If you’ve been wondering how long does it take to build a tiny house on wheels, you’re at the right place.
I received a question from a reader (you can read it entirely below) who was also wondering how long it takes to build tiny, and I thought you might be wondering the same thing. So why not answer it right here on a public blog post and open the topic up to discussion in the comments?
This is a great question and there’s obviously not just one answer because it largely depends on your situation. Like what you want in the house, how detail oriented you are, how much learning you have to do, and more…
Like whether or not you want to take the extra time to find reclaimed materials like a used trailer that needs to be refurbished. Or if you want to harvest your own wood and need to find the time and resources to mill it.
This question also largely depends on not only how much construction experience you already have and who might be available to help you but also on how much time you are able to dedicate to the project every week. Let’s dive deeper and get your question answered below.
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How Long Will It Take Me To Build a Tiny House?
Image © TheRitzOnWheels (featured here)
Building Part Time (While Working a Full Time Job)
To put things into perspective, people that build around a full time job (meaning they’re working full time and building on the evenings and weekends) usually take about 1 to 3 years to finish their tiny house project. Again, depending on how much help they have, how much experience they have, and how well the entire project was planned and executed.
Building Full Time (~40 Hours a Week)
Those who can dedicate a full time effort to the project can usually get it done in about 2-3 months (usually a little longer than that) with experience and proper planning. It can, of course, and usually does- take longer (4-6 months). It’s a serious project to embark on, but it can be done, and is being done by everyday people. And you can do it too if you really want to.
How long will it take to build a tiny house? (reader Q&A)
Let me allow you to read the question from our wonderful reader, Maeve, below so you can chime in on this discussion in the comments too (I love getting to read your input, as do other readers):
I have been interested in tiny houses for a few years, and my husband and I are considering building and/or purchasing a tiny house to live in with our children (and dog and outdoor cat…) while we build a somewhat larger house. The tiny home will then get passed on to another family member. We are trying to figure out the right balance of spending our time vs spending our money. Do you have insight into this question? We both have construction experience. Should we buy a shell and finish it our selves? Just build it ourselves start to finish? Buy a finished product so we can move in and get started on the permanent house?We would like to be moving into the house before summer 2015.I have seen people say their tiny house took 8 months, 10 months, 2 years to build…and also found this article that said it took around 120 hours of work:
I would greatly appreciate your advice!
Thanks for your time,
Question: Should we buy a shell and finish it ourselves? Should we build it all ourselves? Or should we buy a finished tiny home?
Should they buy a shell and finish it themselves?
Should they just do it all themselves from start to finish?
Or should they just buy a completed tiny home and get started on their ‘small house’?
This is something that you have to decide for yourself according to your own situation, what you value most, and what you currently have to work with.
If you have a high paying job, then maybe it makes more sense to stay focused on that job while hiring contractors to do majority of the work for you or maybe even just buying a completed tiny house from a builder or any of the tiny houses for sale listed here.
If you don’t have the money, maybe you have the time? In that case, it makes more sense to consider doing it yourself. Especially if you already have the construction experience or are highly motivated to learn because you’ll save lots of your $ in labor while learning a lot, too.
Another option is to do a combination of the two. Do some of the work yourself (maybe the parts that you enjoy most and are already good at) and hire the rest of it out to contractors (then watch, learn and help if you can and want to).
Question: I found this article that said it takes around 120 hours of work
As for the 120 hour estimate (shown here), it doesn’t include the interior finishing process which is very tedious. It also doesn’t include the design/planning phases.
So in many cases I would double or triple that labor estimate.
I suggest most of you to triple the estimate to account for planning and designing, making and fixing mistakes, decision making, occasional redesigning, shopping for materials, etc. So I’d say it’s really more appropriate to expect about 360 hours for most of us.
Building a tiny house yourself from start to finish on a full time basis: 3-6 months of ~40 hour work weeks.
Some examples that might be helpful for you to re-look at…
- Jane Dwinell’s Tiny House Project (Completed in less than 6 months)
- Sage’s Gypsy Tiny Home (amazingly- only 4 months to finish)
- Ethan’s $7k micro house (6 months)
Building a tiny house yourself from start to finish on a part time basis: 12-24 months of ~20 hour work weeks.
