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Debt-free Tiny House Built using SIPs (And How They Built It)


I think you’ll like this Vagabode tiny house built by a young couple.

It’s a 175 sq. ft. micro home built right onto a utility trailer.

They designed and built it for full time living to simplify their lives and reduce their impact.

With no prior building experience, they set on a journey to build it. And they did it.

Updated January 3, 2019

Debt-free Vagabode Tiny House on Wheels Built Using Structurally Insulated Panels

Debt-free Vagabode Tiny House on Wheels Built Using Structurally Insulated Panels

Images © Vagabode

Exterior

Debt-free Vagabode Tiny House on Wheels Built Using Structurally Insulated Panels

Debt-free Vagabode Tiny House on Wheels Built Using Structurally Insulated Panels

Kitchen

Debt-free Vagabode Tiny House on Wheels Built Using Structurally Insulated Panels

Living Area

Debt-free Vagabode Tiny House on Wheels Built Using Structurally Insulated Panels

View from the Loft

Debt-free Vagabode Tiny House on Wheels Built Using Structurally Insulated Panels

Loft and Entrance to Bathroom

Debt-free Vagabode Tiny House on Wheels Built Using Structurally Insulated Panels

Sleeping Loft

Debt-free Vagabode Tiny House on Wheels Built Using Structurally Insulated Panels

Storage Loft on the Other Side

Debt-free Vagabode Tiny House on Wheels Built Using Structurally Insulated Panels

Desk Nook

Debt-free Vagabode Tiny House on Wheels Built Using Structurally Insulated Panels

Bathroom

Debt-free Vagabode Tiny House on Wheels Built Using Structurally Insulated Panels

Shower

Debt-free Vagabode Tiny House on Wheels Built Using Structurally Insulated Panels

How it Was Built: Building a Tiny House on a Trailer

Debt-free Vagabode Tiny House on Wheels Built Using Structurally Insulated Panels

Insulating the Trailer

Debt-free Vagabode Tiny House on Wheels Built Using Structurally Insulated Panels

Building the Sub Floor

Debt-free Vagabode Tiny House on Wheels Built Using Structurally Insulated Panels

Installing SIP Wall Panels

Debt-free Vagabode Tiny House on Wheels Built Using Structurally Insulated Panels

Debt-free Vagabode Tiny House on Wheels Built Using Structurally Insulated Panels

Debt-free Vagabode Tiny House on Wheels Built Using Structurally Insulated Panels

Framing for the Loft

Debt-free Vagabode Tiny House on Wheels Built Using Structurally Insulated Panels

Installing SIP Roof Panels

Debt-free Vagabode Tiny House on Wheels Built Using Structurally Insulated Panels

Debt-free Vagabode Tiny House on Wheels Built Using Structurally Insulated Panels

Installing Windows

Debt-free Vagabode Tiny House on Wheels Built Using Structurally Insulated Panels

Finishing the Ceiling

Debt-free Vagabode Tiny House on Wheels Built Using Structurally Insulated Panels

Wall Paneling

Debt-free Vagabode Tiny House on Wheels Built Using Structurally Insulated Panels

Floors in the Loft

Debt-free Vagabode Tiny House on Wheels Built Using Structurally Insulated Panels

Interior Trim

Debt-free Vagabode Tiny House on Wheels Built Using Structurally Insulated Panels

Exterior Siding Installation

Debt-free Vagabode Tiny House on Wheels Built Using Structurally Insulated Panels

Dickinson Marine Heater/Fireplace

Debt-free Vagabode Tiny House on Wheels Built Using Structurally Insulated Panels

Kitchen Cabinets and Appliances

Debt-free Vagabode Tiny House on Wheels Built Using Structurally Insulated Panels

Hardwood Floors

Debt-free Vagabode Tiny House on Wheels Built Using Structurally Insulated Panels

Kitchen Island

Debt-free Vagabode Tiny House on Wheels Built Using Structurally Insulated Panels

