5 Reasons Why We Wouldn’t Build a Tiny House


A few nights ago we attended the screening of a wonderful documentary called SMALL is Beautiful – A Tiny House Documentary, directed and shot by renowned photographer Jeremy Beasley.

As soon as we found out it was screening where we live, we jumped on the opportunity.

As minimalists, we’re particularly interested in Tiny House living. We’ve spent hours scrolling through gorgeous Tiny Houses on Instagram feeds, wondering if this is a movement we could eventually join.

We love the idea of spending tens of thousands instead of hundreds of thousands on the house. We also like the liberty and freedom to travel with your Tiny House. Lastly, we’re far from being handy, so there would be a great sense of accomplishment and satisfaction in building a Tiny House.

The film also outlined the benefits of being part of a passionate Tiny House community. An engaged community would be another upside if you were fortunate to live in an area where the movement is strong.

But with all of the benefits of Tiny House living, we’re still not convinced that it’s for us. In fact watching the film actually discouraged us from building a Tiny House at all.

In this post, we look at the top 5 reasons why we wouldn’t join the Tiny House movement. Please keep in mind that these are only our opinions. We would love to see what you think in the comments at the end of this post.

Also if you’re interested, we recorded a podcast episode breaking down the pros and cons of tiny house living.

Let’s get into it.

1. Building a tiny house is stressful

If you’re anything like us, you don’t have a handy bone in your body. So naturally building a house from the ground up is going to come with its set of challenges. After watching the film, we overlooked all of the logistics, including;

  • Putting together designs
  • Sourcing materials
  • Fitting the roof (this looked extremely stressful)
  • Getting the correct measurements
  • Installing fixtures and fittings
  • Finding a location to build the house
  • Finding the time to make the house (can take months upon months)

Of course, this is all relatively straightforward if you have a building background or you know someone who has.

But for us, no thank you!

2. Finding land to rent your tiny house

Finding land is something we completely overlooked. We thought you could set up your Tiny House pretty much anywhere, after all, isn’t that one of the main benefits of this lifestyle?

As the film clearly demonstrated, finding land is not easy to find. In certain cities, there are Tiny House parks, similar to caravan parks. You can also negotiate to rent land with landlords.

Like any piece of real estate, you need to read up on your local government zoning legislation and permits to avoid getting notices and fines.

3. A tiny house is too tiny

Go figure.

Don’t get me wrong, we think Tiny Houses are adorable, and as minimalists, we would welcome the challenge of reducing the number of things we own to accommodate little house living.

However, minimalism is about keeping the things that add value and eliminating the rest. And quite frankly, we’re not concerned about room sizes.

But we do like having a bit of kitchen space as we do a lot of cooking. Pantry space, fridge space and bench space is all-important to us. So this in itself is a deal-breaker for us.

4. Tiny house toilets

As we were reflecting on the film in the car, we realised that we didn’t see any Tiny House toilets!

It turns out this is not as straightforward as you would think. Please excuse our ignorance on this topic.

But yes, unless you have a water tank, which I assume wouldn’t be feasible in most Tiny Houses, you’ll have to look for composting solutions.

Honestly, though, this isn’t for us.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve experienced similar solutions in West Africa, but for the most part, I prefer a water tank based solutions. I feel petty even just saying that! First world problems eh?

5. Building a tiny house could end your relationship

The final reason we wouldn’t make a Tiny House is the strain that it could put on our relationship. Not only would the building process be stressful, but living in such a confined space together day in and day out could become a problem.

We feel that in every relationship you need some space to do your own thing. And the environment in which you live in is crucial to creating that space.

This was one of the main takeaways after watching the film, as they highlighted the ups and downs of how building a Tiny House affected the relationship of the young couple, Nikki and Mitchell (see below). Photo credit.


What we would consider

So there are our top 5 reasons we wouldn’t build a Tiny House. However, there are a few instances where we might reconsider.

Skip or outsource the building process – it may be worth saving up more money for an established Tiny House. It’s still considerably cheaper than buying a regular free-standing house, and you skip the stress of building it from the ground up.

If you prefer creative control, you could work with a builder to turn your designs into reality. Once again, this may cost you more, but it ensures that you get what you want without the stress of building it yourself.

We also like the idea of having a Tiny House without wheels. This increases the scope of the project regarding land size and house size. However, by the time you go down this path, you’re approaching similar costs to a standard free-standing house. So I don’t know if it would be worth it. Something to consider, nevertheless.

Over to you

Do you often dream of living in a gorgeous little house on wheels or are you against the movement altogether? We would love to get your thoughts below.

PS – if you’re interested in learning more about building a Tiny House, check out Tiny House Community.

PPS – And if you haven’t seen it already, we highly recommend you see SMALL is Beautiful – A Tiny House Documentary. It’s an eye-opener!

