Australian homes are currently the largest in the world. Despite this trend, tiny houses are popping up in Australia as we look to simplify and downsize the spaces we live in.
Fascinated by the concept of living in beautiful but compact living quarters, we have created an FAQ covering everything you need to know about this increasingly popular new living trend.
What is a tiny house?
A tiny house is a property much smaller in size than your standard home. The homes typically start at 30 square metres and are usually mobile. There are so many beautifully designed tiny homes and they come in different shapes, sizes and forms. They include everything you need such as a bathroom, living space, kitchen and bedroom all in a scaled down, petite space. It is a movement that focuses on a simpler way of living rather than on the things we own.
Where did tiny homes originate?
It is said that tiny houses first sprung up in the states in the 70s- but it wasn’t until they were used in 2005 as an emergency housing solution for hurricane Katrina victims that they really gained attention. The financial crisis of 2007 hit hard; many people lost their homes and tiny houses popped up again as an affordable solution.
The tiny house movement has since taken off around the world with the key ideas being to minimise waste, financial costs and possessions. Australia now has several tiny house builders and they are gaining popularity here too.
What are the regulations with building a tiny house?
Before making any decisions, research! Check with your local council and local laws to find out what regulations apply to you in your area. Council regulations can affect the size and type of materials allowed for a tiny home and where you can park it. According to Australian regulations a fixed structure tiny home (one without wheels) can’t be the only property on a block of land.
A tiny home on wheels may be the better option for those facing strict zoning regulations. Tiny houses on wheels aren’t considered dwellings, so they don’t have to comply with the National Construction Code (NCC). It is actually considered a caravan or light truck, which means you are free to park it almost anywhere. It is a good idea to also check local caravan laws. Tiny homes on trailers do need to be roadworthy, registered and abide by road rules.
What are the benefits of buying a tiny house?
Many of us are drawn to the idea of a simpler, stress-free way of life. Here’s why:
Debt-free. It is becoming more and more expensive to afford property in Australia with the average home costing around $700,000. If you do enter the market, will it mean killing yourself every day to pay off a mortgage that could take up to 30 years or more to pay back? Or alternatively forever paying rent and never owning anything? The cost of purchasing tiny home is far less, and with less space to heat and light, so are monthly expenses.
Eco-friendly. Most use off-grid systems and run off solar power, meaning greener living and no electricity bills. They create less waste, use less materials and have a far lower impact on the environment.
Freedom. If you love to travel, or if you’ve always wanted to get out and see different parts of Australia, you can. Don’t like the area you live in, the weather or nosy neighbours? Move!
Minimise. If you have a smaller space, you have less things. It is a way to get rid of things you don’t really need and get back to basics. In this case, bigger is not necessarily better.
How much do tiny homes cost?
The price of a tiny home will vary depending on the size, the building materials used, appliances fitted, location and interior design. Prices start at $40,000 and go up to $100,000. Since they are around one seventh of the cost of the average home in Melbourne, they are perfect for first home buyers or anyone looking for a way to buy into the rising Australian housing market.
If you choose to build one, the price will depend on how much work you decide to do yourself versus how much you contract out. With far lower expenses to a standard home, they truly are a low-cost way to live.
How are tiny homes built?
With tiny house living, you get the opportunity to design and build your own home. If you want to DIY it and build on a trailer, a good option is to buy a trailer designed specifically for a tiny house and go from there.
Alternatively, if you’d rather have someone do it for you, there are a few Australian companies who will custom build it for you. They are built like a standard house with traditional building techniques and materials. However, because of their unique structure, an expert may be needed to achieve correct sizing and structure.
How are tiny houses transported?
A tiny house works just like a caravan. They have wheels attached so they can be connected to a car and taken anywhere. They are either built on site or can be easily delivered to you anywhere in Australia.
Where can tiny houses be located?
The ease of finding land to park your tiny house will vary depending on location. A home on stumps is regulated differently and makes things a little tricky. Most choose to rent land in a backyard from someone they know at a much lower cost. Those in urban locations may be better suited to a mobile tiny home with land and house prices being more expensive in these areas.
Stationary tiny homes work better in rural areas as you are likely to gain less council attention and land is generally cheaper to buy or rent. Keep in mind that if you plan on living in a more remote area, you will likely need an alternative power source, like a generator or solar power.
How does the plumbing work on a tiny house?
A tiny home on wheels will generally use a composting toilet and a greywater treatment system. A composting toilet turns solid waste into compost and doesn’t need to be connected to a sewer. The waste chamber is fairly hassle-free and needs to be emptied roughly every 6 months if two people are using it.
