I wish we knew just how important double glazing and ventilation would be! We chose single glazed windows to save on weight and cost when we built our home, but now, we wish we had gone with double glazing. With the amount of moisture that you get in a tiny house from showering, cooking, heating and just breathing, you need double glazing and a good air exchange system/vents to stop your windows from crying and needing a dehumidifier during winter.
For our tiny home on wheels, I wish we would have dug deeper into the certifications on our home and what they meant. We hear a lot about NOAH and RVIA certifications, and I wish we had really looked at what doors were opened and closed with those two things. This factors into things like insurance and where we can and cannot park our home, which are two huge deciding factors.
Although we are still in the process of building our second home on a foundation, we wish we would have known about the average 30% additional cost of material required by codes or regulations. This includes impacted rated doors and windows, wind requirements for roofing, and even shower size.
I wish we knew how hard it is to find a legal place to park in Oregon! Thankfully, we have found some nice RV Parks, and have met some really great people, but that was not our original plan when we set about building our home.
I think most of the things we wish we would have known, we learned by actually living in our tiny house. For example, winter in a tiny house can sometimes suck. The floor is always cold, there’s no good place to put wet/dirty items, the dog shaking can get everything wet, etc.
Each winter we live in our home, we get better at it, but if I could tell my “pre-tiny house self” anything, it would be that saving up for a skirt to go around the house, and heat tape for the water will save us a lot of stress, hectic mornings, and time moving forward!
We wish we understood the amount of customization our home had due to its size. When we were planning our tiny house build, we used a lot of average building square meter rates for our budget. But there was very little in our home that was ‘average’—so we ended up spending more than what we had planned.
Our builder was very experienced, but hadn’t built a small space like ours before, so we all went in quite blind as to how the build costs would progress. Our cost per square meter was significantly more than a “traditional” sized home. In hindsight, we would have changed some aspects of the build to bring down the costs.
We are here now and we love our home…
We wish we would have had a better grasp of how long the build was going to take. Like a lot of DIYers, our initial timeline was extremely optimistic and unrealistic. With help from friends, especially our build mentor, we thought we could complete our tiny house in a mere three and a half months.
Boy was that wishful thinking! Even with months of planning, we failed to account for build realities, like materials not showing up on time and sometimes working on something for a few days, only to have to take it apart and re-do it—the plight of a novice builder.
A more realistic timeline would have helped us tremendously with planning and budgeting. In the end, it took us nine-months for it to be move-in ready, and another couple of months to complete all the finishing. That was with Christian working full-time on the build with part-time help. Ultimately, the quality of our build benefited from the additional months of learning, correcting errors, and taking our time to think through multi-functional aspects of our tiny home.
If you are working part-time on your build and you're are not an expert builder, it will likely take you at least double the amount of time than you initially think. Our advice:
We built from the ground up (or from the wheels up ha!) & one thing that we wish we would have known is that despite our precise plans and best efforts, we shouldn’t have been surprised by surprises.
Surprises like…. needing to rebuild things, needing to buy more tools, all building coming to a halt to wait on products to be delivered, needing more money than we first thought and mostly how MANY, MANY, MANY trips we would make to Home Depot.
You are not going to know all the details at the beginning and that’s ok! (sounds like a life lesson I should maybe remember.)
We still joke about this topic—my husband Brandon says I shouldn’t have designed such a complicated roof line for us to build. It was pretty tricky to build but worth it… even Brandon agrees now that it is finished! Though, if we build a tiny house again, we will probably choose a simpler roof design.
Before we built, we didn’t know that HVAC mini split should be installed as high as possible. We did not know that our lofts would be warmer in the summer months. We have managed this well with fans in the lofts to help circulate the air from downstairs.
I wish we had better anticipated the expenses that would come after moving in. We put a LOT of focus on the build, then we moved in and had to throw the rest together!
More than likely, your home will sustain some kind of minor damage early on. This can be quite complicated to fix, since you're still learning the ropes. You'll also probably be in a rural space. You'll want to do some landscaping, maybe install a deck, buy a grill, maybe a canvas tent, etc.
Fortunately, there are a lot of cheap fixes in this area and we were able to come up with some creative solutions, but the 3-6 months after move-in would have been much less time-consuming if we had set aside an additional $10,000 in our original budget.
We wildly and naively underestimated how long it would take to build our home. We estimated six months (hahaha, so naïve!) and we’re approaching the two-year mark and our bathroom isn’t yet complete (so very close, though!).
I am sure if we hadn’t been working full-time and traveling as much, we could have done it sooner, but we were just woefully ignorant when estimating timeframes.
We also learned the hard way that when leaving our home for long periods, especially during the winter months, turning off our water isn’t enough. We need to always blow out the lines. We returned home from a two-week trip abroad to a layer of ice coating our bamboo floors as our sink faucet burst and we had a small flood. We chipped the ice away but the damage had been done underneath our floorboards, and within a few months we had major warping. A few weeks ago, we replaced our floors with tile (images below).
On the left, bamboo flooring; on the right, tile flooring
The biggest lesson learned is that one can live in a large mansion or a small home on wheels, but if you own it, there will be maintenance and work to do—in short, the work on your home never really totally ends. :)