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Student Transforms Childhood Playhouse to Tiny Home

This Childhood Playhouse Tiny Home is a guest post by Alexis Saunders.

In 2006 my parents felt that building a treehouse wasn’t safe, so instead they built me a 125 sq. ft. playhouse.

Today, I am about to begin college and instead of paying hundreds of dollars monthly for an apartment or dorm, I was thinking of renovating this playhouse into my own tiny house.

This way I can have the independence of living alone while still being on my parents property. Below are some pictures of what the house looks like now.

I’m wondering how much money it would cost to finish and where I should place the bathroom?

The loft area is about 4ft wide by 10ft long. Two of the windows are broken and insulation is very needed since I live in Michigan.

Student Transforms Childhood Playhouse to Tiny Home

Student Transforms Childhood Playhouse to Tiny Home

Images © Alexis Saunders

exterior view of tiny home childhood playhouse converted to tiny house college students transforms playhouse to home siding of tiny house inside tiny home playhouse converted to tiny house view inside playhouse sleeping loft of playhouse view of sleeping loft

Images © Alexis Saunders

Do you have any helpful tips or suggestions for Alexis? Please share your comments below.

A big thank you to Alexis Saunders for sharing your story with us!

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Andrea is a contributor for TinyHouseTalk.com and the Tiny House Newsletter! She has a passion for sharing tiny and small house stories and introducing you to new people, ideas, and homes.
{ 77 comments… add one }
  • Steve
    June 23, 2015, 9:57 am

    hey! i like this idea, a kid with the courage to buck the status quo. you asked for ideas so here are some.

    shared rent $30,000.00
    food expense $18,000.00
    TOTAL $48,000.00

    $500 per month for 60 months = $30,000.00
    (according to NAC average student now takes 5 years to graduate)
    you are obviously not your average government school drone, but lets look at worst case scenario. in other words you can still be ahead of the game spending up to $30,000.00 on your renovation and $500 is minimal shared living expense. At home you can put on the feedbag without it costing you, another savings you probably have already counted on, savings of $300 per month for 60 months, or $18,000.00

    hook up to sewer $2000
    hook up to electrical $2000
    hook up to water $1000
    lift building install insulation & skids and secure $1500
    interior renovation (not taj mahal standards) 125 sq. ft. @ $100 per square foot = $12,500
    TOTAL $19,000.00
    REMEMBER! rough and tough numbers, if family and friends do renovation you can cut everything by 65% or a cost of now $6,500.00

    SAVINGS $29,000 to $41,500 give or take a few $1000 one way or the other.

    now… what i have just told you is worth what you paid for it. you should do your own numbers, which judging by your wisdom to consider this project you are capable of. oh… since your going to need to lift the building consider putting it in another location more suitable for you such as a better hookup to utilities, wind block, parking etc.

    best to y’all hope you have a great time with your project

    • AnnieinKC
      June 23, 2015, 11:27 am

      wow. It’s not that serious. I used to rehab & flip many small houses in the 80’s. One house had sewer in basement. Got gallon jugs at home depot that the hospitals use when a pt dies in the room – put it on, then hosed it off. All mold was gone & never came back. You can get a friend who is a plumber, electrician etc to help. Mine only charges me $400 instead of $1800 to put in 200 electricity. Put your bathrm & kitchen walls against each other with a walk-in closet inbetween. Of course, you can go sawdust or incinerator toilet (you’ll only buy it once!) – hook it up to solar panels. Don’t need gas or a “kitchen” – just use electric black, tabletop burners & a pressure cooker/ crockpot, etc. I can set up a whole kitchen on a 6′ table. Tiny Rival microwave at Walmart on sale for $29 this week. I only need a bed, chair & a 6′ table on wheels, basically. My stainless steel rolling table is my dining table, kitchen table, desktop and makeup table – it even rolls over my bed. I have two rolling low back memory foam office chairs, which I love. Just keep it simple, everything on wheels so you can change it around when you want. Don’t build in cabinets, walls etc — uses up too much space. You’ll want to change your house around every once in a while! Good luck with your project!

  • Bruce Pritchett
    June 23, 2015, 10:14 am

    Check into zoning first. It would be a shame to spend a ton of money and get it all done, only to be told you have to tear it all down because it’s not zoned to be there. This is why you see so many tiny homes “on wheels”. They can (a) be moved easily and (b) skirt a lot of the zoning regulations since they are technically an “RV” and not a home.

  • Cahow
    June 23, 2015, 10:38 am

    “This way I can have the independence of living alone while still being on my parents property.”

    As a parent of 3 grown children, I got a good giggle off of that oxymoron of a declaration, above. 😀 Aside from that, good luck to Alexis with coming up with a creative way to save heaps of money while she goes attends Uni.

  • June 23, 2015, 10:46 am

    Personally I love the challenge of doing things as cheap as possible and using recycled or repurposed materials as much as possible.
    If you want to save on things like putting in sewer and water connections just use a composting toilet, it can be as simple as a bucket with a toilet seat on it, and some wood chips. You can buy a Coleman Camping shower for under $20, leave it outside in the sun for the day and by evening you have nice warm water for a shower, you could put the shower stall in your tiny house with a hook to hang the shower bag. one bag is more than enough water for a one person shower. A hose run out and insulated for cold water would work, you might have to heat the water for dishes but a lot cheaper than plumbing the tiny house.
    Check with your local recyclers, my local one gives away 1/2 tins of paint, stain, etc and for a tiny house you don’t need much.
    i have made my own curtains out of sheets several times. I bought them at the thrift store and was able to make my curtains and toss cushions to match for under $5 and they looked great! If you don’t sew or don’t have a sewing machine, no worries. you can buy iron on seam tape, you just fold the material where you want your hem to be, place the tape in the fold and iron it. viola! Pocket at one end, hem at the other. A curtain!! You can hand stitch later as added reinforcement but not necessary.
    A lot of granite counter top places will just let you take whatever you want out of their dumpster. They have to pay to have it hauled away. You can make a very cool mosaic counter top or floor for cheap and a little work and imagination.
    Call around to renovation companies or check Craiglist for things like insulation, kitchen cabinets, shower stall, doors and windows, often you can get them for free if you remove them.
    Pallets can be used for everything from making a bed to a couch. Also if you go to a steel fabricating business they have their steel delivered to them on heavy duty pallets, often using 4×4’s in 10 to 12′ lengths with 1×4’s as cross members in shorter lengths (perfect for wainscotting). You just have to have a good pry bar to take the 1×4’s off the 4×4’s.
    I have painted my counter tops also with great success using dollar store acrylic paints and giving it many coats of clear coat.
    I wish I was closer, I would love to help, you can really have a lot of fun with a project like this and learn some new skills too. Good luck and have fun! I hope we get to see the “after” pics.

