We talk a lot about Tiny Houses on Godownsize.com, but most of our articles are geared toward those who already have tiny houses or are thinking of building one and living in it full-time.
But what if you were to purchase a tiny house kit online today? What would you be getting into?
Sites like Amazon.com are capitalizing on the Tiny Home industry, working hard to fulfill that “need” for quick, quality Tiny House Kits that you see advertised on the internet.
Are Tiny House kits any good?
Tiny house kits have all the materials you need to build them but lack major necessities that habitable dwellings require, such as large cavities for insulation, foundation, and spaces to run components for electric and water.
In this article, we explore the crucial question that brand-new Tiny House owners are most worried about – purchasing a kit instead of starting from scratch on their new home.
Let’s get started!
What Is A Tiny House Kit?
A tiny house kit is basically a shell structure that you order online and is delivered in three large packages with everything you need to construct them.
This includes the lumber, glass, screws, and nails, as well as for instructions and basic pieces for simple construction. Most tiny house kits online are not considered to be “homes,” and instead are advertised as “cabins” or “secondary spaces” that you can utilize however you want.
This is why many people like to turn them into the basic, bare-bones of a tiny house that they then add onto later.
Some retailers, such as 84 Lumber, offer tiny living under their “specialty products” and do advertise their services and materials as actual tiny homes meant for long-term habitation. However, this makes them more expensive.
If you are going to buy a kit, buy from a retailer that knows you’re planning to live in it full-time, as they will be more likely to provide you with a proper structure.
How Durable Are the Finished Results From These Kits?
One of the more famous companies to sell their tiny homes is Allwood Outlet, which primarily sells basic structures through Amazon.com.
These models are very basic shells that you feasibly could put up on your property or in your backyard within a few days with some help. However, Allwood Outlet’s models are usually made with tongue and groove pine wood, which is very thin and difficult to insulate.
Furthermore, an entire “finished” model is merely a hollow shell of a structure. The rest of it, you would have to reinforce and provide for yourself. Some tiny homeowners prefer to buy a shell for a reduced price, but it can cost thousands to fill the empty interior.
Weather & A Bare Home
Each kit comes with the bare basics to create a shed or structure that you will then have to paint, reinforce, stain, finish, and insulate yourself.
Generally, these structures are not protected with paint or finishings from weather or damage before they get to you, and their thin walls will require a lot of custom edits to get that insulation fitted in there.
Once the weather starts to take a beating on this tiny house shell, you may have to spend more money editing any damage or water leaking that could come from something that wasn’t protected beforehand.
Lack of Foundation
Each kit does not come with a foundation, as most don’t – you usually have to build a foundation yourself any time you order a shed or structure from places like Home Depot, Amazon, or Lowes.
However, for someone who wants to safely live within one of these structures, making sure to have a foundation ready to go when you kit gets there is crucial – otherwise your house will sink into the mud before you know it.
This is only one of many more added expenses and things to prepare and consider when getting a tiny house kit.
No Hookup or Spaces for Components
Additionally, these shells don’t come with designated spots for hookups and components to help you start up your electric and water connections.
This is because each home is advertised as an additional space that could work in your backyard as an office or studio. Or, if not in your backyard, as a small, minimal cabin that is not meant to be lived in full-time.
For tiny house owners, this is frustrating, because not only do these kits cost around 17,000+ for more than one room, but they don’t come with anything that you would normally require as a tiny house owner.
Just walls, roof, windows, and floor.
How Long is the Warranty on Tiny Houses From Kits?
Tiny house kits are either picked up by you or shipped to your door. The assembly is then done by you and – hopefully – the people you brought to help you!
If you aren’t a seasoned contractor or used to building things, this means that there are a lot of ways things can go wrong. You also may find that you don’t like the tiny house once it is all completed – or that it wasn’t exactly what you were looking for.
So what do warranties look like on tiny house kits?
Common Warranties & Disclaimers
Tumbleweed Houses let you design and buy your own tiny houses that you can ship to your door. They also offer up a warranty for their products that you can use if something were wrong with the product or if something goes wrong.
This is usually due to defects or problems that are caused by something that you, yourself, did not do to the home. In which case, their company pays for repairs or replaces defected or problematic materials.
However, Tumbleweed Houses and most other warranties exclude incidents in which damage results from:
- An Accident
- Repairs by other companies or contractors
This will leave your warranty void and no longer able to be used to get your money back, so watch out!
