This 750 sq ft. Arbutus Laneway House was customized to create a very spacious and modern open plan with 2 bedrooms and 2 full baths.
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The main living area of this home boasts a custom built electric fireplace unit. The kitchen was given a little extra “splash” by adding a back-splash cut from a single-piece of back-painted glass as well as a built-in breadboard for a little extra food preparation space. In the downstairs bath, a charming glow emanates from the custom recessed floor lighting treatment.
The definition of a tiny house is subjective, but for me, it's a home of 400 square feet or less, either on wheels or a foundation. I consider a home of between 400 and 1000 square feet to be small. Due to size specifications for rooms, clearances and distances between fixtures, building codes are a little more difficult for tiny houses to meet. (However, it is possible. Please see "Navigating Minimum Square Footage".) Small homes can easily meet building codes. Zoning is a challenge for both tiny and small homes, as many communities require houses to be 1,000 square feet or more.
Smaller homes are less expensive than larger ones in terms of taxes and building, heating, maintenance, and repair costs. In addition to costing less, small houses may encourage a less cluttered and simpler lifestyle and reduce ecological impacts for their residents. The typical size of a small home seldom exceeds 500 square feet (46 m2). The typical tiny house on wheels is usually less than 8 ft by 20 ft, with livable space totaling 120 square feet or less, for ease of towing and to exempt it from the need for a building permit.
Small houses may emphasize design over size, utilize dual purpose features and multi-functional furniture, and incorporate technological advances of space saving equipment and appliances. Vertical space optimization is also a common feature of small houses and apartments.
As small houses may be attractive as second homes or retirement houses which 2 out of five people are over 50, their increased utilization may lead to development of more land. People interested in building a small home can encounter institutional “discrimination” when building codes require minimum size well above the size of a small home. Also, neighbors may be hostile because they fear negative impacts on their property values. There has also been opposition based on this fact, due to concerns about increased taxes.
Zoning regulations pose more of a challenge than building codes. Many cities and counties have minimum size requirements of 1,000 square feet or more for construction of a new home on its own land. The specific minimum will be determined by your zone. For example, in Manatee County, Florida, new houses in zone R1 must be at least 1500 square feet, but in zones R2 & R3 only 800 square feet. In contrast, in Sarasota County, Florida, there is no minimum house size. Call your local Zoning or Planning Department to find out what the minimum is for your land.
If a tiny home on its own land isn't possible, explore building your tiny house as an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) or granny flat in the backyard of an existing home. Here's a handy guide on How to Build a Tiny House (ADU), written by The United Way in Brevard, NC. While the information is specific to Brevard, much of it would also be applicable to other states. Be sure to check zoning in your neighborhood as only some areas allow ADUs.
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