Eagerness. Patience. Discipline. Building a tiny house with the right attitude is exactly what you need for a successful build, but attitude won’t carry the project alone. A tiny house is a huge DIY project and requires various skills and abilities that you might not already have.
So what are the top skills you need to successfully build a tiny house? The most important skills for building a tiny house include:
- Project Management
- Interior Design
- Research and Flexibility
With a good grasp of these skills, anyone with the right motivation and drive can build their own house. Below we talk about each skill, and why they are necessary towards a successful build.
The most important skill first: carpentry. You will never get anywhere without a basic (and preferably advanced) skill of carpentry. When building a tiny house, having an experienced carpenter on the team means the difference between an easygoing build with a few building hiccups here and there, and a build just asking for one crisis after another.
If you truly intend to build a tiny house with your own two hands, you better make sure that you have a respectable foundation of carpentry experience and knowledge under your belt, or that you are willing to learn it all during the process.
If you don’t already have a garage full of carpenter’s tools, it might help to borrow tools from friends or family during tiny house building. Some of the essential tools you will need for tiny house building like a professional carpenter include:
- The standard carpenter accoutrement, including:
- Safety goggles
- Tool bag/bucket
- Speed square
- Dust mask
- Ear protection
- Carpenter’s pencils
- Pull saws
- Circular saw
- Chalk line
- Framing square
- Impact driver
- Table saw
- Jig saw
- Chop saw
On top of the tools and standard knowledge on how to work with wood, a carpenter should be able to:
- carry and move pieces that can be as heavy as a hundred pounds each
- calculate and measure materials and volumes with absolute precision
- track inventory of materials available
- solve any problems and adjust accordingly to unexpected situations
- possess the dexterity to hammer, saw, screw, and more without causing any accidental self-injury
- have a good sense of imagination to envision the building before it materializes; and more.
There is no question about it – carpentry is the key skill you need to build a house. While you might be able to build a house without an advanced grasp of any of the other skills on this list, you will never get by without an experienced, willing, and eager carpenter on your team.
2) Project Management
We hate to state the obvious, but too many people make the mistake of rushing into building tiny houses thinking of it as an easy project they can do on the side. They end up underestimating the amount of work needed to go into a tiny home, simply because they think a tiny home means a tiny job. (Four walls and a roof, but smaller! What’s hard about that?)
But without proper planning, preparation, and execution, you are very likely to go over budget, spend too much time, and drown in the scope of the entire build. Before you know it, your tiny house will become a huge mess, and then you will be even further from your tiny house dream than you were before you started!
Project management is absolutely essential for ensuring that your tiny house build is seamless and stress-free, both on time and on budget. You need to have a background in managing multiple tasks, knowing how to juggle responsibilities, delegate duties, and organize and prioritize small jobs in the right order.
Project management is essential towards turning a vision of a tiny house into the real thing. Without a proper project manager, you might as well be sailing on the open sea without a captain.
While drafting might not be as key of a skill as our first two on this list, it is still a skill that can drastically reduce the stress of any tiny house build. But what is drafting?
Drafting is the drawing up of a blueprint for your tiny house. This means putting your tiny house down on paper, measuring every inch and foot of your walls, doors, windows, steps, and possibly furniture.
Traditionally, drafting blueprints or floor plans has been done by hand. Hand-drafted blueprints allow the illustrator to provide complete details on the page, while also avoiding the hassle of learning and using house design programs that automatically generate framing and cross sections.
Thankfully, you don’t have to be a professional architect or illustrator these days to draw up a blueprint you can use. House design software can help anyone draft up an awesome tiny house blueprint, giving you either a fully-detailed measure of the tiny house, or a general guide of the floor plan.
For those who don’t want to bother with drafting, you can also find hundreds of tiny house floor plans and blueprints available online and simply copy one that you like. The only downside to this is that you lose the chance to try your own creativity at tiny house design.
4) Interior Design
Have you ever seen one of those shows where a team of professional designers comes into a house, spends a week working on it, and transforms it into a home that looks ten times better? While it might seem like it, it’s not magic; it’s simply the power of a good eye for interior design.
A trained sense of interior design and visual imagination can turn a boring, standard tiny house into one worthy to be featured in the top home design magazines. Interior design is a crucial skill in both the build and post-build stages of your tiny house, much more so than in a regular home. This is because a tiny house needs to utilize every inch available, and only with proper creativity and visualization can you get the most out of every corner and crevice.
Find new and unique ways to use space. Maybe a table can be hung up against the wall; maybe a storage space can be found underneath the stairs; maybe a chair can be flipped and used as a family game board.
When working with a tiny house, you want to step away from the standards of how space is used in a traditional home, and set your imagination to work for your plans. While some might think of the smaller and more restricted space of a tiny house as a limitation, those with the right eyes for interior design see it as a special challenge.
5) Research and Flexibility
Don’t let the word “tiny” fool you – when building a tiny house, you are still building an entire house, and that means building and setting up everything you and your family will need to live.
This means knowing how to wire the house, set up electrical outlets, hook up your off-grid electrical sources, figure out plumbing and water (including the shower water and toilet situation), work on heating and cooling, reinforce the roof, insulate the walls, set up the trailer properly when it is parked, know how to keep the trailer secure, hook up antenna or TV dish, grounding the house and the trailer, and so much more.
Simply put, the number of different areas you suddenly need to become an expert of is staggering. No matter how great of a handy-man background you might have (if any), there is no way you will get by with a successful tiny house built with stock knowledge alone. And that means you have to know how to research, and have the flexibility to learn and apply your knowledge to your house.
Thankfully, research is a skill that anyone can pick up these days without the need to step foot in the library and picking up an old book; but there is still a method towards perfecting your research. Anyone can type a question on Google and find an answer, but only seasoned researchers know how to get the best answer available.
Here are some tips on building up your research game:
Tip #1: The first answer isn’t necessarily the best. Try to find multiple sources answering your question, read all of them, and choose the answer that makes the most sense. Usually, the best answer will be a mix of the most popular few.
Tip #2: Use different platforms. Just because Google is the biggest search engine doesn’t mean you have to stick to it. Try YouTube for videos and audio descriptions to answer your questions, and if you need more personalized help, find communities and online forums to ask what you need to know.
Tip #3: Research eagerly, not out of necessity. What does this mean? A researcher who asks a single question, reads a few articles on tiny houses, and logs off the computer won’t be as effective as a researcher who spends hours or days clicking around on related building topics. It’s much better to discover building information than ask for it, because you might have never thought to ask in the first place.
Ready to Build Your Tiny House?
Tiny houses, giant projects. Whether built on a trailer or a foundation and lot, tiny homes are a great way to test your own capability. With more and more people moving into tiny houses every year, countless are discovering the advantages and challenges of living in tiny houses.
So ask yourself: Are you ready to try out these tips and build your own tiny house today?
Hey, there! We're Ivan and Manuela from Croatia, and we're crazy about tiny houses. We don't own one (yet).
This website is a result of our passion to share all the knowledge, photos, tips and tricks that we were able to learn while studying everything possible about the tiny house movement.