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Life in a Less-Than-$20k Tiny House

This is Tave’s tiny home on wheels that she built for less than $20k. It was actually nominated for the 2016 Tiny House of the Year and is one great little home. Tave made this place her own in the 9 months she spent building it, adding a crafting/sewing station as well as a home office.

I am a 38-year-old woman from Maine. My tiny house took 9 months and just under $20k to build.

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Life with a Less-than-$20k Tiny Home: She Built Her THOW in 9 Months for Under $20k

Life with a Less-than-$20k Tiny Home

Images via Tiny House of the Year

Life with a Less-than-$20k Tiny Home

I have been living in my house for about 6 months and have never been happier. My house is designed by me, for me, and I have a place for everything.

Life with a Less-than-$20k Tiny Home Life with a Less-than-$20k Tiny Home Life with a Less-than-$20k Tiny Home

Related: $20k School Bus Tiny Home

Life with a Less-than-$20k Tiny Home Life with a Less-than-$20k Tiny Home Life with a Less-than-$20k Tiny Home Life with a Less-than-$20k Tiny Home Life with a Less-than-$20k Tiny Home Life with a Less-than-$20k Tiny Home Life with a Less-than-$20k Tiny Home Life with a Less-than-$20k Tiny Home

Related: 40′ Shipping Container Tiny Home Built for $20k

Life with a Less-than-$20k Tiny Home Life with a Less-than-$20k Tiny Home

Images via Tiny House of the Year

From Tave: 

I am a 38-year-old woman from Maine. My tiny house took 9 months and just under $20k to build. I did the majority of the work myself with help from my dad on his days off. My mom did a lot of the painting and helped out when I needed an extra hand. I also hired an electrician. It is built on a 24′ utility trailer and parked on a cement slab in my parent’s backyard. I am connected to their well and septic but have my own electrical service. I insulated with 3″ rigid foam in the walls and 4 inches in the floor and ceiling. I heat and cool with a ductless mini-split unit and have a 20-gallon electric water heater. I have an in-wall ERV ventilation unit, as well as a bathroom fan and range fan. The house does have a small storage loft above the closet and washer and dryer but there is no sleeping loft. I have sleep disorders and need easy access to my bed, so I kept the floor plan open. I decided to build a tiny house on a trailer because I’m single and work from home and haven’t really decided where to settle down yet. Though I don’t foresee moving anytime soon, I really don’t know what the future will bring and I like the idea that my home/investment can move with me.

I have been living in my house for about 6 months and have never been happier. My house is designed by me, for me, and I have a place for everything. I am an avid crafter and needed space for my fabric and supplies. I was even able to keep my oversized ironing board. I made a sewing machine storage cabinet with a drop-leaf front, which can also serve as a kitchen table. My countertop is stainless steel with a drop-leaf butcher block bar. I have two counter stools that fold flat and store in my headboard cabinet. I frankensteined a couple of swing-arm monitor mounts into a computer workstation which can be adjusted to sit or stand at. I have drawers built in under my bed for my clothes, with cubbies on either end for other storage. My mattress lifts up and I store seasonal clothes and bedding under it, behind the drawers and cubbies. A narrow cabinet runs the full length of my headboard and I have shelves on top of that to the ceiling. Having a full-size washer AND dryer was important to me and that was one of the biggest challenges but we made it work.

There were quite a few rough days during the build where I lamented ever starting the project but now, every day I wake up, look around, and just feel blessed.


Related: Couple’s $20k DIY Tiny Home

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Natalie C. McKee

Natalie C. McKee is a contributor for Tiny House Talk and the Tiny House Newsletter. She's a wife, and mama of three little kids. She and her family are homesteaders with sheep, goats, chickens, ducks and quail on their happy little acre.

