Tiny Home Designs – Choose Your Style

Planning how to build your own tiny home can be a daunting prospect, just working out where to start is difficult enough!

You have to make sure everything fits together in a sensible fashion and complies with regulations for instance. Working out headroom so you don’t have to duck every time you enter a room can also be a challenge.

The list of ‘gotchas’ is endless when it comes to tiny home designs.

You may even end up deciding that you just don’t have the skills yourself to design and put together a custom tiny house.

But the fact is, if you can put together a toy airplane model, then you probably have all the skills you need.

There are now several companies that can provide the complete plans for virtually any type of modern tiny house. The plans are simple and straightforward to follow so even a novice self-builder can understand them.

If you can follow these instructions and have basic do-it-yourself (DIY) knowledge, you can build yourself a tiny home!

There are a few things to look for when choosing a plan though and so we have put together a simple guide to help you find out exactly what you need to know.

Looking for tiny house plans to build your own home?
Here are the ones that we recommend.

To make it easier, I have put together a table of contents so you can skip down to the area you most want to see.

What’s included in a set of tiny house plans?

Most complete sets of plans should always include certain important information. Make sure that any sets you buy cover the areas in our ‘Essential’ list below.

Sometimes suppliers may merge different sections of information together. If so, just check with them beforehand that all these areas are covered.

Less expensive plans may not cover all these areas so would not be regarded a ‘complete’ set of plans. They are usually intended as a starting point for you to put your own creative stamp on.

Essential Components of a Good Plan Set

  • Foundation Plans
  • Floor Plans
  • Exterior Elevations
  • Transverse Section
  • Framing Plans
  • Nailing Schedule
  • Engineering Section
  • Electrical Plans or Schematics
  • Roof Plan
  • Timber Cut Details

Optional (but very handy!) Components

  • Material List
  • Components List
  • Interior Elevations
  • Door Detail
  • Plumbing Diagrams

Let’s expand on these areas a little now so that you know what each section covers.

Foundation Plans

These will describe how to put down the foundation whether the house is going to be permanent or on a trailer.

If permanent, then they should give you all the details you need to build directly onto the ground.

If you have a ‘tiny house on wheels’ design, it should give you the trailer specification and how the house attaches to it.

This section should also provide the floor framing details.

Most tiny home trailers these days are of a flatbed design so make sure they include building on those.

A bonus would be to include plans for building on other types of trailers as well, including a standard utility trailer.

Another detail they should cover is where to use pressure treated joists to ensure your home is protected from weather and water related problems.

Floor Plans

These plans will detail the floor plan of the downstairs and any loft space together with all the required dimensions.

They will also show walls, windows, room sizes, door openings and the location of appliances.

Sometimes the floor plans are separated into two sets. One for general floor plan layouts so you can see where everything goes, the other for the specific construction details.

Exterior Elevations

These drawings will show the different elevations of the tiny house: front, back, sides, and roof.

Siding and fascia boards should also be called out on these drawings.

Just in case the term ‘called out‘ is unfamiliar, you will see this a lot on your plans. It’s where a note or important information is included, usually with an arrow pointing to the area it talks about.

Transverse Section

Probably some of the most important sheets in your set of plans, this drawing cuts the house in half.

It shows details like roofing materials, flooring details, wall thickness, ceiling heights, roof pitch and insulation materials.

In fact, it has details on pretty much everything involved in the construction of your house!

Sometimes this section is called ‘Cross Section Details’ as well.

Framing Plans

These will show the framing information for all the walls, both gable ends, roof, loft and any extensions.  Importantly, they will also show the exact position of each stud (the vertical pieces of timber in the frame).

You will need this information when planning where to put the fixing bolts to secure the home to a trailer.

Nailing Schedule

Sometimes part of the Engineering Section, this is a ‘must have‘ piece of information.

It details how to actually put the house together and is an important part of making sure the tiny house is structurally sound.

Engineering Section

The information in this section may sometimes be spread across other areas and not have one of its own.

However it’s presented, the details covered are very important.

This includes shear panel information and any other special structural details needed in constructing the tiny home.

Shear panels, by the way, are the braced panels that are part of the structure of the house.

