We know you've got got questions, so we've made a whole page to try to answer some of them.
One: Where Are You Located?
We are proud to be located in Chattanooga, TN. We are happy to build your tiny house on a trailer and deliver it to you anywhere in the continental U.S. (If you live in a country touching the U.S. we can deliver the tiny house to the nearest border). We work with a fully-insured specialist in tiny home shipping and your home will be in the best hands on it's trip to you.
Shipping is quoted on an individual basis, but you can calculate a rough shipping cost at $2.00 per mile.
We also do a limited amount of permanent foundation tiny/sustainable house construction in the Chattanooga area. Not sure if we'll do it? Just ask us in the contact section, we don't bite.
Two: Why Tiny?
A trailered tiny home offers you the mobility that a traditional home does not. It affords this mobility without feeling like you are living in a tiny can with paper thin walls. A tiny home can be a great path to owning your very own dwelling without having a life defined by the mortgage you have to pay (we want you to keep your kidneys).
Tiny homes have tiny utility bills. Travis and Brittany are currently paying $35 a month for water AND electricity combined. If you've ever wanted a vacation house on a lake or in the mountains, a tiny house on an undeveloped piece of land is a very inexpensive way to make that happen.
If you're new to the whole tiny thing, and want to know a little more, check out this Beginners Guide to the Minimalist Movement.
Here are a couple great books to check out if you're wanting more info.
Three: Why Not An RV?
RV's are great at what they are designed for, towability. The problem with living in an RV is that you FEEL like you're living in an RV. Many RVs have the aesthetic inspiration of a styrofoam cooler and are built as cheaply and quickly as possible. At Wind River, we feel that the spaces you spend time in matter. We focus on aesthetics, quality, and functionality so you feel more like you're living in a custom craftsman cottage or rustic getaway instead of in a can of sardines. RVs are also not designed to meet the demands of full-time living, are often poorly insulated, thin walled, and can be very expensive to heat and cool.
Most tiny house dwellers choose to live in a semi-permanent location, possibly moving their tiny house a few times a year. However, they can be quite towable and can be travelled in full time if they are designed properly (suggested: gooseneck or 5th wheel trailer, lighter materials). We take extra precautions at Wind River to ensure your trailered tiny house can withstand the use it's intended for. As an example, we use 3" decking screws and high grade construction adhesive throughout as opposed to standard nails.
FOUR: Are you rvIa certified?
No. Our goal is to build beautiful custom homes that are permanent dwellings and by definition an RV cannot be considered a permanent dwelling. Tiny Homes are in a category of their own and it is our stance that they should be treated legally as such instead of shoe horned into RV Standard (ANSI 119.2) or Park Model certification (ANSI 119.5 ). To this end we do not plan to pursue RVIA certification. We will happily certify ourselves once a standard has been established that specifically applies to tiny houses. The houses we build far exceed any requirements that ANSI 119.2 or 119.5 require and we stake our reputation as high-quality tiny home builders on it. As the Tiny House Movement grows, so too are solutions to barriers tiny housers once faced such as financing and insurance. Check out #13 and #14 for more info on financing and insurance if you need it.
Five: What About the Toilet?
Our standard toilet option is the Nature's Head Composting toilet. It is a very good option for those that are willing to change their habits slightly and desire an eco-friendly alternative. Below are some other options to consider as well:
- RV low-flush toilets
- Incinerating toilets
- High-end composting toilets
- Sawdust/ Low tech composting toilets - Lovable loo composting toilet
Deciding on the toilet that is the right fit for you is finding a balance between what you can afford, what your needs are, and convenience.
Six: Where Do You Put a Tiny House?
You can most likely park a tiny house on your own property or on your friend’s or family’s property. However, check with your county or city to find out about specific codes and restrictions. Many times there are simply no laws regarding where you can or cannot park a tiny house. As a general rule of thumb, parking your tiny house in a rural location is going to be an easier route than finding a friendly urban or peri-urban location. It is also possible to park them at an RV or mobile home park depending on the rules and restrictions of that individual park. Here is a good article on finding a place to put your tiny house.
seven: Gooseneck Trailer vs. Bumper Pull Trailer?
A traditional bumper pull trailer is generally cheaper to purchase and offers a great platform to build a tiny home on. If your tiny home is going to be placed in a fairly permanent location or won’t be towed great distances, this a good option. A traditional bumper pull will also allow for a more traditional aesthetic. Depending on the length of your trailer, you may be able to tow a bumper pull tiny house with a 3/4 ton truck or you may need a 1 ton truck.