Latest posts by Natalie C. McKee (see all)

{ 77 comments… add one }
  • gmh
    January 30, 2017, 12:33 pm

    Perfectly personalized! This is the kind of Tiny that inspires me the most- the owner planned, owner built kind. As a crafter, I really appreciate the storage and work area. The bathroom is also really well thought-out.
    Tave, you ROCK!

    • January 31, 2017, 1:33 am

      Thank you! During my latest sewing project I realized another perk of going tiny… I don’t have to go far to refill my iron! 😉

      • Natalie C. McKee
        January 31, 2017, 7:28 am

        That is such a huge bonus 🙂

  • Kevin
    January 30, 2017, 1:52 pm

    943¼. That is cute.

    • Eric
      June 9, 2019, 3:28 am

      Think the owner must be a Harry Potter fan… lol

      • June 9, 2019, 8:20 am

        Ha, never read the books or watched the movies. The house is parked in my parents’ backyard and their house number is 943 and since my house is about 1/4th the size of theirs I added the fraction.

        • Eric
          June 9, 2019, 8:51 pm

          Same… but I do know that the platform was number 9 3/4

  • oxide
    January 30, 2017, 2:02 pm

    Where’s Zach?? This is AMAZING for $20K!! The design is excellent too. There’s room for almost everything, there’s a teeny peninsula kitchen, flush toilet, first floor bed, even full w/d! What more do you need?

    Well okay, I would need a larger refrigerator. I would put a larger refrigerator where the giant stove is, put a two-burner cooktop and perhaps a tiny oven where the refrigerator is now, and put the microwave on one of the shelves over the sink.

    • January 31, 2017, 1:40 am

      Thank you! My oven is definitely overkill. I wish I’d gone with a single burner and a toaster oven. With the exception of once having to leave a large frozen pizza out in the snow until dinner, I haven’t run out of space in my refrigerator. 🙂

  • Paul Larsen
    January 30, 2017, 2:38 pm

    Great design! nice and open! Love the lighter colors too , gives a more spacious feeling. and best of all no loft! I can really dig that!

  • Claude
    January 30, 2017, 3:34 pm

    Thanks for the details of your project. Overall nice job!

  • Joyce
    January 30, 2017, 3:43 pm

    It is nice to hear how happy owner/designer(s) are living in their tiny homes. Some people build to make a profit and others cease building for various reasons. I feel sad for those who dream and never complete those dreams or have to forfeit their tiny for other reasons. This is a nice ground level floor plan, simple to use for one maybe 2 people. You inspire me to continue with my dreams of owning a tiny.

    • January 31, 2017, 1:50 am

      Thank you! I’ve never been happier. Hopefully this trend becomes more mainstream, making tiny more accessible to everyone.

  • marie
    January 30, 2017, 5:21 pm

    This is great. Congratulations!
    Please tell me about the mini split – I have not been able to find any mfg./seller.
    Thank you very much!

    • Peggie
      January 31, 2017, 5:35 pm

      I found that just typing Mitsubishi Mini Split into the search engine gets you a better price than either Amazon or eBay, which normally I find the opposite with any other product. So try that.

    • February 2, 2017, 2:17 pm

      Thank you! I have the Fujitsu 9RLS2, which is no longer made but I believe it is comparable to the newer 9RLS3 model. I purchased it through a licensed installer so I could retain the warranty but, like Peggie mentioned, you can find them cheaper online. If you are looking for a local installer, maybe checking under HVAC in the yellow pages would be helpful.

      • Marie
        February 2, 2017, 5:55 pm

        Thank you, both 🙂

        • Barnie
          February 8, 2017, 3:46 pm

          In my limited experience “ductless” might serve as another useful search term.

  • matt
    January 30, 2017, 6:28 pm

    Without doubt one of the most well thoughtout and functional designed houses I’ve seen. Bravo.

  • Rusty Kerr
    January 30, 2017, 7:42 pm

    Love it, good job. I like the kitchen, small but plenty of work space. I especially like the bathroom, excellent use of a small space.
    What is the square ft, I am guessing 240?

