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They Built a Mortgage-free Small House for $5,900

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This article will show you how one couple built their very own mortgage-free small house for $5,900 and how you might be able to do the same using reclaimed materials that are inexpensive and many times completely free. All it takes is your dedication and labor. I’m handing it over to Deputy Gene now. Thank you for reading. – Alex

My wife and I decided to build a small house as cheaply as we could as a weekend getaway. We had a relative who worked at a lumber supply house and would call us whenever they had seconds on sale. We purchased anything they had figuring we would need it eventually. We worked every weekend I had off and it took us a little over a year to finish. Here it is about four weekends into the project.

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Married Couple Build Small Home for as Cheap as They Can… Final Cost: $5,900… Here’s How They Did It…

They Built a Tiny House for $5,900

Photo Credit Deputy Gene

Below is a shot when we were putting up the framing for the roof.

They Built a Tiny House for $5,900

More progress on the roof…

They Built a Tiny House for $5,900

We put up some blackboard to keep some of the rain out in our absence. We also treated the floors.

The French doors were a return so they were on sale for just 50 bucks.

They Built a Tiny House for $5,900

We insulated well as you can see below.

They Built a Tiny House for $5,900

After that, we used 1×6 pine for the interior walls.

They Built a Tiny House for $5,900

The cabin was planned for two rooms from the start, but we built one room at a time.

They Built a Tiny House for $5,900

The main room is 14’x16′, the bedroom/bathroom is 12’x20′ and the porch is 6′ wide.

They Built a Tiny House for $5,900

The second room going up.

They Built a Tiny House for $5,900

Extending the house… Making it bigger.

They Built a Tiny House for $5,900

That’s what’s great about building on a foundation, and learning to build yourself, you can add-on later.

They Built a Tiny House for $5,900

The metal roofing was one of the most expensive building materials.

They Built a Tiny House for $5,900

Under roof in the cold months, we worked inside a lot. I built the kitchen cabinets one weekend out of the 1×6 pine.

They Built a Tiny House for $5,900

The sink and countertop came off of craigslist. The countertop was very long, I would find many uses for the leftover countertops.

Sink and Countertops in Small Cabin found on Craigslist

We used a local mill to rough saw pine logs we brought from the coast.

They Built a Tiny House for $5,900

We found this old porcelain sink, literally in a yard, and used it for the bathroom.

They Built a Tiny House for $5,900

I put the water heater in the bathroom and built a cabinet around it. Remember the leftover countertops?

Left Over Countertops Used for Water Heater Enclosure in Bathroom Water Heater Enclosure Completed

The shower was also a junk item that was cracked and broken. I used Bondo to fix it.

Free Junk Shower Reclaimed for Cabin Bathroom Using Bono

I’ll show you the finished bathroom after I used Bondo on it and cleaned it up later.

All my trim work was done on this ancient table saw.

Old Table Saw used for Entire Trim Work for Cabin Project

The propane stove was free off of craigslist and so was the flooring.

Propane Stove and Tile Flooring Acquired free from Craigslist

Below you can see one side of the bathroom after I created a door for the water heater enclosure and installed the toilet.

Bathroom with Toilet and Door Added for Water Heater Enclosure

Below is the repaired shower using Bondo.

Shower Cracks Repaired using Bondo

Mostly completed bedroom, later I’ll add a nightstand which I’ll show you.

Bedroom in Small Home Almost Done

Kitchen/living room below with some furniture.

They Built a Tiny House for $5,900

Another piece of kitchen countertop becomes a nightstand.

Custom Built Nightstand Using Recycled Kitchen Countertop

Pretty much done now…

They Built a Tiny House for $5,900

We spent the weekend putting on some fake rock underpinning.

Fake Rock Underpinning Underneath Small Cabin

That was also a CL find.

We enjoy our little getaway. With careful shopping, re-purposing many items, and the use of seconds, we were able to build this small house mortgage-free for less than $6,000.

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{ 146 comments… add one }
  • KimiErin
    August 6, 2012, 1:20 pm

    nice place, but what about the land? how did you manage to get it?

    • Mame
      April 27, 2014, 3:16 pm

      What a marvelous wee cabin… certainly big enough for two people to really enjoy and I like very much that finishing seems to be a priority… not to0 much rough stuff there.
      KimiErin’s comment is a fair one — $5,000 to $6,000 to build is great, but there is also cost for land, septic, providing power, culverts so vehicles can get on the land, etc., etc., etc. I read further and see that the land used in this case is family provided land… but every situation will have its requirements, and I think it’s fair to say it would be an unlikely stretch to go from thinking of it to using it for the cost stated here.

      • Jake
        October 2, 2015, 10:39 am

        That stuff I think goes without saying, I think the idea here is that it’s a much, much more economical way to live. Where I live people are forever putting up quarter million dollar homes and then working themselves into oblivion just to pay the payment. People need to wake up.

        • Eric
          July 27, 2020, 6:38 pm

          Hah, try New Zealand… average house price nationwide is, as of June 2020, $NZ 640,000. Average income is around $NZ 50k – 70k. Then take off PAYE tax. BTW, that is Pay As You Earn… none of that insane pay income tax at the end of the financial year nonsense.

    • Jane Doe
      August 30, 2021, 5:18 pm

      That’s what I was thinking you can build a small/ tiny home but you also have to have somewhere to put it lol

  • Gene
    August 6, 2012, 1:24 pm

    It is family land, other family members have also built small cabins. We do pay a yearly lot rent.

    • Dave
      September 23, 2013, 4:46 am

      Gene, I would like a copy of the house plans you used…I would pay for them if necessary…this is exactly what I was looking to build on my property in SW Missouri this up-coming spring! Thanks for all the great ideas!

      • sheila
        October 22, 2015, 8:04 pm

        I live in Missouri near Cape Girardeau and am looking for like minded people to discuss building tiny homes here.I have the land.

        • Michelle
          October 27, 2015, 8:28 pm

          I’ve also been trying to find like minded people. It’s surprisingly difficult. I think so many people are still caught up in bigger is better mind set.

        • Sylvia
          November 4, 2015, 10:32 am

          Shelia and Michelle, I think there are many people searching for tiny home life, but most run into problems finding where to put the darn thing. I’ve been searching online for a few month now and it seems either you have to be *illegal* or rent a lot. I’m very interested! How do we connect?