  • AL
    June 23, 2015, 10:49 am

    First off, all the best wishes to Alexis! I admire what you are doing. If you desire to do it, it is possible! Go for it! Secondly, this is just me saying what I would do in this situation: (I don’t know if it is already on skids but I would check-in about putting on skids or on a foundation-don’t know if/what the building codes would say about that…) In any case, I would keep it as simple & cozy as possible (because that is how I am). I’d insulate the walls with a healthy jean or wool insulation. I’d find covering for the insulation, probably non-toxic plywood or something second-hand. I’d keep if off the grid. If that doesn’t float your boat, don’t worry about reading the following ideas. 🙂 For lights, Ikea has some simple chic solar powered lamps that work amazingly. (Candles are always nice, too, when used safely.) To charge computers, phones, etc., there are lots of simple devices you can purchase to charge your electronics (browse Amazon-there are backpacks & other portable devices). Or you could invest in a small solar power system. For printing needs (if needed for college), use your college’s computer lab. You could collect rainwater &/or buy water. For the bathroom (I’d put it in the front right corner), set up a camping shower with water catchment & simple compost toilet in the front corner with a pitcher & basin to wash in. Anyway, that is just me thinking about what I’d do if it were me. If building codes are an issue, brainstorm ways of getting the idea of what you want without bothering their codes. Best of luck in any case!!! :):):)

  • Gwen
    June 23, 2015, 10:50 am

    I think this is a great idea. I am very concerned, however, about the extensive black mold; it is a serious health hazard, and should be cleaned up before any reno work is begun, which would require a huge amount of time and effort, as well as add to your costs. Even then, there are no guarantees you could eradicate it completely. So in addition to checking out the zoning, you might want to find a professional who can inform you on feasibility and – if the scenario is optimistic – how to do the job without harming your own health in the process.

  • Peggy
    June 23, 2015, 10:59 am

    Is seems where the chair is sitting & taking 1 window width, come toward bump out, that would b a good place. ( that bump out seems like a nice place for, water heater, furnace, electric box etc. )
    Then the other 2 windows to left, go around corner & make that area your kitchen.
    It’s adorable, good luck in all you do with this project.

  • Connie Murray
    June 23, 2015, 11:30 am

    As cute as the idea is, I wouldn’t do it. Better to keep the playhouse for some future use (like keeping tools or sports equipment, for instance) and purpose build a new place. Renovating frequently costs more than new built (factor in time as well as money). Lots of towns will let you build a “garden” house (a tiny house in the back of a full size house on the same lot). If your parents want to pitch it, they can rent it out to other college students after you graduate and generate some income! Could be a win-win.

    • Cahow
      June 23, 2015, 12:20 pm

      Yours is the BEST idea yet, Connie! We do a vast amount of de-construction of water damaged dry wall and studs and it is a very, very expensive project. Trying to remove the black mold without actually removing the wood would make me very nervous.

      Amish Garden sheds are very cost effective and then Alexis would be assured of safe and clean air.

    • Doris
      June 24, 2015, 2:03 am

      If she keeps the playhouse for “future use,” it still has to be repaired before it rots into the ground. In the event she is not allowed to do new construction, she at least is currently grandfathered in.
      A tear-down and new construction will attract attention, not to mention the time factor (and a flurry of permits and inspections by people who don’t have a clue about tiny houses).
      I agree the mold is a serious issue, but she does have options without spending a fortune. Many competent carpenters are out of work right now, and do amazing work for cash.

  • M
    June 23, 2015, 11:33 am

    As her parents probably won’t be using a composting toilet or solar shower/power – therefore not living independently themselves – let’s cut all the snarking, not disguised by your smiley, and start realizing that even when independent we are all connected. I’d give my eye teeth if my very independent children would come be independent on my property. Alexis, the little house is beautiful and a testament of your parents love. You do them honor by choosing their gift as your first independent home. As someone who suffers from an illness related to mold I can tell you that is a priority. Some wood may need replacing in order to be safe. I also suggest using a journal to track and have later as a keepsake of this journey. I can’t wait to see what you do!

    • Diane
      June 23, 2015, 2:06 pm

      YES you can do this. It is a great idea. I did it and you can too. I wish I lived closer so I could come and help you achieve your dream. I had a wonderful playhouse on my property that the door had not even been opened in over 20 Years. It was my daughter’s playhouse and my son needed a place to live when he came back home. I had rented his room so he made his home in the playhouse out back. Since our weather is so warm all the time in Arizona he just came in to use the shower and the bathroom for a while until I could build a bathroom. Now that he has moved on I made it more girlie girl and put it on Airbnb. You can look at the finished product of a playhouse turned into a living environment. It’s called Cinderella’s Castle in Scottsdale and you can just google those words to find it. I moved another playhouse to the property and turned it into the bath house. With your weather you will need an inside bathroom. I would do all the things that were recommended like mold treatment, new windows, insulation, drywall and simply put a door in the back and build another cute addition to your house. That’s a better idea and would not be that costly. There are Mennonites that do this type of work all the time and it would be like building an addition to the existing house. If you want my help just ask. I built my playhouse years ago and no one ever complained about it. It’s adorable.