- John and Debbie’s Tiny House (11 months to finish) <- this post gives a good idea of what it takes to build
- Ella’s Tiny House (12 months to finish)
How Many Hours Does It Take, Really?
These estimates are based on about 360+ hours of planning, designing, decision making, and building. Which of course varies depending on what you build, how you do it, and how much learning you have to do.
Your Thoughts Please
How long do you think it takes to build a tiny house on wheels from start to finish?
We’d absolutely LOVE to read your thoughts in this question in the comments below. Thank you!
If you enjoyed this Q&A discussion on how long it takes to build a tiny house on a trailer you’ll absolutely LOVE our free daily tiny house newsletter with even more! Thank you!
Our big thanks to Maeve for asking this excellent question and bringing it up for discussion for all of us to benefit from.
We took an old tool shed down to the studs and rebuilt it into a very tiny house (96sq.ft) in 3 months. It cost us less than $4,000 because we used recycled, discounted, and found materials. Only the bathtub (made from two water troughs, one galvanized and one Rubbermaid purchased on sale at Tractor Supply) and tiles used in the 3 x 5 ft bathroom were new. My husband and I did all of the work. We are retired educators with two teenage children.
Thanks for sharing Sarahjane! I’d love to see your shed converted tiny house if you and your husband would ever want to share it here with us!
I am not sure how to send you all of the pictures, but I am happy to do so, Alex.
I’ll send you an email now and you can reply with photos, etc there if you’d like to 🙂
I started my backyard cabin/tiny house project in 2013 and took half a year off for hand surgery. I started by excavating the site by hand, then laying the foundation and building thereon – that took the entire summer. I framed it exactly 6 months after surgery – spring and summer of 2014, working each night until dark after work and the whole day on my midweek day off. Last summer, I put the metal roof on and next week will begin walling it in, then electrifying it. The goal is to get this completed by the end of summer and then I will hire out the plumbing. Another reason it is taking me a bit longer to do it than average is not only because I am working alone, but I am also doing it on a budget – buying the building materials a little with every paycheck, what I can afford and not going into debt over it.
It is a cabin attached to a shed for what completed will be a tiny house. I am looking forward to having most of it done so friends can come visit and stay in it as early as next year. I can’t wait to also camp out in it too, for fun when I want a little get away and can’t go anywhere. 🙂
I get that it can take amateur, unskilled people with no good plan years to scratch one of these together in their spare time but these timeframes are absurd for those of us with a skillset.
I can build a full sized house in a month from scratch, a tiny house should in no way take 4-6 months of full time work.
For example, I will have mine framed up and dried in over a weekend. A couple days to rough-in the various systems, a day to side and trim, a day to close up the interior and a few days to trim and finish out the interior. At most a simple, small trailer build should take a couple weeks of actual, full time work if planned well and prepared to make it happen…
Perhaps somebody is trying to show off or talking about a 100 square-foot structure without any real finish work. A basic shell perhaps. Andrew Morrison, who builds hOME, an 8′ 6 x 28′ took four months of full-time work, and he is a professional builder, and had the help of his wife.
Sure, you can frame up a structure in a few days, but if you’re doing a metal roof with proper flashing, fascia and soffit’s, painting, vents, etc. it’s a lot more time-consuming than no finish detail. You can use SIP’s like Brain levy, and simply paint the OSB or you can finish it out in sheetrock and paint. You can throw a piece of carpet down or do hardwood floors. I guarantee hardwood floors were gone take a lot longer than carpet though.
You want to buy off the shelf cabinets or do a custom cabinets and a custom counter top? How about a custom front door? Do you need your plumbing to accommodate a washer and dryer, that’s a lot of extra plumbing and electrical.
As the saying goes the devil is in the details, and those details are what really eat up the hours. Some things simply cannot be rushed. You cannot make paint dry faster or sheet rock mud dry in 10 min., particularly your first coat. Sometimes materials need to acclimate to the environment, hardwood floors or tongue and groove knotty pine are good examples. Let’s not forget that an essential part that’s supposed to be included in your ceiling fan kit, but you have to drive to 4 hardware stores to find it, or worse, order from the manufacturer and wait a week or two or three. . .