        • Anon
          November 7, 2015, 10:27 pm

          I’m fascinated by these things. I’ve friends who have bought a house where one of their paychecks is entirely consumed by the mortgage. If either one of them loses their job they will be in a world of hurt. They could have bought two houses for the same they bought a single house, and rented the other house out. The really sad part is that they never go into two rooms. They just sit unused. I wonder how often that occurs to them as they write that $2,600 mortgage check.
          I’m glad I under bought. The only drawback for a small house, to me, is that I’d have to give up my books. It’d be ideal for people who spend all their time away from work kayaking, hiking, etc. A single person or a couple would do well, but it might be difficult with children at home.

        • Danielle
          August 24, 2016, 2:03 pm

          Sheila, I’m near Cape Girardeau also. We may be building one on our farm as a second home. We currently live mortgage free already so it’s just a getaway for us. Did you start building yet?

        • Reva
          August 7, 2020, 2:28 am

          Email me please id love to help

    • Sturri
      April 27, 2014, 11:31 am

      This is wonderful! Love the design. Would love the layout as well !

  • deborah
    August 6, 2012, 1:38 pm

    Very nice! I love metal roofs.

    Do you have a septic system? Just wondering how the sewage was handled. Have fun!

  • Gene
    August 6, 2012, 1:45 pm

    Yes, we put in a small septic tank.

    • Katie
      September 7, 2015, 9:50 pm

      how much was your septic system!! im looking to build in the spring but im not sure if I want to go a dry bathroom route (since I can shower and such in my parents home, building bc I have three years left of college and apartments aren’t ideal) or put in a system

  • sesameB
    August 6, 2012, 4:56 pm

    Great. I was glad to see this post. I live in one of these locally built shelters right here in my beloved rural Arkansas.

    All the best to you Deputy Gene!!!!! I am
    mortgage-free, too. Very nice, very nice Deputy Gene.

  • Schneb
    August 6, 2012, 6:09 pm

    Nice! And love that you did it with your own sweat/elbow grease, and found items one way or another at reduced costs–very inspiring!

    I also like the idea that this is on a piece of land where others in your family have their cottages, etc. Nice to have that degree of separation (own individ. places) yet still connect at same location.

    Love to see a floor plan, though, as I’m not quite able to figure it out from the various pics.

    Also, have you thought about screening in that porch?

  • Gene
    August 6, 2012, 7:17 pm

    I don’t have a floor plan, and the computer I am on now is very limited. Maybe I can help.
    The 1st room pictured is 16 feet wide, side to side, and 14 feet deep, front to back. The porch is an additional 6 feet wide, making the total depth, front to back 20 feet.

    The second room is 12 feet wide by 20 foot deep. The last 5 foot of that room is the bathroom. The bathroom wall runs just behind the door in the 8th picture. The bathroom door is centered on that wall.
    Here is the bathroom wall going up

    (Link Expired: i28.photobucket.com/albums/c206/deputygene/Cabin/DSCN0119.jpg)

    The silloutte of the house from the bedroom side

    (Link Expired: i28.photobucket.com/albums/c206/deputygene/Cabin/DSCN0521.jpg)

    and maybe a better pic from the front

    (Link Expired: i28.photobucket.com/albums/c206/deputygene/Cabin/DSCN0523-1.jpg)

    hope that helps

    • Alex
      January 8, 2013, 11:29 pm

      Thanks for the updates Gene!

  • Mark
    August 12, 2012, 2:07 pm

    Very Nice story. Get some wood preservative on it–it’s starting to weather and loose that wonderful fresh cut wood look. Good work finding “throw aways” and bargains.
    I am in a divorce, and if I can get enough from the proceeds of selling my house, I will be building my own, and will set up a website then to document it. I have quite a bit of building and architecure experience, so I hope it will be interesting to the community. I have not yet decided on stick built, conventional, or to perhaps re-use some shipping containers in a unique plan. That will likely be decided on by budget and site issues. My hope is to share with the tiny house community, and hope that it helps others, I believe that this one above will help others with their dreams.

    • jacki
      January 30, 2014, 9:22 pm

      Mark, that would be awes0me of you to share that knowledge with us.

  • Nightvid Cole
    December 5, 2012, 12:29 pm

    Are you in the middle of nowhere or in a city? If the latter, how do you evade minimum square footage laws? If the former, aren’t you blowing away all the money you save on housing by spending more on transportation (gas, depreciation, vehicle maintenance/repair, added insurance if it makes you need another, larger or more expensive vehicle) ?

    • sgmaps
      January 30, 2014, 6:15 pm

      With respect Nightvid Cole, it appears as though you did not READ the story. First of all it is a weekend getaway on family land & it should be visible (just from the pics) that this is in the country. Even for a city gal like me I can tell that it is in the country.

    • Nicole
      April 27, 2014, 10:09 am

      There are all kinds of people, with all kinds of lives. There are even places to live in varying degrees between “middle of nowhere” and “city.” It blows my mind that you don’t realize not everyone has the same 9-5 inner city job where they travel by car. Some may work part time, travel via scooter or motorcycle (very low transportation cost), people also have work-from-home or telecommute jobs. There are also many jobs that just exist all over the place, like for those who work in schools, maintenance garages, restaurants, shops, hospitals, spas and salons, dental offices, law offices, libraries, hotels, police departments, mail/package delivery companies. There are also a wealth of independent contractors, like elderly care-givers, tutors, massage therapists, plumbers, electricians, or yoga teachers. Considering that there life experiences vastly different from that of yours and your friends’ will open you up to a lot of possibilities. Where I live, all the software jobs and military jobs are also outside of the city, for what that’s worth.

    • Dennis Reynolds
      March 31, 2015, 11:34 am

      You can not possibly believe that by living in the country in this cabin vs renting/owning a house in the city that he would eat up his savings with more gas, car maintenance, etc. Extra gas and a little more maintenance on a car would not be nearly as expensive as $1,000-$2,000, or even more, that he would be paying on rent or mortgage, electric bill, water bill, tax bill, maintenance on a large house, not to mention he still has to own that car and pay insurance on it. Reading the article, this is his weekend getaway, so your question is a moot point anyway. I guess you overlooked that part. But comparing living in a city (or the country) and having to pay rent/mortgage and electric, water/sewer bills, taxes, lawn care, and other bills associated with living in a large house, to living in a tiny house with a small footprint, way less electric bill and less taxes and less everything, but the added expense of driving a few more miles to work everyday, is crazy. Do your math.