Enjoying the Master Loft

Debt-free Vagabode Tiny House on Wheels Built Using Structurally Insulated Panels

Towing the Vagabode

Debt-free Vagabode Tiny House on Wheels Built Using Structurally Insulated Panels

Images © Vagabode

Costs to Build

According to their blog, they spent:

  • $4,400 on the trailer
  • $3,700 for the 26 SIPs (Structural Insulated Panels) for the walls and roof
  • $1,289 for the Separett Villa9000 Composting Toilet
  • $806.40 for a Dickinson Newport Propane Heater (P12000)
  • $614 for a Rinnai Tankless Water Heater
  • $267 for a Haier Compact Washing Machine (HLP21N)

And the list goes on. Read the rest here.

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Alex

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!

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{ 34 comments… add one }
  • Sorry I am just a rookie, but when you ride do you have to pack things up? To keep things from get broke? I have been looking for the right TH plan to fit my needs. I got Jay S., Deeks, books but no help from them. I have my parents stuff and tools that where my grandparents. I just can not get rid of. I can down size my stuff to one 10×40 trailer. But I have 4 of them that are full. Did you use OBS board for the walls? How far could you make the loft?

    • Avatar Alex

      Yes you usually have to strap things up etc before you move it to prevent them from breaking.

    • Avatar janne

      Russell,
      I design Tiny Homes (I don’t build them). You need to measure every item (heirloom) or piece of furniture that you want to fit into the tiny home, THEN you can determine how large you can make your tiny home. Many people don’t think about the fact that just because you want to live in a Tiny Home (for example 8′ x 20′) doesn’t mean that all your tools and yard items have to fit inside that house. There are also cargo trailers – such as a builder may haul his tools around in, which can be parked beside your tiny home… depending on where you plan to park it. I talked to a man at lunch today and he’s afraid that his dogs won’t fit into his tiny house… there is nothing wrong with building a Tiny Dog House, on a secondary trailer or simply on site. It can be heated and cooled if you want. I also thought about a double decker dog house, bottom part for the dogs, top part for storage of outdoor equipment/tools. If you can dream it, depending on where you want to put it, it can be built. I’ve seen a project where one trailer had the main part of the house, a second trailer was an office and a deck connected them… I think it was on this site. If you are planning to travel around, this wouldn’t work unless you have several vehicles to pull the trailer/house, but if you are planning on living small, but staying put, this would be a great solution.

    • Avatar Eric

      Russell, they used SIP panels for the wall. SIP stands for Structurally Insulated Panels. They are generally made, as here, of 2 sheets of OSB glued to a thick sheet of Polystyrene or similar extruded plastic type foam.

      Beauty of them are they are manufactured to size and simply slip over/into wall/floor joists. Makes for a very short construction time. See pictures under label of “Installing SIP Wall Panels”

  • Avatar Julie

    I too love the entrance door on the side. I’d build a large stationary screened in deck to add living space and maybe set up an outdoor cooking station.

    • Avatar Karen

      Stationary doesn’t equate well for portability. As an option, perhaps one of those awning setups you see at the big box home stores. A 10×12 can pack down pretty tight if you want to move it and it can set up and create a sheltered space for outdoor cooking, living etc.

  • Avatar Wendy

    I love it! I really love the kitchen and how it seems very “homie.” We are in the process of building a tiny home and this gives me great inspiration as I sometimes wonder if I will over do it and end up looking junky. I want to downsize (obviously, if I’m building a tiny home! ) but I don’t want to be so minimalistic that you can’t see our family and who we are while inside the home. Thanks for all the great photos along the way as well! Peace in Peace OUT 🙂

  • Avatar Cosy

    Most of the TH I’ve seen have the kitchen & bath in the same area. I think they probably do this to simplify plumbing. I love that the bath is on the opposite end in this TH. I think it would be quite uncomfortable particularly for entertaining guests to have a bath so close to the kitchen.

