Living in a tiny house has become an increasingly popular lifestyle choice. As more people opt for simplified living in compact spaces, the demand for information on building affordable and eco-friendly tiny homes has grown.
Choosing the right materials is one of the most important considerations when constructing a tiny house. The materials selected will not only impact the cost, but also the longevity, efficiency, and comfort of your new small home.
This guide will walk through the best choices for various building materials to help you prioritize your needs when planning your tiny house.
When embarking on building your own tiny house, you’ll need to make some key decisions on which materials to use. This choice affects important factors including:
- Cost – Building on a budget? Prioritize affordable and salvaged materials.
- Eco-friendliness – Want a green tiny house? Focus on recycled, upcycled, and sustainable materials.
- Efficiency – Goal to maximize energy savings? Choose insulating and high-performance materials.
- Mobility – Need a trailer-towable tiny house? Opt for lightweight materials.
- Aesthetics – Want a stylish interior? Select beautiful finishes and surfaces.
With some planning and creativity, you can build a tiny house that fits your priorities, whether they be financial, practical, or design-focused. Weighing all of these factors when choosing materials for the structural, exterior, interior, appliances and more is key.
Building the Most Affordable Tiny House
One of the biggest appeals of the tiny house movement is the promise of affordable housing. While building costs can still add up quickly, there are many ways to reduce expenses when selecting materials:
Use Salvaged and Recycled Materials
Check out salvage yards, thrift stores, Craigslist ads, and community groups to source everything from reclaimed wood siding to second-hand windows, doors, and appliances. Upcycling materials gives them new life and character.
Take Advantage of Affordable Siding and Roofing
Metal panels, asphalt shingles, and corrugated tin offer durable and budget-friendly options for exterior surfaces. Used barn wood or plywood panels can also keep material costs low.
Opt for Repurposed Structures
Consider repurposing an existing shed, garage, or other small structure as the base of your tiny house. Moving and retrofitting an existing building shell saves significantly on materials.
Insulate on a Budget
Save on heating and cooling by using inexpensive fiberglass, mineral wool, or denim insulation. Installing reflective insulation or radiant barriers also helps regulate interior temperatures at a low cost.
With some savvy sourcing of recycled building materials and the clever use of space, you can construct a functional and stylish tiny home at a fraction of the price of a conventional house.
Frame Building Materials List
The structural framework makes up the bones of your tiny house. This base needs to be strong and durable to support the rest of the structure.
Nearly all tiny houses are built on trailer beds for mobility. Invest in a high-quality trailer suited for frequent towing and your tiny home’s weight. Check axle weight ratings and measurements.
Use dimension lumber, typically 2x4s, and 2x6s, to build your floor, wall, and roof framing. While new lumber is pricier, you can save by using salvaged boards.
Wood, metal, and cement board siding are common tiny house options. Cedar and redwood offer beauty and durability. Corrugated metal panels are affordable, lightweight, and easy to install.
Asphalt shingles are budget-friendly. Standing seam metal is attractive and withstands the elements. Wood shakes are charming but high-maintenance.
Windows and Doors
Reuse salvaged windows and doors or buy new, energy-efficient ones built for compact spaces. Ensure they are highly insulating for energy savings.
The framing of your tiny house provides the blueprint for the rest of the building. Take care to engineer it for sufficient structural integrity before adding utilities, insulation, and finishes.
Utilities On A Budget
Tiny houses allow simplified living but still require hookups for electricity, water, and sewage to function comfortably. Here are some budget-friendly options:
- Solar Power: Install solar panels and batteries to harvest renewable energy for off-grid homes.
- Propane Systems: Use propane for on-demand hot water, heating, and cooking to avoid high electrical costs.
- Water Tanks: Incorporate space-saving tanks for fresh and waste water storage and pumping.
- Composting Toilet: Avoid expensive sewage hookups with waterless, non-flush composting toilet systems.
- RV Hookups: Use adapters to connect to common RV utility sources when needed.
Thoughtfully designed tiny homes make power, water, and sewage systems affordable. Focus on the utilities you need most to keep costs down without sacrificing comfort.
Interior Building Materials
The interior surfaces and finishes set the tone for your tiny living space. Use materials creatively to maximize both functionality and visual appeal.
Walls and Ceilings
- Plywood – Affordable panels that can add rustic appeal.
- Shiplap – Provides a cozy, cottage look with horizontal overlapping boards.
- Drywall – Smooths interior surfaces for a cleaner, more modern aesthetic.
- Laminate – Mimics wood at a lower cost, easy DIY installation.
- Linoleum – Made from sustainable materials, water-resistant.
- Cork – Warm, comfortable, and antimicrobial.
- LEDs – Energy-efficient and long-lasting bulb options.
- Recessed – Free up space with lights inset into ceilings.
- Natural Light – Maximize windows and skylights to minimize the need for lamps.
Get creative with upcycled pallets, vintage decor, and multi-purpose furniture to design an interior tailored to your style and storage needs.
Tiny House Appliances
Finding space-saving appliances is key for a smoothly functioning tiny house. Seek out compact and energy-efficient models:
- Mini-fridge – Optimal for tight spaces and storing fresh food.
- Induction cooktop – Cooks efficiently with minimal counter space.
- Combination washer/dryer – 2-in-1 models condense laundry needs in one appliance.
- Composting toilet – Waterless and odorless waste option.
- Tankless water heater – On-demand hot water without a bulky storage tank.
Look for used appliances in good condition, or splurge on some new space-saving products. Either way, make sure your appliances enhance your tiny house lifestyle.
Building a Lightweight Tiny House
If you plan to tow your tiny house frequently, lightweight construction is crucial for mobility and fuel efficiency. Some ways to reduce weight:
- Honeycomb Panels – Structural wooden panels that are incredibly light but strong.
- Galvalume Metal Siding – Weigh less than wood or fiber cement siding.
- Metal Roofing – Lightweight steel or aluminum roofing panels.
- Plastic Composites – PVC exterior trim weighs much less than wood.
- Steel Frame – A lighter alternative to a wooden structural frame.
Building light also means prioritizing multi-purpose, minimalist furniture and avoiding unnecessary clutter in your design. Every pound matters when you need to tow your home!
Building an Energy-Saving Tiny House
Incorporating green materials and technologies when building your tiny house will pay off tremendously in energy savings:
- Insulation – Strategically use insulation to prevent heat loss and gain.
- Passive Solar Design – Orient windows and overhangs to naturally heat and cool.
- Wood Cookstove – An eco-heating system for cooking and warmth.
- Solar Panels – Generate your own electricity from the sun.
- Energy-Saving Appliances – Choose models with high energy efficiency ratings.
- Double-Paned Windows – Prevent heat transfer for added insulation.
- Thermal Mass Materials – Absorb and radiate warmth such as brick floors.
An energy-efficient, eco-friendly tiny house will have lower utility bills and reduce your environmental impact. Invest in sustainable materials and technology now for savings down the road.
Summary and Conclusion
Constructing your own tiny home is an exciting adventure. By understanding the factors that go into choosing building materials wisely, you can create a tiny house tailored to your needs and priorities. Keep cost, durability, eco-friendliness, and efficiency in mind as you select structural materials, utilities, finishes, and appliances.