10 Things I Learned Designing and Building a Tiny House

Surprising as it may seem, a tiny house can be built to a higher standard than conventional houses on foundations.  These are some of the “tiny” lessons I learned in designing and building our first Tiny House:


1.  Size matters  – For portable tiny houses, regulations for height and width are stipulated by the Department of Transport.  Make sure that when planning the width you allow for the thickness of trims and hardware.  As well, watch the house weight for limits on axle weight.


2.  Small can still feel spacious – Plan your space to make it feel as large as possible.  Bringing the outdoors in, through patio doors and vertical views such as skylights is one way to make it feel more open and spacious.

Stained Glass





3.  Small does not have to mean plain – Make your house a reflection of you.  Allow for open storage and artwork that appeals to you.  We put in three small stained glass windows in the bathroom to add a bit of “bling” and also privacy.



4.  Storage can be found in unexpected places – We found a way to incorporate a good deal of storage in our hidden staircase.  Open shelving works fine for some kitchen storage and is visually less obtrusive than cabinets.  Maximize cabinet drawer depth for more storage. On the other hand, don’t add so much storage that you don’t have room to live.  Sort through your belongings and set a balance between what have and how you want to live.


Tiny House with SIPS

5.  There are new and better ways of building – SIPS (Structural Insulated Panels)  are a quick and efficient way to build.  Rather than taking days to stick frame a building, you can have everything framed and insulated in hours.  In addition to the superior air tightness and insulation value, a tiny home built with SIPS also offers superior structural rigidity and is very resistant to wracking and flexing.


Glue 2









6.  Glue is your friend – When your tiny home is hurtling down the highway during a storm, it will be subject to a lot of stresses that a stationary house isn’t.  In our Dragonfly, the SIPS floor, wall and roof panels were glued together.  The interior finish, exterior cedar siding, cedar decking and interior trims were glued a well as nailed or screwed.

Tiny house build

7.  Some people know more than I do – Make sure that key work is done by qualified tradespeople who can offer certification and warranties.  The items that are better done by professionals include roofing membrane – see this example from DannyDeck.com, electrical, plumbing and gas fitting.  It is worth the extra money to have the assurance of the warranties they provide.


Tiny house kit




8.  Time is money – Rather than spending weeks sourcing out all the materials you need, consider purchasing a kit.  There are many different size trailers with different wheel well locations.  Wheel well location is crucial to each particular set of plans.    If you purchase a kit, you know you will be receiving the right trailer, as well as the materials needed for that particular plan.  Kits should include a detailed instruction manual indicating fasteners, nailing patters, flashing details and millwork drawings.  Building from kits is definitely faster and will result in less destruction of materials due to weather or even theft of materials on site.


 Pie Chart

9.  It is wise to budget – Set your budget before you start, so  you can know what to expect.  Add a 5-10 percent contingency to cover things that come up along the way.  Purchasing a kit also helps you to remain with your budget, as a contingency overrun is less likely with a kit.


10.  It pays to do your research – It is important to make sure you are committed to this housing form.  Tour tiny houses, follow blogs online, and read anything you can about the latest designs, space saving built-in options, finishes and appliance, top contractors and roofing options to make sure you are fully aware of what you are getting in to.  By taking time to make it your own, and customized to suit your style and spatial requirements,  it will be perfect for you.

16 Responses to “10 Things I Learned Designing and Building a Tiny House”

  1. Arkaa on

    The article provides a helpful guide for individuals who are interested in building a tiny house. The author outlines several tips and tricks for designing and constructing a functional and comfortable living space, including choosing the right materials, maximizing storage space, and incorporating multi-functional furniture.

    The article also discusses the importance of planning and budgeting for a tiny house project, as well as obtaining the necessary permits and certifications.

    Overall, the article is well-written and informative, and it can serve as a useful resource for individuals who are interested in the tiny house movement. The author provides practical advice and helpful tips that can assist in the planning and construction of a tiny house. Whether you are a seasoned builder or a first-time homeowner, the article can provide valuable insights on how to create a comfortable and functional living space in a small footprint.

  2. Saras on

    I live in Oakland, California and I just love your tiny home “contemporary Nyhus 491” with the specification and the plan would I be able to use this here?
    Please advice as to what I need to do. I am looking to start this as early as January if all works well.

    • Janet Robinson on

      Hi Sara,

      Our plans are designed to meet the International Building Code, however they do require a local engineer to stamp the foundation as seismic and other foundation requirements vary from location to location. Some municipalities also have a minimum square footage that they allow, so you might want to verify if there are any similar requirements where you are building. Please don’t hesitate to give us a call (1-877-352-6617) if you have any further questions.

  3. Merala Heins on

    Hi, I am also interested in kit pricing for dragonfly 20 and 24 feet. Could you email me please? LOVE these houses!

  4. Mililani Kiesling on

    Loved your Dragonfly! And I especially enjoyed your tips on building it. I like that you sell the plans and kits. Makes it easier for people. Have been watching Tiny House videos and dreaming if the possibilities of having one or more. Besides being a great way to live, it makes sense for regular people who can’t afford regular homes! Aloha, mililani

  5. Sara on

    Does Robinson Plans sell kits as mentioned in the “things learned” piece? Also where can I see the larger Dragonfly I saw mentioned? I’ve been researching for several years and THOUGHT I was ready to build. Now I may be switching as I absolutely LOVE the Dragonfly design.

    • Janet Robinson on

      Hi Sara,

      Yes, we do sell the kits. I will send you an information sheet by separation email. We do not have a built model of the larger version of the Dragonfly, just the 20′ model.

    • Janet Robinson on

      Unfortunately, they are not allowed in Regina at this point. Some municipalities allow them, but the regulations vary from RM to RM.

  6. N. Castillo on

    I absolutely love the design Aesthetics very clean modern …the fact that it’s a real sleepersofa is amazing is that a special order? Because I live in Texas not too keen on the skylights (hail damage) but I do like the light that gives off what type of lighting is used ? LED ? And can there be small LED throughout the entire ceiling? I did a search for the larger version of the dragonfly because the video said the larger one had washer/dryer. I really wanted to see where that fit in… where would you put the TV? Would it be less money to have only the one sliding glass door and deck…and just put a largish window instead? Also Do they come with just a set amount of electrical outlets?

    • Janet Robinson on

      Thanks for the inquiry. The sleeper sofa was purchased at a local furniture store here in Canada. I’m sure you could likely get something similar in Texas. The skylights are up to you. Hail damage is a possibility, though likely minimal, as it is tempered glass. The lights are primarily 12 volt LED lights. There are puck lights throughout as well as halogen pendant lights over the kitchen counters. You can add more if necessary. Were you able to access the floor plan of the larger dragonfly from our website? The TV can be located above the kitchen cupboard. You can eliminate the deck, but it won’t save you that much money, as a large window and a patio door would run about the same. The savings from not building the second deck would be about $500. We have an electrical plan that comes with our drawings and have a good number of electrical outlets noted, however if you need more, that is easy to do. Hope this helps! Feel free to contact us at [email protected] if you have more questions.


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