Types of Tiny Homes | 7 Amazing Styles For Minimalists

by Tessa Hobart | LAST UPDATED June 22, 2021

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The tiny house movement is a lifestyle centered around minimalism and a desire to live in a downsized home. While every person may have a different reason for tiny house living, the ultimate goal is to live more sustainably and straightforwardly.  

For aspiring tiny homeowners, it's crucial to find a design that caters to their specific way of life. Thus, lots of different types of tiny homes exist. Another component of the tiny home movement is the price point. Compared to your average standard-sized home, they cost significantly less. 

After all, being pinned down by a long-term mortgage for an overpriced house full of unnecessary material possessions isn't the best way to live freely.  

However, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind before you start looking into types of tiny homes near you. Let's start with an overview of tiny home costs and how much you can expect to pay. After that, we'll go over several of the most common types of tiny homes. 

Average Tiny Home Cost

A tiny home that takes between 90 and 200 square feet will cost considerably less than any 3-story monstrosity of a house.

Although you've probably seen information about buying tiny homes for as little as $5,000 to $10,000, be aware that these figures don't mirror the final price. They're not even close in most cases. 

If you include the property's price, plumbing, electrical connections, appliances, construction permits, documentation, and every other additional tiny home cost, expect to pay anywhere between $50,000 and $100,000 in the real world. 

The exact size of the house, floor plans, and quality of materials drastically affect the cost, so it isn't easy to estimate the price without knowing the specifics.

With that said, it's essential to understand that a large portion of the price goes toward the construction crew. So, if you're focused on downsizing cost-effectively, we highly suggest going the DIY route. 

If you have the time and resources to build a tiny home independently, you could get the price down to $20,000 - $30,000 reasonably quickly, especially if you need something simple, like a single-room tiny cabin. 

You'll need to familiarize yourself with the local zoning laws and prepare building permits first. And that's a big task for a greenhorn. When in doubt, it's better to pay some extra money and have the tiny house builders handle it all. Otherwise, your tiny home project could come to a screeching halt. And nobody wants that. 

Tiny home surrounded by mountains

Tiny Home Dimensions

Being a tiny house enthusiast is all about making the most out of your space and getting rid of unnecessary clutter. The limited space is also energy-friendly, so it's very adaptable to off-grid living.

However, if you're planning on starting a family, the options on our list are probably not the best fit. Although there are many different types of tiny homes, it's hard to find models suitable for more than two people. 

[Are you enjoying this article? If so, check out our beginner's guide to tiny homes to learn more about the small house movement!]

The Two Main Types of Tiny Houses: Modular and Mobile

There are plenty of unique models to choose from on the housing market when it comes to the different types of tiny homes. Seeing that we'll go over the most well-known types of tiny homes a bit further in the article, it's important to point out the main difference first—the foundation.

The foundation is a critical factor in zoning laws and building codes since most states draw a clear distinction between mobile homes and modular homes. But what's the difference between the two? We're glad you asked. 

A mobile home is a small house built on a trailer with wheels, whereas a modular home is a living space with a solid foundation. Most tiny home builders specialize in one type of small home. It's rare to find companies that deal with both. 

Mobile homes are factory-built and later transported to the homeowner's property. In contrast, modular homes are shipped piece-by-piece and assembled on site. While modular homes are much closer to traditional homes, both types of tiny homes offer benefits for those looking to explore alternative ways of living. 

If you want to learn more about the specific differences between modular and mobile homes, the Bob Vila website has a solid article on these kinds of dwelling units. 

More about Modular Homes 

Since modular homes have a foundation, there are significantly fewer restrictions. However, the ones you have to adhere to are troublesome—for example, regulations on the size of your house or home design.

Many states have a minimum square footage requirement before any structure is classified as a living space. Luckily, most states are reasonably lenient. In most cases, as long as you at least reach triple digits, you shouldn't have any issues.

A solid foundation for a home is also always welcome, and it usually makes a homeowner's life a bit easier. On the other hand, mobile homes need to be connected to the utility lines once they leave the property.

[RELATED READ: Tiny Home Appliances]

More about Mobile Homes (Tiny Houses on Wheels)

The housing market has a wide range of pre-designed mobile home templates. Instead of designing a tiny home, you can request specific alterations during the planning stages to make the house a bit more suited to your needs.

The main issue with mobile homes is that it's difficult to classify them as standard houses or trailer homes. As a result, it's tough to figure out zoning laws and building permits for these types of tiny homes. 

Many states require you to permanently ground your trailer to a specific point on your property before setting up the necessary pipes and cables. However, this defeats the whole purpose for a lot of people. 

Additionally, If your trailer is more expansive than 8.5 feet or longer than 30 feet, you'll need an oversized load transportation permit before moving your vehicle.

Also, be aware that plenty of rules and regulations exist defining what you can and can't build on your property. However, there are no laws that restrict living in a mobile home that's parked on your property. So, if you go off-grid and refuse to connect your house to the government channels, you won't be in breach of any zoning laws, technically. 

7 Types of Tiny Homes

two types of tiny homes on stilts over the water

Now that you understand the difference between modular and mobile structures let's discuss some of the most popular types of tiny homes. Seeing that each design has unique pros, cons, functionality, and purpose, you'll need to research to decide which is best for your lifestyle. 

Without a doubt, there is a type of tiny home suitable for every person and place. With that said, our list is far from exhaustive. While we did our best to include the most popular styles, there's no way to have all of them. Here's a list of seven of the most popular types of tiny homes to date.   

Shipping Container Homes

The shipping container is probably the most popular modular home material in the tiny house community. There are more malleable materials to choose from, but the initial use of the containers makes them highly durable. 

