Check out this blog post! It covers many of the first things to be considered.
A tricky question to answer. The cost of any home build is dependent on the quality of materials, style, decor, how much is new vs. repurposed, features, appliances, whether you are constructing it yourself or having one made and so on. That said, based on our experience with various people, below is what we have found as an average in Canada (new materials).
Tiny houses on wheels or foundation self-built with basic furnishings and appliances: $100 – 250/ square foot.
Tiny houses on wheels or foundation manufactured with basic furnishings and appliances: $200 – 350/square foot.
Yurts unfurnished, self-built, no services: $40-60/ square foot.
Earthship, unfurnished, self-built, no services: $20-100/ square foot (near any size).
Straw Bale, unfurnished, self-built, no services: $20-100/ square foot (near any size).
Containers (used ocean shipping containers), container only, no modifications: Suitable, good condition containers will range from $2,600 – $4,000 depending on size.
Again, this is average based on our communications with homeowners and builders and unlike much of our web content, not derived from comprehensive, formal research. We are not an authority on these numbers!
There are several citizen groups across Canada looking to start/develop eco-villages or tiny house communities. The benefits of development and zoning for certain co-op and community development, compared to attempting to build on/move to existing municipal land, is that by-laws are created at the onset for the specific housing.
Such development is not often initiated by government or developers; rather citizens who gather together, wishing to pay for a land development. Supply and demand.
Check our Canadian Connections page. Listed here are the few known communities or land for development.
For a comprehensive list of places in Canada with By-Laws for inclusions of tiny houses, check out this list from our friends at Tiny House Festival!
If you know of a community starting or already established and we missed it, please contact us!
For a comprehensive list of known places in Canada with By-Laws for inclusions of tiny houses, check out this list from our friends at Tiny House Festival!
The answer will have to do with the specific zoning laws where it is you want to live and personal preference of geography. Zoning laws can differ from one municipality to another and even from one part of a city to another.
It is critical you always look into these laws before building your home. You may need to be prepared to either move elsewhere to a place that will allow you to live in a tiny home or join us to lobby government for changes.
At this time there are several options in Canada, dependent on where you live.
Private Land Owned or Rented - Every municipality is going to have laws and regulations that govern whether or not you can park a tiny house as a year-round dwelling on a piece of land, regardless of who owns it. Contact your local municipalities by-law office.
A tiny house on wheels (THOW) may be regarded as a recreational vehicle (RVs) or in other cases an “accessory dwelling unit”, even though there is no real provision for this in any building code (yet). On private land, you may be able to build or park a tiny house under these designations. However, those designations may have limitations. By-laws will speak to this. A typical example is that an RV may only be permitted as a three season dwelling, not a permanent residence; this can cause some restraints with home insurance too! While an accessory dwelling may have size limitations, style requirements and land space requirements.
Park in an RV Park or Mobile Home Park (Trailer Park) - Some all season RV parks will allow a THOW. Seek out and talk to park owners to see if this is the case. A trailer park may be another option. As such, living year round becomes less of an issue.
Tiny Home Communities/Eco Villages - Plans for designated land developed for tiny houses are underway in Canada. In early 2017 only a few are in the process of development planning, and only one in Quebec is known to be operating in full. Check out our Canadian Connections page for communities.
These sort of developments do not happen by governments or at the whim of developers. They are born out of a group of regular citizens seeking out the exact details of small/tiny house villages.
On a Fixed Foundation - Another option is not to park a house, but place it or build it on a foundation– abandoning the wheels and easy mobility option. In Canada, many more municipalities in the last couple of years are allowing small and tiny houses provided they follow the requirements set out by the city. With this, you must be connected to sanitation/sewer and may be required to be grid-tied for electricity.
Against Code or Bylaw - First, we are in no way condoning performing any activity that contravenes bylaws, zoning codes and building codes. Though we do understand the argument for freedom of lifestyle, equality and dignity of having an affordable, sustainable home. ‘Sticking it to the man’ and building/living in a house (of any size and build quality) without getting the proper acceptance to do so indeed is happening in Canada; however, there are risks. While the issue is not a criminal law matter, one can be faced with action from authorities. Should someone be reported as doing something that breaks a bylaw, regulation or code, it is possible to incur costly hassles that may include, court attendance, bylaw or court appointed fines, having to relocate or even go through a loss of property suddenly! It is one thing to fight for your rights, yet another to put them further at jeopardy by ‘force’.
At THAC, this is why we are working hard to lobby for change; to provide more options to Canadians. We do not believe anyone should be faced with doing an illegal option to get the freedom and dignity of affordable housing.
Some people want to live without regulations and rules. With intention. Some Canadians do not want tiny houses regulated because they already live in one or have plans to live in one and do not want to be dictated by laws that may thwart their efforts. Or they just do not want government dictating to them in any way.
THAC can empathize here, but we also feel if we live in a society of rules and the rules do not fit, the greater benefit is to make or change the rules to encompass the majority while also working to include and safeguard the minority. Health, safety, security, quality of build, infrastructure protections, sanitation efforts– these all speak to needs for guidelines and regulations that serve good efforts for long-term sustainability.
At THAC we believe rules and regulations are essential, so long as they serve the people, not the people blindly serving the rules. That is why we need the change in Canada.
Often, yes. The national building codes and fire codes do speak to minimum size houses and rooms; municipal zoning may also have restraints on minimum square footage (square meters) for property that is designated as a permanent home and residential use.
Some municipalities have criteria for minimum dwelling unit area or footprint.