    • Anon
      November 7, 2015, 10:36 pm

      I noticed that, too. Perhaps the p trap is below the floor. Bath tubs need p traps below the floor, so I suppose a sink could have one just as easily. I also noticed that it seems there is only a cold water line with no hot water line.

    • Anon
      November 7, 2015, 10:39 pm

      I don’t think he’ll eat all that up. I live in smaller towns, and recently looked for a job in a bigger city. I crunched all the numbers, and the cost of living increases between where I am and where I was looking far more than the wages. I work in the technical field, but I’m better staying out of the centers of electronics industry as far as spending power goes.

  • Lena
    January 8, 2013, 8:54 pm

    Great job, guys! Impressed.

  • January 8, 2013, 9:41 pm

    Very inspiring, especially that you were able to find some many things for free, and reuse what otherwise would probably have gone to the landfill.

    • Alex
      January 8, 2013, 11:29 pm

      Glad you found it inspiring! Thanks!

  • Ritchie Williams
    January 9, 2013, 9:28 am

    Where is the trap on the bathroom sink? Isn’t that required to stop sewer gasses from coming up into the house? Did you have to have the normal building permits and pass inspections for residential units?

    • Anon
      November 7, 2015, 10:35 pm

      I noticed that, too. Perhaps the p trap is below the floor. Bath tubs need p traps below the floor, so I suppose a sink could have one just as easily. I also noticed that it seems there is only a cold water line with no hot water line.

  • deputygene
    January 9, 2013, 12:17 pm

    Nightville Cole – Yes it is in the middle of nowhere. We live in the flat Piedmont area of NC. In the summer it is hot here, I mean Africa hot! The cabin is our summer getaway averaging 15 degrees cooler than at home.

    Ritchie – The trap is beneath the house.

    • Bryan
      June 6, 2013, 1:14 am

      where abouts in NC?? I recently moved away from Reidsville, just north of Greensboro

    • Lori
      August 13, 2017, 1:09 pm

      We live in Reidsville NC
      My husband and I have been building a tiny house on wheels slowly for the last year I guess we are close to halfway finished but we are building as time and money allows so it’s a slow prosess, we are getting what we can recycled off cl or as little as possible, your place look great! We hope to find someplace nice to put ours

  • Liz
    January 9, 2013, 7:02 pm

    You rock, dude!

  • Lea
    January 13, 2013, 3:59 pm

    Nice place! Now that’s what I’m talking about; basic needs have been met. Myself and hubby will be doing something similiar soon. God Bless.

  • Debby
    February 11, 2013, 9:07 am

    wow nice place, lol would need a tad bigger home and if i were handy (which I am not ) i would clear my land i have and build one on my land. I have a ton of trees right now and its taken me 3 years to clear and clean up what i have. my ex lives with me and this would be perfect for him lol instead of me looking for a RV for him to live in. oh well I mean i have wood here just no help to build something like that nor do i have the tools to even attempt to build something like that. i can drive a nail but not do this. by the time i hire someone to do build a small home like this it would costs me way over 6 grand. 🙁 but you did an awesome job on that cabin

    • Maria West
      September 8, 2015, 5:47 pm

      Travel trailer / pull behind / FEMA trailer lots on Craigslist lol.

  • Gary
    April 2, 2013, 1:12 am

    I posted on facebook, but will do so again. I wonder how much noise the metal roof creates. I have been in a 10′ walled 30X40 pole barn with a metal roof, and when it rains, it is extremely loud. I love your cabin!

    • Jane on Whidbey
      November 28, 2015, 9:43 pm

      Gary, I have a metal roof, but it’s over a foam insulated roof with cedar boards across the rafters. I don’t hear the rain at all, from the roof, but the two skylights can get pretty noisy. lol
      I also used to live in a summer cabin with the metal just over the sheathing. A sound I grew to love. Not as quiet as shingles, but a really good alarm to let you know to go out to roll up the car windows and take in the wash.

    • Tom
      July 13, 2020, 6:13 pm

      No better sound than the sound of rain on a tin roof, it actually helps you to get to sleep. I grew up with just a 1/2 inch fiberboard ceiling between me and the tin roof. I live in a cold climate now, but I’d seriously put a covered porch on where I can hear the rain.

      • Natalie C. McKee
        July 14, 2020, 1:09 pm

        I love that sound! We camped in an RV many years when I was the kid and I loved the rainy nights.

  • Eric McGinley
    June 4, 2013, 12:55 am

    I would like to get the floor plans for the mortgage free house for $5,900.00
    if you could e-mail them to me it would be greatly apprieciated thank you.

    • Gene
      June 6, 2013, 1:11 pm

      There is insulation between the metal roof and interior ceiling. You can hear it when it rains, like any other roof, but it is not deafening or anything. I sleep great when it rains.

      From a facebook comment, the ceiling joist are 2×6, not 2×4.

      Eric- send me your email and I will send them to you.

      One last comment. It has been a while since I posted the story of our small house. We continue to spend weekends there and really enjoy it.

      • Chris Emory
        July 27, 2013, 9:57 pm

        Gene, can you send me the plans to this house at [email protected]?

        I live in eastern nc and I plan on building a home of similar fashion.


  • david terry
    June 9, 2013, 7:53 pm

    Great place, I could live in it easy, wood need a garage though

    • Gene
      June 14, 2013, 12:20 am

      I have thought that many times, How this would be totally liveable for me and my wife. Small, but big enough.

  • Chasitiy
    June 11, 2013, 5:15 am

    I am wanting to build a place just like this. I am a signal mother of two boys. My oldest is 17 and loves to build therefore I believe he would be a great help to me. My question to you is where do I begin? I mean does the land have to be leveled, and footers made? I just don’t know where to begin.