    • January 31, 2017, 1:53 am

      Thank you! Interior square footage is about 200.

  • Jane on Whidbey
    January 30, 2017, 11:43 pm

    I love your home! I, too, designed for a couch/bed on the first floor, and sewing. It’s wonderful to see another woman in a home that she designed herself, let alone building it. Congratulations, and best wishes for many happy years there, or anywhere your heart moves you.

    • January 31, 2017, 2:03 am

      Thank you! Woohoo, another tiny crafter!

  • Gloria M Moran
    January 30, 2017, 11:44 pm

    I like this and would be very comfortable living here. Best of all, no loft. Would like a larger refrigerator.

  • Meta
    January 31, 2017, 12:27 am

    Thank you Tave,
    You have inspired me not to give up on my dream. And thanks for sharing your feelings of your up and downs, that is real life. I do need space for my sewing, bed on one end of TH and innovative set up for all I need as I get older. Great little home.

    • January 31, 2017, 2:13 am

      Thank you! Soooo many ups and downs but that just makes the finished product more rewarding. Keep on planning out your space… the longer you have to wait, the more time you’ll have to perfect your layout. Good luck!

  • Patty
    January 31, 2017, 2:21 am

    Great job! Admire all your hard work and design.

    • Natalie C. McKee
      January 31, 2017, 7:26 am

      Me too!

    • February 2, 2017, 2:09 pm

      Thank you!

  • Michael
    January 31, 2017, 4:49 am

    Great THOW and well thought and done. It shows that you don’t need a cramped sleeping loft with stairs or ladders.
    If you need more living space just let the bed lift up to the ceiling
    and you could put wardrobe and storage where the living area is now.
    I like it and DIY for 20k, too.

    • Natalie C. McKee
      January 31, 2017, 7:24 am

      Yea she did a great job at a great price 🙂

    • February 2, 2017, 2:10 pm

      Thank you!

    January 31, 2017, 8:01 am

    Another tiny house built within a $20,000.00 price tag and just as beautiful….!

    • Natalie C. McKee
      February 1, 2017, 9:10 am

      It’s amazing 🙂 That’s what a DIY project can get you!

    • Eric
      August 9, 2017, 4:31 am

      Yes, but no labour costs to add to that Zach. She was fortunate in being “able” to build it herself. A lot of people can’t. Let us assume Tave isn’t what one would call a skilled builder, more a home handyperson. Took her 9 months. Let us assume it would take a tradesman 6 weeks. Now work out 240 hours of labour and see how much that would add to the cost of the build. And depending on where one is in the States the labour rates would vary dramatically.

      • May 21, 2018, 12:16 pm

        Excellent point. I am not a professional builder, yet had help from family who are. From the few days I had to pay plumber and electrician, I can see how the cost would dramatically increase, and fast!, if you had pros for every aspect of the build. Definitely something people should keep in mind when seriously considering a tiny house.

  • Marsha Cowan
    January 31, 2017, 11:15 pm

    Wow! This house is so clever! I love the kitchen and its drop down table, but the sewing storage is wonderful! The bathroom is beautiful with, again, very clever storage in the boxed in sink. Very serene color scheme. It’s really lovely.

    • Natalie C. McKee
      February 1, 2017, 8:50 am

      Incredibly well done!

    • February 2, 2017, 2:11 pm

      Thank you!

  • Paul Larsen
    February 2, 2017, 5:38 pm

    I just read your blog Tave and I am really impressed! You never know what you can do until you try it! And the best way to learn is by doing. In my early 20s , I went ahead and built my own 21 foot travel trailer, even though some nay sayers said it was not possible. But 38 years later and a couple of renovations , I am still using it. Keep on Building ( and sewing ) Tave!

    • Natalie C. McKee
      February 3, 2017, 5:55 am

      That’s so great for you Paul!

      • Paul Larsen
        February 3, 2017, 12:03 pm

        Natalie , I hope to post an article on my trailer , when I can find some misplaced construction pictures and when I can get some new pictures of the trailer in its natural element.