Minimum gross area, where specified for single-family homes, is generally in the 800 to1,000 sq.ft. range . The City of Ottawa appears to be more progressive than some municipalities, specifying minimum areas of 269, 344 and 441 sq.ft. for studio, one bedroom and two-bedroom dwelling units respectively regardless of building type.
The 20-20 rule requires that the footprint of the home have some exterior wall that lies on each site of a 20 ft by 20 ft square. – Tiny Houses in Canada’s Regulatory Context:
Issues and Recommendations – Provincial-Territorial-Municipal Working Group on Tiny Homes October 2, 2016. A copy of this cited document may be found in our Forum (membership required); it contains a greater breakdown of the details by region.
So, zoning may dictate the size and how many structures may be on a lot. Minimum lot sizes in municipalities also exist along with minimum setbacks, parking and expansion regulations.
Be sure to look through our other frequently asked questions to get a full perspective!
A tiny house may appear to some as the same thing as a recreational vehicle (RV), just with a new social “fad” attached to it. They are not the same. The next thought is, why not just live in an RV?
An RV may seem like the excellent choice as an affordable dwelling option; however, build quality is lacking for full time living. They are not built to nearly the same structural standards as a house (even a tiny house) making them unsuitable as a permanent residence. An RV will be built for minimum weight and with that minimum insulation with very thin and fragile materials for the whole structure; in short, they are designed as 3-season dwellings; this makes safety and comfort in winter, for most of Canada, impossible.
Even for RVs that are built with higher insulation values, general maintenance and repairs on them can be costly and may not be an option. RVs are structures subject to erosion by environment much quicker than a well-made house, even with the care as per the manufacturer’s instructions. Like a vehicle, RVs will depreciate very quickly!
Simply, a tiny house is a better build as it is built using housing build methods, just smaller than typical. There are always exceptions of course; so while we stand by everything said here, there are RVs that are exceptional in build and insulation. However, the cost of such an RV may exceed affordability, especially if one can build there own home.
For many of the reasons presented here, very few municipalities in Canada permit people to live in an RV year-round, and they are never classed as a permanent residence.
We also recommend reading this list comparing tiny homes to RV’s.
THAC is working with other groups throughout Canada, collecting the best strategies that effect change. Our goal is to create a helpful process that will work with cities and citizens to create a logical and copacetic process supporting tiny houses.
Many are under the impression that insurance companies will not insure tiny houses, especially those on wheels as there is no provision or designated class for them.This is just not true. There are insurance companies that will insure your home and contents given you work with them and follow the guidelines they set out.
For more information, read our blog post, How Do I Insure My Tiny House?
UPDATE: August 2017
Latest news from our fellow tiny house peeps is that Aviva and the Cooperators have been working with people in Alberta and BC. Also, going through a broker who can do the shopping and research for you can be helpful. If you have any information to share and help others, please contact us!
UPDATE: October 18, 2017
Guardian Risk Managers is a Managing General Agent (MGA). They are not an insurance broker but rather insurance brokers go to them for unique risks they can’t place with regular insurance companies. They recently created a new Tiny Homes insurance product, specifically for Tiny Homeowners. Here is a link to their product page!
Check out Canada’s first and most comprehensive listing of tiny house builders on our Canadian Connections page.
As a free directory, like a telephone listing service, we are not responsible for manufacturers shown. In the future, we hope to create or be part of a certifying agency for tiny home builders. Until then, buyer beware, read our disclaimer and advice on that page.
At this time we have not identified which builders have compliance to various required CSA standards.
Please see this blog post regarding cautions we want to pass on to you!
The best option for insulating is Polyurethane Spray Foam which gives you an R-value of about 5.19/inch. Extruded Polystyrene is a close second at 5.05/inch followed by Cellulose Loose-fill at 3.61/inch and batt insulation around 3.42/inch.
In warmer climates, most other standard building insulation options are an option.
Water lines are best to run on or close to the interior side of the walls if possible. Your insulation should cover the lines completely.
There are additional options such as heat taping the lines or insulating the pipes, while high quality and safe heat tape are a recommended in a tiny home build, these do not guarantee the pipes will be safe from freezing.
With proper installation and insulation, while keeping the home heated in freezing weather should prevent freezing water lines unless in extreme circumstances.
FYI: Many builders we have spoken with recommend PEX water pipe for ease of installation.
The best options, in order of least to greatest carbon emissions are Hydro, Wind and Solar. Some folks use more than one system to better ensure a continuous source of power.
A Hydro system basically requires a turbine of some sort being turned by a running water source. The spinning turbine is connected to a generator which generates the power. Use of a flowing river or stream is often favourable.
A Wind system works in much the same way a Hydro system works. The only difference is the wind turns a turbine instead of water.
A Solar system consists of silicon solar panels which have cells in them that get ‘charged’ or ‘excited’ when in sunlight. The charged cells produce energy that is harnessed and stored by the inverters and battery to be used when needed.
Whichever system or combination of systems you choose, do your research to be sure your solution is the best for your lifestyle, home power usage needs (calculations required) and location. Keep in mind, that battery/power storage and power regulation systems are often the highest costs of harvesting energy from the earth while turbines and solar panels are much more reasonably priced these days.
Solar system consists of silicone solar panels which have cells in them that get ‘charged’ or ‘excited’ when in sunlight. The charged cells produce energy that is harnessed and stored by the inverters and battery to be used when needed.
An Active Solar system uses panels, wires, inverters & batteries to generate, harness and store energy which can be used to power a heating/cooling source.
A Passive system utilizes natural sources, sunlight in the winter and shading from trees in the summer, to heat/cool your house.