    • Gene
      June 14, 2013, 12:18 am

      Make friends with someone who works at a lumber store who will tell you when they have seconds on sale. We bought everything they had for a year before we started building. Then kept right on buying it. We figured it would all be used. It mostly was. However, when you use twisted, crooked lumber, it is a lot more work. That’s why it’s cheap, serious contractors won’t put up with that. Start haunting craigslist, we got the flooring, kitchen sink, a couple windows and the stove all off of craigs list. I am not a carpenter, but her uncle is. He would help me whenever I got stuck on something. Air nail guns are your friend! I built the first room floor joist with a hammer and nails, but it took forever. Air nail guns are also dangerous, I ended up with a 16 penny nail buried in my thumb. That hurt!

  • Frank
    June 13, 2013, 10:28 am

    Nice job! However I’d have to change some things here in Maine! No permits required(except a septic plan) but the foundation would need to be beefed up and insulated as well as the roof pitch for snow load.
    Also, if you don’t have someone that works at a lumber yard….how do ya find out about the deals?

    • Gene
      June 14, 2013, 12:25 am

      The foundation pads were dug down 32″ to get below the frost line.
      We were lucky to have a relative working at a lumber yard at the time. He doesn’t work there anymore. If I were to build another, it would cost much more.

      • Alex
        June 14, 2013, 8:06 am

        Thanks for the update Gene really appreciate it!

  • Ricky
    July 7, 2013, 10:27 am

    This is beautiful! Do you think 2 people with no experience could learn to do something like this?

    • Alex
      July 8, 2013, 12:29 pm

      Sure! Folks have done it before without any prior experience it really just depends how dedicated you are to finishing no matter what! Ya know? But two people on a mission, I believe, can do ANYTHING. Heck, even one person. 😀

    • Alex
      July 8, 2013, 12:29 pm

      And that is not to say it would be easy. 🙂

    • Gene
      July 9, 2013, 12:47 am

      We have little experience and did it! You know, sometimes we would get stuck, and sometimes I would think we were never going to finish.
      We built this on weekends and holidays and we would set a goal to finish every visit. I just found it easier to think about the goal, like we are going to get the insulation installed this weekend, or I was going to make a kitchen cabinet this weekend. Visit by visit, it all came together. Sometimes I would get stuck on how to do something, take a week, think about it and the solution would come. Think about the task at hand, finish it and move on.
      A great journey begins with a single step.

      • Alex
        July 9, 2013, 8:44 am

        Thanks Gene — excellent advice!

        • Gene
          July 18, 2013, 12:44 pm

          Thank you Alex. And thanks for a wonderful website. We got som many ideas from reading stories from here.

        • Alex
          July 18, 2013, 4:07 pm

          Thanks Gene 🙂

      • Ricky
        July 9, 2013, 9:32 am

        Thanks so much Gene for the inspiration. When we finally get back to the United States we are going to start a project like this, it may take us a while, but I know we will get it done!

  • Jacob
    July 10, 2013, 1:05 am

    Wow this is great. Is there anyway to get the plans?

  • Megan
    July 12, 2013, 2:19 pm

    Love this little house! But I was wondering do you have to pay bills monthly for water and electricity? My boyfriend and I are looking into building our own house and living off the land. He originally didn’t want electric or plumbing because of costs. How is this home on that?

  • Gene
    July 18, 2013, 12:36 pm

    The plumbing comes from being hooked into a community well.
    This is a weekend getaway/vacation place We pay a yearly lot rent that also covers our electricicity usage.
    We are going back soon, I will post some updated photos of the rock underpinning we are installing.

  • Karen
    July 25, 2013, 3:42 pm

    This is the first tiny house I have seen, that I really believe I could do! I like the idea that it is not built on a trailer. It would be easy to add on more rooms as needed. There are a lot of resources for free or nearly free building supplies. Craigslist is good, but look for people doing remodeling. Just get courageous and ask them if you can have their old materials or any leftovers. Gather anything you can. Even if you don’t need or can’t use something. you can probably trade it for something you can use!

  • MAP
    August 1, 2013, 1:05 am

    The hardest thing for me is getting started. Foundations? I don’t know anything about them. I’m always afraid that whatever I do it’ll either crack or not be enough to support the house.

    I’m definitely into the small house idea. Rent is killing my family (and it’s just not a pleasant way to live). I have plenty of savings and great credit, but haven’t had the same job for more than two years. So I’m thinking I’ll just spend a big chunk of what I was going to use as a downpayment and just build.

    So if the author or anyone here can give some foundation tips that would be fantastic. I think after that….well I have worked as a carpenter’s asst. and have hung plenty of drywall and installed enough hardwood flooring and insulation to know that I’m not afraid to handle building materials or work with tools. The only thing is….that foundation.

    • Cindy
      August 3, 2013, 3:53 am

      MAP, it depends on the kind of foundation you want. You want your footers to extend below the frost line into virgin soil (undisturbed soil). The standard (IRC) code states that footers must be 16 inches wide and 8 inches deep….8 inches into virgin soil. Your foundation will sit on your footers in one of several ways: 1. Monolithic slab — concrete with a haunch for any load-bearing walls. This is often poured at the same time as the footers, but not always. Generally, slabs are 4 inches thick, but some soils require thicker slabs. 2. Poured concrete foundation walls (that sit on the footer), that extend up to whatever height you wish…that will hold your I-beams or stick-built flooring system. 3. Concrete block walls extending above the footer to the height you wish…just as in #2. Remember that load-bearing walls must have support, and footers should be placed (poured) when you place the footers.

      If you are building a shed-type structure / tiny house, you can build it: 1. On a trailer, 2. On footers as described above, 3. On skids so it can be later moved, or 4. On concrete blocks such as those used for decks in some places….if your code allows. Seems I recall the IRC may have changed and is not allowing this any longer, but I’m sure some local codes may still allow this.

      Foundations can be tricky, as the concrete must have rebar (in chairs), and/or mesh fabric, along with other things like girder pockets, etc. You don’t usually place (“pour”) your own concrete foundations, as the mix must meet certain checks in order to later attain good tensile / compressive strengths. You can build the forms for the concrete…if you know what you are doing. Before you call for a truck, you must have everything completely finished, and must know how much mix you need. Also, if you do not cure the concrete correctly, it will never achieve the strength necessary to prevent it from cracking under pressure.

