(855) 321-7473

M-F 9am-4pm Eastern

What it's like to build and live in a $24,000 Tiny Home

What it's like to build and live in a $24,000 Tiny Home

By Tobias RobertsRise Writer
Mar 29, 2018

How would you like to build a home for you and your family for under $24,000 dollars even though you essentially have zero building experience? What if that home could be moved anywhere around the country by a simple trailer and the heating and utility bills were nothing more than a negligible monthly expense?

tiny home mark wu exterior owner

Mark Su and his girlfriend were living in British Columbia, Canada where the average sale cost for a home was well over $500,000 Canadian dollars. The cities in BC are renowned for having some of the highest rents and lowest vacancy rates anywhere in the country. Facing that reality, Mark says, “I was inspired to build a tiny house when we were living in BC. Back then we were renting and we knew we couldn’t get into the housing market in BC.”

tiny home mark wu entrance

Over the course of eight months, during the brutal Canadian winter no less, Mark hand-built his own home for under $24,000 US dollars ($30,000 Canadian dollars), which included the cost of renting out a contractor yard where the home was actually built.

Mark is a nature photographer and environmental scientist by trade but found that a minimum of experience was more than enough to build a beautiful home with his own hands. “Back then,” Mark says, “I didn’t have any carpentry experience, so I decided one day to quit my job and take on a carpentry course and that was the beginning of our tiny house journey.”

As more and more young people are drawn to the environmental and economic benefits of tiny homes, it can be inspiring to learn how other young people who do not have significant experience as builders, contractors or carpenters have been able to build their own homes. Mark graciously took the time to respond to some questions about the process of building his own tiny home on wheels.

tiny home mark wu kitchen

What is the square footage of your home?

The dimension of the trailer is 28’ x 8.5’ wide. The total square footage of the interior space is 207 square feet on the ground floor plus a 110 square foot loft. We built it like this because we knew were going to be towing it.

How long did it take you to build?

It took me eight whole months of working approximately 30 hours each week to build the tiny house. I started the project during fall and was building it through winter in Toronto so it had taken longer because of the weather.

tiny home mark wu wood stove

How much did it cost to build?

The house had roughly cost us $30,000 CAD. This included paying 300 dollars each month for the outdoor gated yard to build on along with all the tools I had to acquire for this project.

How much construction experience did you have before you started building it?

I took a six-month carpentry foundation course and worked as a custom house carpenter helper for three months. This gave me a basic knowledge of the British Columbia building code. However, realistically you can build a tiny house without much experience so long as you are willing to learn and are quite handy.

tiny home mark wu 2

Why did you and your girlfriend decide to build a tiny home?

Job security is hard to come by and we did not want to be tied down to a place and a mortgage for 30 years. Hence, we decided to build a tiny house on wheels.

Tell us about your home. How many rooms does it have? What other features does it include?

The tiny house features two loft spaces, one used as a bedroom, and the other used as a TV lounge. A lot of the tiny homes only have standup showers, but we were able to include a bathtub into our design. In total, there are 11 windows in the house, which means it feels very open with lots of natural light. At night, we are able to stare at the sky and the surrounding area from our bed, which is a really nice feature. The interior and exterior siding is all eastern white cedar so it does have a cabin cozy feel to it.

tiny home mark wu bedroom

What do you do for water and the toilet?

We use a separate composting toilet, which means that we only generate grey water from our home. The solid human waste is either composted in a bin or collected as municipal compost waste.

When we were parked at a trailer park we were connected to septic and water systems. In the winter, we would have to run a 200-foot long hose to fill our 80-gallon indoor water storage tank. Now that we have moved to Quebec, we have it parked close to the house and run a heated water hose.

You put your house on wheels. Why did you decide to do that instead of on a foundation?

When we were building Toronto, we knew we were not going to stay for a very long period due to contract work. Two years later, we found ourselves moving to Ottawa for a job. We do intend on moving back to British Columbia in the future.

tiny home mark wu bathroom

What did you look for in a trailer to put your tiny home on?

I would never build a tiny house on a camper trailer, as they are not designed for the kind of weight. We spent $6,500 CAD on a custom trailer with 14,000-pound capacity. A trailer is your foundation to the house so I would not skim on it.

What would you do differently if you could do it over?

Something we would do differently would be to increase our wall insulation. We used Roxul insulation for our walls, which only has an R14 value. Had we used spray foam, we could have achieved an R21 insulation value. Another thing we would do differently is putting our waterline inside the house instead of in the wall cavity. We find that when the temperature drops below -25 Celsius, which happens pretty often in Quebec, the waterlines in the wall will freeze.

tiny home mark wu exterior

On a sustainability level, Mark's tiny home on wheels uses only a fraction of the raw materials that would have gone into a regular-sized home. Much of the interior design work is focused on reclaimed wood, used appliances, and even finding hidden treasures at antique stores such as a seven-dollar red kitchen sink.

If you want to see more of Mark's tiny home, he has a beautiful YouTube video that takes you on an entire tour of the home.

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a product endorsement however Rise does reserve the right to recommend relevant products based on the articles content to provide a more comprehensive experience for the reader.Last Modified: 2021-07-10T05:57:02+0000
Tobias Roberts

Article by:

Tobias Roberts

Tobias runs an agroecology farm and a natural building collective in the mountains of El Salvador. He specializes in earthen construction methods and uses permaculture design methods to integrate structures into the sustainability of the landscape.

Vents-US Solar Powered Ductless Fresh Air Wall Vent PSS 102
Vents-US Solar Powered Ductless Fresh Air Wall Vent PSS 102
The US Vents PSS102 Solar-powered wall vent is an air handling unit designed for continuous air exchange and supply of fresh air to residential and non-residential premises. It's a cost-efficient and autonomous device for more intensive air exchange as compared to passive airing. The specially developed design of the inner grille allows you to control the amount of fresh air flowing into the room (it can also be closed) via the inboard solar-powered fan, providing for a steady inflow and uniform distribution of fresh air in the room. Keep in mind the unit relies solely on Solar to power the internals and should be installed in a sunny location. At night the unit (minus the fan) can be used for passive, nonpowered ventilation.Perfect for off-grid cabins, cottages, tiny homes, and passive houses where nongrid, autonomous fresh air intake is a priority. Benefits Suitable for air handling of small and middle-size premises (depending on the way the unit is installed). The airflow direction can be easily changed by turning the motor 180 degrees; The solar panel provides for more intensive air exchange as compared to regular passive airing; Cost efficiency: the natural solar power is used; Independence: The motor is powered by a solar panel. The supply voltage of the motor is 9…18 V. Electric parameters of the solar panel change depending on the intensity of the solar flux. In dark hours of the day, the ventilator operates as an element of passive ventilation; Possibility to manually control the cross-section of the airflow.
Shop Sustainable Products