How to Build a Mini Home

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As a counter movement away from McMansions, some people are now embracing the trend toward mini homes. These ultra compact homes are made to be environmentally friendly and sustainable, and take up minimal land and energy resources. While some mini homes are the size of a small suburban house or manufactured home, other mini homes are about the size of a garden shed, yet they’re designed for maximum efficiency to get the most use out of the small space. Some people live in mini homes full time, while other use them as a second home, vacation cottage or to let relatives live nearby yet have their own space.

Things You'll Need

  • Mini home design
  • Mini home kit or materials
  • Building permits
  • Land to build on
  • Check with your local zoning requirements to determine where you can build a mini home. Some areas require mini homes to be built on their own lot, while others will allow small buildings on the same land as another dwelling.

  • Obtain the proper permits for building a mini home, and check out the local building inspection requirements. Some areas allow you to build a structure under a certain amount of square feet with no permits or inspections at all. Other areas have requirements for insulation, fire exits, electricity and plumbing that apply to all dwellings, regardless of size.

  • Look for a mini home design, kit or prefab dwelling. Many manufactured and modular home companies claim to offer mini homes, but most are on the large end of the mini home range. For a truly compact mini home, you’ll need to find a company that specializes in mini home designs or kits.

  • Make sure the mini home design has all the features you need. Consider how much living space you really want. Although mini homes are designed to be compact, you may or may not want to live in a 75-square foot home on a full-time basis.

  • Look at several styles of mini home designs. Some mini homes look like ultramodern or old fashioned boxes, while others look like small version of typical homes, quaint cabins or cute cottages.

  • Consider other environmental concerns when choosing a mini home, if part of your goal in building a mini home is to go green. Some mini home kits are made without chemically treated lumber or vinyl. Others are designed for use with solar electricity or have composting toilets.

  • Make sure to take on a mini home building project appropriate for your skill level. If you’re an experienced builder, you may want to design and build the mini home entirely by yourself or with the help of friends. If you’re not so experienced, you may want to buy a prefab mini home or hire professional help.

Tips & Warnings

  • Check out the links in the Resources section to get started researching your mini home.
  • Attempt building projects appropriate for your skill level. Make sure to comply with all local building requirements.

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