      If you check with a technical college in your area that offers classes in Residential Construction, you should find a course on Site Layout, Foundations, and Footers. You can take that one course, maybe along with some Safety training the college offers. By the way, I answered your question, at least partially, even though I am not the author. I did not answer fully, as it would take a book to give all the details needed for foundations and footers.

      Some things just should be hired out….because if your foundation is inadequate, your structure will fall. Another point I forgot to mention is that you should always use bolts placed in concrete when it is placed that will later attach the sill plate to the foundation walls. Research is showing that structures attached with bolts withstand winds, whereas those nailed to the foundation walls will easily pull loose in high winds, especially tornados. Just food for thought! Hope this info gets you curious as to the type of foundation you want / need for your area. Choose well, my friend.

      • Jane on Whidbey
        November 28, 2015, 9:56 pm

        MAP, I’m surprised you offered no thanks to the people who offered their time and information to share information.
        Foundations vary greatly from place to place, depending on angle, soil stability, moisture content. Seek professional help, or get thee to the library, or Google and YouTube. Do some work. It’s complicated.

    • Kim
      September 8, 2015, 9:01 pm

      My husband and I have found the Internet is a great tool to start researching for whatever project we want to do. Between the YouTube video’s and other websites, you can find how to do just about anything. It just takes some time and lots of researching to find out. You certainly can learn from people’s mistakes and get many tips from others.

  • Rhonda Davis
    August 1, 2013, 6:30 am

    I have property in Florida which is zoned for mobile homes. What I would like to know is, if I tore it down to the floor and left the metal trailer frame and wheels, would it still be considered a “Mobile Home”? I think it should be…what say you all and anyone from Florida who knows, please respond.


    • Gene
      August 1, 2013, 8:27 pm

      Rhonda, I’m not sure. Is a mobile home in FL titled and considered personal property?

      MAP, we dug down, I believe, 32″ to get past the frost line. Filled those holes with cement, then laid cinder bloks on the foundation. A lot would depend, I guess, on what the ground is like where you are at.

      Karen, you are right, a lot of resourses are available for free or at a reduced price. We bought seconds for a full year until we were ready to start building, then we kept on buying. The windows are all seconds, some of which we purchased on our way to the cabin that particular weekend. I would consider, at 460 sq feet, this to be a small house. I am a large size guy and didn’t think a truly tiny house would be comfortable for me.
      Alex, I had some pictures taken last week that I would like to add to the original report. Can I do that?

      • Alex
        August 1, 2013, 11:58 pm

        Hey Gene, sure just email me the photos along with a link to this page so I know exactly where to go to add them. My email is tinyhousetalk AT gmail DOT com. Thanks!

    • Cindy
      August 3, 2013, 3:57 am

      Rhonda, for you to have a chance at not having a “mobile home”, you must put it on some type of foundation…..such as concrete walls under the home, and you need to remove the wheels. I’m confused about your statement, “…if I tore it down to the floor and left the metal trailer frame….” Are you planning to leave it as a home, or use the trailer bed to build something else?

  • Jim Hicks
    September 5, 2013, 2:42 am

    Would be very grateful if you could send me floor/ building plans Gene. Thank you!

  • Tomm Warneke
    October 17, 2013, 9:32 pm

    Nice cabin, we are finishing a shedroom bunkhouse with rough cut pine. Questions please:
    Some of your wood looks dark, mold stained? Did you have damp wood with mold issues? We are fighting mold now as our pine dries. How did you deal with the mold if you had issues?
    Also what did you use to seal, varnish or shellac your wood with, as it as it appears to have a nice sheen to it?
    Thank you for helping me with these learning curves.
    [email protected]

  • Gene
    January 27, 2014, 3:33 pm

    Jim, I don’t have a floor plan, we copied another cabin, but we changed door and window locations. Maybe I can help.
    The 1st room pictured is 16 feet wide, side to side, and 14 feet deep, front to back. The porch is an additional 6 feet wide, making the total depth, front to back 20 feet.

    The second room is 12 feet wide by 20 foot deep. The last 5 foot of that room is the bathroom. The bathroom wall runs just behind the door in the 8th picture. The bathroom door is centered on that wall.
    The ceilings are 8′ tall, not counting the slope.

    Tom, the walls are not molding, just changing color from the fresh cut look. We may bleach them back and seal them, but haven’t yet. The sealer runs about 80 bucks for 5 gallons. The interior 1×6’s a.re sealed with varnish

    • Alex Pino
      January 28, 2014, 8:43 am

      Thanks Gene!

  • R.A.L. West
    January 30, 2014, 7:02 pm

    Inspiring!! AND, a genuine foundation would likely add substantial cost to the finished house!

  • Ellen A.
    January 31, 2014, 2:18 am

    Brilliant work, and seemingly so achievable. Inspiring! Thank you, Gene. We need to see more realistic low priced projects like yours. I commend your persistence and that of your wife. This is a wonderful little home. Enjoy all of your days there.

  • February 10, 2014, 2:07 pm


    I’m very convinced that this is the way to go. We are a housing-centric non-profit in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. I would like some one to send us the plans for this house. I would like to build a demo for a senior housing development.

  • Alex
    April 2, 2014, 6:19 pm

    Did you ever have concerns about making sure everything was up to code? Did you have to worrying about regulations when building this home? Did it end up getting inspected and such?

    I am curious because I would like to by a little rural lot and do something similar, but I am not made of money and would like to avoid a mortgage if possible.

  • Gene
    April 4, 2014, 5:54 pm

    No, didn’t have to worry. The cabin is way out there in the sticks.