Other posts you’ll love:

  1. The Minimalist Mindset: Small Is The New Big
  2. 100+ Simple Tips To Live a More Sustainable Lifestyle
  3. Is Minimalism Just a Trend?
  4. The Problem With Storage
  5. Minimalist Living: Breaking Down The What, Why & How

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  • Ben 23/04/2017 Reply

    Lectures people over water consumption of beef versus grain production – rejects tiny home because it’s preferable to have poo be carried away by water. Hmmm…. 😉

    I get it: Tiny Homes are definitely not for everyone. They’re a fairly extreme answer to a multitude of questions being faced by many people at this point in our history, and if you’re not fully committed -just jumping on the bandwagon – then you’ll probably have a bad time. But it seems a few too many people are all too quick to dismiss completely without giving genuinely sound, well-rounded reasons.

  • Susan 12/02/2017 Reply

    Hi Michael and partner,
    As a fellow dreamer and lover of minimalism, tiny awesomeness, and the freeness of being vegan, I sympathise and agree with many of your concerns, and the potential solutions from others and yourselves are totally valid and are great alternatives.

    Of course there are solutions, however perhaps an alternative you may embrace and ultimately find liberating is going from where you are at so to speak.

    Ultimate simplicity can maybe happen with acceptance of what one’s personal reality is and then giving some rein to our creativity to deepen and diversify our experience to be able to build on strengths and afford us a little joy and peace.

    Listening to what you have said, it seems that there is much that appeals, inspires and excites you about tiny houseness, I am with you. Alternatively, the ultimate freedom for you might be two things: acceptance of what your self is experiencing as your surrounding influences, limitations, strengths and the kind of nature of where your ‘self’ finds itself currently, and secondly, dip into self for the creativity that can be expressed with in the context of where the ‘self’ finds itself.

    So what does that mean? Here are some possible alternatives for you that might just tick some of the boxes that appeal about tiny houses. It might be possible to modify overriding conventional settings that leave us feeling limited and unfulfilled. The reality is that we need to listen to some of our heart’s longings and quirkiness because this is where we feel refreshed, inspired and attended to.

    Step 1. Bring the tiny houseness to the barest minimum, your self – so, thinking from the perspective that you can be living in the tiny house at its barest tininess – you. It is so tiny that there are no sinks or confined windows, no tedious little ladders, no ceilings to bump our head on, no table edges to negotiate, no toilet concerns etc. You don’t even have to worry about the tyre health or having a vehicle to move the tiny house, or whether to go for a stationary tiny etc.

    Step 2. That’s it.

    Once step one and step two are embraced. You can now live your life in the ultimate tiny house – your self. Your creativity can inject all the crazy fantasticness of tininess into you and wherever you find yourself. In fact the most mindblowing tiny house that you see on a website or on instagram can be acknowledged and appreciated for its expert crazy craftiness and wonder – however, you now find (after doing step 1 and step 2) that you have moved one step beyond having to actually own a constructed tiny house. You find yourself in a tiny house that has no walls, is totally mobile, has a variety of toileting options, finds itself within a varied community that might include different perspectives, and does not require building skills or angst over what to put in and not put in.

    This is not a sarcastic reply post. It is intended as an option to the stress of how to incorporate tiny housedom.

    Once we encompass a minimalist approach to our tiny house aspirations we can then turn our attention to any other area of our life. Generally the most lasting agreeabless experienced then will come in the form of service. Where would your service find itself?
    – writing about wild foraging, including the medicinal as well as potential toxic watchpoints.
    – controversial instagrams (polluted natural water courses) and building community initiative to restore such
    – placing a blanket down and inviting others to sit or add their blanket to connect with others and enable meeting up of us-ness within towns and cities.
    – hold moon watch nights in glorious locations or anywhere
    – have a bake, cook and eat get together with others in the outdoors, at a hub, or at a friend’s or kind other’s. Maybe turn it into a community or neighbourhood event.
    Basically create the community/movement feel without the confines of necessarily having to be the same with others.

    If the sameness with others is too pressing, that is, if what we are aiming for is a type of culture and a match up on a lot of philosophical/lifestyle elements. Then,
    – reflect on the nature of this aspiration (where am I going with this – where is this aspiration to be collected within a community of quirky sameness taking me)

    For those that like being solitary, and like the private contained feeling of the tiny house world:
    – reflect on growth (where can I grow)

    For those who want tiny house as a way to have their own space, put everything they love in it, and be able to afford it:
    – reflect on communication and courage (how am I closing off, giving up on others, giving up on myself; how can I extend/develop my communication and ability to connect with others)

    Ultimately the label, the inclusion in an overarching movement, the subscribing and ascribing to this and that is based on fear. This is not meant to be critical or condescending.