I don’t think a few weeks is realistic and all. There are just too many details and time delays to finish that quickly.
I’m currently building a 12′ x 28′ , no loft. One thing I believe people should factor in is their age as well. I do have quite a bit of building experience, but I’m also 55 this year, with a less than ideal back.
I’m about one year in working part-time, between 10 and 20 hours a week. I’m probably about 70 to 80% complete. I can say as you get into the details, it’s really easy to kill a half day on what would seem like very simple projects. Count on it.
Trim work will really slow you down. Finished plumbing and electrical are other examples of detailed work that takes a lot longer than you think. Hanging ceiling fans, hooking up a hot water on demand, can really eat up the hours.
Back in my 30s I’m sure I would be done by now and enjoying the space. I would also say to people to count on delays. I for example had to wait five weeks for my Windows, and Lowe’s got the order wrong on one window, and it also came in damaged. I have been waiting an additional four weeks, and they still have not replaced the window, and have not even ordered a replacement. It’s not uncommon to have to wait 4 to 6 weeks on a lots of materials, particularly during prime building season.
Sometimes you can just do something different, but other times, materials can hold up the entire project. Can’t do siding without windows for example. Can’t tile without a tub, etc. The list goes on.
Good luck to everybody who takes on this challenge. Also be prepared to feel a bit out of the norm. People will think you’re out of your mind to live in such a small place or you’ve hit rock bottom, etc.
I am only 14 but I am looking to build a 130ft2 tiny house. I have been planning, researching, and designing on Sketchup for the past 2 years. I currently have the general idea of what I want the space to look like. I still have A LOT of researching to do regarding appliances, insulation, ect. The project has taken countless hours of my time. (I have been working around my school schedule)
I hope to start building next summer, however it takes time to raise that much money when you aren’t even old enough to get a real job. Fortunately, I have skills that I have been able to use to earn money. But that, too, takes time.
I will be building my house and probably won’t have a whole lot of help from grownups so it will probably take a while. I also don’t have very good skills regarding electrical, plumbing, roofing, and so on.
I hope to be finished enough to move in and live in it in 3 years. Does that seem reasonable?
Hi Grace — Wow 🙂 Kudos to you for chasing your tiny house dreams so young. That’s amazing. I think three years sounds pretty reasonable to be, so long as you can find salvaged materials to make it easier on your bank account 🙂 I think it’s awesome you are doing this! — Tiny House Talk Team
I already have quite a few reclaimed materials sitting in the basement (much to my father’s annoyance), and am constantly going to places like Habitat for Humanity Restore.
Hello Alex 🙂
My tiny red bus sold the first week of August to a great lady in California. I flew into Phoenix airport August 9th and stayed with two amazing friends who allowed me to live with them on their tiny farm north of Phoenix and build a tiny camper to haul back to my town east over the mountains. I had access to all his power tools, a shady spot to build in the 104 degree heat, and good meals whenever I took time to stop. I worked from about 6:30 am to about 7:00 pm whatever days we had no thunderstorms or dust storms, and even took time off every sunday to go to church. With my friends there to help when I needed it, we were able to finish the tiny camper in 12 days. We loaded my suitcase and tools in it the last day, hooked it ip, and headed to my home. Grant you, it is not one of the large ones you mostly see being built these days, but it is comfortable living with electricity, an on demand water heater, and a large storage shed on the front. I still want to live as simply as possible, so I still bring my water inside in a porcelain coffee pot, and still bath in a sink that drains into a bucket to be emptied everyday. Otherwise, I use the camp facilities, except that I now own a portable flushing toilet that I might try to accomodate down the road. Anywwy, 12 days, with the help of my friends.
Hi Marsha! Glad to hear you were able to find a new owner for the bus and that you were able to build yourself another tiny home with the help of friends within just two weeks! Amazing.. I got your email, too, so I’ll re-share your story in a post ASAP 🙂
. . .oh, the trailer was 5 1/2′ x 9′ with a rail and heavy gate that had to be taken off before I could build on it. I will send some pics later.