  • Charlie
    April 29, 2014, 9:22 am

    Hello Gene,
    Love your cabin and I would like very much if I could get a copy of of all the blueprint, electrial, plumbing. Please e-mail them to me i would greatly appreicaite it.
    [email protected]

  • Otessa Regina Compton
    August 5, 2014, 4:58 pm


    • Jan
      April 28, 2015, 2:06 pm

      Please see my posting under Jan on here, I have that spirit! jan

  • August 5, 2014, 10:07 pm

    I’m wondering if the bedroom was an after-thought. Just wondering why you didn’t carry the same roof across the entire structure (gable with a shed on the front, part of which is porch and the other part of which is the bedroom). Just curious. The more cuts on your roof, the bigger the chance for critters to get in and leaks, etc. Why didn’t you just gable the entire structure front to back? That would have made the entire project a bit less expensive and easier to build. I’d be happy to draw this out for anyone who wants it, using the numbers provided by Deputy Gene. I could fix the bathroom to be more user friendly, though. I do love the fact that he built his own cabinets and reused countertops and used the leftovers for night stands and a water heater cover. It would be nice to stay in something like this (by far much better than a tent) and with a flushing toilet! Yea!

  • william
    August 6, 2014, 4:21 am

    What is your total square footage?,awesome job!!

  • Elle
    August 6, 2014, 6:20 pm

    Under $6000?!! Beautifully done and designed with beaucoup skill and creativity. The water heater cabinet simply looks like a nice vanity. Love the “fake stone” facade around the bottom of the house and the idea of a metal roof.

    Thank you for sharing your journey and wonderful ideas. The photograph and video are great. I’m with Gene; if you decide to sell your plans please let us know and provide contact information.

  • Gene
    August 6, 2014, 11:02 pm

    jannezack- The cabin was planned for two rooms from the start. The roofline in the rear is continuas, the front is different because we wanted the extra 6 feet of bedroom, not porch. Plus the door leading from the bedroom onto the porch adds a fire escape.
    William- I thin we figured total square footage to be 460 Sq Ft.
    Elle- We were pretty frugal, the seconds lumber we purchased was often at 10 cents on the dollar. Paid pretty much full price for the metal roofing, insulation and wiring. We didn’t really have blue prints or plans. We copied another cabin but changed the doors and windows locations.

  • Comet
    August 7, 2014, 9:24 pm

    If you don’t know some one who works at a lumber yard–often there will be a stack of lumber on the “side” of the lumber area at a Big Box Store. That is their “Not good enough to sell at RETAIL” pile—some might be damaged beyond use for home building but carvers might use it; some might be twisted–watch that!!!!—or be shorter than standard—

    You will need to be creative with this stuff. If it is not a 2x4x6 or 8 or 12 you can of course STILL build something with it–just not to that length.

    But—don’t insult the sales people or managers on this stuff either. They had to pay for it and altho it will not sell at retail they are not giving it away. Make friends tho and don’t be a “bottom feeder” and you might just get some amazing deals!

    Also MOST of these type stores have an area with “scratch n dent”. Sometimes in one area and some times scattered in different sections or on carts in aisles. Look for them or ask. Again—sometimes you can make an “Offer” but do not be insulting–if an item has a scratch but otherwise works and cost (new retail) say $1000 and is at a sale price of say $800—don’t try and offer “$100 to take it off your hands”.

    We got our bathroom vanity at an amazing price because there was a small chip out of the edge where it meets the wall–a place we were going to add a molding anyways. I think we paid $50 for a unit that was (at the time) about $300. Make sure the “damage” is something you can live with; fix; or hide!!!! A lot of times Big Box stores also have “Returns” or “Special Orders” that are no longer so special if the buyers measured wrong or something else went awry—ASK about these if you don’t see stuff. BE FLEXIBLE! Like Gene said–things like windows and doors are not that hard to find cheap or free IF you can adapt to their sizes.

    Also:::: HABITAT—again–don’t be afraid to bargain or even–as we did–ask them to “break up” a set of living room cabinets–they could still sell the piece we could not use for the SAME price we paid for the two pieces we COULD use–and some one walked off with a great large piece while we got the two units WE wanted and could fit. I still wish I COULD have nabbed the whole set and used one for storage but—I got what I needed and could NEVER have afforded from a store. I have also seen a LOT of granite counter tops coming into Habitat–some are broken but can be salvaged if you don’t need 100 linear FEET of counter top! Any stone or gravestone cutter can do this for you or some saws can handle cutting these down.

    CRAIGSLIST—KEEP CHECKING and remember-unless the poster UPDATES or REPOSTS–these “sink” and if you go back and LOOK you can sometimes find amazing bargains. And some responses go to the posters SPAM so you might need to be creative in contacting some one. We got a wooden tree-house/castle with several swing spots for $50 this way!—the owner had not checked her SPAM and so re-posted and we nabbed it. WE knew we could not have bought the WOOD for this for that price.

    Other places—house wreckers and salvage yards–altho avoid the yuppie frequented areas. Those people are NOT buying to use for actual house building and have lots more money than most of us do!

    FREE CYCLE and local SHOPPER PAPERS also have lots of people who want to get RID of things.

  • chi
    February 4, 2015, 3:47 pm

    Can you build me one

  • mark
    February 9, 2015, 4:01 pm

    Hello deputy gene. I just came across your cabin ilding site. I am a welder from Texas who relocated to the fine state of nc 10yrs ago I just about to try to step off and build. Something for my self like you and your wife have done I’ve no carpenter exp but have Ben a welder fabricater for 38yrs I’ve wrk on oil rigs to gas pipelines as I tell my retired buddies. Up here I’ve worked on everything from BBQ pits to rocket ship . Worked at NASA on equip for nat gas co when I was operations inspector there my talent is steel not wood but will cut it and get together in a different form will be looking forward to any new up dates on your site. Imnot far from you. Probably. 75miles just guessing contact me if you need any steel structures done. I am a rig welder. So all I need is on my truck. Sincerely TEX

  • Gay
    March 8, 2015, 10:40 am

    What wood did you use on the finish on the outside I really like the look of that of the finish on the house really pretty and also the French doors might it also look great!! Awesome Job!!!

  • Gene
    March 8, 2015, 3:44 pm

    Chi- Yes, if you pay me enough!
    Mark- Good luck with your build.
    Gay, the outside wood is NC Coastal Pine we had rough sawed at a local mill. My brother-in-law originally called me about the french doors. They were on clearance for $50.00. He wanted me to use my truck to come pick them up from his work. Oh, he was broke and needed me to pay for them also. I went and got them and put them in my shed. Three years later thay were still there, not paid for (except by me) so, when we decided to build a cabin, I told my wife what door was going on the front!

