OKANOGAN VALLEY LIFESTYLE: Many factors involved in tiny house movement

Storage sheds can often be used for a tiny home.

OKANOGAN — The tiny house movement is a way for people to live simply, more affordably and have the option of taking their home on the road.

Tiny house living usually includes being environmentally conservative, self-sufficient, minimalistic behavior, fiscally responsible, and open to new adventures and travel (including going off the grid).

Tiny homes can be made out many different materials such as shipping containers, barrels (European style), retired school buses/trucks, storage sheds and more.


The typical tiny home is between 100 and 400 square feet but can be up to 900 square feet. The smaller homes are generally more space efficient, in that every amount of space available is utilized. Most tiny homes will have storage areas in the design plans, as to create more space, without having bulky shelves or storage taking up necessary space.

Some tiny homes can even have wheels attached to them, so you can easily relocate the tiny home to your preferred location. A typical tiny house generally has two bedrooms and one bathroom, which is usually a loft and guest bedroom with a shared bathroom.

Experts say a contractor should be hired with construction plans drawn up. Take the finalized construction plans to your building and planning department. Your plans must be easy to read and drawn to scale. The construction plans must include the foundation, roofs, walls (including the load bearing points), floors, floor plans, insulation, etc. All the construction and design plans must be approved before beginning construction. You must have all permits and licenses completed and approved before construction can begin.

Tiny homes are generally more affordable than your typical family home. A typical tiny house can cost $10,000 to $80,000 and above, while the typical family home can start at more than $100,000. Tiny houses are perfect for recent college graduates, or a single person not needing all the extra space of typical family home but doesn’t want to hassle with renting. Even couples whose children have moved out of the home and would prefer to downsize. The tiny house could even be the perfect starter home for a single person or a couple, before they are ready to start a family in their forever home.

You usually cannot get a loan to build a tiny house or to purchase a tiny house like you would for a typical family home. Most lenders don’t see tiny homes as a sound investment, and the tiny home “value” does not usually increase over time (not that it necessarily decreases in value). Lenders want to see a return on their investment and an increase in the value of the home.


Popular TV shows display future homeowners and builders picking a random place to set up their home and begin building with a budget of, say, $25,000. They say they are going to stay within that budget to build their home with materials they find and purchase. The people also claim they will have their homes finished and ready to move into in four to 10 weeks. The likelihood of this actually happening is not always realistic.

Then you see the people building their tiny home and they just know how to build it, and do all the electrical, plumbing, and interior design right off the bat, or they have (knowledgeable) friends and family help them build the tiny house for free. I think not.

Those TV shows don’t always tell about the costs of the many different permits you would have to purchase before building your tiny home. They also don’t tell you about the water hookup fees, the cost to drill a well, to be hooked up to a sewer system, and/or installing a septic system. You also must own the property you plan to build on, or must purchase the land to build on.

If you do not know how to build houses, you will have to hire a contractor, pay for the labor and material, and they must be licensed. When the tiny home is completed, you will have to pay for an inspection. You must buy your building materials and supplies. You can use recycled materials to build your tiny house, which can lower the building costs. Get all estimates in writing and talk to your local building and planning department. The tiny house shows didn’t mention any of the costs for permits, zoning, septic building and licensing, or well licenses.

You cannot purchase the shell (shipping containers, barrels, retired vehicles, or storage sheds) of the tiny home and start moving in furniture and call it finished. Once you have the shell of the tiny home, you can begin working on the foundation to place the tiny house. Once the foundation is complete, the tiny home can be placed. Then you must install windows and work on insulating your tiny home and working on the plumbing and electrical. You must have a water source (personal well or city water hook up), or a way to hook up to a water source. You must have a septic system.

Once the external and internal construction/building is completed, you can work on the fun stuff-the interior design and decorating. With a tiny house floor plan, you want your home to be as open as possible, and not feel so closed-off and claustrophobic. If your tiny home has a loft, think about how you can use the ladder or stairs to get to the loft as part of your design plan or as double storage compartments (you can find many neat ideas on Pinterest). If you have stairs leading to the loft, you could build cabinets, shelves, or drawers underneath the stairs or on the side of the stairs to create a food pantry, coat closet, or book/media case.

Think about furniture that could be versatile or double as storage. Futons-can be a couch and bed. A murphy bed can put away to create more room or have desk combination set up. A captain’s bed can have drawers on the bottom both sides of the bed or at the foot of the bed for more clothing to be put away. Ottomans can function as a foot rest or extra seating and can have room for storage on the inside.

Amber Hedington is a reporter for The Chronicle. She can be reached at 509-826-1110 or ahedington@omakchronicle.com.

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