My husband and I have been building our Tiny House. We work 6 hours a day on it. We have been building for 2 months. We are finished with the framing and have the roof sheathing and all the siding on. We are building on a 26′ RV Trailer. We will begin with insulation as soon as the plumbing and electrical is finished. We have a friend who is doing the electrical for us ( he is a licensed electrician). We are way ahead of our estimate of 6 months. Even with all our rain delays.
Way to go guys, keep it up and keep us in the loop!
I am building my own tiny house also, because of my own physical limitations and financial limitations ;I have given myself 6 six years to
complete my home . I have done construction work over many years and,carpentry ,plumbing, and bits of electrical work , but paid a toll on my body hense problems I have now . So I work an hour or too on part of my home. so I say you take as long as you want or need to make it yours.
Good point, Deb, and keep it up!
FOUR YEARS: I’m a 69 year-old single female. I built a 24′ Tiny house from the trailer frame up. I work full time as an accountant so it’s been weekends, nights & afternoons. I had help standing the walls up, putting on the roof and running electrical and plumbing. Otherwise I did it all myself – starting in my garage and then moving it outside when the walls were ready go to up. It took me four years…..but WHAT FUN I’ve had and WHAT SATISFACTION. I had done remodeling in my house and so I had tools and experience but I depended a LOT on you-tube videos, Tumbleweed Workshop and Videos – plus lots of advice from friends. Finally, it’s ready for primetime and I’ve listed it on AirBnB. Check it out. I encourage anyone who’s inspired to do this to GO FOR IT!
Thanks for sharing Nancy!
The wife and i decided to downsize to a small house(3400sf to 700sf) . I estimated 6 months, we are at month 16 now and probably have a couple more months . I have done almost all of it with the exception of a concrete finisher and drywall finisher. And a lot of friends and family!
So we have been living in a 28ft camper for the last 16 months. This has been an experience but will be worth it in the end. Mortgage free! I will send pictures win I finish.
Great story, Dennis, looking forward to seeing it!
We’re making good time we think, in 3 months we’ve got to the cladding stage after cutting no corners in terms of our options. We both work full time and I dj on the weekends maybe once a fortnight. We’ve moved house to be closer to our build site. It’s been a super wet winter and we’re building outdoors here in New Zealand. As the days get longer and the weather gets drier, and as we start to get water tight and a better idea of how things go (we have no experience building), it’ll be interesting to see how far we get in another 4 months. We’ve had to go extra things like clear the building site which was a former carport and wait for cladding stain to dry (min 2 weeks) so have had unexpected delays which we could have probably planned for with more knowledge. It’s those seemingly small things that delay you a week that add up! We hope to be finished by the end of the year.
Hey Mat! Thanks for sharing! I see you went with steel framing, very cool! Keep us updated! Will follow you on Instagram 🙂
Time to build a tiny house: So much depends on the finish you desire. My first took about 6 months to complete and it was a 12×16′ 2 story with very basic finish. The second was an 8×12′ earth sheltered cabin and also very basic finish and took 2 weeks working daylight to dark. The 3rd was 8×16′ with a loft and 7×16 screen porch with a moderate finish and took about 4 months part time. I’m planning my 4th which will be 16×16′ with 8×8 of it bring screen porch. I expect it to be a finer finish than in the past because it will be my last and my retirement home. I expect to be dried in in a week and expect to take about 3-4 months to finish. If I build any more little houses they will be 8×8’guest cottages. They are such fun to build I wish I’d started building them when I was younger. Happy building.
PS: The most expensive one so far was in the $5000 range.
Love the concept of adding 8×8 guest cottages. You seem to have shortcuts on building … I’d love to know tips on what works “easiest” I’m retired as well and need efficiency 🙂 Also, did you have any trouble finding local ordinances friendly to tiny houses? Love the screened porch idea — I’m in California and that would be the most used room! Thanks for any info you can share… [email protected]
Hey Robert, thanks for sharing! Would love getting to see some of your projects!!
I built a 8×42 double lofts tiny house on wheels in 12 months design to move in.
I love it my grand kids 3 that I have custody love it.
2 girls have loft at one end
Granddon has the other.
My bed room down stairs.