  • Susanne
    June 23, 2015, 11:36 am

    Wonderful idea! The structure is already there…keep it off grid, and so why worry about zoning? I am surprised zoning was brought up at all! Plus I did not giggle after reading she will be in her parents’ property. It can be more difficult and definitely unsafe for a female to be independent in this society, so she is doing so in a safe manner. If she works her parents can charge her a small amount if they wish and the rest towards school expenses or save in bank account. If not working, as soon as they finish school and get a job as a result of the degree, they can better (and safely) move, off parents property.
    I would support my girls 100 percent if they took the SAME steps towards independence in this manner! More power to her!!!!

  • AnnieinKC
    June 23, 2015, 11:38 am

    P.S. I bought a small 1′ square fake fireplace on hsn. It is quiet, has a beautiful flame that only uses a candleopera light bulb, and it would electrically heat the whole tiny house, so no furnace needed or duct work. I only use the flame on mine – never even made my light bill change. Or you can use an electric Mitabishi mini-split that is a/c & heat – NO DUCTWORK!

  • Trish
    June 23, 2015, 11:41 am

    Alexis…good luck on your tiny house. You are a smart girl to go tiny instead of spending a ton of money to live on or near campus, plus you will have your privacy there. Great suggestions from Al and Carrie for your playhouse remodel. Hope to see the finished project.

  • Kristina H Nadreau
    June 23, 2015, 11:42 am

    Excellent advice from Steve, and his numbers seem about right to me!!!! I have renovated 14 houses so I have an idea of what things are needed and what they cost. Your parents may really find this to be a good investment for their future as well as a place for you until you are ready and able to move away.

  • Marsha Webb
    June 23, 2015, 11:47 am

    Put a stand size tub under the sleeping loft with a hand held shower. Instead of walls use bookcases.

  • PB
    June 23, 2015, 11:50 am

    Nice in theory—-but I too am worried about the black mold and the cost of dealing with that. Yes, you need lots of insulation—so even if you can deal with the mold and insulate the place as well, I would suggest a Luggable Loo toilet (trash bags and pine chips or kitty litter) and a tiny camping shower set-up (you could use a Rubbermaid tub or metal trough like Ella on littleyellowdoor does for shower stall), etc. Good luck!

  • Ce
    June 23, 2015, 12:02 pm

    I’d take out the shelves and corners w/mold and put in venting windows w/shelves for plants or coloured glass.
    What a lovely little house!

  • Susan
    June 23, 2015, 12:10 pm

    The “bones” of the little house look adorable. If your are going to bring in wiring for electricity- which I hope you Are- one suggestion that is not a Basic – but one that I think is important-at least for someone like me who can’t sleep if I am too warm. There is a fan company (Monte Carlo) which has a VERY efficient MICRO ceiling fan (mine is 24″) which could make summer nights a great deal more comfortable. Mine has a quaint light fixture below the fan – but it can be done with or without the light (I like lighting in every space.) the size of the fan allows it to go up into the higher tightly angled ceiling areas and still freely move the blades. I loved this little luxury that fits into tight spaces.

    June 23, 2015, 12:48 pm

    Alexis, First spray the black moldy areas with Clorox and water i’d use a 50/50 mix to kill the mold. next fix the windows and areas that need new wood, insulate it like crazy with batt insulation 3.5 inch thick or if possible have the house spray foamed after De-molding it. cover inside walls with plywood if necessary or plaster board. bath area needs about 3′ x 5′ or 4′ x3′ tiny sink which can be made by your dad or you from a dollar store stainless steel bowl with a drain hole and pipe drain installed to a bucket or sewer line. bucket toilet, as suggested, then an old 1/2 cut wine barrel or old wash tub for a shower base and hand held shower hook up or use the old wash by a bowl or use mom and dads shower to save space. once you make it your place you’ll be glad you did, a home of your own and small heaters do word well for heat. got any friends with building experience ? don’t be afraid to ask for help. good luck…..

  • Dave Wright
    June 23, 2015, 12:59 pm

    Independence always sounds great in theory… but somewhat lacks in practice. There is nothing wrong with turning your former playhouse into a livable A.D.U., (Auxiliary Dwelling Unit). However, unless your parents have already turned your former bedroom into a Den, sewing room, or exercise room, I predict that over your first semester, you will find yourself gradually taking up residence back in your parents home. There is nothing like the familiarity of the bedroom you grew up in, a big screen TV, a laundry room and a full bathroom, to chip away any romantic notions of your own little tiny house outback. If you truly wish to cut the apron strings, you may find that you have to go quite a bit further than your folks back yard. It is just too easy to find yourself spending more and more time back in your parents home, regardless of how noble your initial intentions were.

    By the way, you never said who was financing this little project, you or your parents. You’re not the child anymore. Perhaps the ten to fifteen thousand dollars expended, (minimum for a quality job), might be better spent on tuition, books and vehicle expenses.

    Take whatever help your parents are willing to give gratefully. Someday, sooner than you imagined, they will be gone, you will truly be on your own, and you will wish you had spent more time with them. Don’t rush to grow up, it will come soon enough. Take in stride, whatever criticism from friends and acquaintances that you are taking advantage of your parents, or are too dependent on them. They wished they had such a sweet deal.

    • Cahow
      June 23, 2015, 1:31 pm

      Dave: even with a year’s time, I couldn’t have constructed a better and more thoughtful response, ever!

      You said everything that I lacked the ability to write. Sage advice!!!

    • Rue
      June 23, 2015, 2:19 pm

      I second (or third?) Dave’s response. Not because the renovation couldn’t be done, not because it shouldn’t be done. But much more because parents don’t live forever, and time is the most precious thing we have.

      Also, the first semester of college can be the hardest…lots to get used to, lots of stress. Adding the work of a full renovation to that might not be the best idea.

