Making your own tiny house plans is a super exciting process … and it also can be a daunting prospect.
In this article I demystify the design process, speed track your planning process, and get you moving forward with your tiny house plans. I will share with you the steps for making your own plans and how I did mine.
Step 1: Know Thyself & Look for Inspirational Plans
To begin a tiny house plan you need to know yourself. All design is done to achieve certain ends, and your end is a tiny house that is a perfect reflection of you, your needs, and your priorities.
First off, you need to be crystal clear on what you want and need. There is limited room in a tiny house. So it is crucial that you design it carefully to ensure that your needs for your house aren’t compromised.
Write down a list of what you need your house to do for you. Is it raise a family? Work from home? Cook gourmet meals? Rank them and voila! Now you have a helpful place to start.
Now you need to dive deeper and rank which rooms (and their functions) are more important. Is it more important to have a full bathroom, a full kitchen, or a guest bedroom? You will give more space and attention to the areas that are the most important to you. You need to love them, and de-emphasize the areas that aren’t as important.
Now you are ready to look for example tiny houses online that are similar to what you are looking for. Be sure not to get to attached though because even if you find pictures of a perfect tiny house, it may not be a good fit for you based on legalities and how you want to use your tiny house.
Step 2: Learn Tiny Home Rules
I recommend that all tiny house enthusiasts become informed about legalities early on. This way you avoid making a tiny house plan you later realize isn’t legal. You want to be allowed to use your home as you want and place it where you are allowed.
Essentially, there is no legal building code recognition of “tiny homes”. This means you need to know what the 5 building code options are. Then you can force fit into one of them & place your tiny house where it is correspondingly allowed. Here are the 5 building codes:
- Recreational Vehicle (RV)
- Manufactured Home
- Park Model
- Local Building Code (permanent)
- An Organized Pile Of Wood On A Trailer (illegal to live in)
Legalities are a huge topic, with all sorts of nuances. Often even your inspectors and building professionals can’t clearly explain to you all your options and ways to work with (or around) the rules. I spend over 90 min in the 2.5 day workshop sharing with you the legal lay of the land tiny homes are in. However you think you want to build your tiny house, make sure you move forward informed on which is legal classification is best for you.
Step 3: Start Sketching Tiny Home Designs & Begin Research
Now that you know what you need, and what you are allowed, you are ready to start your design process. This can literally begin on a paper napkin (this is the best place to start).
Be loose, creative, and scribble away. Make notes. Draw and scribble over pictures of other tiny homes. I drew my tiny house floor plan 3 or 4 times loosely, before I made a rough plan using grid paper.
As you start your rough to-scale design, you will realize how little you know. How deep is a counter? What are the different sizes of fridges? How size of couch should you use? What width and length should your house be? How thick are your walls? Where should you utility lines run?
There is a lot to know. I spent 8 months in this rough step, drawing, consulting, researching, and redrawing. If you want to expedite this come join me for a workshop.
Step 4: Consult Your Professionals
At this point you have an important decision to make. EVERY prospective tiny houser should go through steps 1-3, however, now you need to decide if you should be the designer.
Your options here are to either pass the torch entirely, or become your own general contractor/designer.
It you want peace of mind, a quicker design process, & less stress, I have several professional companies who will love that you have done steps 1-3 already. In fact, my workshop graduates are so easy to work with I have several pro builders that them $500-1000 in discounts/upgrades to design and build them a tiny house. So you could make money by coming to the workshop!
Now, if you don’t want to pass the design torch to someone else, your task is to take your rough to-scale plan and double check it with experts. The top 5 experts to consult are: architects, engineers, plumbers, electricians, and experienced builders.
You will likely bounce back and forth between step 3 and step 4 as you make changes to improve your design. Your design will shift in response to the advice you get and in response to your emerging utility plan and framing plan.
Don’t fret if this seems overwhelming … yes there is lots to learn, however, this DIY is possible if you are “down to learn”. This is not rocket science. How your house is built is a basic life science that everyone should know.
This is one of my favorite sections of learning to teach. I love helping people understand their house, so they feel confident and wise on how it goes together, how it functions, and how they can learn to DIY any part of it.
Step 5: Make A Professional Plan
Your last step in making a tiny house plan is either hire a designer/architect or make your polished plan yourself. Your final plan will become your working document for building your house.
You can either draft your final tiny house plans by hand or you can use software. Unless you have experience, both are tedious and not for the faint of heart. Personally, I recommend finding someone to help you.
When I went to make a final good copy of my tiny house plans I was blessed to have a team member who knew how to use sketch up. We built the house electronically including where all the utility lines would run. I brought on a framer at the same time and he made up the final framing plan.
And VOILA! Ready to start building. 8 months of construction later I was living in my self-built, self-designed tiny house. (Check out the link! Photo album of my tiny house).
Making your own tiny house plans is a very important and intimate multi-step process.
You can choose to take on as much or a little as you want of the design process as you want. I strongly advocate for tiny house enthusiasts to put themselves through the majority of it. Not only will you get a more personalized tiny house, you will also come out with multiple skills sets that are invaluable for living forward.
Learn how to design & build your tiny house. Join me for A Tiny House Workshop.