The simple shape also makes them literal oversized building blocks. You can easily stack them to make a two-story structure or organize them any other way.

Owners can place them on top of any foundation and install proper insulation, flooring, utility lines, and walls.

The biggest downside to these types of tiny homes is that they come as a shell. To make them livable requires extensive modifications. You'll also want to avoid cutting out too many walls because it can weaken the structure's integrity. And nobody wants to live in a home that can't support its weight. 

A fully decked-out house composed of two connected shipping containers may cost as little as $25,000. For a single unit, expect to pay around $15,000 to start.

Also, keep in mind that the more units you add, the more zoning and building restrictions may apply. So make sure that you have all of your permits in order before you start putting the blocks together.

Cob Houses

A cob house is a structure made out of clay, straw, and sand instead of the more standard construction materials. These types of tiny homes are pretty different from modular homes, and the construction process means you won't be able to hook up to public utility lines. 

Additionally, there aren't many construction companies that work on cob houses, so building and maintaining the home is your responsibility. This is terrible news for anyone who isn't particularly good with their hands. 

However, this simple structure is ideal for any potential homeowner looking to get off the grid and live a more self-sufficient lifestyle. 

[RELATED READ: Beginner's Guide to Living Off-Grid]

The best thing about cob houses is they waste no energy. What's more is, the materials are eco-friendly, not to mention cheaper than standard cement and mortar. As long as you make the walls durable and ensure the roof can withstand any weather, you shouldn't have any issues.

It's also worth mentioning that due to the lack of construction companies or utility lines, this house is remarkably cheap to build and maintain.

Trailer Homes

There are essentially two significant differences between trailer homes and tiny homes on wheels—the price and the equipment.

Trailer homes are at least five times cheaper than a tiny home on wheels. And you can probably find a decent one for around $10,000, if not cheaper. These types of small homes also make ideal getaway homes. But they generally have limited living space, making them less than ideal as a permanent houses. Unless, of course, you're a hardcore minimalist.

You get what you pay for, considering the low price point, so proceed with caution when purchasing a trailer home. 

Trailer homes are a great choice if you're in-between residences and need a cheap short-term solution. However, there aren't too many situations where we can advise purchasing a trailer home instead of some of the other types of tiny homes on this list. 

Treehouses

When we say treehouse, we could be referring to one of two types of tiny homes.

There are genuinely tiny houses built between several trees. These houses are usually small and have a DIY job, so they aren't sustainable for an extended period.

The other type of treehouse is usually a small home built on a log foundation on the side of a steep incline. Although support column logs underneath the foundation, the house needs to be as lightweight as possible. In most cases, builders use wood. 

A modest treehouse is reasonably cheap to build, and it's protected from floods or snow build-up. However, constructing this type of tiny home is a giant pain. So please proceed with caution or make sure you find a specialist to build it for you. 

Log Cabins

Like our previous entry, the typical log cabin doesn't use specific construction materials. 

Since these structures are in high demand, plenty of companies specializes in log cabin design. If you look hard enough, you can undoubtedly find one within your price range. 

The materials are also almost exclusively limited to wood, making things a lot cheaper and cozier from an interior design standpoint.

Because most log cabins are simply four walls and a roof, you can try your hand at building a DIY log cabin. However, it might take you quite a bit of time.

The main downside of these wooden structures is the lack of insulation. While you don't have to worry about a weight limit, you have to worry about maintaining the log cabin. This might not sound too bad, but the non-standard shape of the outer walls makes maintenance a bit trickier and more time-consuming.

A-Frame

The name of this particular tiny home comes from the fact that the roof comes all the way down to the ground. An A-frame home has much headspace thanks to the high ceiling in the middle, though the sloping walls may be awkward.

The top of the house near the center point is an ideal spot to build a loft. In fact, it's one way to optimize space. The large roof is also suitable for putting in a sunroof which also lets in a lot of natural light. 

While the shape of the A-frame is iconic, the dimensions are not. So, you can choose to make it as tall or broad as you want. Our advice is to make it just wide enough, so you don't hit your head on the side of the roof. Like all the other types of tiny homes on this list, there are pros and cons to the design and functionality. 

School Bus

Bus conversions are reasonably expected within the tiny house community. Believe it or not, when you strip the seats out of a standard school bus, you get quite a bit of space.

Like the tiny house on wheels, these types of tiny homes need to be grounded if you're planning to hook them up to the city lines. Otherwise, you don't have to take the engine apart or remove the driver's seat unless you plan to change the bus's front end completely.

Buses aren't as cheap as mobile homes, but you should still get a reasonable price for a decommissioned school bus. We should also recommend that you buy some paint and change the horrible bright yellow color. But that's your choice. 

Final Notes about Types of Tiny Homes

Wooden tiny home

The truth is that the world of tiny homes is limitless. If you have a vision and the resources to execute it, nothing is standing in the way of your dream tiny house. Aside from the nine types of tiny homes listed in this article, there are countless more that we didn't include. 

As always, it's your job to do research and find a style that best fits your unique lifestyle. Make sure to research the local zoning laws in your area so you comply. Over the years, we learned this is a significant issue affecting many people in the tiny home community. But again, a little research goes a long way. 

Tiny homes can cost as little or as much as you want. The key is planning, ingenuity, and having the skills to do it yourself when the price point is too high. Regardless if you're trying to build a temporary vacation home or a permanent residence, options for incredible tiny homes abound.

Tessa Hobart
Tessa Hobart moved into her first tiny home (a trailer in her uncle's backyard) when she was 19. Without giving away her age, she now has many years of tiny home experience and is currently designing an A-Frame as a second off grid home. She lives with her husband and enjoys card games and mountain biking.

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