      Maybe instead of paying up front to live in this during college, it might make more sense to take the opportunity to spend a few more years with family, while putting that few hundred a month towards making this a project for weekends and spare time, with the goal of having it complete upon graduation?

    • M
      June 23, 2015, 4:30 pm


      Perhaps she is being independent ON her parents property for the very reasons you brought up. That was actually what I took away from it. So I liked your stance on family. The remark about her tossing in the towel was not so kind. Hopefully you didn’t mean it as it sounded. When my daughter was her age she was already using excel spreadsheets to manage her finances – which were small – but she managed to pay off all her debt including a rather large hospital bill all on her own. Don’t underestimate youth. 🙂

    • Dean
      June 23, 2015, 5:59 pm

      Truer words were never spoken (or written!).
      Good post, Dave.

    • M
      June 23, 2015, 8:06 pm

      It’s still only June boys. She has quite a while before that first semester even starts. Maybe that’s why she’s gathering info now. With a little help she could have it ready by mid August. Not everyone needs a big screen TV or exercise room to feel complete. In fact it would be more conducive to study to be without one. As for laundry there are some nice little hand crank mini washers and and with a foot pedal that looks like a cute hassock when not in use. Even spin dryers that are compact. The Sports Channel Gang forgets how pioneer women lived in even more meager homes without TVs, exercise or laundry rooms often raising large amounts of children. My grandmother-in-law raised ten kids in a small three room house with a hand pump for water and for many years without electric. She’s in her nineties and still cooks a big meal everyday for the four sons who live in the area. So it’s okay to go home once in while for a meal like the men do. 😉 maybe you could pick up a copy of Little House On the Prairie for some Pioneer Woman inspiration.

    • Dave Wright
      June 23, 2015, 9:37 pm

      Well, no one can say that my comment didn’t spark some lively debate.

      Alex, you should be thrilled that any posting sparks this much controversy and spirited debate. That’s what keeps readers coming back, again and again!

      To me, the question was never IF Alexis could do the renovation, but if she should. Ultimately, only Alexis can answer that, and the best decisions are always made with every conceivable point-of-view considered!

    • Doris
      June 24, 2015, 1:34 am

      Your lecture makes a lot of assumptions about someone you’ve never met. Perhaps the parents want PRIVACY. Perhaps the mom wants to convert that spare bedroom into a sewing room or art studio she has waited and longed for. Perhaps the daughter wants to honor the fact that its her parents’ house now and they need some “couple time.”

      For many young adults, the “familiarity of the bedroom you grew up in” is going backward into childhood, something they staunchly resist. As for the TV and other things you presume are necessities to this young stranger, she may prefer to communicate with family and friends instead of staring at a screen. Its her choice, and you don’t have a clue how she spends her leisure time.
      You advise her to cut the strings and move away, criticize her for expenses you know nothing about, then tell her to take good care of her parents before they croak, then to ignore people who criticize her for taking advantage of her folks.
      Seems to me like it would be a LOT easier to spend time with her folks if she lived nearby, with all of them having their own space.
      Hopefully, she will proceed as planned, like so many of the capable young people we see on this blog, without any “free” advice/scolding about noble intentions from someone who contradicts his own assumptions a dozen times.

    • Alex
      June 24, 2015, 12:41 pm

      Here’s what I think, Dave… You make great points, yes. But you ALSO made many assumptions here about Alexa. You don’t know her! And it’s none of our business how she’ll pay for the project. I think her decision is already made, and she’s looking for DESIGN ideas. But maybe YOU just needed some attention today 😀

    • Alex
      June 24, 2015, 12:42 pm

      “You should never assume. You know what happens when you assume. You make an ass out of you and me because that’s how it’s spelled.” ― Ellen DeGeneres

  • vince
    June 23, 2015, 1:27 pm

    Awesome idea, like others have mentioned..
    Carefully clean the black mold, it will make you very sick. Best method is as follows… Fix the windows, use damp-rid or a de-humidifier to remove as much moisture as you can from the building. then take a cleaning soltuion. i.e. 1 gallon warm water, 1 cup bleach, 1 tablespoon dish soap. Wear gloves, wipe down all surfaces, scrub lightly on the moldy areas. wipe clean, let dry. Repeat on the moldy areas until there is no more mold.
    Insulate every void and nail up sheetrock. Search Youtube to learn how to do sheetrock and taping. With some taping and sanding you can get nice walls. Paint everything with mildew resistant paint.
    Don’t worry about the bathroom at first, you can always use the main house. If you are careful in your decorations I would think you could set everything up for just a few hundred dollars (sheetrock/tape/mud/paint). Finish the kitchen and perhaps add a bathroom as time allows but really I think you may find it’s much nicer to eat and bath in the main house.

  • Grace
    June 23, 2015, 1:44 pm

    Black mold is nothing to mess around with! You need to start with researching the dangers of it! You may want to burn this little building down and start over if bleach and a product called Mold Control and painting it with Kills paint primer and it grows back. Sound like over kill? After staying in there for awhile if you happen to get sick from the mold you won’t worry about college living expense. I know by experience what mold sickness can do! Good luck!!!

    • Doris
      June 24, 2015, 1:05 am

      Back in the old days, we’d have called you Buzz Kill. By the way, when you recommend products, at least spell them correctly or someone might take away your Mold Police badge.

  • Donna
    June 23, 2015, 1:58 pm

    This young lady is asking about refinishing this tiny house. Therefore, other comments are useless and inappropriate. I congratulate you for your ideas about wanting to refinish this tiny house. There are lots of options for ways to do this. Try watching videos on YouTube. There are hundreds of them with instructions. Ask students at your college for help. Best of luck. I’m looking forward to seeing the finale project.

