)

  • Trish
    October 6, 2014, 2:21 pm

    The first time I saw a tiny house was in Mother Earth News a few years ago. I thought to myself, man, how can a couple with a small child live in such a small space. Now, I’m considering a tiny house in my future and can’t get enough of this site and others. I’ve spent countless hours researching and developing my own floor plan. It’s an ongoing tweeking. My head is spinning with details and sometimes overwhelmed with the choices out there in regards to the build. I would like to know if there are any tiny houses in the Kansas City area that I might look it and get a feel for the space?


  • Miguel
    January 9, 2015, 9:07 am

    Beside knowing how big the small home will be … Is there a way to know how heavy the home will weigh to figure out the towing capacity needed for a vehicle to be used?

  • Maria West
    May 7, 2015, 10:10 pm

    Anybody know an android app that can be used free to design tiny house, i need bedroom downstairs, garden tub, room for me, rottweiler, hubby, wheelchair ….. [email protected]

  • Kim G
    October 9, 2015, 12:48 am

    I was enjoying the information shared by Erik Marcus in 2013, went to find his youtube, website, or anything else and he’s nowhere to be found. I really want to see his tiny house, especially the plumbing configuration. Does anyone know where he moved his youtubes to?

  • Alex Acosta
    November 16, 2015, 3:19 pm

    wow this is really helpful for me because i’m designing a tiny house and this is perfect for me

  • madeline m speer
    January 14, 2017, 10:05 pm

    These are great responses and I will be checking the ones that I would want to utilize within my plans. Saving as much as possible.

    • Natalie
      January 17, 2017, 11:57 am

      Good idea!

  • "K" Karen Walsh
    April 8, 2018, 12:01 am

    Thank you so much Vincent for Advice Here. Just found you this evening an Darn have been trying for awhile to find someone to help. I have a 2bdrm lvrm kit bath a cat walk an two lofts..looks nice frawn Dont know doable.TRYING GRAPH IDEA L. AGAIN THANK YOU! K😎

  • Wavez Residences
    August 8, 2019, 2:12 am

    Hey! A typical 2×4 stud wall with 1/2” drywall on either side is 4-1/2” thick.

  • Lloyd Bronson
    November 21, 2019, 11:30 am

    It was helpful that you mentioned in your article how it is important to remember the fact that it is important to utilize the design philosophy of feng shui in order to have a tiny home that is visually appealing to the ideas. My wife and I are looking to have a tiny home constructed for our retirement. We’ll be sure to find reliable drafting services to aid us in our time of need!

  • Devin Dalton
    November 8, 2020, 6:12 am

    Honestly I’m completely lost with any kind of idea on what to do. I have a 12×24 barn style type metal building with 3 windows and 1 door. The building is set up where the front door is on a 12 foot wide wall directly in the middle. I have one window on the far back wall directly in the middle, and both the left and right walls have a window around the center of those walls. Anyway I have no idea how to lay out my floor plan. I need a bedroom, a bathroom, a kitchen, and a living room but I don’t know how to add all that in such a small space. I’m not very creative to begin with which doesn’t make things any easier. If anyone can help or give out suggestions or ideas it would be greatly appreciated!!!!!

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