The original plan had been to build a hut for under $300. That quickly proved to be unrealistic, but now that I’m done with the initial iteration, I thought I’d break down the costs so far. I’d like to note that the prices are approximate and/or rounded, and don’t include taxes. Some items I bought from different stores, so prices might’ve varied; I picked the higher price, or the average, in such cases. I also bought tools, which aren’t included here, neither are excess materials I purchased and didn’t use. So, yes, the actual cost has been much higher ($600+).
|.451″ thick 4’x8′ OSB||6||$9||$54|
|.451″ thick pine 4’x8′ ply||6||$14||$86|
|nails + screws||$25|
|mylar 52″x100′||1 roll||$40||$40|
|bubblewrap 1’x175′||1 roll||$20||$20|
|asphalt saturated paper||1 roll||$27||$27|
|.220″ thick 18″ x 24″ plexiglas||3 sheets||$14||$42|
For the most part, I think I hit a decent price-performance point, even though I went way over my original budget. I’m pretty happy with the quality and durability of what I have, though I could use more/better insulation, and I’m a little concerned about the long-term durability of the plywood exterior. When I started, it made sense to set a lower initial budget since I wasn’t sure if I’d even be able to build something that wouldn’t collapse immediately. But now that I have something that seems viable, it makes sense to invest more money into it for improvements.
Start small, iterate. The lesson I learned in software engineering applies to huts too.
Your site came to my attention through today’s Tiny House Blog post.
Nice work! I admire your courage and love for simplicity and nature.
My question is, what do you do for water? Do you harvest rain into cisterns?
Thanks! I currently haul in water in 7 gallon containers, which lasts me 7-10 days, mostly for drinking, cooking, and washing my hands. Other than occasionally wiping myself with a warm wet towel, I don’t shower or anything, so my water needs are low. I do plan on building a rain/snow collection system in the nearish future, and eventually get a well drilled.
thanks for all these detailed posts, ryo. there are echoes of john muir’s writing in it somehow. maybe a bit more subdued than JM, but it’s there nonetheless. when the snow comes, it would be fun to ski out to the hut to check on it.
Hey Will, thanks for the comment. I’ve been reading Thoreau, and it’s almost eery how similarly my thinking is to his, despite the 150 year gap. I haven’t read anything by Muir… I’ll have to check that out.
I could probably ski in, but snow shoes might work better 🙂
Love what you’ve done. Keep up the great work!
I found you on The Tiny House Blog as well and I’m impressed that you built your own door as hanging a store bought door is difficult enough.
Are you planning on putting in any crops and do you have any seasonal food sources like nuts and berries? I would love to have 60 acres iin Northern California, it sounds wonderful.
Thanks! The door was definitely challenging! As for food, other than acorns, I don’t think there’s much. Some day I’d like to grow my own garden though.
Ryo, I enjoyed looking at your house pics! Congratulations on being an official “tiny house”!!
Ruth (Clara’s mom)
Hi Ryo… I spotted your story on tiny house blog too. Looking forward to following your progress.
Great site! I love the videos. I wonder if you would be will to share the TOTAL cost “roughly” to get you where you are right now? Land, trailer, taxes and just all the costs involved to get you to where you are now. I think it would be helpful for people wanting to live this lifestyle.
Hope I don’t seem nosey…
That’s a good question. I’ll do another post soon talking about total costs.
Hello again Ryo,
For the exterior consider Hardiboard. It’s made from cement, installs like wood (either strips or larger 4X8 or 4X12 like plywood.
Some advantages…it’s sturdy and strong. It’s insect and mold resistant. And best of all, it’s fire resistant too! They have it in the lumber sections locally at Home Depot and Lowes. Put it on and seal it up and you shouldn’t ever have to worry about the durability of the structure, plus it will make it a lot stronger as well. For the roof, definitely metal, again, for the fire resistance.
And now for something a little bit different…have you read the $50 and Up Underground House Book by Mike Oehler? You can also check out Glen’s Underground House page, at
He used Mike’s ideas to make an incredibly interesting home, he’s also in California…lots of good reading on his 73 pages of blog!
both blogs – SWEET!
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Just came here from Michael Janzen’s blog and have read through from the beginning over the last few days. Excellent stuff and enjoyed your videos.
(Preferred YouTube to Vimeo as it does a better job of buffering on my relatively slow ADSL – I just pause and let it read well ahead then it plays nicely whereas Vimeo kept stuttering even when the bar chart across the bottom said it had plenty in the buffer.)
Water filtering:you considered filters but worried about having to get new elements, etc. Might be worth looking into sand filters which might clean water from that pond enough for bathing, etc, even if not for drinking and cooking.
“Barn red”: are you thinking of Falu or Falun Red? It’s the traditional Swedish paint for country buildings which, I imagine – I’ve never been there, might be common around the Chicago area.
There have already been a one or two comments about condensation in the walls. A bit of ventilation is good but the most important thing is to make sure that any water which gets into the walls can get out again – ideally to the outside. Water will get into the wall either from the outside in heavy rain or from condensation from the inside however well you try to seal it. You don’t want it to get trapped.
