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Tiny House Construction Costs And Square Footage Scenarios

A few days ago I received this email about the Itty Bitty House Company’s tiny house on a trailer post.

The insanely livable tiny house is almost $300/sq/ft.  In my region, that’s insanely expensive ;-).  My insurance company tags my stick-built ‘big’ house at $100/sqft replacement.

And for the most part, that statement is true, wouldn’t you think? But why? There has to be a reason for that, right? Big houses, when looked at from the perspective of cost per square feet, are cheaper. But what about maintenance costs?

It turns out that square footage is relatively cheap to make more of in a home. Especially with ‘big’ houses since materials like drywall and inexpensive flooring are used.

The real big costs are in windows, appliances, heat/cooling, plumbing, and electrical wiring if you don’t know how to do those last two yourself.

A perfect example of this is seen in Tumbleweed’s lineup of tiny houses. Their XS-House, at 65-square feet, would cost you $16,000 in materials to build it yourself. But If you purchased it ready made from Tumbleweed it would cost you $38,997 because you’re paying for someone else to do ALL of the labor.

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Toledo Museum of Arts Tumbleweed XS Tiny House designed by Jay ShaferThat’s $599 per square foot or $246 per square foot if you do the labor. The cost is high per square footage because it’s so tiny, yet it has most of the features/appliances in a home besides a washer/dryer.

Tumbleweed’s Popomo, at 172 square feet, would cost you $20,000 in materials to build it yourself. For $4,000 more you get 2.6 times the square footage! If you had Tumbleweed build it for you it would cost you $44,997. In this case, for $6,000 more, you get 2.6 times the square footage.

The Popomo has a cost of $261 per square feet, or just $116 per square foot if you do the labor. The point I’m trying to make is that cost per square footage is usually always cheaper the bigger the house gets.

So let’s take one more look at an even larger tiny house design from Tumbleweed. The Z-Glass House, at 370 square feet would cost you just $26,000 in materials to build it yourself. That’s just $70 per square foot if you built it yourself. Tumbleweed doesn’t offer to build this one for you because it’s not mobile. But you can buy the plans and have a contractor do it for you, or do it yourself.

Want to see a preview of what a Tumbleweed tiny house workshop is like? Here are a couple of videos that give you a sneak peek…

For a list of upcoming tiny house workshops click here.



  1. https://tinyhousetalk.com/popomo-tiny-house-for-sale-60k-brand-new/

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Alex is a contributor and editor for TinyHouseTalk.com and the always free Tiny House Newsletter. He has a passion for exploring and sharing tiny homes (from yurts and RVs to tiny cabins and cottages) and inspiring simple living stories. We invite you to send in your story and tiny home photos too so we can re-share and inspire others towards a simple life too. Thank you!
{ 11 comments… add one }
  • Oscar
    April 4, 2012, 1:01 pm

    You know what would help if you sold a digitle copy of the work shop like on iTunes or something like that…

    • April 4, 2012, 1:59 pm

      I totally agree, a digital Tumbleweed workshop would be awesome.

    • Pam
      July 31, 2014, 2:28 pm

      I posted this below before I noticed your comment, but this helped me and it is on I Tunes. It is called the Tiny Home Estimator App.

  • Bill Rockhill
    April 5, 2012, 9:35 pm

    To “address ” the issue of per square foot pricing, first off houses are not buit and sold by the square foot, contrary to popular belief, per square foot prices are a very very poor gauge of a houses quality, efficiency, good or poor design, longevity and aesthetics… to say that one house costs an average of 100.00 per.sq.ft versus another being 300.00 per is ludicrous , houses average more per square foot because of what goes into them, I can build two identical houses from the “outside” street view and one can easily cost twice what the other does strictly by interior costs, amenities, cabinetry, plumbing fix , light fix, wall treatments you get the picture , now take a Tiny House that is say 120 sq.ft. , it could have a 20 position 100 amp electric service, pex plumbing, state of the art water heater, top of the line windows ( twice per opening what a regular house might have), a handmade stainless counter top , soild wood paneling you get the picture..so to compare a “sheetrock” box to a “complete” tiny house is not a fair comparison because he tiny house has just about the same “mechanicals” as a much larger house does, now you are saying but my boiler is so much bigger and you are right but per btu per square foot the smaller “system” costs more initially…like take your “one” front door divide the cost of one front door by the larger house ‘s square footage and per sq.ft. its cheap compared to dividing the same front door by the tiny houses sq. footage. I hope I made my point…just trying to shed some light on the subject…thanks…Bill

    • April 27, 2012, 11:47 am

      Thank you, Bill, I love the way you clarified this for us

  • sesameB
    April 9, 2012, 11:17 am

    I adore Dee Williams’ work, and, the others, too.
    Barefootin’, drinking spring water and re-wilding myself in rural south central sunny Arkansas!

  • Brian G
    July 3, 2012, 3:50 pm

    What are cooling options? My main concern would be surviving a Texas summer.

    • Tristan
      August 12, 2013, 4:34 pm

      Look into cob, adobe and straw bale incorporating passive solar. Very green, affordable and can cut your heating and cooling costs to practically nothing. Check out Kirsten Dirksen on YouTube. SHe has tons of great videos.

  • Pam
    July 31, 2014, 2:26 pm

    Great article. Another resourse I found that was helpful estimating costs and allowed me to tweak options till I was happy was the Tiny Home Estimator App https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/tiny-home-estimation/id898952318?ls=1&mt=8 What are your thoughts?

  • lou warren
    July 23, 2015, 2:06 pm

    exploring the possibilities so we can “size down”. would appreciate a news letter.

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