Building a tiny house can be a new and exciting experience, especially when your tiny house is built on wheels. Most tiny house cost estimates and building guides specifically describe tiny houses on trailers, as most people want the freedom and flexibility of a mobile tiny house.
But how much would it cost you to build a tiny house on a permanent foundation? While the majority of your cost will go into the house itself (meaning there should be no huge difference between the overall cost of a tiny house on wheels and a tiny house on foundation), there are a few important ways your expenditures will change.
Overall, assuming you already own the land where you want to build your tiny house, you can expect an average cost of $5000 to $8000 for the foundation, and anywhere from an average of $12,000 to $50,000 for the tiny house, depending on the size, materials, and design choices for your home.
Financial Benefits of a Tiny House on a Foundation
Some people think that a tiny house on wheels offers more financial benefits than a tiny house on a permanent foundation, but this isn’t necessarily the case. So what kind of financial benefits do you get from building a tiny house on a foundation instead of one on wheels?
Your Own Land
For most people, the need to buy your own land is the deal breaker for a tiny house on a foundation. If you don’t already own the land where you want to build your house, then you might think a house on wheels is a better idea.
But land isn’t always as expensive as you might think. While land in urban areas can cost tens of thousands of dollars (even without a single structure on it), some areas can sell you an acre for as little as $1,600.
If you’re just looking for a single lot for your home, that could just be a few hundred dollars, depending on the area. In some cities, you can expect to find an empty lot for around $1,000.
Property That Increases In Value Over Time
You know what they say about a car: the moment you drive it off the lot, it loses half its value. The same can be said about a tiny house on wheels, because anything on wheels will be “used” and less valuable the moment you move into it.
But a house on land is different. If your tiny house is built on your own land, you can expect the value of your house and lot to increase or appreciate over time. This means that your house is an investment: every dollar you put into it will be a dollar you can get back if you ever decide to sell. A tiny house on wheels just depreciates every year.
Less Wear and Tear
Tiny houses on wheels can give you the option to travel around the country (and more) without ever technically stepping out of your own home. If travel is your top priority, then it’s hard to say no to that. The problem? Traveling hundreds if not thousands of miles can be pretty hard on any vehicle, especially one that weighs as much as a house.
With a fixed tiny house, you won’t have to worry about the extra maintenance costs caused by constant travel. While every table, cabinet door, and appliance in a tiny house is bumping, shaking, and swaying every time you go out for a drive, a fixed tiny house stays put, meaning your maintenance costs are limited to normal wear and tear.
Traditional Appliances and Utilities
Tiny house owners usually have to get quite creative when hooking up their utilities and appliances to their trailer tiny house. This generally means designing specially-fitted appliances for their house (which cost more because they are multifunctional and compact), and using alternatives to electricity and plumbing such as water tanks, solar panels, and compost toilets.
All of these usually cost more than the average alternative of a traditional home.
Financing Your Tiny House
Before anything else, let’s talk about financing your tiny house. While building a tiny house on a foundation does lose you the mobility of a tiny house on wheels, one great advantage is the ability to apply for a loan.
If your credit is good enough for a loan for a traditional house (around 550 – 650), then it should be good enough for a loan for a tiny house on a foundation. This is because lenders see tiny houses on foundation as just small, normal houses, meaning you shouldn’t have much trouble finding a loan, either construction-to-permanent or construction-only.
Building the Foundation
Foundation Types and Costs
Any non-mobile home requires a structurally sound foundation; in many cases, the amount you invest in your foundation is the most important cost of building your home. So how much will a foundation for your tiny house cost you?
There are three common types of foundations you can choose from: poured slab concrete, basement, and crawl space. Here’s what you can expect for their costs:
|Cost per sq ft||Cost for 400sq ft tiny house||Time||Advantages|
|Poured Slab Concrete||$3 - $5||$1200 - $2000||~ 1 week||Simple, quick, no-frills|
|Basement||$10 - $25 ($30 - $100 for full basement finishing)||$4000 - $10,000 ($12,000 - $40,000 for full basement finishing)||~4-8 weeks||You get a ton of extra space without increasing the size of your tiny house. Also good during bad weather|
|Crawl Space||$7 - $10||$2800 - $4000||~2-3 weeks||Some extra storage space without the costs of a full basement (also space for HVAC equipment and plumbing)|
For those looking for the cheapest, quickest, and simplest option, then a poured slab concrete foundation is your best option. But if you’re undecided between a basement and a crawl space, then here are some things you can consider:
|Offers tons of space and can really add value to your tiny house||Costs much more, takes more time to build|
|You can build it without finishing it, allowing you to save on initial construction costs||If you take too long to finish it, it can grow moldy and wet, causing permanent damage|
|It increases the strength of your home’s foundation, acting like the anchor to your home (since it goes below the frost line)||There is a possibility of your basement flooding after heavy weather, leading to serious problems in the house|
|Costs less and takes less time than a basement||It gives you space, but not enough to make a huge difference|
|It elevates the house, so it helps protect the home from termites||As it’s a small and dark space, it’s an attractive home for rodents|
|Better option for areas that are prone to earthquakes, since the soil can slide, weakening basement foundations||Having a crawl space in a part of the country that doesn’t usually have crawl spaces (colder areas) can lower the value of your property|
Breaking Down the Tiny House Foundation Cost
Tiny houses are all about personalization and choice. There’s a reason why some tiny houses cost just a few thousand dollars while others can go up to six digits.