  • CindyD
    June 23, 2015, 2:02 pm

    Alexis, I’ll take the middle ground on this discussion, seeing some valid points on both sides (go for it; don’t go for it). I’d like to suggest that your former playhouse could be redone and used as a study hideaway. What a great get-away when you need to zone in for a research paper, test prep, or some endless reading in English lit. (I never found the campus library to be all that conducive to studying! Plus, with the Internet, you don’t need shelves of books and periodicals at your fingertips anymore to do your research papers.) Using it as a study nook would eliminate the need for a functioning toilet and shower b/c a quick trip into the big house for a bathroom break can help in the midst of a long study session. You will still have to deal with the mold problem, but wouldn’t you want to clear that out anyway? Might as well tackle it now while you have help and before it’s so far gone that you have to tear down the place. Insulation/heating, yes, but my guess is insulating and heating a structure for limited use would be different than having to make it livable for year-round sleeping. It’s fun to have a place to call your own at this time of your life, even if it’s just for some regular jaunts to the backyard to work on studies. Good luck! (BTW, major kudos to your parents for building such a precious playhouse to grow up enjoying!)

  • Comet
    June 23, 2015, 2:05 pm

    I don’t understand where all the snark is coming from on this! If this was some poor ‘ole granny who was going to be homeless if she did NOT transform some place like this; or a single mom with three kids and a large dog moving in–there would be all sortsa love. Instead I am reading a bunch of jealous comments here with a lot of –well; if not hatred per se–certainly NO love for this young person.

    All this person asked is–What do YOU think I should DO here? And what came pouring out was–Oh in a week you will be back in mommy’s house; don’t bother because you will not be able to stand living without a big screen TV; if you can’t pony up $30,000 UP FRONT don’t even bother—this is absurd!

    This is presumably a person aged about 19 to 22—who probably does NOT have that $30,000 to pay for a new house–or they would be doing that! And the point seems to be to SAVE money-which–silly me!–I thought WAS one of the premises on this site! How many times have I read–right HERE!!!!–OH I neeeeeed a tiny house so I don’t have to pay TAXES! So I don’t have a MORTGAGE! So some one ELSE is paying those evil TAXES that bring me the roads and schools and other infrastructure that I USE every day—

    Yeah–THOSE people.

    If you have seen a dorm room lately—-made out of badly painted cinder blocks; hot in the summer and generally freezing in the winter; accompanied by college food service dining–you would be much more sympathetic to this persons request. Yes–they might need to check into zoning. OR–they could use this as a study facility to remove themselves FROM the temptation of that couch and big screen TV=–for using the computer; entertaining; possible meals–maybe even sleeping out there if they don’t insulate for the entire years worth of cold they might use this on warmer nights.

    “A Room Of One’s Own” and “Walden”—either they inspire you or horrify you. I am guessing that this person was inspired.

    • June 23, 2015, 2:56 pm

      Good for you, Comet. You hit the nail directly on the head as to why I stopped reading the comments on this site. Glad you fired back with support for this young lady. Her dreams are just as valid as anyone else’s, even those looking to live simply. Living simple in college is almost required, if you are trying to be self sufficient. And on that note, I’d be happy to show MY support if this young lady would like, I will gladly design your space for you so that you can get on with your tiny adventure and fascinating project … MartyWhite.net. Send me your measurements and I’ll work it out for you, with pleasure. And for the record, I’ve got a tiny house on wheels in my shop that I haven’t worked on in about a year now, and it’s for fun … Fun is allowed I think. What I get out of this site, mostly, is inspiration in the form of support and being a part of the tiny world. I don’t like to hear bickering either, so let’s keep the tiny house world a happy place and do away with trolling. Cheers people. M.

    • M
      June 23, 2015, 4:16 pm

      Very astute comment Comet. There are those who like to destroy and those who are constructive. I work with the 16-22 age group and most have few goals other than to party. Which is the other down side of dorms. I am also wondering if the remarks would have been different if a young male college student was featured. Then we’d probably see lots a “good for you buddy!”

      You are also spot on with your quip on taxes. Many love to complain about them but love the public library, parks, national forests, unemployment when out of a job, education grants, and I could go on adding to your list. To me “off-grid isn’t about avoiding taxes but rather about conserving resources for generations to come, making sure there is enough for all. Maybe someday humanity will evolve to a point where we don’t need a tax structure because a better more voluntary system will be in place and we will actually want everyone to have what they need and we will all need less to begin with. Of course that can’t happen if we continue to use such a large amount of the tax revenue to fund war and weapons of mass destruction.

    • Chel
      June 24, 2015, 6:44 am

      Well said Comet. I expected to see either yourself or Cahow speaking up.
      There are so many comments now that I haven’t read them all. Glad to have missed most of the nay-sayers.
      I speak from a parent’s perspective. I appreciate you want your independence but some things are worth borrowing from the big house. Washing machine, dryer, big cooker for occasional use. I still collect my kids clean laundry and hang it in my garden as they don’t have one.
      As others have said, fixing the mould and windows is easy enough since you can get at them.
      Is there a waterproof/vapour barrier between the osb and cladding?
      Wool insulation is warm and breathable, easy to cut to put between the studs.
      Drywall or tongue and groove for inner wall.
      What about a composting toilet and possible shower to the left of the door?
      Kitchenette to right of door.
      Box in the corner behind the ladder under the loft and you have closet space.
      Use the rest of the space under the loft for desk and shelves for study.
      Another chair and a couple of storage boxes on lockable castors with padded lids and you have seating for company.
      Use the bay window as a shelf.
      Blinds use less material than curtains so are cheaper. They also take up less space.
      Fix a propane marine heater into the windowless wall.
      Leaving some space empty for movement and stretching out is good.
      Solar power is expensive to acquire when you have no money but oil lamps and protected candles work. Supplementing electric lighting.
      Electricity can be run from the big house and you can pay towards the bill. Wireless internet from the big house could be free.
      Just a list of ideas to add to the mix.
      I would take up Marty’s offer if I were you. Experience clarifies a lot of ideas.
      Good on you for doing this. Food luck with it and as others say. Please post pictures of your new home.