It is a project that was very rewarding.
Anyone have questions email me
Have a happy tiny house day.
Hey Sam! That’s pretty impressive. 8×42 within a year! Would love to see it!
Is a great challenge, but what matters is the final product…and as the proud Antuan-Laurent de Lavoisier: ” Nothing is created, nothing is destroyed, everything is transformed”, as in this case.
It took me just over two years and I’m still working on the interior. A full-time job made it impossible for me to build except for weekends and nights. I built it 90 by myself. If it’s ok to post here, here’s the link to my blog with many pictures. https://gailmaries.blogspot.com/2017/08/the-beach-house-build-continues.html
Thanks so much for sharing Gail!
We’re converting a trailer while living in it. We estimate 2 years and $10,000+ with end value at $15,000 its not easy because limited income and living in it while in progress. I’d suggest everyone know these are not easy unless lot of carpentry knowledge.
My husband and I are officially retired. We chose to buy the trailer, we created the floor plan and had someone cut the steel siding for us. We put the walls together and are working on finishing our tiny house. We started in June and hope to have it finished by the end of October. It is a 28 foot gooseneck on wheels. We work on it approx 5-6 hours a day physically. In the evenings we plan for the next phase and research items we have questions about. YouTube is our friend!
The challenge of building a tiny house that is different than a foundation is tracking weight and ensuring the plumbing is secure when we travel. We do plan on traveling around the country with it next year. My husband has found some nice guys at a local RV repair shop who have been very nice and willing to help him with plumbing design. We have never had to work with grey water before so the challenge of placement, water into and out of the grey tank is new to us. We will have a composting toilet, so no black water tank for us!
We also ran into issues when we ordered siding for the tiny house. It is taking a lot longer then expected to get the material needed. This was a disappointment to us but we are working around it for now.
We do plan on having a professional spray our insulation and also our back end, drop down garage door. It will be a toy hauler and we plan to take our motorcycles with us on the road.
It has been an interesting and challenging experience so far. It feels good to see progress at the end of the day. Some days are better than others.
Hi Suzanne, thanks for sharing, and I hope you can keep us updated as you get it completed. Hopefully we can get to see it! Are you sharing photos of the construction process anywhere?
I clicked on your website and saw that you do have a few posts on the construction of your tiny house – awesome!
My website isn’t exactly geared towards the tiny house but it will be the way we pull our motorcycles around the country. I will be updating my readers on updates periodically. The latest post can be found here: http://awomanandherharley.com/tiny-house-update-2/
I need to do an update since we added windows, it really makes it look like a home. :-). Thanks for checking out my website.
Cool! Thanks Suzanne 🙂
WOW! This is almost making me second guess my crazy thought to build our own! My boyfriend and I really want to do it ourselves just to make it special, as well as reduce the price, but we have zero construction experience…….so, are we crazy? He only works 3 days a week and I am a student, so we have plenty of time, and help, he is 1 of 7 siblings and I have family with construction background. So the help is there if we ask, but I am worried they’ll say yes, the back out once they realize how much work it really is. I have spoken with a contractor who is super interested in the project, as he has never done a tiny home. Then on top of that, we would probably need professional help with plumbing and electric…..ok now I am overwhelmed! LOL
Is there any group out there that swap time for time for building any house? Like if I buy my material for tiny houses a group get together when can and help build it. On the other hand if someone else is in our group need help I will pitch in and help them for free along with some of my family and friends.
Hello folks. I am someone that grew up in the construction industry Southern Concrete in carpentry from my father I later went on to specialize in plumbing but picked up some at least of electrical hvac’s Roofing and drywall over the years I have been doing construction for 33 plus years on my own. I want planned out and built a 3600 square foot split entry home with 36 by 36 attached to garage and built the entire thing start to finish in less than 4 months devoting just about every waking hour on that property. If I were to do the same thing for a tiny house I cannot imagine it taking more than 2 months. This is a hypothesis and I plan to make it a working one probably within the next year. When I start that project I will let everyone know when I finish that project I will let everyone know and at the same time provide pictures of the entire process along the way. Thank you all
It took me 2 years to finally finish my under 100 square foot Mini Tiny house.
