sweet definition of a kit house

Typical kit house: A house design and all building materials available for sale. Separately requires land purchase, building permits, site preparation, foundation and utilities. Constructed by local contractors. [Tiny House Joy]

Here’s a sweet 550 square footer from Seattle-based FabCab. The estimated cost without land is $165,000 for this high quality house. Let’s take a peek at the exterior and floor plan, and then learn how kits get built.

This TimberCab 550 kit home is located on Idaho’s Lake Pend Oreille. The owners added an extra deck and porch to expand outdoor living on the hillside. (Fine Homebuilding)

This TimberCab 550 kit home is located on Idaho’s Lake Pend Oreille. The owners added an extra deck and porch to expand outdoor living on the hillside. (Fine Homebuilding)

The floor plan of the TimberCab 550 features a separate bedroom, great room with kitchen, bath and entry. It's possible to build on any foundation for storage. (FabCab)

The floor plan of the TimberCab 550 features a separate bedroom, great room with kitchen, bath and entry. It’s possible to build on any foundation for storage. (FabCab)

Kit house companies provide materials

With a kit house, you rely on experts to design a home as well as source, order, manufacture and pre-assemble materials. The kit company will handle and deliver everything to meet its building plan specifications.

We picked FabCab as an example since it offers modern looks, in single-floor living. The company also specifies efficient materials, notably structural insulated panels which deliver R-24 efficiency for walls and R-40 for the roof.

After finding a kit you love, check for “strong bones” and longevity. There should be easily-maintained internal/external finishes — and natural wood, double-paned windows and a long-warranty roof are good indicators.

Many kit companies also have interior packages for kitchens and bathrooms. It’s enjoyable to start making your appliance and fixture selections upfront, especially in a smaller square foot home where everything gets noticed.

Your responsibilities for a kit house

Starting with the house plan, you may want to make adjustments due to your preferences, site or local permit requirements. Kit companies vary in their support, though FabCab offers architectural and engineering services.

Searching for the right general contractor becomes an important step. Check previous jobs and references, and make sure individuals are credentialed through your state’s licensing board. Review small builds: five key things to do.

You should decide on a foundation, whether using pilings (least pricey), slab, crawl space or full basement. Consider your geology, local environment and municipal requirements.

Utilities access must be addressed for a primary or secondary dwelling unit. Do you have a line for water, access to electricity and gas, and connections to city sewer or septic? What are the costs for installations?

Keep in mind that your general contractor will oversee the build and sub-contract plumbing and electrical work. He or she handles municipal inspections along the way, plus getting final approvals.

The rest of the FabCab kit house tour

Now that you know what’s involved in bringing a kit house to life, we want to complete the TimberCab 550 model’s tour. Here are sweet interior photos of the Idaho lake home, which reveal its rooms and finishes. Learn more here.

What a shining example of a great room, overseeing the lake! We love the lighting and furniture, though might arrange more seating in our own place. (Fine Homebuilding)

What a shining example of a great room, overseeing the lake! We love the lighting and furniture, though might arrange more seating in our own place. (Fine Homebuilding)

This attractive galley-style kitchen, located within the great room, includes a tall fridge-freezer, dishwasher, cook-top and microwave. (Fine Homebuilding)

This attractive galley-style kitchen, located within the great room, includes a tall fridge-freezer, dishwasher, cook-top and microwave. (Fine Homebuilding)

The bedroom is accessed through modern-day, sliding barn doors. It takes up one wing, with plenty of room as well as open views towards the lake. (Fine Homebuilding)

The bedroom is accessed through modern-day, sliding barn doors. It takes up one wing, with plenty of room as well as open views towards the lake. (Fine Homebuilding)

Next to the house entry, the spa-like bathroom shows off with its elegant sink, toilet, cabinet storage and a modern shower reflected in the mirror. (Fine Homebuilding)

Next to the house entry, the spa-like bathroom shows off with its elegant sink, toilet, cabinet storage and a modern shower reflected in the mirror. (Fine Homebuilding)

help me with municipal approvals

One of the gotcha steps of building a tiny or small house is reviewing building plans with your county and city officials — and getting those plans approved before construction begins.

If you aren’t a professional, then maybe it’s time to seek help. Here are four options which rely on external suppliers.

1. Architect: Arrange for an architect to handle plans, hire reliable builders, obtain approvals and permits, and make sure you are happy. You are paying for all the professional advice and have an advocate to make changes required by municipalities. It’s a sweet and pricey option.

ARCHITECT: Imagine living somewhere special and getting this modern home approved. It's an exposed concrete cube tucked naturally into the mountainside. From architect Lischer Partner Architekten Planer. (Ferienhaus Vitznau)

ARCHITECT: Imagine living somewhere special and getting this modern home approved. It’s an exposed concrete cube tucked naturally into the mountainside. From architect Lischer Partner Architekten Planer. (Ferienhaus Vitznau)

2. Builder: Buy existing plans from an architect directly or third party like Houseplans, with a materials list included. When you hire a builder/general contractor, they are supposed to get approvals and permits. If you need to make plan changes, then seek out an architect, designer or plan provider.