These pages also include general construction detailed practices to ensure your home will stand up to the weather.

If built on a trailer, these will also make sure your home doesn’t collapse when being hauled down the interstate!

Electrical Plans

These schematic drawings will detail the location of all the electrics in your tiny home. This includes things like switches, plugs, lights, smoke detectors and extractor fans.

Roof Plan

This page is sometimes included with the Exterior Elevation and gives you a birds-eye view of the house.

This will clearly show the pitch of the roof and how the slopes look. It should also tell you how much the roof overhangs and where the individual rafters are.

Timber Cut Details

As the name suggests this contains details of what angles and lengths to cut specific timber pieces.

If there is not a section for this, make sure it’s covered elsewhere.

Material List

To know what to buy, you will need this list. Not all plan sets have them as some advise you to contact a quantity surveyor to produce a materials list.

If you can find a set of plans you like with this already included, it can save you considerable time and expense.

It’s worth remembering, that if you know what materials you need beforehand, you can take advantage of bulk discounts. This might save you more money than you paid for the set of plans in the first place!

Some suppliers will also list components like bath tubs, showers, dishwasher, kitchen sink, water heater etc. here. Others will use a separate Components List section (see below).

Components List

Not always provided separately, this list details the specification of various appliances and fittings shown on the plans.

As per the list above, this includes things like dishwashers, showers, bath tubs etc. etc.

It is not intended as a materials list that tells you everything you need to buy.

Interior Elevation

These provide elevation drawings for the internal walls showing what all the cupboards, shelving and windows look like from the inside.

Sometimes they will include 3D assembly drawings of custom cabinets and shelving to explain exactly how to build these.

Door Detail

The exterior doors often have to be custom made as they are not standard sizes, this set of plans will tell you how to build them from standard materials.

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Plumbing Diagrams

There is not an awful lot of plumbing involved in a tiny home so you will not usually find any plumbing diagrams included.

Where they are provided though it can be useful, particularly if you are not very handy with pipework.

Where can you buy tiny house plans?

Now that we know what details should be included in a set of plans, let’s take a look at where you can buy them.

There are several companies that now supply a complete, easy to follow, set of plans for many small modern house designs.

They are available at a reasonable price and are great value considering how much time and head scratching they are going to save you.

Humble Homes

Humble Homes have a large number of plans for nearly every type of tiny house design you can think of.

All their plans are designed and checked by a structural engineer to make sure they are of the highest quality.

Available as a download or printed copies, they also come with free updates. These updates provide additional options, add-ons, and schematics.

Their plans are drawn up specifically for the self-build enthusiast so always contain lots of helpful information and drawings.

Some of their plan sets also include a solar panel and rainwater harvesting schematic plus plans for an optional kicker box.

Humble Homes also offer free support to answer any questions you have about the plans you buy.

PAD Tiny Houses

PAD (Portland Alternative Dwellings) sell a smaller number of plans along with other useful books for tiny home self-builders.

Started by tiny house pioneer Dee Williams, PAD has a wealth of other information and real life stories about living the tiny life.

The plan sets do not include plumbing diagrams, electrical diagrams, interior elevations or appliance specifications.

The idea behind this is that they want to encourage people to put a bit of their own creativity into the project to create a custom design.

The plans come in PDF format only. You can also order an editable SketchUp model file as an option.

This allows you to view the house in 3D so you can see how everything fits together. You can also make modifications to the model and then recreate the plans which is fantastic for anyone who wants to customize their home.

Tiny Home Builders

Tiny Home Builders are a little bit different. They have five main designs based on what the home will be used for:

Within each of the different areas, there are plans for different lengths of houses to cater for most requirements.

They provide large format printed drawings with each set, which also includes a complete materials list and electrical diagram. PDF copies of the plans are also provided so you can download them and get started straight away.

An editable SketchUp model is included as standard. As we know this allows you to view the house in 3D so you can see how everything fits together. You can then make modifications to the model and recreate the plans when required.

Tiny House Designs

More for the self-builder who just wants the basic idea to expand on, Tiny House Designs offer numerous plans to cater for most tastes.