I spray foam insulate tiny homes for the largest tiny home builder in the United States. These guys build 200 tiny homes a year. I’ve been thinking about building a tiny home on wheels myself. I regularly speak to their plumbers, framers ect. Granted this is what they do professionally, I still think the 3 to 6 months to build 1 tiny home is to long. One electrician told me he can wire a complete 24 foot tiny home in 3 hours. Their framer told me by himself he can completely frame, plywood, wrap and install windows in 4 days. These guys build 4 tiny homes a week. I don’t expect anyone to be able to do what this company does but 3 to 6 months? I do know some people take 5 hours to change a door knob, you’re the people that might take 6 months to build a tiny home. If you can install a window and build a deck, you should be able to do it much faster. I can completely insulate one in 3 hours. 1 toilet, 2 sinks, 12 led lights. Do your research.
Research, yes, but there’s actually a much bigger difference between the production of a factory with an optimized assembly line and abundance of resources versus how this article is discussing how the average tiny house is built. Since, the average builder will not be able achieve anywhere near that level of speed and efficiency, and yes, to the point it easily takes normal people months…
First, the average builder won’t have a factory, especially as this is including DIY’ers! This means they have to deal with weather and not always having the right conditions to do everything involved with building the home, including spray foam insulation that has to be done within certain conditions…
Second, there’s typically far fewer people involved with as little as one or two people doing the entire build, which makes it much harder to get it all done.
Third, not everyone has the free time to dedicate to building and may have to deal with a lot of prep time getting materials, transporting them, storing them, getting to and from the build site and deal with their job, daily life, etc. all before they do any building. So time can add up very easily and it’s not unusual for it to take months or even years in some cases for DIY builds.
There’s also a big difference from doing a standard model where you are doing basically the same job for every unit produced versus a custom build where you have to deal with a learning curve with every build because each will be different and experience only goes so far when dealing with random variables.
DIY builders are typically custom, even when they work from plans they are often making changes or improvising. While cost often means they are doing something like reclaiming materials, which takes a lot of time as the trade off.
Even for commercial builders, when it comes to custom there can be a massive increase in the time it takes because custom means you take time for planning, getting plans approved, dealing with change orders, taking time to produce your own furniture, fixtures, etc. as your often making something that you can’t just buy everything and install or have pre-built and ready, with it all needing to be custom fitted and paying attention to every square inch of space to get it exactly as the client wants it and then do it completely differently for the next, and they typically can’t keep everything stocked when they don’t know what they will need for the next build or may not be able to afford it when they’re only a small business so only order the materials after the down payment is made on the order, adding to the time it takes… and most tiny house builders are custom builders!
Someone like Abel Zyl Zimmerman of Zyl Vardos fame, is known for taking ship building techniques to build tiny homes that are essentially works of art but it takes time for him to produce those homes and he’s typically booked for the whole year or two before he can schedule the next new client. For an example of how custom building can take far longer than a factory assembly line of a standard model to the point they are only producing a small number a year…
On average, you can reduce the work hours it takes to build a tiny house under factory conditions to as little as around 345 total hours but the typical custom build takes over 800 to over a 1000 work hours. While that time can be quickly done when you have a large work force to split up all the jobs and have much of it done at the same time or overlapping. However, the time becomes significantly longer when it’s only a few or even one person doing it as they must do one job at a time until the home is finished and without help or even equipment like lifts, etc. some of those jobs can take a lot longer.
Scheduling 3rd party trades also involves a lot of logistics because you have to work with their time table and not yours and they won’t all be conveniently be able to be scheduled right after the other when you need them. So a lot of time can be just waiting for someone to do a job before you can do the next step in the build and this gets even harder when you include certification and getting inspected. Especially, these days with high demand making it very hard to get anyone scheduled and the growing trade shortage compounding the issue.
Seriously, there’s a lot of incomplete tiny homes being sold after market, like shed and container conversions, by people who underestimated how much work and time is actually involved when you don’t have the resources of a large company… It’s nice when you do but don’t confuse that with how everyone else has to manage to get it done, which again can take months for what’s realistic for the average person taking on building a tiny home, even when they’re skilled…