    To experience the value of ourselves and fully appreciate our own selves and not have to lock ourselves away in the safety of a tiny house we need to live our selves outward.

    If we say well the tiny house has nothing to do with any of that its actually about affordable shelter and the whole point is being able to meet with like minded others more readily, then we do have something there.

    Better though to turn our attention to diligence and reflection. What do I need to do to be in relationship with others.

    The possible solution is attend to our tiny house self and open the windows, get some sun into the interior, walk freely and allow others the same respect for their dignity, freedom and privacy.

    If we find ourselves in an environment of threat and infringements to our sense of self then think ourselves as more than the confines of our body. Pay attention to our mindset and practice positive attitude and thoughts that take into consideration the value of all other life. Take the time to be still within chaos, to breathe ourselves through stress and pressure, and to attend to our dedication towards good turns and regard of others. If we are taken advantage of, then look to where we must do more because there is a deficit in meeting the needs of others. As we place our self in service to humanity we get ourselves free of charge access to a well of living water that revitalises, replenishes, relieves any weariness, and slakes our thirsts so that there is always more for tomorrow.

    *I’m only actualising a portion of this myself – a tiny portion….though I do partake somewhat

  • Fritz 11/01/2017 Reply

    fart in a tiny house and suffer the consequences

  • Lori L 14/04/2016 Reply

    I am working on my own tiny house. I started with an 8′ x 19′ trailer, as the county doesn’t require permits for homes-on-wheels. The toilet I chose is dry flush, with no water or holding tank needed. I’ll be using it as a reading/writing refuge and as guest quarters for now, but if my situation changes, I’ll be able to live in it one day. I think it’s a wonderful alternative to apartment or trailer-park living, and finding space in our rural area for a totally off-the-grid home will not be a problem.

  • Emily 23/03/2016 Reply

    What’s always bothered me about a lot of these tiny houses is what happens in bad weather? Like how secure will you be in your own home if you live somewhere with hurricanes or tornadoes? Here in Texas, I certainly would not feel secure living in such a house in the case of inclement weather, especially when it can hit suddenly or with very little warning. True, those living in trailer houses face similar problems, but those still seem more secure than most tiny houses.

  • jayne 09/12/2015 Reply

    Why not buy a small house in an older part of town instead? I recently got outbid by a builder on 1925 2 bedroom detached no basement 625sq ft but it had a nice private backyard, sadly said builder will probably demolish to build an oversize tacky home. That’s not to say you won’t have better luck than me

    • Sorry to hear you missed out. It obviously wasn’t meant to be. It’s a good idea though. I suppose it comes down to whatever is going to work for you 🙂

  • Hey, we’re plant-based too! Jamie and I lived in our tiny house for nearly three years while building our small 765 square foot Beekeeper’s Bungalow. It was a great experience but we came to many similar conclusions in the end. Building one wasn’t difficult for us nor was living together in one together; rather it was simple and fun.

    Jamie was able to effectively scratch cook, bake, do her beekeeping, ferment our sauerkraut, you name it, she could pull it off in our little kitchen. The downfall was the tiny space itself, which was prone to excessive moisture build up. Unless one lives an urban lifestyle where they eat out a lot, spend a lot of time elsewhere, humidity will become a problem, especially in a colder climate.

    Tiny houses also aren’t all that energy efficient either. We built our using rigid foam R-21 for the entire building envelope. Guess what, it was more expensive to heat than our Beekeeper’s!

    Tiny houses are panned as panaceas, which they of course are not. They do have their places but I’m unconvinced they’re a preferred option to well built small houses. I say this as someone who has designed, drafted and built both types of houses, lived in them, and also designed hundreds of plans for others. I feel small is the way to go in most cases.

    The appeal of tiny houses rests mostly in the wrong-minded thought that one equates freedom from place. It does not as you talk about here. They certainly aren’t cheap either. Our Beekeeper’s Bungalow cost less than most commercial tiny houses! There is the cost of land to consider and that’s a problem for many, it’s not inexpensive anywhere anymore. And that’s another appeal of the tiny houses I guess. It gives (more) immediate gratification too.

    In the end, while acknowledging there are some cool uses for tiny houses, they seem less a sensible housing solution than a symptom of how broken our economy has become. An economy in which people cannot afford housing leaves a lot to be desired.

    • Thank you for sharing your insights Shawn. You have added a lot of value to this post as you obviously have experience with both tiny and small house living. Also, nice blog with lots of resources for people who want to dive deeper into small house living. Keep up the good work!

    • Tru 07/05/2017 Reply

      For humidity: I’ve been doing research into this problem and there are numerous solutions. One of the most major ones is a Heat Recovery Ventilator. These exchange the heat in the outgoing air with the incoming air in the winter. They are 90% efficient, so if it’s 70° in your home and 20° outside, the incoming air will be 65°. This means you can have plenty of air turnover without paying nearly as much of the heat penalty.

