A Deep Dive Into Our Big-Tiny House (theBigCasita™)

The complete overview of the cost of our tiny house on wheels, the build, the design, and the living tiny lifestyle, including photo galleries, tips, strategies, and resources.

In 2017 we decided to self-build our tiny house on wheels in Los Angeles, California. We intentionally chose the option to live in a tiny house on wheels because we wanted to:

1.  Downsize  2. Affordably Own Not Rent  3. Leisure Flexible Living  4. Debt-Freedom  5. Live More with Less.

Our tiny house on wheels gave us the best option to pursue those goals.

Contents:

This page contains every aspect of our tiny house. Each section has tabs with pertinent info, photos, tips and resources. I hope you enjoy the photos, get inspiration from them, and learn more about the costs and considerations of a tiny house and living tiny. Our tiny home allows us to keep the luxuries of a beautiful home while focusing on living an amazingly abundant life. If you need any help on your path to go tiny, please head over to the Destination Tiny page to learn more. Thank You for visiting our home.

To Your Success,

ps. This page is updated overtime, so make sure to bookmark it. Please also share this page and comment below letting us know what your purpose and challenges are in going tiny.  Don’t forget to subscribe! Truly appreciate it, thanks!

FEATURES

What makes our tiny home awesome for us? We built it with all the features, comforts and amenities we previously had in our bigger home and wanted in a dream home. There is no reason why you can’t have the luxuries of a big home in a tiny size home. As oppose to a bigger sized house where nice features normally go unused, our tiny house is designed to be smart and built to be lived on and used daily.

HEALTH & GREEN SMART

Features

  • Formaldehyde-free material
  • Smart Moisture Control
  • Temperature, Humidity & Air quality control
  • Air purifier
  • Small ecological footprint 3.5 (gha)
  • Air tight wheatherization

ENERGY & WATER SMART

Features

  • LED Lighting
  • Stone wool-based insulation that is fire-safe & sound absorbent
  • 26 SEER fully efficient HVAC
  • Low-E Windows and door
  • Energy Star standard size appliances
  • WiFi thermostat
  • Water-efficient standard toilet
  • WaterSense faucets

NOT SO TINY FEATURES

Features

  • Downstairs private bedroom that converts to an office
  • Queen size bed
  • 13 foot kitchen w/ standard size appliances
  • Standard size energy star washer & dryer
  • Two 10 foot wide lofts offering additional space
  • 60″ Screen home theater system
  • High Ceiling

TINY SMART HOME

Features

  • WiFi LED Lighting
  • WiFi security indoor & outdoor cameras
  • Voice-automated
  • App controls
  • USB ports throughout
  • Sound Proof

LIVING TINY

What is the Tiny Lifestyle?

A common misperception of the tiny lifestyle is that it requires an extreme minimalist makeover getting rid of everything. I don’t consider our family minimalist instead we consider ourselves as living intentionally. The quantity of our possesions and experiences are intentionally related to our choice of lifestyle. We enjoy traveling, so we spend in travel experiences. I enjoy cycling, so I spend in good cycling gear. We buy and invest in things that we fully enjoy and we are cognisant in the space we enjoy them.  We use our tiny house not only as our home, but also as a tool that is allowing us to live more in other aspects of our life. As a result we live minimal in comparison to living in the average size home today. This path of Intentionally living in smaller spaces is what the Tiny Lifestyle is all about.

Do you agree?

How does a family of 3 with a dog live in 339 square feet?

The hardest part for us was getting over the fear of the unknown to be able to commit to downsize and live tiny as a family. Uncluttering, downsizing and reducing the amount of possessions we had gives us more time and opportunity to focus on good routines, habits, pratices that nurture happy living. The relationship between a small living space and good family communication habits provides for a healthy environment for happiness. 

What is the sustainable impact of living tiny in our tiny house on wheels?

