Top 4 Tiny House Mistakes
Kenton Zerbin Tiny House Workshop Presenter


In my journeys researching, teaching workshops, and building tiny houses I have seen A LOT of mistakes. Almost all of them were from incorrectly planning a tiny house…

In this article, I will share with you the top 4 tiny house mistakes when planning a tiny house, how I avoided these mistakes in my tiny house, and how you can avoid them when planning a tiny house perfect for you.


The #1 Tiny House Mistake: Poor Design

Every design tries to achieve a specific end.

When planning a tiny house it first and foremost needs to function as a climate-appropriate shelter. I cannot stress how important this is. Be clear on your climate needs before you start designing and building or before you buy plans, a used tiny house, or a pro-tiny house.

Why? Because many tiny houses being built are comparable to an insulated shed on wheels. As a result, they can be uncomfortable in the cold and heat, have moisture issues, and can cause health issues.

I strongly believe anyone interested in having a tiny house needs to learn what makes a tiny house sound. I have created hours of quality learning available to you through my workshops to help you avoid this pitfall.

Avoid buying, designing, and building a glorified shed on wheels and instead get a kick-ass tiny house that is both cozy and healthy.


How Did I Avoid a Poorly Designed Tiny House?

I built well-insulated walls (R34), installed cross ventilating high-quality windows (R8), put in a heat recovery ventilator (90% efficiency), and designed in 3 ways to heat the house including passive heating. This means my house is cozy even in my Canadian -40C (-40F) winters, and I spend $260 on heating my house for the entire year.

Check out pictures of my tiny house here. If you want a functional & well designed tiny house I invite you to join me at A Tiny House Workshop.


The #2 Tiny House Mistake: Not Making A Custom Tiny House

If you have watched MTV cribs (I am totally letting you know how old I am here), you know there are some amazing custom homes that celebrities have built (A.K.A. Cribs). Approach your tiny house with this level of customization. It is a super common mistake to design, build, or buy a tiny house that is perfect for someone else … but it’s not for you.

I strongly argue that every house, and particularly a tiny house, should be a perfect reflection of its owners’ priorities, values, and comforts. After all, you want to love your house. Tiny houses particularly need this because you have to make space-related compromises.

Make sure you optimize the rooms and activities that are most important to you, and you de-emphasize the areas that aren’t a priority.


How did I customize my mini-mansion?

I designed a massive kitchen that is almost 10′ x 8′ wide. I knew I wanted to cook in comfort in a beautiful space (that’s my kitchen in the featured pic). This means I chose to design in a full oven, apartment fridge, double basin sink, and more counter space than I know what to do with. I think it’s functional and sexy and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The way I got my kitchen is by compromising on my bathroom. My philosophy was that my bathroom was a place of function; get in, get out. The bathroom is the 4’x8′. Yet it fits 9 functions: kitty litter box, human litter box (composting toilet), shower, medicine cabinet, utility closet, heating, clothes drying station, washing machine, clothes storage. No room for yoga here.

You may not want what I have. Good! Learn what’s important to you and make a sweet crib perfect for you. At the Tiny House Workshop, I help you discover what’s most important to you, you will be toured virtually through tiny houses that were designed well for their owners, and you gain the skills to start top-down designing your own perfect tiny house floor plan.


The #3 Tiny House Mistake: No Power Reason To Go Tiny

A tiny house is a powerful means to an end. So ask yourself, what do you want out of your life, and how can a tiny house help that? This is the big stuff! Like what kind of lifestyle you want and what your ambitions are.

Most people spend their lives working to pay off their house, heating it, and filling it with stuff. With a tiny house, you flip this situation. Instead of living for your house, your house helps you live.

So get clear on what you want in your life. Is it to travel the world? Become a thrifty millionaire? Join an intentional community? Have a 10-hour workweek? Learn 101 hobbies? If you don’t have a powerful motivating reason why you are going tiny, you are likely to try living tiny and quit.

Living tiny has pros and cons, and your pros need to motivate you beyond the cons.


How did I avoid this mistake? Multiple power reasons!

  1. To enjoy financial freedom. I just don’t believe in working my entire life to pay off a heated box. Gogo tiny house!
  2. To own a super-efficient and gorgeous house that… that I could actually afford. Heck yes.
  3. To build a house with my own hands which modeled my values.
  4. To choose how much I work instead of needing to work for money and kill what I love. (My biggest bill is my internet.) And now I still love my job teaching others about tiny homes, Permaculture, and sustainable living

Want some help getting inspired for your power reason to go tiny? Since I began teaching tiny house workshops in 2015, I have noticed there are 13 types of people who strategically use a tiny house. Read about them here and see which you are.

Turn your power tiny house into reality at A Tiny House Workshop. Read the full description of your workshop here.


The #4 Tiny House Mistake: No Long Term Planning

The fourth mistake tiny house enthusiasts make is failing to make a 5, 10, and 20-year plan with their tiny house.

Life (and what kind of home we live in) changes and that is normal. If you are seriously investing in a tiny house you should anticipate that change and plan for it. For example:

  • Do you have room to potentially have kids?
  • Does a “10 years older” you want to climb up and down a ladder?
  • Do you want to use this house to leapfrog into your forever home?
  • Are you leaving room to transition this house to a rental, an off-grid cottage, or a +1 suite for grandma?

There are many examples of how you could envision your tiny house being used by yourself, your family, or someone else 5, 10, or 20 years from now. Those potential plans should be factored into your design.

Ensure that you will love your tiny house for years to come and that it keeps providing you value by designing on the front-end, the back-end uses of the tiny house.


How did I avoid the mistake of not having a long-term plan?

I made sure to design my tiny house so I could grow into it.

First, I designed a huge kitchen that would have room for me to do all the homesteading things – preserving food, bread making, processing… you get the idea. I don’t have all those skills yet, but now I have the space to learn.

Secondly, I designed a guest loft. Right now it’s perfect for when someone else comes for a sleepover (coolest uncle ever) but it would also later be transformed into a mini-studio/hobby area or a child’s bedroom.

Third, I actually want to own a straw bale house someday. Here is my 3-step long term plan:

  • Step 1 – Build an amazing debt-free tiny house that I love. Save money.
  • Step 2 – Buy land, put my tiny house on the land, save money.
  • Step 3 – Build forever house. Use my tiny house as a +1 suite for guests or even rent and make money.


In Conclusion

So, you might have picked this up about me by now … I am a nut about design. And, yes, there is a lot to think about. However, you can learn it all, avoid these 4 common mistakes, and the many others so you get the awesome life enabling tiny house you want.

I invite you to join me at one of the crash workshops that I offer across North America and ONLINE. I try my hardest to show you just how much thought, care, and intelligence can go into making a tiny house into your perfect tiny home.


Kenton Zerbin

Featured in:

Tiny House Workshop Press CBC
Tiny House Workshop Press Globe and Mail
Tiny House Workshop Press CTV News
Tiny House Workshop Press Calgary Herald
Tiny House Workshop Press Global News
Tiny House Workshop Press RBC