  • Tim
    June 23, 2015, 2:32 pm

    God I hope that you don’t take the comments mentioned with too much salt. If your parents are okay with it, do it. There are older adults out here who can’t possibly own a home. If this refurnishing allows you some financial freedom, and the opportunity to gradually gain, do it. From what I saw I believe its possible.

  • Tona Cunningham
    June 23, 2015, 2:38 pm

    To all the naysayers and dream killers; jealous much? Of course she can do this, if it were available to me I would do it in a heartbeat! Beautiful little house in a lovely setting with huge potential. As far as paying for the renovations, if there’s a will there’s a way!

    • Doris
      June 24, 2015, 1:42 am

      Unreal how condescending and presumptuous they are about someone they’ve never met. I had hoped those “See here, little lady” lectures went out with the 70s.
      “Burn it to the ground.” “Move back in and crowd Mom and Dad.” “I predict you’ll never make it.”
      Good God. I wish her the best, and I hope she gets some real help for this. Maybe I’ll drop by and pick up Comet and Tim and Vince, and maybe Norm Abrams, and see what we can do. Road trip, anyone???

  • Mark
    June 23, 2015, 2:57 pm

    Heaps of potential here .. is Deek from relaxshacks available to lend a hand and some inspiration .. What a great project opportunity ..

  • Ani
    June 23, 2015, 3:32 pm

    I’m not sure about the bathroom but your local hardware store should have insulation. Wool and recycled denim insulation work really well and are easy to put up. They are also eco friendly and non toxic so they don’t require special masks.

  • Virginia
    June 23, 2015, 3:40 pm

    What a wonderful opportunity you have! First, take it down to the studs and look for mold or leakage problems you may have. Make repairs, as needed. Then, add good insulation; after all, you’ll want to be comfortable, even if the heating/cooling bill isn’t on your nickel. Next, think about how you live today — Cook in or eat out? Room to study. Room to have friends over. Definitely room to sleep. Have a dedicated space for each. You can save money by buying cabinets on Craigslist and from the back wall of Lowe’s. The same with flooring. Oh!!! And, if you like art, be sure to leave enough wall space to accommodate it. The same for other interests. Hope this helps.

  • Ruthellen
    June 23, 2015, 3:53 pm

    Hi Alexis!
    Don’t let the turkeys get you down. I design kitchens for Lowe’s in MA and would love to help you with some ideas. Email me the measurements and I’ll see what might work. You’ll need to fix anything that’s broken and yes insulation will be essential. Are your parents supportive? Helpful? Email me [email protected]

  • -cindy
    June 23, 2015, 4:07 pm

    Hi, I have an 8′ x 8′ playhouse, counting the porch which runs across the entire front. I made plans for transforming it into a tiny house. It has a door on the left, a window on the right and a window in the middle on each side. The back wall has an A/C unit in the middle. The windows aren’t real big but not tiny either. They have screens and are easily opened and closed.

    So, I’d build a small shower to fit the back right corner to about where the A/C unit is on the back wall and a little short of the window on the side wall.

    The shower will have a vent and sturdy hooks for the towels to hang on. There will also be a small retractable clothes line that allows for some clothes or towel drying as needed.

    Under the A/C unit I want to put a cabinet to hold a composting toilet that would slide out on rollers, into the shower. The idea is the shower base would include the composting toilet cabinet, but a little slanted so the water from the shower wouldn’t fill that area.

    The cabinet holding the composting toilet would have an added lift up table on the front side. Above it would be a sink with a flat drain to avoid all the bulky plumbing. The small towel rack for a hand towel would be attached to the shower wall on the right. The A/C unit would be above the sink.

    To the left of the table/composting toilet cabinet/sink would be my small refrigerator that has a separate freezer compartment, like a big refrigerator. A cutting board goes on top of it. Above it would be the microwave/convection oven.

    In the left corner is a shelf unit to hold the few dishes needed, silverware, food/books and clothes, using dowels to hold dishes as needed or bins to keep items neat.

    A hammock will be strung from the left back corner to the right front corner, which can be tied up out of the way in the day. The pillow would be on the chair on wheels. Blankets folded up to go under the chair. There will also be a fold up camping chair and a few fold up seats, one being a cane with a seat, for company.

    A small table and folding chairs go on the porch.

    The playhouse has 6 outlets which is very convenient. I am considering the bottom part of the shelf unit for storage having a drop down desk, or removable desk so the laptop doesn’t have to be put away when using the “kitchen” table.

    The hand-help vac could be hung on the wall near the front right corner behind the upholstered chair on wheels.

    If I raise the roof to have a higher pitch, then I could make the space above the roof of the porch a loft for another bed, with a ladder between the door and window on the front wall. It would also allow my dehydrator to be stored and used above the A/C unit. Right now the ceiling is 6 1/2 feet, pretty low, and a low pitch to the roof.

    If I wanted and had more money, I could drop a bed in the floor with a steel frame. I’d have an accordion-fold type strong floor that would push up and out of the way for a double bed. I’d likely put a rug over it to keep dust and dirt out of the cracks. Also, I’ve considered making 2 boxes in the floor for added storage. One, in front of the shelf unit, that would lift the floor up and the other in the right side, outside the bed space, with a hinge so it could be lifted up and lean against the wall. It’d be a good spot to store pillows.

    Currently the playhouse sits 4′ off the ground with lattice enclosing the “basement” I could store items there, but unless I have super good bins, the bugs will find a way in. I considered building a more permanent storage under there. I can’t dig down as I’d like, to create another room under it because of the gas and water lines cutting through the space underground. But, I still can get the basics in the small space. I can run a cord from the house if need be for Internet and phone. It’s been done in the past when it was just a bed, some storage, desk and dresser.

    You can do a lot in 64 square feet.

  • Karen
    June 23, 2015, 4:10 pm

    You have so much potential here! I’m absolutely jealous of all the prospects. I think that all of the advice that Virginia gave you is pretty right on the money. Please be sure to post photos when it is completed.