Calculating our Ecological Footprint Impact on living tiny in our bigCasita utilizing the Global Footprint Network Calculations resulted in a current footprint of 3.5 gha. A “gha” is a global hectare, about the size of a soccer field, and it’s used to estimate how much biologically-productive land is needed to accommodate your lifestyle. The average american footprint is 8.4 gha which put us way below the national average. Before going tiny our footprint was 7.6 gha. and we have reduced our impact by more than double in living in a tiny house on wheels.

What is your current footprint?

Resources:  Global Footprint Network

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average household expenditure for housing is 30% and above. In Los Angeles this percentage is higher. The cost of our tiny house was $55,000 +/-. Our current annual household expenses is $11,000 annualy with no mortgage. In comparison, the cost of our previous traditional house was $380,000 and the cost to sustain it was $37,626 annually. The difference is $26,000 in savings which is lower by 70%. By living tiny and owning our home, this allows us to drastically reduce our household expense budget. In a city like Los Angeles, where the cost of living is high, our tiny house on wheels made perfect sense financially. We chose to reduce high cost of living by reducing our living space and channeling our time and money into other areas of our life.

EXTERIOR

A total of 12 windows and 1 clear glass front door surround our tiny house. All our windows are new vinyl low E dual pane. We purchased new windows from reuse stores such as habit for humanity as well as excess builder materials from a builder we found on facebook. Efficient windows are expensive so we designed our home around windows we purchased affordably vs having to fit new windows on already made plans. In total, our windows cost us $404.41 using this strategy.

Our front door was purchased on craigslist for $100.  Our front door retails for $600+.

Our savings on windows and doors added up to over $4000 if we were to purchase them at retail.

Total Cost: $505

Resources:

Habitat for Humanity

Craigslist

Facebook Marketplace

We used LP Smartside siding which is also rated for structural support on the top section and cedar lap on the bottom section .

Total Cost:

Resources: LP Smartside Siding

We used Onduvilla Asphalt Shingle for our roofing at a cost of $1,212. This roofing material has a nice rubber-like feel and was easy to install.  The roof underlayment membrane used was Grace Ice & Water Shield. This is a self-adhered roofing membrane that seals itself to the roof sheathing. It’s flexible and sticks like crazy. This underlayment is pricey in comparison to standard underlayment, but it was worth the price.

Total Cost: ~$1,530

Resources: Onduvilla Grace Ice & Water Shield

For the external lighting we are using solar motion lights sprinkled throughout the exterior. In the front porch we are using Kuna smart security light which has an HD outdoor camera incorporated into the light fixture. I wanted a house that was secure and smart and this light fixture satisfies that.

Total Cost: $210 Cost

Resources:

Litom 24 LED Solar Lights Kuna Smart Securty Light

The exterior of our tiny house has several connections and accessories that perform different functions. Some of the connections are  based on the systems of the house (utilities: gas, electrical, water), other connections are aesthetic such as our awning. We also utilize a water softener, wheel covers to protect our wheels and outdoor speakers. These are accessories that are sometimes overlooked when considering a tiny house.

Total Cost: ~$780

Resources:

Camco Sewer Hose Support  |  Camco Sewer Kit Connect  |  Camco 50 Amp Electrical Extention Cord  | Propane Tank  |  Propane Tank Gauge  |  Propane Tank Cover  |  Window Awning  |  Water Softener  | Triple Axle Wheel Cover  |  Pyle Waterproof Outdoor Blutooth Speakers

INTERIOR

The overall design of the interior space is meant to be multi-funcitional and uncluttered with an open feel. Head space is maximized with the low slope shed-style roof which allowed us to increase lower level ceiling height while not cramping loft height. Lots of windows allows for light and open feel. Privacy was important so the house has a lower level private bedroom. Our family cooks, so it was important to have a sizable solid kitchen with standard size appliances. Our smart dining table doubles as a kitchen island and dining table. One loft is utilized as his and hers “roll-in” closet and the other loft for our son. The living space fits a standard 3-seat sleeper sofa, and the bathroom has enough space to also house our stackable washer and dryer. All-in-all we were able to design the tiny space to have the functionality of what a standard 3-bedroom home can provide in 360 square feet footprint.