        • Eric
          June 9, 2019, 3:34 am

          38 years and still going strong. I AM impressed. I’ve seen plenty of ordinary trailers of the cartage variety that are of that vintage, or even older. But a travel trailer? Never.

          Congrats from the bottom of the world.

    • February 3, 2017, 5:35 pm

      Thanks, Paul! I imagine renovations are a lot easier when you know every inch of your project. I look forward to seeing pics!

    February 5, 2017, 7:04 am

    This TH would be great layout for my sewing shop. Too bad it cannot be attached to another TH. That wouldn’t make it a TH, then. Two thumbs up!

  • Diana
    February 7, 2017, 12:12 pm

    First of all, great job! I love the bed on same level design. The only thing I would do if I were going to build one like this is to have a little longer trailer so I could have a bit larger kitchen and bath. Maybe a 28 foot. I like how open it is! Where did you get the kitchen cabinets? Super nice and functional design. I’m not a grey color person so I wonder what it would look like with another color but beyond the color I really really like this!

    • February 7, 2017, 7:55 pm

      Thank you! I bought my cabinets at Home Depot. They are in the ready-to-assemble (RTA) section of their website. Manufacturer is Eurostyle and the model is called Stockholm.

      I may have gone a little overboard with the grey… 🙂

  • Larry
    February 7, 2017, 1:03 pm

    Very nice. Happy for you.

  • Debbie
    February 7, 2017, 1:20 pm

    What a super efficient, well-planned, well-executed build. You are so very talented!!! You also have a great location with the water and septic. I know how thrilled you are with this major life accomplishment. I’ve had a similar thrill (a sports car that ‘fit’ me and was super stable-a fun drive)and boy is it a wonderful feeling! I am planning my own tiny home, but am not young and strong enough to do the build. I only hope I can get all the details right and not miss a single need! I’m in NH and will be dealing with the snow and cold too! Congratulations Tave!

    • February 7, 2017, 8:13 pm

      Thank you and good luck with your house! New England winters are not for the faint-hearted. Weatherizing is the one area not to skimp on. We’ve had weeks of -10F and I definitely felt it through the windows. Wish I’d gone with triple panes! I can’t really complain, though; my heat pump does an amazing job and I’ve been quite comfortable.

    February 7, 2017, 7:06 pm

    Another prime example of building a pricing a tiny house with thought about cost…!

  • Sarah
    February 8, 2017, 5:25 pm

    Tave, this is wonderful. Every time I see a customized THOW that has a lot of thought put into it, I wish for one myself. I would actually like one JUST for my crafting hobby, which appears to have accelerated as I’ve grown older. I think this is the neatest THOW. How did you ever contain your crafting? Kudos to you!!

    • May 15, 2018, 12:20 pm

      Thank you! Sorry, just saw this comment. It is hard to contain craft supplies because you like to have things on hand when inspiration strikes. I’ve had to learn to let things go that I don’t absolutely love or have an immediate project in mind for. It’s hard but freeing.

  • Dominick Bundy
    August 8, 2017, 3:11 pm

    Under $20,000 what a steal! this is one of the best DIY Tiny houses I’ve seen in a long time It has all the amenities I need and want. All on the same level (no loft )

  • Vivian Smith
    August 8, 2017, 5:01 pm

    You definitely deserved that nomination. I love the fact that the space is adjustable, using the flip-up tables as needed. And you actually have closets and storage. I have a minimal wardrobe but even I still need to hang clothes and put food in cabinets.. 🙂 The design encourages me in the hope that I can start building my home sooner.

    • May 15, 2018, 12:23 pm

      Thanks! Goodluck with your future tiny endeavor.

  • Rusty
    August 8, 2017, 7:27 pm

    I love every inch of your sweet home. Your hard work paid off and now you can enjoy mortgage free living in a comfortable home of your own. I
    especially like the sleeping area on the main floor and love that washer and dryer. My favorite tiny home!