  • Avatar kris

    Is using SIPs less expensive than stick built construction? Its appears to be less labor intensive and easier for the unskilled.

    • Avatar Karen

      From the research I’ve done, they can be less expensive overall, as wall construction ends up being unitized. But, if I understand correctly, you have to order them already cut(?). One of the biggest benefits is to energy saving. Since is a single panel, without heat sinks (read studs) to allow cold and hot to cross the boundary of the insulation, it would create a more temperature consistent envelope for your house. Less energy to heat and cool. There are considerations when using them, such as plumbing and electrical runs. I’m looking forward to my first shed project with sips.

      • Avatar Lisa E.

        I agree. I don’t care to have the bathroom near the kitchen. One plan I saw splits the toilet to one side with the shower on the other side of the front door. This keeps people who are working outdoors from tracking dirt and mud down the length of the house. Because we are dealing with tiny houses I don’t think it would represent so much of a burden to split the water feed in two. And you could put up coat hooks outside each cubicle for jackets and hats in cold weather and winter storage (over summer) going up into the second loft.

    • Avatar janne

      Some SIPs have built-in electrical chases so wiring is a breeze. In a Tiny house, these are minimal, so SIPs are a great choice. They also weigh less than standard stick-framed construction. SIPs are awesome and no, I don’t work for a SIP company. Also, quite a few are Made in USA!

  • Avatar Karen

    One of the things I think I like best about it is the way the kitchen and bathroom bookend the living space. Perhaps you trade a little storage in return for all the openness, but I think it works. I also think there would be ways to recapture some of that “lost” storage. It’s a lovely example of someone just building what they need and not what someone else thinks they need.

    • Avatar janne

      it appears from the photos that the bathroom has the shower on the left, the toilet in the back left corner and the sink in the center of the bathroom. I’m assuming that there is a full closet? or maybe a WasherDryer on the RIGHT inside the bathroom area. Can anyone answer this question? If that is a closet that is approx 18-24″ wide by the width of the bathroom (4′?) that would be a totally killer closet for a tiny house!

  • Avatar Comet

    @RUSSELL—

    There are latches that can be used to keep the cabinet doors closed–see RV hardware–but you still need to have things secured so that they are held in place–a lot of people use baskets or bungies to secure things so they don’t shift. Things that hang might need a bungie in front of them for example; Things that live on the counter will need to go live somewhere else; some go in the sink or in cabinets some will go into a box or foldable crate for trasnport.

    That said–these TH’s are NOT meant for the constant movement that an RV is meant to withstand. I think that most of these will be taken to a location and set up there for quite some time–maybe a few years—and then moved. So perhaps only a few times in their useful lives.

    I too am in the “Thinking about downsizing” stage. With lots of stuff I inherited or acquired. And thinking about WHAT exactly I WANT or NEED. Some will go to storage for kids and grand kids. Some will probably go with us to whatever place we end up. If you decide to store things–make SURE they are things WORTH storing! Large items like couches and mattress’–sadly not usually worth the price to store—the extra cost of the storage needed will pay for a new couch etc after a short while. Appliances ditto. Clothing—unless you will be going BACK to where the storage unit is in TIME for seasonal items to be NEEDED—sell donate or consign them and buy new/thrift store stuff–these just attract rodents and moths etc. I don’t mean your fave winter coat—I mean the endless boxes of STUFF we tend to accumulate! Books–think long and hard about storing these as older rare ones can suffer from heat/moisture and newer ones are not WORTH storing— and these places CHARGE for all that ROOM for a reason!

    And when I say things that are going to kids etc–I mean true family heirlooms that my kids WANT but don’t have the room for at this point.

  • Avatar Tom

    Where did you get the SIP’s?

  • Avatar Julie

    Congrats! What a beautiful design, I love the kitchen layout!!!

  • Avatar Glema

    Question is the TH still structurally sound in high winds on the freeway with just sips? Wouldn’t I need to put the frame as well, I didn’t see any framework for them. Nice job by the way! ty for sharing and God bless you both. Happy Trails!