  • d
    June 23, 2015, 5:06 pm

    I think this is a FABULOUS idea. First of all – room is a huge cost of college and I love the idea of this student thinking of alternatives to incurring more debt . . . yet still wanting some independence. Second, it is a great little house and with the advice and offers above, I think is a great great opportunity! I favor skandanavian looks so lots of light wood and not much else could be so inviting And minimalist to accent sleep and study. Third, there’s nothing wrong with going to mom and dad’s for coffee, meals, watching a movie, etc. . . people go to movies, go to restaurants and cafés for the same reasons – this is just another option to do it with some folks you love (pun intended). And, I think they’d love it, of course. Fourth – this could be a real opportunity experientially that will benefit you for the rest of your life – – perhaps it will even set a direction! I’d see if a “go fund me” might help you raise some money or goods for the reno. The only downside I can see right now is that many college grads have to move back home after graduation due to the tough job market, and you might be sick of being there by then. ? but maybe you could put wheels on it then and move it somewhere else? Or let a coming up cousin the chance to live in it. Or heck, maybe one of your parents would like a little retreat themselves!!!

  • Jon A. Gibson
    June 23, 2015, 6:30 pm

    Where/how to isulate is a given. As for your bathroom there are molded fiberglass, one-piece units made for RVs. These are extremely compact & will fit in a corner of your tiny house (order an enclosure from a supplier).

  • alice h
    June 23, 2015, 7:36 pm

    If people can convert old chicken houses and ramshackle sheds into tiny houses then why not an old playhouse? How much it costs depends on a lot of variables, same with how well it works. At the very least it will give a lot of valuable experience. The simpler the systems the cheaper it will be. If you or your family don’t have building experience it would be best to find someone that does to help and advise.

  • Deborah
    June 23, 2015, 7:39 pm

    How Cute!!!! Not sure what your finances are like, but could you put the bathroom where the little picture window is? It should be pretty easy to add an addition. Good luck and let’s us know how it turns out!

  • M
    June 23, 2015, 8:31 pm

    Off grid washing machines:
    Wonder Washer
    Mr. Heater Base Camp
    Panda Twin Tub
    EasyGo tumble washer
    And a favorite of mine, the GiraDora which was developed for women in third world countries. That’s the cute one that looks like a hassock. You sit on it and use your feet to push a damper pedal. Great for keeping your ankles trim. 🙂 also a wonderful story about how it changed the lives of these women. Only $40 and I think part of that supports the project.

    I am curious what your major is going to be? You might be able to get college credit for this as a project. Possibly in more than one class. So document everything and take pictures.

    • Joe
      June 24, 2015, 12:42 am

      M. Thankyou I’ve ordered the twin Panda and small dryer for my Tiny House. I have a counter top dish washer that I will build in and now ,thanks to you, I will have my mini washer and dryer. My bathroom door will conceal an ironing board. I made a clothes line that reels in so you don’t see it when not in use.

  • Elizabeth Rubio
    June 23, 2015, 8:38 pm

    Hi Alexis,
    First step: check with your local building permitting officer. A playhouse in the back garden is one thing, but a full-time residence is quite another. Local code may or may not allow it. Speaking of code, you will need electrical wiring, and whether you do it yourself or hire it out, it will have to be passed by your local building inspector. Same for plumbing. If the playhouse is already wired for electricity, it probably won’t serve your grownup needs and will still need to pass inspection.
    I think renovating your playhouse is a great idea. Best of luck to you. Involve your friends in the project and reward them with pizza.

  • Donna
    June 23, 2015, 9:11 pm

    It’s adorable, I say GO FOR IT!

  • laurie
    June 23, 2015, 9:40 pm

    a good spray of bleach water will take care of the mold…let it dry and then use spray on insulation foam. what a wonderful place.. think about a solar panel for electricity and you dont need to worry about codes.
    and what to do about your laundry…take it home to mom and dad’s all kids do that. lol i live in upper peninsula of michigan. where do you hail from? eden pure heater should be all you need and a composting toilet. shower can be set up with solar panel to warm and store in a tank. i think this is such an awesome idea. be sure to document all you do. journal and lots of pics and besure to have pics of the friends and family that help. we have remodeled 5 different homes. and i have the pics and notes to tell the story. enjoy this time of your life. you will go far if you are already thinking about finances..most people dont think about it till their first job. your parents did a great job raising you. good luck

    • Alex
      June 24, 2015, 9:02 am

      Thanks Laurie!!

  • Maria
    June 23, 2015, 9:44 pm

    Our daughter is in the process of converting our 8’x8′ by 12′ tall playhouse into her college years tiny house. She is planning on living there after college until she establishes herself in a career.

  • jil
    June 23, 2015, 10:07 pm

    i would set it up as if it were off grid, that way, no problem with the permits, etc. one extension cord from your parents’ house to yours will give you all the electricity you need. check out the simple DIY composting toilet … no need to buy the high dollar ones. insulation is easy and important. simple dry wall on the walls, or something more creative and scavaged. start looking thru all the great ideas on this tinyhousetalk website… LOTS of great ideas. you can do this easily and inexpensively. GO FOR IT! and then send us the after photos. good luck!

  • Jyll Valade
    June 24, 2015, 12:16 am

    Hmmm, for power I would really consider solar for such a small space. A coffe maker uses about a 1,000 watts to start, if you are going simple check out the earthship sites for minimum solar systems. (Batteries are stored in a box outside of the building) A natures head composting toilet should solve the septic black water needs . Roxul insulation easy to use, ship lap wooden wslls instead of drywall in case you need to move it to your own property some day. You may consider solar hot water to ease you heating needs with sbfloor heating. Sounds like a fun project wish I could help but I hope you consider some of these ideas good luck.

  • M
    June 24, 2015, 10:58 am


    Let us know how it works. Might want to read the amazon.com questions/reviews as the Panda has a lint problem. Solutions are offered. Would be nice to see pics of your TH. What part of the country are you in and are you on private land, a friend’s land, etc… that seems to be the biggest issue with TH. Where can one be placed.