Total Interior Costs: ~$9,870

Tip: Design based on on your actual needs first followed by the wants you can afford. To not tire of your smaller space, it is important to design on the functional intent of the space and splurge on everyday functional items. What makes tiny houses on wheels popular, is that they can be customized to your specific needs giving you more flexibility to splurge.

The master lower level private bedroom has a double function. There’s a queen size murphy bed that when tucked away functions as dual working desks. Therefore the bedroom also doubles as an office. To allow conditioning to enter the room, we installed a thru-wall transfer fan that sunctions conditioning from the rest of the house into the bedroom. The bedroom also has cubbies built-in for additional storage and space for storage cubes above the bed.

Total Cost: ~$425

Resources:

Murphy Bed Hardware Kit  |  Wall-Mounted Drop-Leaf Folding Table  |  Suncourt ThruWall Transfer Fan Storage Cubes

The living room space is large enough to fit a large sofa. Opposite the sofa is a 60 inch smart TV and home theater 5.1-Channel surround sound. All the wiring is ran inside the walls for a wireless look.

Cost: Varies

Resource:

Samsung KM57C 5.1 Vizio 60″ Smart LED

The kitchen is 13 feet long and mostly sits on top of the wheelwell. It has white quartz countertop and a custom copper apron sink. For cooking, there is a 30-inch 4-burner downdraft cooktop converted to propane gas. We saved money by purchasing on sale and designing around some of the materials we purchased.  For example the kitchen cabinets were purchased at wholesale price vs big box stores. Our house was designed to fit given the cabinets we purchased. The retail cost of our kitchen is approximately $7000+ and we saved over $3,000 by pre-purchasing on sale before building.

Total Cost: $3896

Resource:

30″ downdraft cooktop  |  30″ Kitchen Aid refrigerator  |  Grey Shaker Wood Cabinets with Snow White Quartz | Handmade Copper Kitchen Sink  |  Pfister Marielle Kitchen Faucet

We designed the bathroom to be modern, simple, clean feeling and functional. Since this is a space that gets used alot, we incorporated multi-use as a laundry. The stackable washer and dryer are 24″ in size and dryer is ventless. The standing shower is 38″ x 38″ with framed glass enclosure enabling the use of 1/4″ thinner glass helping to lower costs. The toilet is a standard comfort height 1.28 (gpf). With the space being exposed to higher degree of water and moisture, the envelope has extra barriers to resist any complications.

Total Cost: ~$2619

Tip: Compost or other off the grid toilets are expensive many costing $800+. If you need to be off the grid you can use a standard toilet combined with portable black and grey water tanks to keep cost to a minimum.

Resources:

Kohler Highline Toilet  |  Dreamline Shower Pan  |  Sinkology Copper Sink  |  Electrolux Washer & Dryer  |  Siga Majpell Mositure Barrier  |  Rheem Tankless Electric Water Heater

The bar and ladder were custom built from left over wood and a used wine barrel we purchased for $100

THE BUILD

The bigCasita tiny house was designed by us and plans were custom drafted to current IRC code at a cost of $750.

Tip: When shopping for plans compare both pre-made and custom drafted plans. Pre-made plans are less expensive because you are licensing to build a pre-drafted design which may require modification to fit your needs. Where as custom drafted plans are made to order specifically for you which cost more. Which ever option you choose, make sure your plans contain engineering approval, drafted to code, foundation plans (i.e trailer plans), and include CAD / Sketchup files.

The utility systems of our tiny house is similar to what you would see in a traditional house. The HVAC system is a 12,000 BTU 26.1 SEER mini split that conditions the house. The electrical is controlled by a 100 Amp circuit panel.  For plumbing PEX piping and standard ABS is used.  The water heater is a tankless 3.0 GPM. Total Cost: ~$4,300

Tip:

Design your systems to work with your immediate avaiable sourcers. For example if you have access to electricity from a grid, don’t spend money getting solar energy. Tiny Houses are very efficient whether on grid or off-grid. The same goes for sewer access. Save money by adding the systems you currently need for the intended purpose of your house. Resources:

theBigCasita Tiny House was built to the International Residency Code (IRC) AND also certified to Park Model specifications to ANSI code A119.5.

