This was a question I had to answer before even submitting a planning application. In fact, the local planning regulations dictated that the roof should be a certain angle and it must be tiled (traditional roman canal tiles or similar). Even though the tiny house would officially be classed as a garden shed, it had to have the same visual impact as a house.
So that was the first design constraint. Furthermore I didn’t want it to look like a log cabin (or chalet, as the French call them). Instead I wanted vertical weatherboarding (aka batten on board cladding or siding). My inspiration for this was the typical tobacco drying barn that is still a common sight in the Dordogne.
So, what were the chances of finding a kit that met my requirements?
No chance, is the short answer.
From an aesthetic point of view, I couldn’t find anything that was small (less than 20m2), simple, with vertical weatherboarding and a proper tiled roof.
Yes, I guess I could have got something custom made and shipped from who knows where, but at what cost? Even the most basic standard ‘chalet’ is surprisingly expensive. For example, the cheapest sold by euro-chalet.fr (pictured) costs 3990 Euros for 19m2. But for that price you only get 44mm uninsulated wooden walls and an imitation slate roof (which I can’t even use). If I just wanted to upgrade to double skinned walls, the price jumps to 7900 Euros.
It’s a similar story with other manufacturers. Often the price seems low but soon goes up with unavoidable ‘extras’. Typically they have a lightweight roof of corrugated steel or bitumen shingles. The insulation (if there is any) won’t necessarily be great and I suspect the timber is treated because it isn’t naturally very durable. It all seems a bit flimsy and not really what I’d call ‘house quality’.
The advantage of a kit should be a faster build time as all the parts are pre-cut. Personally, I’m not too sure about how to fit windows and doors, so having this worked out by somebody else would have been a bonus.
But there just didn’t seem to be an affordable kit that suited my needs.
To be honest, I didn’t spend a great deal of time considering this option.
A google search for tiny house plans came up with some which were ‘trailer style’ – no good to me.
After this I found some rather expensive plans ($600!) on offer from houseplans.com in the USA. The resulting tiny house looks quite good but, again, not exactly what I wanted.
Some sites had free plans but broken links when I attempted to download the PDF files.
Eventually I got fed up trawling the internet for the holy grail of a perfect tiny house plan. I was going to have to design and build my house myself.
Building from scratch
By designing my own house I could get exactly what I wanted. That meant a proper, durable tiled roof, good insulation and weatherboarding that was in keeping with the local style.
Hopefully, the money that wasn’t going to be spent on somebody else’s profit margin could be used on better quality materials. In theory I would have a better house for the same price. The materials could also be sourced locally, which would be good for the environment and the local economy.
Then there was the satisfaction of knowing that I did it all myself, from conception to execution. For someone who once wanted to be a design engineer, this held some appeal!
I had some experience of building timber stud walls in house renovations and I had read about similar techniques for building entire houses. Basically I would be building a big box with timber walls and a simple roof. The finer points of the design were still to be worked out but I had the basic idea and that was good enough to get started …