  • chris
    March 9, 2015, 2:30 am

    hi gene i love the house. Was it hard to keep the foundation level? im looking to build a house similar to this. I believe i can do it with time and dedication. However im worried about the foundation. any tips would be great thanks.

  • Eric
    March 11, 2015, 6:25 pm

    I work at a small lumber company in Tennessee and it is amazing what material they will just throw out in the dumpster or burn pile. I have gotten doors 2×4’s 2×6’s lvls and so on for free that they just wanted to get rid of. If you want free wood paint whatever visit your local hardware store and go through there dumpster or burn pile.

  • Richard
    March 12, 2015, 3:00 am

    I’ve seen someone asked if you would share the building plans with material list,
    A donation I can do!!
    Very nice this is just rt.for my situation very nice great job.
    Richard leslie

  • April 12, 2015, 3:46 pm

    Love this little home-perfect size home for one or two, or a great getaway for more. Thanks for sharing-makes me want to build my own tiny cabin all the more.

  • Martha
    April 28, 2015, 12:37 pm

    Absolutely amazing, and congrats to you and your wife for all the work you did. I think it has everything I would need to live in full time.

  • james
    April 28, 2015, 12:56 pm

    Is this a very viable solution to having a permanent place for a Wisconsin environment???

  • Bear Necessities
    April 28, 2015, 1:50 pm

    This is wonderful, and very inspirational!

  • Jan
    April 28, 2015, 2:02 pm

    MY KIND OF TINY HOME = solution

    I guess most on here are looking to save money in these hard times? I have to share my own solution to the problem. I am limping around on an injured leg/knee from a fall down cement stairs, one full flight! Waiting on knee surgery, so I cannot work. I saw that I was going to have to live on my small taken early Soc Sec. checks, a little over a thousand a month, in California no less.
    I packed up and moved South, from a $1,250 one bdrm apt, to a $650 duplex with two bdrms, three good producing citrus trees, Orange, lemon and Tangerine! The place was small, in ill repair, but I have continued to get new or fixed repairs from the owner. It gets hot where I now live, compared to the bay area/high priced.It’s all about LOCATION.

    I found a city on the net that is lower in incomes,no more drug or crime here than where I came from, Marin county. I am now in Southern CA. and happy as a clam. I have a nice big covered patio, I am planting veggies and few flowers in the backyard flower beds that were basically empty. Even the big cactus that was here,it flourishing with water, and so many new “leaves” on them I am amazed. I could actually eat them if I got hungry enough! But I enjoy making this place green again. It had been run down,,, but there was a grape arbor in the back fenced yard corner, so I learned on line how to prune them,and they are coming out beautiful now. My orange tree has baby oranges on it , the lemons are still producing nice lemonade for me and juices to freeze.
    I used to have chickens for eggs to eat and sell, so I bought ONE chicken for my own eggs, she is doing very well,and with her regular food/grain-she also eats table scraps, old fruit etc.
    I planted the old rooting potato’s that I had, and now have many potato plants, they are really thriving here.Anything you want to learn can be learned on line~!
    The landscape is starting to “green” up. I don’t own it, I don’t have a morgage , and I don’t have repair bills, the owner does.I compare my “tiny home” to these on this website , I wish I had the money to do a real Tiny home, but in the meanwhile, I have my “tiny rental home” anyway. I have had to downsize, and still have my garage (haven’t had a garage in years) here half full of boxes to go through, in time, as I have had medical to deal with. I also cut corners as mom would say-she came from a family of 13 children in the back woods of Minn.
    I remember when my baby brother had a strong giant dresser drawer for his baby bed in a really tiny home my dad built. Mom just pulled out the drawer for him. I hand wash all my things and made a clothes line from pole to pole on the patio, and let the clothes drip onto plants in pots below while drying. We are on a severe water shortage in Ca. so I do my part to not waste water.
    I cover ,fix, paint, buy used and make ends meet. If anyone wants to correspond with me, who is lonely, just contact me, [email protected]. I enjoy new friends.
    Thank you, Jan

  • g kitz
    April 28, 2015, 2:10 pm

    for a foundation you might consider insulated concrete forms ICF. If you can stack Legos you can make a quality product. Try Nudura. This would be most economical in a cold climate. I’m in NH. g

  • Marcy
    April 28, 2015, 11:14 pm

    Gene, I think you have really captured the imagination of all of us tiny house watchers. The discussions on the site really shows that. The quality of your work is great, and I love that you used materials from a variety of sources without the finished product looking hodge-podge and patched together. This is a very livable house and would happily have one just like it.

  • Suze O
    April 29, 2015, 2:32 am

    I like the one room at a time approach. It gives you more time to look around for good deals on materials, instead of collecting it all at once.

  • Denise
    May 3, 2015, 5:40 am

    Gene, I love your resourcefulness and scrappiness, this is awesome.

  • Suzan
    May 10, 2015, 6:34 pm

    Great job:) What did you use to treated the floors?
    Thank you

  • Yvon
    May 27, 2015, 11:42 am

    This would be awesome for a single person or a willing young couple starting out. I would like to see someone try an raise a family there though. Still it would for sure be a huge help financially to not have any mortgage or rent payments early on in one’s life. I am with Kimi though, I want to know how you got the land and how that plays into your tiny house project.

  • Aubrey
    June 23, 2015, 12:55 am

    Omg can some one please Show me how to do this give me tips I can do this on my parents land for me an my 1 year old son!!!!!

  • Ron Brown
    June 30, 2015, 1:04 am

    Thank you for a great idea and your instructions not too many people think to help others but you have, thanks again

  • Maria West
    September 8, 2015, 5:53 pm

    Deputy Gene, is there anything under house that in case of family fights or whatever, you could move it if had too ?
    I wanted to build my own tiny house as in mobile freedom, but I’m in wheelchair so it would of been impossible as I have no friends or family to help me, but I was able to find a 34ft 1995 Georgie Boy motorhome on payment plan, it will be paid off in 8 months so it will be my tiny house, no different then if I built one on a gooseneck trailer 🙂

  • Linda
    October 3, 2015, 11:50 am

    Gene, so very well done! A very thoughtful “just enough” house that makes family get-away time possible and comfortable. And your comments are so generous and encouraging to everyone, even repeating what you have already answered. Thanks for sharing.

