The tiny house movement waxes philosophical about all of the benefits of downsizing into a home no bigger than a backyard shed, placing a particular emphasis on how liberating it can be to have a customized home of your own without the burden of a mortgage. Stories about DIY tiny houses costing as little as $1,300 to build go viral on the internet, leading thousands of people to wonder whether they should try their hands at constructing a dirt-cheap minimalist domicile, too.
But, most people don’t have carpentry and construction skills and aren’t necessarily up to the task of completing every little detail of a miniature house based on instructions from a YouTube video. A DIY tiny house (like the kits you can buy on Amazon) with an ultra-low price tag requires untold hours of free labor on the builder’s part. Meanwhile, prefabricated tiny houses can sell for up to $100,000 — not exactly a bargain for less than 300 square feet. And what, exactly, is the difference between a tiny house and a shed, anyway? Often, it’s not much more than the name.
Skeptics of the tiny house trend are quick to point out these similarities, noting that many of the scaled-down homes on the market are overpriced shacks, similar to what you can purchase at a hardware store. They’re not entirely wrong. Take a stroll through the shed aisle at your local garden center and you might be surprised at how much potential some of them have as envelopes for a tiny house — and that’s where you can start saving time, money and labor. Many of them come with windows, doors and sturdy metal roofing pre-installed.
These aren’t the sort of tiny houses you can just plop onto a trailer and haul around. They’re meant to be set down in a semi-permanent location, though some of them are still portable, and can be hauled to a new destination on the back of a commercial semi-truck. The options at a home improvement store might be cheap, but they’re not exactly pretty, and there’s middle ground to be found thanks to companies specializing in prefab cabins, like Weaver Barns and Pine Creek Structures.
These companies offer a range of ‘shed styles,’ from mini gambrel barns to Victorian-style carriage houses, along with options for insulation, electrical packages and interior customization, eliminating a lot of the work that can get expensive and complicated when attempting to DIY. While some of these styles do still essentially look like backyard sheds, others are simply scaled-down versions of larger residences.
Ordering a customized ‘shed house’ from a prefab manufacturing company can cut out most of the labor while still giving you the ability to control interior and exterior finishes, layouts, appliances and other features. These manufacturers get their materials at wholesale pricing that you simply can’t beat on your own, and they can build, deliver and assemble your tiny house much faster than the process of building one in your spare time. Plus, many offer financing options, which will result in a monthly payment that’s bound to be much lower than that of a mortgage.