    • Avatar 2BarA

      Very well designed. Nice kitchen and not adjacent to bathroom. Looks
      light and bright. Nice house.

  • Avatar Kathy

    Congratulations on a job well done! I love your tiny home. Beautiful, homey, and I envy you!

  • Avatar Marsha Cowan

    I have always loved this house. The way the kitchen and entry is situated gives it much appeal especially when you add the rolling island. You have a great tiny house!

    • Avatar Marsha Cowan

      I am seeing it again, and I still think it is a lovely tiny house. It is pure in its design. Love the headboard in the loft, and the computer nook. I will have to look up that composting toilet, but looks like it would really work well. It is a sweet build. Thanks for sharing it again.

  • Avatar John

    Constantly googling TH’s. Question, total weight of your trailer? Weight of sips compared to stick built. Thanks John

  • Avatar Andrea W

    We’re building a small house with MgO SIPs and the SIPs company CEO says he is looking into getting into the tiny house business. The MgO boards can just be painted – minimizes the need

  • Avatar Andrea

    We are building a small house with MgO SIPs. The SIPs company CEO says he is looking into getting into the tiny house business. The MgO boards minimize the need for exterior or interior siding/drywall – they can just be painted. So even if the MgO boards are heavier than OSB, overall the weight may be less, plus they’re more durable and fireproof.

    • Avatar Andrea W

      Also, it’s better to have the SIPs pre-cut and to let the SIPs company deal with any waste. Then you don’t have to struggle with cutting properly. I don’t know how much you save by cutting yourself. Obviously, if they’re to be pre-cut, then you need to determine exact measurements in advance. There’s a YouTube video called something like “SIPs School” that shows how to work with them.

  • Avatar FirstVette

    We have an addition (Dining Room/Tree House Room) of Aluminum SIP’s and I’m so impressed that I’m investigating the same material for a trailer-bound TinyHouse Barn. Idea is to get it so light we can make pull-out that effectively double the footprint. Engineering hurdles are the trailer wheels (found a ‘Dolly’ wheel construction that hydraulic-swings up for parking, down for travel) and Pop-up roof/ pop-out sidewalls/ drop-in floor. Idea is to have all of it connected permanently, then drop-in on pull-out. Worked out a fold-down wall top and hydraulic jacks for dropping the roof down its thickness to fit into the home’s core. Side walls fold out while long side wall folds in to maintain the trailer width restrictions. Still working on the floor but inspired by a documentary with a pull-out bed with interloping slats. As a kid I built balsam wood truss/ tissue paper laminated wings & airframes; like the idea for translucent interior panels maybe for bedroom privacy or -? maybe hand-decorated silk laminate (Koreans paint silk; beautiful).

    • Natalie C. McKee Natalie C. McKee

      Wow! That is so great. Love your ideas.

  • Hi, I would love to find a site that shows the tiny house with asking price beside it, it would help,my search,, I love them all, but I have a set price and having to look at everything about each one is quite time consuming to find out in the end, op, I can’t afford that one. And area would be helpful as well. ” Tiny house for sale – price – location. See below for dimensions, building information, and full blog on how we did it.” This would probably had me in a Tiny House months ago. Really if this is considered a complaint, So be it. But really would help me out.

    • Natalie C. McKee Natalie C. McKee

      Hi Denise. In our newer posts (since Sept. 2016), we have included prices when they are applicable (as in, someone is selling the house) and if the price isn’t included, we always include links to the builder’s/seller’s pages or contact information to get in touch. This home is from a few years ago, and of course by now has sold and gone on to others. Keep in mind, though, that not all the houses featured are for sale. Some are just to look at and enjoy because people are living in them. Therefore, we cannot provide a price for those 🙂 If you want to just search tiny houses by price, check out tinyhousefinder.net — they have that option.

  • Avatar ZACHARY E MOHRMANN

    I like the concept…!

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