    January 6, 2016, 2:03 pm

    I would like to say that anyone (98% anyway) of you could in fact, build a small cottage…no blueprints needed…just something you draw up on paper will do …no carpentry skills … don’t worry… read a carpentry encyclopedia…and get at it. At 17 (i’m female) built my first cottage and it weathered a strong hurricane! Enjoy- have fun- love the smell of wood!

    • Alex
      January 6, 2016, 9:30 pm

      Hi Gaynelle, very inspiring, thanks for sharing and keep it up! Would love to see your cottage too 😀

  • Northern neighbour
    April 15, 2016, 3:25 pm

    35 years ago I thought I wanted to build a house on 9 acres my wife owned. My father’s advice was “if you can read a book you can do anything”. So I read everything I could at our public library. By the next spring I had plans drawn up, we rented concrete forms and hired an experienced contractor to supervise us, then framed, roofed, insulated, drywalled, and finished together with help from friends. I also wired the house to the panel (electrician did panel and mast) while my brother in law did the plumbing. Next house I did the plumbing too. Now a city dweller, retired and pushing 70, we’re looking at one last build and a return to rural life. I encourage anyone who truly wants to build an alternative lifestyle to read, learn and then go ahead and do it.
    Gene enjoyed cabin build and photos.

  • Peter Piper
    April 26, 2016, 6:44 pm

    Great price!!! If I could find a place to PUT one of these things legally, I’d make one for myself. Sadly, the powers that be are too stupid to change zoning laws to accept them. They like the large footprint and environmental damage.

  • Gigi
    April 27, 2016, 2:21 am

    This home is inspiring. Hats off to the builders!

  • Wall
    December 8, 2016, 10:24 am

    Can you tell me more about how you did the plumbing? Electrical?

  • Rudy
    January 19, 2017, 2:25 am

    Nice Article…
    What are the Estimated total costs for build size 5 x 10m ?

    Thank You

    • Natalie
      January 19, 2017, 6:06 am

      That largely depends, I’m afraid, on where you get materials. This build focused on finding reclaimed/recycled materials (Craigslist is a great source!). So you can build for not much if you primarily get your materials for free. Once you start purchasing things, it adds up quickly!

      • Rudy
        January 19, 2017, 8:06 pm

        Mrs. Natalie
        I live in Indonesia. a lot of scrap wood around my parents’ house. I am very interested in a natural home.
        Thanks for your explanation…

        • Natalie
          January 20, 2017, 9:50 am

          Of course! Natural homes are the best 🙂

  • darrell
    July 9, 2017, 10:26 am

    try this one more time
    I think it kicked me off or I am sending 2 e-mails
    I have a nice cabin on about an acre in n.c….thinking of getting married soon but my cabin is not geared for a family of four…..open floor plan but I love it….my fiancé has 2 kids 12 and 13…..is it feasible two just build a separate 2 bedroom and 2 bath for them to have their privacy?…..all of our other activities would be together in the main house…thanks darrell

  • Brook
    August 13, 2017, 1:34 pm

    Nicely done.

    Here’s a list of ways to accumulate free-ish materials and manage costs for a tiny. Free-ish because everything has a cost, one way or another. Time and Energy are your currency. I am a professional carpenter, builder, eco-builder, hippy tiny home/container/tipi/Gypsy Trailer living dirtbag, variably successful in reclaiming and making nice homes-ish.

    1. Design.Design.Design. There is a maxim that architects use to explain construction costs. It’s worth understanding. The triangle of Quality, Quantity and Time. If you push on any two then the third will suffer. The better your plan is the more you can control costs and efficiencies. That’s it. Get a tight plan or pay the consequences.

    2.The Waste Stream- every remodel and new build generates boat loads of material. Some of it amazing. Wherever people are spending money on real eastate you will find people gleaning valuable materials. We live in an era of extreme material wealth and waste. The cases and faces of our furniture, cabinetry and homes are made of material resources that will never be available again. I just recently picked up All Clear Vertical Grain Redwood Paneling in a 1/4″x6″ from a guy for $280.00. This material is unavailable and I wouldn’t buy it if I could. Like 1000 year old tree. If you could find it (and you can’t) the package would cost $12,000-$20,000. It could have just as easily ended up in the dump. But can you store it? This trend isn’t going anywhere.

    3. Thrift/ Resale Stores/ Construction Resupply

    4. Trailers. There are free-ish trailers everywhere that can be tiny homes on wheels. But there are so many pitfalls. Registration, safety and compliance, storage, tow vehicles, renovation costs/time and location, realistic and available uses.

    5. Outbuildings. The westward expansion was built on tiny houses. Practically every piece of rural land started with a tiny house and grew into home, a ranch, or a town. Do you see people sharing land around you? That will be a good indicator of the Codes, Covenants and Restrictions.

    6. Mobile Home and RV parks. These are our versions of tiny house communities. Ouch, right? But I see endless potential. There is so much great real estate under trailer parks that you can find million dollar mobile homes.

    7. A professional tiny builder. There are a mountain of nice tiny houses out there for $25-$100,000. If you don’t have the skills and network to build your own, and even if you do, it’s hard to beat the value in many of the small houses I see for sale. I thinks it’s still a buyers market. People pay those prices all the time for RVs and Condos but constantly balk at fairly priced, craftsman built, heirloom tiny homes that will outlast the others while generating value at a fraction of the long term maintenance costs. Trust me, I’m a professional.

  • Betty
    August 13, 2017, 2:16 pm

    This is just awesome!! I am very impressed with all this gentleman has done. I could live in this easily. 😊

  • Beverly
    August 17, 2017, 11:51 pm

    Great job! My husband and I are planning our tiny home project this fall in NM. Land was reasonable and going totally off grid. I’m really inspired by folks like yourselves.

  • SMay
    April 18, 2018, 10:37 am

    Hi jannezack. I would love a sketch of this cabin! I am a widow and wanting to downsize. This cabin is perfect!! Thank you so much for your help!!
    Great job, Deputy Gene!

  • beverley baggett
    February 9, 2021, 9:32 pm

    I think it is really cool but where does the refridgerator sit?

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