A gooseneck or 5th wheel trailer, while generally a bit more expensive, is safer to tow. It makes towing longer distances much easier because of the added stability and maneuverability. Gooseneck trailers also allow you to keep the house one story (no loft, the bed goes over the trailer hitch and accessed by a couple of steps). This type of trailer will require you to have a truck that has a gooseneck or 5th wheel hitch in the bed and can handle the weight (generally a dually, big block v8 or v10 engine or diesel, upgraded towing transmission, and heavy duty suspension). Of course, all of this depends on weight and length.
eight: How Do You Heat/Cool a Tiny House?
Many people use small propane heaters or space heaters. Another option is radiant heated floors. While this option might not heat the entire home to the ideal temperature, it will come close and will also feel good on the feet since tiny homes have open air space beneath them. Another option that some opt for is a small fireplace that offers added ambience (modern wood stoves are highly efficient and wood scraps can often be found at low or no cost).
Here is a great comparison between various wood stoves and propane as heating options.
In many cases, you can keep your tiny house cool by strategically placed fans and windows with screens, or if you live somewhere extremely hot and humid, a small AC unit can be installed in the wall.
nine: Towing a tiny house?
As long as you meet road requirements, you don't need any special permit to move your house. In order to be legal to tow, a tiny home can’t exceed 13'6" in height and 8'6" in width. It must also have a registered license and working tail lights and turn signals.
You will be LEGAL if you do the above things, but that doesn't mean there's not other considerations to make when preparing to tow. As mentioned above, you should be sure that you have a truck with a sufficient towing capacity and set-up to handle the weight you will be towing. Many tiny houses can weigh up to 15,000 lbs or more. The question is not, "Will I be able to tow my tiny house?" The question should be "Can I SAFELY tow it?" and more importantly "Can I safely bring the tiny house to a stop?" Most large block gas engines (v8 or v10) or diesel engines (Cummins, Powerstroke, or Duramax) can TOW a tiny house, but you also need to ensure that you have to capability to hook up trailer brakes to the truck, that your truck has the proper transmission for towing, and that YOU have the skills required to tow it.
Luckily we offer delivery services, and will work with you to deliver the house to a location of your choosing. Refer to section #1.
ten: Do You Use 120V, 220V, or 12V to Power a Tiny House?
It depends. You will need 220 volt service if you will be using large traditional electric appliances like a washer/dryer, electric oven, and a tanked hot water heater, but this can limit the tiny home owners flexibility.
Our standard practice on our level 2 and 3 tiny homes is to use propane appliances for the large inductive loads (hot water heater, heater, cooking range) and then to use only 120v efficient appliances and LED lights. This allows you to minimize the electricity needed to power your tiny house and gives you an increased flexibility with where you can and cannot connect to power.
Propane appliances are more costly and because of that, our level 1 homes include all electric appliances. We still focus on efficiency and all our homes are designed to be plugged into a standard 30 amp or 50 amp RV connection.
If your desire is to have a fully off the grid capable tiny home then you would need a solar system with a battery bank. In this case we would use the propane appliance method to decrease power usage and you would have a fully self contained solar system that would power lights, small appliances, and outlets for charging. Off grid solar systems require modifying your power usage habits.
We typically don't wire anything using 12v in a tiny house. Inverters are used to convert everything to 120v like a standard house.
eleven: How Much Does It Cost For One of Your Tiny Homes?
Our finished tiny homes can be built for anywhere between $25,000 - $100,000 or more. A few major factors that decide the majority of the costs include:
- Length of the trailer the tiny house will be built on (12' - 30'+)
- Quality of the materials used for interior/exterior siding
- Type and quantity of windows in the home
- Quality of appliances & fixtures
- How much custom work is done (ex: custom made cabinets & countertops, built-in shelving, custom stairs with built-ins, radiant heated flooring, multi-use custom made furniture, etc.)
- Type of systems you choose (propane, electric, solar, etc.)
To put it in perspective, a basic 12' tiny home built using simple materials would be closer to $25,000 and a 30' home with high quality materials/appliances and lots of custom work could cost closer to $70,000 - $100,000 or more (could be a lot more if you wanted a gold-plated bathtub, for instance). An average sized tiny house (8.5'x24') with midrange finishes will be $55k to $70k. All our builds are priced individually.