Warranty Lengths Per Company
We’ve only listed the warranties of the companies that we have discussed in this article, so don’t take these as the end-all-be-all list.
Here are a few very different warranty lengths to consider:
- Tumbleweed Homes – 90 Day Warranty
- Allwood Outlet – 5 Year Manufacturer Warranty
- Jamaica Cottage Shop – 2 Year Warranty
It is clear that each company is going to be very different, so if someone tells you that your warranty “should” be a certain length of time, I would consult with the company you purchased from instead to find out more.
How Much do Tiny House Kits Cost?
Tiny house kits have a wide range of costs depending on where you get them from and how “done” you want them to be.
By “done,” of course, I mean the difference between only getting the building plans, to getting one that’s almost “ready to go.”
Most levels of tiny houses and kits go like this:
- Trailer & Building Plans
- Frame Only
- Pre-Cut Kits
- Four Season Pre-Cut Kits
- Fully Assembled
For example, the basic trailer and plans for a tiny house on wheels kit will cost you around $7,000 from 84 Lumber.
For a 162 square foot cabin kit pre-cut kit from Allwood Outlets on amazon, you’re looking at $9,000 – but that would be the whole structure, not just plans.
Keep in mind that their structures are very rudimentary and will require a lot of editing to make it habitable.
Fully Assembled & Detailed Structures
The more detailed you go, such as adding rooms or getting most of it built for you by either company, your prices increase to about $10,000+, and even reach high into the $20,000-$30,000 for almost ready to go structures and completed shells.
Jamaica Cottage Shop tiny homes – ironically made in Vermont, USA – offers fully assembled tiny home shells and empty “sheds” with high price tags starting around $12,000 and reaching as high as $50,000.
Are They Cheaper Than Ready-Made Houses?
Finding a cheap tiny house these days can be difficult unless you’re willing to sacrifice a lot of what makes tiny living great – especially when you pay out $7,000 on only a pre-designed shell.
Instead, consider buying used tiny houses that people no longer have time to travel with or are looking to settle down in a traditional house. These will usually be a little worn but have all the bugs and kinks fixed or figured out by seasoned tiny homeowners and will sell for much cheaper.
If, however, you are looking for mid-range priced tiny homes that are ready to go – and usually brand new – you should check out our article here!
These homes are much more expensive than the blank shell kits and generally sell for about $30,000-$60,000. However, these are ready-to-go tiny houses that shouldn’t require more fees for getting it ready to live in.
While a shell may cost $9,000 upfront, the added costs of painting, furniture, foundation, hookups, and amenities, as well as protecting it from the elements, will possibly force you into that $20,000 – $35,000 range.
Depending on how hands-on you want your project to be, getting a kit vs. a fully functioning tiny house for the same price is entirely up to you.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Choosing a Tiny House Kit?
Tiny house kits are great for someone looking to customize their own tiny home, without knowing too much about what goes into building a home. Almost all kits are pre-cut, numbered, color-coded, and stacked in order for quick and easy assembly.
There are hundreds of templates and styles to choose from, and the basic bare-bones models are only a few thousands of dollars – perfect for customizing and creating the space that you want!
Furthermore, all kits come with everything you need in order to make your home or space. You can usually put it up with a little bit of help in a few days, and once you’re all set up, the real fun work can begin!
From painting to furniture and designing the details of your tiny home inside, you can use these shells and kits as a way to express your creativity!
Tiny house kits will advertise that they have everything you need to set up your tiny house in two days or less, but without all the other necessities, you’ll be spending a lot more time and money on making it ready to live in.
Instead, these companies on Amazon and other sites highly recommend and advise that these kits were not meant to be “lived in” but instead created into workshops, yoga studios, writing dens, or guest rooms.
This means that there is a lot of cost and extra work that comes with ordering a kit online or picking up the pieces at a retailer. For those who are not ready for that kind of work, this can be a pain – and even feel like a waste of money.
For tiny homeowners who are looking to build their own tiny home, many seasoned tiny homeowners recommend starting from scratch and not a kit. You can usually build it yourself; however, you want it to be for a few thousand less than the online prices.
Furthermore, you can tailor it to your needs and use whatever materials you like – instead of the precut pine that many kits come with.
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Maria is the founder of GoDownsize. While studying architecture in Denmark she became fascinated with designing living spaces for boats, tiny houses, RVs, and other small spaces.
She mainly writes about space optimization, interior design, and downsizing. She’s also in charge of our YouTube channel. Read more about Maria here.