      Re insulation – Rvalue

  • NutmegsMom 03/09/2015 Reply

    A tiny house is a great option for me and my minpin for the life we lead (soon to be on the road). It supports my journey of minimalism and embraces my nature (being an empath). To start, I would have built for me a custom Vardo (39 sq ft) to attach to the back of my truck, then have a “full-sized” tiny home built (U-House, less than 400 sq ft) on a vacant lot way up north in the woods. Tiny homes are too tiny for more than me and my dog but I would welcome friends over on occasion.

  • Allison 12/08/2015 Reply

    My husband and I love tiny houses and what they represent. For us however, one of the primary components we considered when buying our house is that we live halfway across the country from our family and many of our friends and wanted space to host all of our family whenever they wanted to visit. This is just not very feasible in a tiny home! We needed the extra living space with rooms that stay ready for out of town visitors (which happens even more often than we had anticipated when buying the house!)

  • Bonnie Lynch 15/05/2015 Reply

    Great post, and one that everyone who’s enamored of the tiny house movement should read. I have two resources to offer. First, the Tiny House Decisions Book, by Ethan Waldman: http://www.thetinyhouse.net/tiny-house-decisions/.
    It is a very carefully crafted set of questions and issues you need to resolve before you take the huge step to tiny living. It will help whether you’ve already decided to go tiny or you’re still on the fence.
    Second, if you want to bypass the hassles of a tiny house on wheels, you might consider doing what we’re doing: having a small modular house built on a foundation (on a residential lot). We will have a house somewhere between 400 and 800 sf, with a big garage. We will be cooling, heating, and maintaining a much smaller space, but the garage gives us room for our bikes, skis, car, camping gear, etc. Ideabox in Salem, Oregon has some nice small house models from 360 sf up. (Technically, 360 sf is already not “tiny,” and that’s okay with us.) We toured a couple of models a few weeks ago, spoke with Jim Russell, the owner, and were sold. My husband spent many years as a project manager in construction, and if these homes can satisfy his pickiness, they have got to be well built. http://www.ideabox.us/
    Thanks again for the thoughtful post.

    • Hi Bonnie, thank you for taking the time to comment and share all of these useful resources with us. It’s definitely worth checking out before making the decision to build a tiny house. Thanks again!

  • Heather 02/05/2015 Reply

    My thoughts are that if we wanted to be mobile and live in that small of space, we could just buy an RV. They’re already built and designed for that purpose, reasonably priced, have set places to park, and you can more easily re-sell it at some point when through with it.

    Ideally, we’d like a small, well designed house, with efficiency built in. I’d love to see neighborhoods set up for tiny and smaller houses. Unfortunately where we live most cities and developments have very specific requirements about what can be built (even dictating things like closet size per occupant) and don’t allow houses under a certain size, or that don’t closely match the others that are around.

    • Thank you for sharing your thoughts Heather! Yes, building requirements can definitely create limitations for small house living.

  • Mark 01/05/2015 Reply

    I love this article. There is so much hype around tiny building that these true words are rarely spoken. I split the difference. I built an 8′ x 12′ clubhouse with loft for my kids. There isn’t a kitchen or toilet, but lots of little living and project areas. I sometimes drag my laptop out there while the kids are in school.

  • Kele 01/05/2015 Reply

    I totally agree with you guys! While I don’t think I qualify as a true minimalist, I do like the idea of simplifying so I find the idea of a tiny house really appealing in a romantic, idealistic way. In reality, though, I have every one of the reservations you mentioned. I think what I’d really like is small – not tiny – house built by an architect with tiny house ideals: lots of built-in storage, smart double uses of space, etc. But still with enough space to spread out a little and to entertain from time to time.

    My dream house plan is actually by Ross Chapin Architects. http://rosschapin.com/plans/small-houses/karina/ It’s a 3 bedroom, 3 bath, 1600 square foot cottage. Not a huge house by any standards, but a big, open kitchen, and enough room for a home office and a guest room. Perfect, by my standards.

    • Hi Kele, thank you for taking the time to comment. You make some great points, and what a beautiful design you’ve shared!

  • Linda 01/05/2015 Reply

    I am attracted to the *idea* of a tiny house, more than I am the reality of it. I agree with every point you made in this article, including an appreciation for indoor plumbing and space for a partner, as well as the rest of the family. Plus, I wonder if it’s more minimalist to rent or own existing housing, instead of creating something new. I do understand that this is more of a living experiment, and a necessary one.I really enjoyed reading this article.

    • Hi Linda, we’re glad you enjoyed the article. You make a valid point in relation to sticking with an established house. In the end, it will probably keep things simpler. Building any dwelling, whether you do it yourself or outsource it, can be quite stressful.

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