If you wanted a more comprehensive idea of our pricing, check out the Build page for a Price Estimate.
twelve: Where can I get financing?
Lightstream, a division of SunTrust bank, now offers no-hassle financing up to $100,000 for Non-RVIA certified tiny homes!
Tiny House Lending is a peer-to-peer microfinance platform specifically for the Tiny House Community. They have a pipeline of lenders who group up to offer low cost, short-term loans to would-be buyers. They're a great place to start!
As a general rule of thumb, local credit unions and banks that you have a relationship with are some of your best bets. Below are some places we've heard people have had success with or that are at least tiny house friendly. Definitely worth taking a look at!
- Discover Personal Loan
- BB&T Bank
- Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union
- ARVEST Bank
- Personal Loan from your bank or credit union
The Tiny House Movement is rather new and can make the process of getting financed a little challenging. If you're unable to obtain financing from the above places, we'd totally suggest reaching out to a friend or family member that you might be able to borrow money from. If you offer to pay someone interest instead of the bank, that's a win win situation!
Thirteen: Can I insure my tiny home?
Darrell Grenz Insurance out of Portland has just started offering affordable and complete tiny house insurance in Tennessee and North Carolina. He's been doing this out west for a couple years now and is a total pro.
Strategic Insurance Agency also offers tiny home insurance in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, North Carolina, Nevada, Oregon, Tennessee, and Washington.
Fourteen: I want solar panels, what can i expect?
The smaller solar systems in the $6k-10k range, depending on your usage needs, would be to run lights and small appliances in outlets (fan in composting toilet, charging computers, cell phones, and low draw appliances) and would include 2-4 off grid batteries. You wouldn't have much more than a day of autonomy if you were without sun. With this system, you would rely on grid power most of the time and the solar would augment the grid power.
If you wanted to have the ability to be off grid for short periods of time, but would have access to grid power, a hybrid system with a minimum size for this would be in the $10k-$18k range depending on your usage needs. This would allow you to have a few days of autonomy to run small appliances (you could possibly run the refrigerator on a timer) and would include 4-6 batteries most likely.
If you were planning on being exclusively off grid and wanted to run larger appliances on a regular basis (AC, refrigerator, washer/dryer, etc) you would be looking at a fairly large system with a large battery bank and this type of system can cost anywhere from $18-$35k or more and would include 8-12 batteries, a generator, and a large array of panels and a large, whole house inverter.
Fifteen: How do I get a home built?
I'm glad you asked. Here's how we work. We are currently scheduling builds a few months in advance. The first step is to email us and tell us what you want. If it's a custom build we will walk you through the design process which ends in a custom quote (non-refundable $100 fee). If one of our standard homes is your cup of tea, head over to our home options section and check out the floor plans and finishes. There is no quote fee for a standard home. Once you decide on the home you want from our options you can reach out to us and we can get you a contract and discuss any questions or concerns with you. Either way, it's a good idea to browse our gallery, home options, and build sections to get your tiny house dream on!
We break our builds down in phases. The preparation phase includes all planning and designing for your home discussed above. We will discuss every aspect of your home with you to make sure every detail is accounted for before beginning the build. This phase can take 2-3 weeks of going back and forth (depending on how much research you've done) before we even order the trailer (a standard trailer takes approximately 2 weeks). Once we receive the trailer at our shop, Phase 1 begins. This includes framing the house and drying it in (installing windows, doors, roofing, etc). Phase 2 is roughed-in electrical, roughed-in plumbing, insulation, and finishing the exterior, and interior coverings. Phase 3 is finishes including: cabinets, painting, custom projects, appliances, plumbing fixtures, electrical fixtures, etc.
A typical mobile tiny house build takes around 12 weeks provided that all the funding is available on schedule. We have worked out a payment schedule that facilitates the smoothest workflow and shortest build time. A 20% initial payment is due during the preparation phase which locks you into our build schedule and pays for the trailer, windows, and doors. A second payment of 30% is then due at the beginning of phase 1, typically about 2 weeks after the first payment. This allows us to order all materials for framing, electrical, plumbing, insulation, propane, and appliances that require a lead time to order and carries us through phase 1 and 2 of the tiny house build. 40% is then due at the beginning of phase 3 which is usually 2-3 weeks after the second payment. This pays for the rest of the materials and labor through most of the finishing process. The final 10% is due upon completion of your tiny house before we ship it to you (or you come pick it up). 20%, 30%, 40%, 10% - see how easy that is to remember.