Downsizing your home and moving into something more environmentally friendly is definitely in vogue these days.
Tiny homes are gaining a lot more attention in the media, and they even have entire television shows devoted to their design. Unfortunately, there is a lot of grey area when it comes to the rules and regulations surrounding these tiny homes.
If you live in Colorado, what do you need to know about building your first tiny home?
Let’s take a look at the specific regulations you can expect to encounter.
What is a Tiny House?
Like many states, Colorado does not issue a clear definition of what constitutes a tiny home. This is a real grey area that leads to some confusion for builders and tiny homeowners alike.
Most of the time, a tiny home is going to be labeled as either a dwelling or an RV.
However, you might be wondering exactly what makes the difference between these two categories.
If your tiny house is going to be built on a permanent foundation, then it is likely considered a dwelling. You may sometimes see this written in legal documents as an accessory dwelling unit. It is often situated on another property, such as a tiny home that is built in the backyard of your preexisting house or on a farm.
Many people like the idea of making sure that their tiny house can travel with them all over the world. Building a tiny house on wheels makes categorizing these homes a bit more challenging. Most tiny homes on wheels in the state of Colorado will be classified as RVs.
Where Can I Build a Tiny Home?
Understanding where you put your tiny home is half the battle when it comes to the initial planning stages. As you might imagine, there is nothing so cut and dry about where you can or cannot place your new tiny home. Everything depends on the specific city, town, and county rules.
You may want to check with popular cities like:
- Colorado Springs
- Fort Collins
The best way to find out if you can build a tiny home on a specific property is to check with the zoning committee for your area.
These maps should tell you how each specific property can be used according to the zoning regulations. Look for properties that permit accessory dwelling units or RVs.
If you have any questions about whether your tiny home would be permitted on a piece of land, be sure to ask a building official in your local municipality. They should be able to help steer you in the right direction and give you the paperwork you need to get started.
Should my Tiny House Have a Foundation?
One of the first and biggest decisions that every tiny homeowner must make is whether their home is going to be built on a foundation or wheels. There are perks to both, but it helps to understand just what you can gain from building on a foundation. This is often the only way that you can permanently reside in your tiny home.
If your home is installed on a permanent foundation, you might be able to live in it full-time. If it is installed on another property that already has a single-family home, it is labeled an accessory dwelling unit (ADU). Some areas allow for these to be a second dwelling unit or a rental property, but many others do not permit this.
When your home is built on a permanent foundation, you will be held to higher standards than if it were classified as an RV.
The property must comply with all regular building codes and ordinances, including minimum square footage, ceiling heights, setbacks, and more.
In some zoning areas, you may even be required to hook up to water and sewer from the county.
Each jurisdiction will have its own building code requirements.
Make sure that you solicit the county for the proper building permits and inspections while building your home. While this does add to the cost of the process, it is necessary if you want your home to be legal. A tiny permanent home is going to cost more and require more effort on your part than a mobile tiny home.
Is There Minimum Square Footage for Tiny Homes in Colorado?
Some areas set specific limits on the square footage for a tiny home, but Colorado is not one of them. They stick to the standard definition, which is that most tiny homes range from 100 to 400 square feet.
However, anything under 1,000 square feet is also considered a tiny home in this area. Therefore, you want to make sure you know the exact size of your tiny home before you put the finishing touches on it in Colorado.
Can I Live in a Tiny House on Wheels?
One of the more appealing aspects of tiny homes is the fact that they can be built on wheels. The mobility gives their owners the flexibility to travel or to move around from state to state. No matter what your reason is for wanting to move, a mobile tiny home can be a great solution.
There is just one problem with living in a tiny house on wheels: it may be illegal for you to live there full-time.
Most of these tiny homes that are built on wheels are not considered to be dwellings. Instead, they are categorized as RVs and are not intended for full-time living. However, you can use them to take a vacation or to live in them seasonally in an RV park or possibly even in the backyard of a preexisting property. That will depend on the zoning for your particular jurisdiction and municipality.
Other Options for Your THOW
Another option that many people choose to do with their tiny homes is to use it as an office. Using it this way may be perfectly legal in your area, even though living in it might not be. As long as you are using it as a temporary space, your mobile tiny home could be easily parked on your property in many areas.
Consider your tiny home like your respite from the real world. It can be a great hideaway where you can relax and kick back without making a major renovation to your standard home.
In some other areas, you might encounter rules that allow you to live in a mobile tiny home year-round if you can categorize it as a mobile home.
This means that your tiny house must be permanently affixed to the ground and hooked up to utilities. Unfortunately, many tiny homeowners prefer not to be hooked up to the grid. If you can allow for these items, then you may just be able to make your tiny home legal.
Of course, it must also be built according to local building codes. Make sure that all pertinent systems are up to date, including the electric and plumbing.
Specific Rules and Regulations
If you want to build your home somewhere, that is welcoming to tiny home enthusiasts, and Colorado could be the place you are looking for. In some cities, they have made great strides to make it more tiny-home-friendly.
For example, Walsenburg has made it easier than ever to build the home of your dreams. They have waived the minimum square footage, reduced the requirement for the size of your exit door, and waived stairway regulations.
Park County has taken a similar initiative to draw in new potential tiny homeowners. They are waiving specific regulations that require a living room of 220 square feet with 100 square feet per occupant. They also waived the requirement for separate closets, clear working space of more than thirty inches in the kitchen, and separate bathrooms and lavatories.
While these towns and counties are certainly more progressive, other requirements do still need to be met.
These include the state regulations set for lighting, ventilation, and life safety.
If you want to learn more about the specific rules and regulations by state, check out our article, Where Can I Build a Tiny House? (Laws by State)!
More Rules You Should Know
If you want to live in a tiny home but find the rules cumbersome, there are a few loopholes that you can take advantage of.
First and foremost, you can keep your tiny house on wheels hitched. Many states, including Colorado, may have rules that pertain to living in your tiny home on a piece of land.
When the house is hitched to your vehicle and located on its traveling trailer, the rules are sometimes a bit more flexible.
Another key way to get around tiny house rules is to live in your dwelling part-time. Not only does this exclude you from many of the more stringent requirements for a permanent tiny home dwelling, but it also lets you sample tiny home living in a small dose before you dive right in.
Are Tiny Houses Illegal in Your State? If you want to learn more loopholes and tips for legal tiny home living, you should be sure to read our thorough guide to living legally in tiny homes!
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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.