Ideally what you want is for the wall to become progressively more vapour permeable going from inside to outside. This is why people put none vapour permeable insulation on the inside. Housewrap materials like Tyvek are put on the outside because they largely stop liquid water from flowing into the structure (the holes are so small that surface tension stops liquid flowing through) whereas they allow vapour to move outwards.
Appropriate paints are also vapour transparent in this way but modern gloss type paints aren’t which is one of the reasons wooden window frames have been replaced with uPVC in so many places.
I’d vote for a few inches of insulation on the inside of your walls. Maybe next year if you have a bit of money available you could cover it with tongue and groove wood to keep the raw wood style but make it a bit nicer.
Thanks for your comments.
Re: YouTube vs Vimeo – I mostly only use Vimeo because they allow longer videos, and some episodes I just don’t want to chop up into multiple parts…
Re: Filtering – Yeah, I considered making my own filters with gravel, sand, charcoal, etc. The only issue is, I don’t have any sand or gravel on my property either (just fine dusty dirt that turns into clay-y mud when wet), so I’ll have to haul sand and gravel in too. It’d probably be cheaper than filter cartridges though.
Re: vapor – Thanks for your insightful comments on this. I hadn’t thought much about moisture from the inside at all, or about increasing permeability from the inside out. Right now, I have a couple of coats of paint on the exterior, which might prevent moisture from escaping out.
I think its great for anyone to build a little house that you can stay in for the price .So great work
I read your blog from start to finish. I really enjoyed it especially some of your philosophical thoughts on materialism, and what is the real value of something. Sometimes when I see a price tag I say, “wow, thats 8 hours of sitting in a cubicle to pay for that.” I am also an avid shooter, and I like the choice of the lever gun for the banner picture. Anyway, congrats on living the dream. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I’m looking forward to following your progress on property improvements, shooting range and all.
Thanks for taking the time to share your experiences.
Your Blog can read pretty much like a book, you may have a second career. Kinda reminds me of Barbra Kingslover’s odyssey from the desert SW to the South.
I know what you mean about wanting or needing some land, in the early 80’s (my early 30’s) I all of a sudden found that I needed land and a house to work on, and boy did I get a lot of work to do on an old house. That feeling was almost overwhelming, I liken it to “nesting” – needing a place to land.
I sounds as though you’ve pretty well researched the low power and small home resources. But just in-case, I have been aware of a low power refrigerator that uses a small chest freezer and an add on thermostat to control the freezer making it a refrigerator. It seems that the freezer is very well insulated and being a chest keeps the loss of (or gain) of conditioned air to a minimum. This is not to different than what you have now only larger.
At this link you can see the Thermostat for such a refrigerator,
put the probe in a freezer and plug the freezer into the Thermostat. It would be 110 V but I’d guess you’d only what this after you had a bigger set of panels and an inverter and maybe were living on your property most of the time.
I took a workshop near Grants Pass Oregon covering Natural Home Building, part of the class was building a composting toilet, the students in the class used the existing composting toilets and I was impressed how clean they were. Your county may allow one if properly constructed or at least accept it.
From you photos, I see you have a lot of rock available, I think that is an asset for building. You could have a fantastic foundation for you house or patio or fire place… might be good to learn about masonry work. I can also envision a subterranean cool storage room. (Really nice when others tell you what you ought to do isn’t it?)
Sandy soil that turns to mudd? Maybe a good candidate for Cobb? Labor intensive but cheap (if the ratio of sand to soil is correct).
Your in a good position to watch your land over the course of a year to see how it works with the sun exposures, snow build up, drainage, access. By being a patient observer you can begin to see where things belong.
Here’s another page on the freezer-to-fridge path:
Other stuff on that site might be of interest, too.
Yes, I’ve seen the article / blog. It is 240 V and I’m no Electrical Engineer and unable to convert the schematic to 110 V, but the idea is similar. I had seen a Web article on the little Freezer / Refrigerator put up by some one in the States here using the Thermostat plug in unit, but have forgotten where I viewed it.
Some other alternatives are RV refrigerators that run on Propane at least a person would not need AC (or DC) to run it. I have one in my Camper Van, it’s small, maybe 3 cu ft. and works great. They come in larger sizes, I’m guessing about 8 cu ft. When we moved on to our property the owner had left a single wide trailer here and an old RV. I’ve salvaged what I could from them and I have a small stove, refrigerator, kitchen sink, range hood and a very long trailer frame all could be used for a little house. What I’m getting at is there are opportunities to salvage some things needed for building a little house – all keeping the overall cost down.
Wow – from refrigerators to little houses – how’d that hap’n?
Very nice work and share….Concrete blocks to tarp roof…it works!
Lots of great stuff on Tiny House ……will check in now and then….best wishes
Great Job. I’m sharing your adventures with our customers at the cafe. Again, very impressive.
A Totally Vegan Cafe in Missouri