  • Frederick
    June 24, 2015, 12:16 pm

    1. You will need power and some wiring – a not too large job for a knowledgeable person with a DYI bent. If you are not, get a name of a trusted contractor or friend who is DIY attuned, and have him/her do help you design a plan for wiring and interior framing, etc.
    2. Add a kitchen space – look at the many examples here on this web site – there are all kinds of options
    3. Consider solar, check costs vs having a circuit dropped to your house from your parents’.
    4. Consider a composting toilet, cost etc. vs using your parents’ house. Use at night, plus the need for a shower, also part of the solar plan, cost etc.
    5. You need insulation – consider having a professional do it for you, closed cell foam will solve a lot of the problems I see in the photos of older interior walls and 2 x 4 construction.

    Finally, get creative, just look at all the stuff on this web site for ideas and costs. Good luck!!

  • Marsha Cowan
    June 25, 2015, 10:40 am

    Hi Alexis! You have a real gem there. I would build a wall between two windows under the loft and put a bathroom there under the stairs, and maybe even build the stairs in so you can put drawers or shelves in them. The wall can use two by fours lenthwise rather than width wise as you don’t need a weight bearing wall and so should easily fit between the window trim to make a wall, and the door can be as narrow as 18″ wide, or if you want to build to code, 24″ wide. A kitchen can consist of a butane stovetop with a camping oven to bake, a large pretty pot for bringing in water, and a sink that drains into a 5 gallon bucket that can be emptied everyday onto the garden, and you can get a small propane heater for heat…oh wait! That’s how my bus is set up…thuought it sounded famliar! Yes, that is my kitchen, and I have lived wih it for a year now and won’t trade the ease of it for anything! Just a thought! Good luck as you progress!

    • Marsha Cowan
      July 4, 2017, 10:19 pm

      Hi again. It is three years now in the bus, and still loving the kitchen. I have discovered a portable flushing potty though that I am going to work into my scheme. It is a marine toilet that holds up to four gallons in the top part that is used to flush the toilet and goes into the bottom part which can then be emptied into the house toilet, or in my case the portajohn toilet. It is good for several days before having to be emptied, and can use the blue tablets to control odors and help start it breaking down. Just a thought. . .

      • Marsha Cowan
        July 4, 2017, 10:21 pm

        . . .one more thing, if you keep plumbing and wiring out of your walls, you do not need inspections, and probably won’t be breaking any codes.

  • Mary Ann
    June 25, 2015, 3:25 pm

    Alexis, the very first thing to do is check the zoning and building regulations in your town or county. Here, anything bigger than 108 sq feet must be subject to building codes and inspections.

    No point doing the work and then the town makes you take it down.

  • Janet
    June 25, 2015, 4:31 pm

    I am doing a Tiny Cabin and if you are wired for electric you have to be inspected just like a house…just to get temp power ..I had to build stairs to code..tie downs….railing have to have pickets 3 inchs apart.. I had to have a pole 6×20 just for the power..then they wanted 4 wires instead of the 3 I was using..then a shut off on pole….then fire dept has to inspect..too..i have spent 5000 so far and am just starting on insulation….took two months to get power..so unless you have been saving up..like I did…good luck

  • Bill McPherson
    June 26, 2015, 3:11 pm

    You have choices to make. The more power you want, and electric heat is a big use, the less likely you can use solar power. Using solar power to charge batteries is fine, but how are you going to use the power? If left as 12 volts, RV equipment could come in handy. If you need 120 volts like most wall outlets have, a recycled UPS (Uninterruptable Power Supply) can convert 12 (or 24, 36, or 48, depending on what it has) volts to AC power. As small as this cute little house is, I would not recommend installing wiring if it is the only thing producing AC, try to have anything it powers next to it. Use car lights for lighting up your home, no conversion needed. Just be creative in hiding the car light bulb. Hopefully, I’ve given you some ideas to start you on your way. Home Improvement Stores want to sell you small books to fi!x your home up, that’s how they sell more stuff. Think through what you want and go for it

    • Dean
      June 27, 2015, 1:21 pm

      Re: Car lights.

      Interesting idea.
      Could be mounted in old paint can, then handle can be used to hang it from the ceiling.
      I would suggest using fog lights for general lighting, as they tend to spread the light out more (like a flood light).
      Do an internet search for “drop light”, too.
      These are portable lights used by mechanics.
      Some are (were?) made for cars, too and usually plugged into the cigarette lighter.
      Great for more precise lighting. Think of them as 12V spot lights.

  • keith
    June 29, 2015, 10:59 am

    First of all I would insulate.a composting toilet would work best.nice start to a micro house

  • dea
    July 6, 2015, 3:46 pm

    HAVE FUN WITH IT! go go go!…ok you got a fan or a few, wish you lived close enough to donate some cabinet carcases to to help you out, got a garage full of tiny house building supplies and I’m hoping to swap and donate to other TH people what I can’t use on my build! many blessings, ENJOY the process! (love what you have to work with, great start)

  • July 4, 2017, 5:21 pm

    I recommend a microwave and an induction cooktop. In many areas you can sleep in a detached building or RV parked on the property, but it can’t have a stove. My 206 sq ft THOW has no stove, just a microwave/convection combo and an induction cooktop that goes in a cabinet when not in use. Ask around for friends of your folks that may have building supplies left over from projects or never actually did the project they bought stuff for! I’m a 62 yr old disabled widow and I b uilt my own THOW..if I can do it, you can do it!!!

  • Joshua
    July 4, 2017, 9:15 pm

    I say you can never go wrong with solar panels for your power supply and and wood burning stove for warmth but most importantly never forget that taking your time always ensures that you get everything that you want and what you look forward to have. Remember enjoy the little things in life.

  • Patty
    July 5, 2017, 2:11 am

    Since it’s been 2 years since original post, is there any update? Would love to know what she has done and see photos. Thanks.

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