So, you’re thinking about living in a smaller space – bravo – and maybe you’re wondering how to go about building a tiny house, and maybe that seams formidable ‘cos you’ve never done anything like this before.  There are dozens of sites that help you plan your space and design the house, but these are the questions I ask clients before we even start to talk designs and layouts. The answers to these questions will set you on your path, but first you should read our Build, Buy or Rent article.

How many people are going to live in the space?   How old are they?

Is it your permanent home?  House size and bedroom layout. Mezzanine bedroom (or two) with ladders or stairs, or a bed at ground level? Do you often have visitors? Do you work from home? Pets?

How often will you move your house?   Where will it be located?

This influences (but does not dictate) the size and weight.  Also design and construction. Will it be towed or lifted? What ground clearance do you require?  Will it need to comply with LTNZ rules? The location (if known) will influence design, windows, sanitation and services, etc.  Will it be a coastal high wind salt zone?  Will you be seeking council consent or prepared to move on?

Do you really need off-grid self sufficiency?

What type of toilet do you want?  Totally self sufficient home or partial?  Solar, mains hook-up, generator or combination.  Where will you get fresh water from?  How will you dispose of your grey water and black (kitchen and toilet) water?  Do you need storage tanks?  Roof water collection. 230v or 12v.  Reliable off-grid is expensive, could you add it later.  What heating and water heating suits you.

 What ‘standard’ of house do you want to build?

This will be a significant investment of your time and money.  Building is a technical subject.  What ‘standard’ of house will you accept.  Should it last 5 years or 50.  Will you want to apply to a local council for formal permission to keep your TH on a piece of land.  Should you build for high-wind coastal zones.  How often will it be moved and how.  Will it be a vehicle, a caravan or a dwelling.

What is your budget for time and money?

Be honest and realistic.  If you have a fixed budget, tell the builder how much money you have and what you’d ideally like and ask what they think can be achieved. What are your priorities.  As a very rough guide, it takes around 500 build hours and $40,000 of materials.  Add $12,000 for a trailer and $25,000 for a builder.  Add another $5-10,000 for self-sufficient off-grid.

Recognise your own personality. Are you a pedantic pre-planner or an organic creator?

Are you happy to steam right in, learn as you go, and forgive yourself if you change your mind or don’t get it perfect.  Or do you need strict plans, timeframes; a need to know in advance type of person. Do you have the emotional fortitude to see it through.