Monday, March 16, 2020

The Many Types of Tiny Houses and What to Expect

Say “Tiny House” and most people think of a home built on a utility trailer by someone in their backyard.

That’s one type but there are so many other types of tiny houses, some of which have been with us for centuries and focusing on just one leaves a lot of other options on the table.

Here are just a few of the different types you might have missed:


Straw Bale

Park Model



Storage Shed


And when you think of what a Tiny House can be used for, most people think of those pictures of a young couple with their children and a dog standing beside their house built on a trailer.

Here again you may not have had time to think of all their uses:

Homeless Sheds - Many cities are considering allowing the homeless to occupy tiny houses instead of living in tents and cardboard boxes along the streets. The only thing that will accomplish is to move the trash and debris to central locations.

Auxiliary Dwelling Unit (ADU) - This type of housing is sweeping the nation. Most of these Auxiliary Dwelling Units must be placed in zones allowing them, inspected for safety and connected to utilities through conventional means, not garden houses and waste buckets. They can be rentals, in-law homes, adult children, medical homes and even she-sheds.

Poverty Housing - Tiny houses can be an alternate for those living near the poverty line for the area they live in. Many nonprofits and religious groups have been putting up communities serving their needs. The people and families living in these communities take pride in their homes.

Off the Grid - This is what a lot of people think of when you say tiny house. The adventurer in us wants to try this but the practical side of our brain says….”Nooo!”

Traveling the Country - If you have an RV, the original house on a steel chassis, then you already know that it can be lived in all year round. It has been inspected and comes with all the utility hookups to make it habitable when parked in a campground. Many campgrounds ban tiny houses.

Living with Parents - A tiny house for your child returning from college without a job and no place to live can be solved, “sometimes illegally”, by parking a tiny house in the backyard and allowing them to use your bathroom. Help them find a job by cutting off their Internet and they will move out. If you don’t, they will never leave.

With the exception of the West Coast states, where they actually zone for them, trying to live fulltime in a Tiny House anywhere else will be a struggle.

Here are some problems you will encounter:

Parked Illegally - As with the homeless living in tents on the streets, there are more and more tiny houses springing up alongside them. No utilities and garbage piling up beside them. Yuck!

Not Zoned - You can’t simply park a tiny house wherever you want. You will be given a warning to move it and if you don’t, it will be towed to an impound lot, maybe with you inside it!

Not Built to any Code - Many tiny houses on wheels are not built to any code. The builder finds plans on the Internet and begins building it with no formal construction training.

Unsafe Construction - Here again the lack of construction skills can make for a badly built home that can’t withstand any more than a light rain or wind.

Unsafe Placement - The world is not as safe as it once was. Some hikers on the most popular trails get kidnapped and killed every year just yards from other people on the trail. Parking your tiny house in a remote area comes with risks. No Essential Utilities - “If I have the Internet, I don’t need anything else.”

You can order food from Grubhub online but washing plates, going to the bathroom, having safe running water and showering will all be done inside and dumped outside. And you say you’re saving the environment. I don’t think so.

If you are about to join the ranks of Tiny House living, make sure you do it with your eyes wide open.


Danny Ritter said...

I can personally say that I was a victim of the zoning thing. After graduating high school 2 years ago I built a tiny house in our backyard. When I officially moved into it one of my asshole neighbors called the city and I had to move it. Wasn't even allowed to keep it in the backyard. Now it's at my friend's farm about 30 miles away but his parents won't let me live in it there. What a waste of my time and money. I just put it up for sale and so far nobody has even wanted to see it.

Anonymous said...

Some of the products you show pictures of at certified as “seasonal” or “recreational” use, therefore meet their intentions and cannot be used as a home.. The Tiny Home isn’t certified to meet anything. They are not the same.

Coach said...

What they're intended for and what people have been using them for are two different issues. Dumpsters are intended for garbage but people are living in those is some areas. I also didn't include tents, cardboard boxes or abandoned houses but maybe I should have as these are also homes to thousands of people.

Not trying to be difficult but it amazes me what people will do to find shelter.

Anonymous said...

I believe the original intent was for folks to have a roof over their head that they could afford. Less space, less belongings, simpler life, right? But as you have mentioned for various reasons it doesn't always add up to this. As with most things, I think the answer is somewhere in the middle. Zoning has a purpose, and yet people need safe affordable alternative to traditional housing. I appreciate that you are sharing this information as outside of our industry and perhaps inside as well, people really do not know what a tiny home is. They do not know what they are getting themselves into. There are safe, built to code, inspected & approved, placed in an a appropriately zoned area, tiny homes. The homeowners just have to look for them and understand what they are buying.