When you pay for a foundation, labor costs will generally cost $2-3 per square foot for a poured slab concrete foundation, and up to $8-$10 per square foot for more complex foundation projects (not including finishing costs of a basement).
So what’s included in the tiny house foundation labor costs, and why would it be difficult to do it yourself?
- Soil Test: The first step to any concrete pours is the soil test, testing the drainage ability of the site with rainwater. This tells you what kind of concrete mix and excavation depth you will need.
- Building Permit Check: A licensed foundation contractor will assist their clients in arranging and acquiring any building permits they might need.
- Excavation Requirements: Some areas will require the site to be leveled, with an excavation of the area to keep the foundation secured. This can increase your foundation cost by $1500 - $2000.
- Footings Inspection: If building a basement foundation, you might need footings (concrete columns along the foundation edges) that act as support for stairs and other constructs. Each footing you need will cost an additional $150 on average.
Foundation Cost VS Trailer Cost
One common question from potential tiny house owners is: What costs more, a tiny house foundation or a tiny house trailer? We discussed the costs and sizes of tiny house trailers in another article, where we found that the most important factor in determining the cost of your tiny house trailer to be its length.
|Average Small THOW||Average Medium THOW||Average Large THOW|
|Livable Space||112 sq ft||192 sq ft||320 sq ft|
|Average Trailer Cost||$3000 - $4000||$4000 - $6000||$6000 - $8000|
For an equivalent-sized foundation, those livable spaces would cost:
|Poured Slab Concrete||Crawl Space||Unfinished Basement|
|122 sq ft||$336 - $560||$854 - $1220||$1220 - $3050|
|192 sq ft||$576 - $960||$1344 - $1920||$1920 - $4800|
|320 sq ft||$960 - $1600||$2240 - $3200||$3200 - $8000|
When comparing the costs of a foundation and a trailer, a trailer is almost always more expensive. However, remember that you might have to account for the price of the land if you do not already own the land.
Building the Tiny House
After you’ve built the foundation for your tiny house, you can now start building the tiny house itself.
Remember: tiny houses are all about personalization and choice. There’s a reason why some tiny houses cost just a few thousand dollars while others can go up to six digits – the bigger your house, the sleeker your appliances, and the more you want in your home, the more it can cost.
Here, we’ll try to breakdown the average costs for a fixed tiny house:
Breaking Down Tiny House Costs
When building your tiny house, it’s important to understand your personal tiny house philosophy. Do you want to maximize comfort and experience, or affordability and saving money? Whatever you choose, remember that the largest part of your expenses will go into the doors, roof, and windows of your home, as well as your foundation.
Here’s the average cost breakdown of a 300 square foot tiny house:
|Insulation||$500 - $2500|
|Flooring||$400 - $1200|
|Lumber||$800 - $6000|
|Roofing (Metal)||$1000 - $3000|
|Siding||$1200 - $2800|
|Interior||$700 - $5000|
|Electricity / Solar Panels||$1500 - $4000|
|Doors||$800 - $2000|
|Water Heater||$600 - $1200|
|Paint||$60 - $240|
|Appliances||$600 - $8000|
|Fixtures||$1300 - $6000|
|Toilet||$30 - $900|
|Shower||$500 - $1100|
|Windows||$800 - $7200|
|HVAC||$700 - $2100|
|Overall||$11,690 - $49,540|
When deciding what to buy for the items on the list above, here’s what you should keep in mind:
- Insulation: Don’t try to save too much on insulation; good insulation can save you tons on electricity. We recommend spray foam for insulation, mostly due to its strengths in water resistance, preventing condensation, and sealing your heat into your home. This can cost $3-$5 per sq foot on the lower end.
- Doors: With tiny houses, space is a premium, meaning you don’t want to deal with the warping and twisting that comes with wooden doors, which many tiny house owners have to stabilize with special techniques. You can save yourself the headache by opting for composite or metal manufacturer-made doors instead, which can cost an average of $1500 to $2000 for high-end doors.
- Lumber: Lumber is only necessary for the framing and finishing of your tiny house; for framing, you just have to choose between treated or untreated lumber, and for finish woods, you can spend a few thousand dollars.
- Flooring: Most tiny houses are built with reclaimed wood for the flooring, allowing you to save money on your floors. But if you truly want a nice floor, you can choose a nice hardwood maple or other type of solid wood, which can cost an average of $4 to $8 per sq. foot.
- Windows: Never save on your windows, because they are just as important as your insulation for keeping a consistent temperature in your home. Stay safe with high quality tempered glass windows, with a full set costing up to $10,000 (depending on the size of your tiny home).
Tiny House on a Foundation: Is It Worth It?
While most popular tiny house shows and websites primarily talk about tiny houses on wheels, you can find just as much fun and savings with the tiny house lifestyle on a permanent foundation. What matters most is your preference, and what kind of tiny house best fits you.
So what are you waiting for? It’s time to get started on your tiny house project 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.