Each plan set includes the framing plan, materials list and also the original SketchUp 3D drawing file.

These will allow you build the shell of the house and then finish it completely to your own design.

Tumbleweed House Plans & Designs

An established name in the tiny house building industry, Tumbleweed sell some of the most comprehensive plan sets.

Each set provides absolutely everything you need to get started. They all include most of the sections we talked about above plus some additional bonus sections.

They currently have just two high-quality designs, each with several different lengths available.

The bonuses include a set of plans to add a dormer to the design and another set that shows you how to build a proper set of stairs to fit into your new small home.

All their plans are designed to be built on a trailer. With that in mind, they are reviewed by engineers and architects to make sure they can withstand being dragged around the country.

Tumbleweed also make and sell ready built tiny houses on wheels, which they have used to model their DIY plans on. This means you can be confident the designs from Tumbleweed will work out just fine when you come to build them.

What tools do I need?

If you are a keen DIY person or a woodworking enthusiast, then you will probably have most of the tools you need already.

There are no heavy pieces of equipment you have to get; just regular hand tools and power tools should do the job.

Here’s a basic list of hand tools you should make sure you have:

  • Tape measure
  • Screwdriver (both Flathead and Phillips)
  • Small spirit level
  • Utility knife
  • 16oz claw hammer
  • Vise grip pliers
  • Combination pliers
  • Needle nose pliers
  • Wire cutters
  • Set of spanners
  • Hacksaw
  • Miter saw
  • Socket wrench
  • Rubber mallet

It will also help speed things up if you have the following power tools:

  • Drill and set of drill bits – for drilling holes and driving/removing screws
  • Sander – makes finishing off the interior a lot easier
  • Finisher nail gun – used for attaching internal woodwork
  • Framer nail gun – used for driving nails when putting the frame together
  • Small air compressor (for the nail guns)
  • Reciprocating saw (also known as a Sawzall) – useful for making rough cuts on wood and can even cut through nails when needed
  • Handheld circular saw – versatile tool for cutting wood
  • Table saw – allows you to make long, straight cuts on wood and panels

There are lots more power tools we could list that help get things done a lot quicker and with less hassle. But for now, this list should get you off to a good start.

What else do I need to think about when buying a tiny house plan?

So now that you know all about plans, where to buy them and the types of tools you need to get for your toolbox, what else do you need to consider?

If you are still unsure whether you can build your own place, you might want to look into attending a workshop.

These are a great way to get some hands-on experience before diving in and building your own.

Most of the suppliers we have listed will either run a workshop themselves or can direct you to somewhere near you that does.

Before deciding on a design, consider what priorities you have and how you plan on living your new life.

Here’s a list to help you get started:

  • Will the house be on wheels, or is it going to be static on a permanent foundation?
  • Will the house need to hook up to mains water, electricity, septic?
  • If not, how are you going to provide power, water etc.? (e.g. solar power, rain catchment)
  • Do you plan on living in your new home full time?
  • If not, is it just for vacations, guests or just an extra space?
  • How many people will be living in the house at any one time?
  • Do you need some sort of home office space included?
  • What toilet facilities are you thinking of using? (standard flush, chemical, incinerating or composting toilets)
  • What areas are important to you and need more space allocated to them?  (kitchen, bathroom, bedroom for example)
  • Do you want an outside porch area?

That should get your brain in gear to start considering all the possible alternatives. We recommend you list out all the things you come up with and go through them one by one to make sure they are catered for in the design you choose.

Conclusion

We hope this article has helped you discover what tiny home designs and plans are available. You should also now have a list of all the things to consider before getting started.

If you haven’t got all the tools you need, now might be a good time to start building up your toolkit.

Many people decide to live the tiny life as they are looking for a way to reduce costs and save money.

Building your own tiny home yourself can certainly help you achieve that goal. We just want to add a word of caution though.

When going small it’s easy to be tempted to use the most expensive materials you can, as you will be using much less than when building a bigger house.

But you could end up spending far more than you intended if you are not careful doing it that way, so make sure to keep track of that side of things.

If you do decide to buy a set of plans, we recommend you go to one of the suppliers we have found for the best deals.

Happy tiny home building!