Total Cost: ~$3,000

Tip: ALWAYS consider certifying your tiny house on wheels. Certification will not only give you peace of mind that your house is built according to code, but it also provides additional options when moving or parking your house depending on location. Do your due diligience on where you plan to “park” the tiny house so you certify according to those regulations Resources: NOAH Certification Pacific West Tiny Homes, Inc.

Our tiny house sits on a 36′ x 10′ custom fabricated trailer. The trailer is considered the foundation of a tiny house on wheels and one of the most important elements of the house. They also provide instant flexibility for the house to be mobil.

Cost: $11,000 including taxes and registration

Tip:  Do not skimp on the trailer or build around a used trailer to save a buck. It’s not worth the potential hassle and cost that may come if the trailer fails. Do compare and research trailer price and features. Most manufacturers design trailers with various features and options (i.e. drop axle, tounge, tubing, jacks, metal flashing, etc.) which are many times negotiable. Approach your purchase with knowledge and confidence to get the most out of your money.

Total labor cost added up to ~$16,000. It took over 1000 hours to build the house in 4.5 months with primarily a crew of 2-3 builders, me being one of them. Eli (son) and Sarahi (wife) were also part of the DIY build process as well as having some help from family and friends.

Tip:  Preparation and knowledge is the #1 way to save money on labor. Doing your due diligence and creating a plan will give you leverage when negotiating a contractor or working with a builder.

theBigCasita Tour

Below is a video tour of our tiny house courtesy of Jamie Kate.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Our tiny home sits on a 36′ x 10′ trailer providing an interior foot print of 339 square feet. Within that space we added two cantilever lofts on each end of our house.

From start to move-in it took 4 months working on the build 6 days a week, 10 hours per day with an average of 2 people. On some weekends we had help from family and friends as well as our friends from LATCH Collective.
The home was primarily built by me (Steven) with hired help from my dad and on oncassion, a handyman. I also outsourced the plumbing. The wife (Sarahi) helped with the finishes of the house.
The house was designed by my wife Sarahi. We utilized a drafting services company to draft the plans to code based on our floor design.
We are parked within Los Angeles county. We found a parking space in a residential lot in a suburban neighborhood.
Our house gets water and power from the main house in the property. It is also tied to the main house sewer line. The hook ups are similar to how an RV is hooked up at an RV Park. We use propane gas for our cooking range at an average cost of $7-$9 per month cooking an average of 5 days a week 1-2 times per day.
A family of 3: Steven (Hubby), Sarahi (Wife), Eli (our 7 y.o son), and Bailey (our 12 y.o Schnauzer)
Total cost of our tiny home was approximately $55,000. The estimated cost to have a professional tiny house builder build a 36 foot version of theBigCasita will be approximately $110,000 given all the higher-end finishes, materials, and appliances that were used.
theBigCasita was built just like a regular foundation home is built, but on top of a trailer. It would be comparable to how a house on a raised foundation is built, but the raised foundation is instead the trailer. Therefore the house was built for full-time living with the flexibility to be mobile as needed. In comparison, an RV (recreational vehicle) is not built for full time living. The container home option is not on wheels, so it doesn’t provide easy mobility.
theBigCasita Tiny House was built to the International Residency Code (IRC) AND also certified to Park Model specifications by ANSI code A119.5. The trailer is legally registered with the DMV.  Our tiny house meets ADU ordinance regulations in cities that allow tiny homes on wheels as Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU). It also meets RV Park regulations in RV and mobile home parks that allow Park Model Homes. Any laws associated with placement of a tiny house on wheels varies by municipality, city and state. The City of Los Angeles is very close to passing an ordinance allowing tiny homes on wheels as ADU’s.
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