Why Did We Choose to Build a Tiny House, Rather than Buy an RV or Mobile Home?
As our project has gotten a bit more mainstream press over these last few weeks, one question we’ve seen pop up again and again in the comments sections of blogs and news posts has been: why did we choose to build a tiny house from scratch rather than buy an RV or a mobile home?
“Coulda bought a single-wide and saved yourselves 1o months of labor.”
Well, yes. This is definitely true. But for us, building our own house from scratch was kind of the whole point. We wanted to see how we would be changed by committing to a project of this size and scale and seeing it through. Christopher and I wanted to know: how would our idea of ‘home’ change when we set out to build our own, from start to finish, with our own hands? After almost a year of pushing ourselves to stick with it, we’re starting to find out. For us, this was about learning exactly how much time and effort and resources go into the literal roof over our heads.
There are other reasons we chose to build a tiny house rather than purchase a mobile home or an RV. Tiny houses tend to feel more like…houses, rather that something portable or temporary. The design elements of a tiny house—the eaves, the front porch, the gabled sloping roof, the sleeping loft, the use of windows and doors from regular houses and free-floating furniture rather than all built-in—contribute to making tiny houses feel more livable long-term to those who choose to make them home. (That said, mobile homes and trailers can be super cute too—such as this one owned by an artistic acquaintance here in Boulder.)
Tammy Strobel, of the blog Rowdy Kittens, who lives in a tiny house in Portland with her husband Logan (we interviewed them both for the film), also recently wrote a post on why they chose to buy a pre-built tiny house rather than an RV. She names cost and cuteness among the factors, and you can read it here.
Another great question we recently received in an email is whether it’s more environmentally sustainable to renovate an existing small house than to build a new tiny home.
While a tiny house—especially those made from recycled materials—do require many less resources to build than a conventional home, we do agree that re-using an existing structure is usually more sustainable than building anew. But, for many tiny-housers motivated by financial reasons, building a tiny house offers a much quicker path to getting out of debt. A tiny house can be built for as little as $10,000 (and I’m sure much less, with the use of donated and re-used materials), whereas to buy and renovate even a small home might require a bank loan of $100,000 or more.
For Christopher and I, renovating an existing structure wasn’t an option, since Christopher was looking for a spot in the mountains that was remote and previously uninhabited. We both love the idea of parking the tiny house on the land and being able to roll it off again if we choose, leaving the plot as pristine as possible, close to the way it was when Christopher first fell in love with it.
We do think that renovating smaller, existing homes is an excellent way to find a space that would accommodate a family with more square-footage needs, while still maintaining the “small is beautiful” mindset. Exactly what we mean by taking the innovations of the tiny house movement and scaling ‘em up. (I’m currently obsessed with this example.)
All in all, each of us will settle into the space that best suits our own lifestyles—whether mobile home, RV, tiny house trailer, renovated small house, converted bus, yurt, houseboat, apartment…the possibilities are endless.
I’d love to hear your own thoughts about living in different types of portable or small spaces in the comments below.
~ Merete Mueller, 4/1/12