  • Sheila
    August 8, 2017, 8:34 pm

    Awesome tiny home! I love the design. It is perfect for my dream home. Are the plans for sell? If not, any ideas for duplication.


    • May 15, 2018, 12:30 pm

      Sorry, I missed all these comments from August. Thanks for the praise and your interest. I will actually be listing my house for sale shortly if you are still interested. The plans were never professionally drafted, so I wouldn’t feel right in having anyone build directly from them. I was lucky to have my dad, who was a contractor, help me with the structural design.

      • HUNTER
        January 4, 2019, 10:31 am

        Why after all the love you put into this beautiful home going to sell it? I’d kill to be able to buy this beauty………..

  • Lita
    August 9, 2017, 12:18 am

    Loved this, excellent use of space here for the tee tiny life. And yet keep your crafts! Good Job!

  • Patricia
    May 13, 2018, 10:07 am

    This tiny house is one of my all-time favorites. I love how open it is and all of the thoughtful storage. It is definitely on my top 10 tiny houses list. I’m a crafter also. Seeing how Tave has incorporated her passion for sewing into her design encourages me that tiny living can work for me too.

    • May 15, 2018, 12:32 pm

      Thanks! Good luck with your tiny house dream!

  • Karen Blackburn
    May 14, 2018, 4:41 am

    Nice design and like you I would need a bed on the downstairs floor. I like the small computer table and it is a relief to see a small house without the seemingly ubiquitous large flat screen TV on a wall (waste of wall space). Like you I craft but would need a much larger working area, I currently have a desk 5’x18″ with drawers and cupboards but this is too small for both pattern drafting, cutting fabrics and sewing. Other than that, and I know that bit is very individual, this would be ideal for me as well. Trying to talk my daughter into letting me live in something similar instead of with her, will show her this and cross my fingers. Good luck, you are the first crafter I have seen do something like this and you give hope to the rest of us.

  • May 15, 2018, 12:15 pm

    Thank you! I like to spread out on the floor when cutting material but I think my counter and flip-up bar would be great for it. Incidentally… I will be listing my house for sale shortly, should you convince your daughter it’s the best fit 😉.

  • Michael
    May 20, 2018, 1:35 pm

    I am SOLD! I love it! It is very simple to live in that GREAT tiny house. I am tired of too many things that I do not need at my place. Can you send me a link of your construction/blueprint? Please send it to my email at [email protected]. Thanks!

  • May 21, 2018, 12:00 pm

    Thanks! I do not have official blueprints. I have the stud layouts that can give you an idea. I can try to scrounge them up and email them next week.

    Speaking of “sold,” I will soon be listing my actual house for sale, as I’m getting married and have a new job which includes housing. Should you be interested, I am listing it for $48k… feel free to email me. [email protected]

    • Alex
      May 21, 2018, 12:44 pm

      Hey Tave, sure, we’d love to help you sell your tiny house! I’ll shoot you an email now. Congrats on getting married and the new job w/ housing! Very cool!

  • Mary McGuirk
    August 25, 2018, 7:30 pm

    you know you have a winner when there are so many comments…I am going to go back up to the top and look to see if it would work, but an ELEVATOR BED might work well so you could have a dedicated sofa (I have seen DIY’s that cost around $500) and it would make nighttime and morning less of a hassle. Your dedicated OFFICE/WORK space (especially a really comfy office chair) is so important to those who want to work at home.

    I agree with you on the convection/microwave option, but would want a larger fridge (undercounter is my biggest issue since bending down is not as easy at 68 as it might be for you)

    P.S. it seems your mini-split would interfere with an elevator bed. You didn’t have an issue with windows, but would lose some storage.


    • August 29, 2018, 8:06 pm

      Thank you! I considered an elevator bed as well. The mini-split would interfere. My one regret is the mini-fridge!

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