Despite how it sounds they are odour-free, or you can get a regular toilet if you prefer. Water is either supplied from a rainwater tank or the tiny home can be connected to the town water supply.
How do they recieve electricity?
The electricity needed to run a tiny home is far less. Some tiny houses can be plugged into a power grid for utilities, water and sewage services. Another option is to go completely off-grid. Most models are fully self-contained and use solar panels, LED lighting, rainwater tanks and composting toilets.
Gas bottles are usually used for cooktops, ovens and hot water. Some models will be a hybrid, meaning they will have some connections to main power and the option for solar. Most use double-paned windows, so they stay insulated and are suitable for year-round living.
What is the ongoing maintenance is required for a tiny home?
Tiny homes are wallet friendly because little maintenance is needed. You will spend less time vacuuming, sweeping and on other lacklustre household tasks. Even though it’s small, it’s still a house however and it will need repairs eventually on fixtures and appliances just like a regular home.
Mainly you’ll need to make sure the trailer is in top condition always. This means regularly checking the tyre pressure and making sure the trailer lights are always working, for example.
What are the dimensions of a tiny house?
A tiny home on wheels can’t be wider than 2.5 meters or higher than 4.3 meters to follow the road rules of a trailer. They are generally between 3 and 10 metres in length but can legally be up to 12 metres and weigh between 3-4.5 tonnes. A Tiny House that big will reauire a truck trailer and a trailer though to move it around!
The average Australian home is a huge 243 square metres in size, with tiny homes measuring under 9.3 square metres. The entire size of a tiny home is roughly the size of a standard bedroom.
How many bedrooms does a tiny home have?
Tiny homes can be lived in comfortably by small families. Most styles will have either one or two bedrooms. If you are looking to house more people, consider a style of bunk beds or a fold-away to maximise space. Your tiny home layout is created with you and your sleep needs in mind.
Are there doors between rooms for privacy?
One of the best thing about tiny homes is how flexible they are, so they can absolutely come with doors where you want them. The layout of each home will be different, but just like in a standard home there will be a bathroom door for privacy.
If you are building, you may find doors need to be custom built to fit the smaller space. To maximise space, sliding doors will be the best way to go.
What is the difference between a tiny house and a caravan?
Once a tiny house on wheels is complete, it becomes registered as a caravan. Although the two seem similar, there are some major differences:
- Climate is a big thing to consider. Caravans are built for temporary accommodation and aren’t insulated to live in through harsh weather conditions. Tiny homes are for permanent living and are insulated so they will be much warmer in winter and cooler in summer.
- Tiny homes can be made from almost any building material, whereas caravans are much lighter and are typically made from fibreglass.
- There are so many custom design options available with tiny homes and they are much more aesthetically pleasing with a ‘homey’ feel.
- A caravan is mobile, but a tiny home doesn’t have to be.
Can a tiny house be custom built?
The idea of a tiny home is that it is unique to you and fits in with your needs and tastes. There are so many options for use other than a home; a home office, granny flat, extra bedroom, games room or even as rental accommodation.
They can be built with different add-ons such as a fireplace, extra bedrooms, outdoor decking area and even a spa. You can choose the type of appliances, the finish and how’d you like to source energy. Whether you choose designer or rustic, they all have one thing in common - a minimalist approach to living.
How long does it take to build a tiny house?
On average, construction of a complete tiny house takes between 2-4 months from start to finish. Factors such as demand and availability of major elements like the trailer do come into play. If you choose to contract most of the work out, building time will also depend on how busy the builder is. Companies specialising in Tiny Homes vary in the approach that they take - some have fixed models, while others are happy to build a custom tiny home specific to your needs.
Do tiny homes come on wheels?
Most people go for a tiny house on wheels because it means more freedom - both in that you can move it around, but also having your tiny home on a trailer changes what regulations apply. The trailer is the foundation of the home, much like the concrete slab which is the foundation of a standard home. Otherwise, it is possible to build a tiny home on land without wheels.
Although not as flexible, it can bring costs down even further. However, further restrictions do apply to tiny homes without wheels and they generally can only be placed on a block of land alongside an already existing ‘dwelling’.
So whatever your reason for wanting to opt. for a Tiny Home it's good to know that small doesn't mean you have to sacrifice on function, style or quality.
Looking to learn more about Tiny Homes? Speak directly to an Australian Tiny Home builder.
How do you feel about owning a Tiny Home? Let us know in the comment box below this blog.
We hope you found this article helpful. We would like to thank our guest contributor Olivia for her work on this article.
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