BUILDER: This single-level deck house received Fine Homebuilding Magazine's Small Home of 2013 Award for "its shared spaces and connections to the outdoors." Building plans for the 800 sq. ft. home are available for sale. (Houseplans.com)

BUILDER: This single-level deck house received Fine Homebuilding Magazine’s Small Home of 2013 Award for “its shared spaces and connections to the outdoors.” Building plans for the 800 sq. ft. home are available for sale. (Houseplans.com)

3. Prefab Supplier: You may order a prefab house “kit” and hire a builder. Yet many suppliers offer construction services which alleviate stress. Kanga Systems builds your house, ships it, places it on your site and finishes set-up. For about $10k, they will obtain approvals and permits beforehand.

PRE-FAB SUPPLIER: A welcoming, country style is seen in this tiny house. It features well proportioned windows, doors and an open front porch. The board and batten siding makes it feel authentic. Kanga's house measures 168 sq. ft. (Kanga Studio)

PRE-FAB SUPPLIER: A welcoming, country style is seen in this tiny house. It features well proportioned windows, doors and an open front porch. The board and batten siding makes it feel authentic. Kanga’s house measures 168 sq. ft. (Kanga Studio)

4. Shed Supplier: Backyard sheds provide simple, extra space. As tiny structures without major plumbing, you shouldn’t run into permit issues. There are six ways to buy them, from architects to near-DIY projects. One long-standing supplier is Modern-Shed, which delivers and installs modern escapes on site.

SHED SUPPLIER: In Seattle, a felt artisan was fed up with working in her family kitchen and ordered this craft shed which fits perfectly. she selected the nice red color and added the deck. (Modern-Shed)

SHED SUPPLIER: In Seattle, a felt artisan was fed up with working in her family kitchen and ordered this craft shed which fits perfectly. She selected the nice red color and added the deck. (Modern-Shed)

Changes afoot on the tiny and small house front

Be prepared for some house rejections from your municipality, even with help. Your dream place may not be large enough, have the right proportions for space use, or exclude appropriate egress. It’s possible that your foundation or materials aren’t up to snuff. Perhaps the power, water and sewage hook-ups won’t be approved yet. We can’t predict the objections, and sigh with you.

It’s okay if your first plans don’t fly. If you aim to build under 400 sq. ft., then upsize a little bit. We do need to share how a woman moved to Hawaii, bought land and received approvals to build a garage and main home. So far, she has built on the garage pad and lives in that sweet tiny house. Her main house will be constructed and rented out — though she isn’t in a hurry.

Or follow the wheels of tiny housers who have preceded you. If you need and want a full house with comforts and will be using it part-time, then consider buying a trailer-based beauty from 100-200 square feet. In this case, you go to the DMV and get a license instead.

By getting approvals for and living legally in YOUR tiny or small house, you are contributing to the greater good too. Municipalities have opened up their requirements, especially for secondary dwelling units and for trailer house uses. It’s only a matter of time for changes to spread from Portland (OR) and Austin (TX) to other U.S. cities.

small builds: five key things to do

Let’s say you selected a small bungalow house, have building plans in hand and want professionals to build your dream. Why not stack the deck in favor of a joyful outcome?

Whether you plan a primary or secondary dwelling, you will need time to make decisions, seek approvals and course-correct. With these caveats, we delve into five key things to do.

Maybe you selected the B-53 bungalow for your house build, which ranges from 777 to 884 sq. ft. (Tumbleweed Houses)

Maybe you selected the B-53 bungalow for your house build, which ranges from 777 to 884 sq. ft. (Tumbleweed Houses)

1. Finish planning — Have you checked local zoning and building codes online or with city hall officials? Even with an initial thumbs-down, please don’t fret. You may adjust house plans, get another set and/or seek professional design help to comply.

Bring those B-53 or other building plans along, to confirm code compliance with City Hall. (Tumbleweed Houses)

Bring those B-53 or other building plans along, to confirm code compliance with City Hall. (Tumbleweed Houses)

2. Set a budget, add 30 percent — Are you creating a materials and labor budget? As a time saver, both Lowe’s and Home Depot will price out your full materials list. Some house plan sellers also offer build-costs, including local materials and labor estimates (see Houseplans).

Make sure you have budgeted well. Otherwise you may be forced to downgrade to a play kitchen! (Hayneedle.com)

Make sure you have budgeted well. Otherwise you may be forced to downgrade to a play kitchen! (Hayneedle.com)

3. Figure out financing needs — How much have you saved up? Do you have a decent credit score? Determine if you want to apply for a construction or home equity (asset) line/loan. It’s not too soon to start checking terms online, visiting banks and pre-qualifying for short or long-term financing.

Why not pursue a construction loan? It might work for your specific circumstances. (Let's Just Build A House)

Why not pursue a construction loan? It might work for your specific circumstances. (Let’s Just Build A House)

4. Start downsizing — If you are moving into a smaller primary residence, are you ready to downsize? Work incrementally and over time through all your possessions and sell, donate, recycle or toss stuff out. Remember to keep only what you’ll actively use or truly cherish.

This garage sale aimed to sell furniture and kitchen items. They sold within a couple hours! (The Comforts of Home)

This garage sale aimed to sell furniture and kitchen items. They sold within a couple hours! (The Comforts of Home)

5. Select contractors — How are you going to select contractors? Have you gotten references, met contractors and checked their licenses? Do you understand the risks of owner-builders? Please visit your state’s contractor licensing board website, for consumer and contractor requirements.

Here's the California website where you may check contractor licenses and consumer info. (Contractor State Licensing Board)

Here’s the California website where you may check contractor licenses and consumer info. (Contractor State Licensing Board)