We have been receiving more requests for clarification on our reference to building code compliant tiny homes as we contact more locations about their listing in the Tiny Living Resource, so I wanted to provide a central point of reference.

Early tiny homes were focused on minimalistic living, portability, and occupying the smallest footprint possible. Because they were on wheels, they didn’t fit into any housing category, so they operated in a grey area. While this was good for tiny home pioneers, today tiny homes are the affordable housing option of the 21st Century so they are stepping into the light. Design and construction advancements have allowed them to become building code compliant dwellings.

While we hope that a tiny house on wheels form of dwelling will officially be adopted at some time in the future, to meet current building code requirements we are recommending a hybrid form of tiny home trailer. In this design the wheel chassis is removable from the tiny home frame, allowing the frame and home to be secured to a pad or low foundation wall when occupied. While tiny homes are portable, statistics show that tiny homeowners do not move more than traditional housing owners, they just have the benefit of taking their home with them, when they do move.

Early tiny homes relied on loft bedrooms to allow them to maintain a small footprint at a minimal cost. This can be achieved, and stairs can be built to the lofts meeting code as well. We are advocating for single level tiny homes, where the sleeping area is on the same floor along with the rest of the home. This eliminates the complexity of building a loft and access that both need to meet code. With good design planning, a single floor design simply requires a longer tiny home.

Early tiny homes were designed to operate off-grid in remote locations (the grey area). This resulted in owners using composting toilets and complex solar systems to run the home. Today, as we see more urban centers considering tiny homes as an affordable housing option, connecting to municipal services provides tiny homeowners with an easier waste and freshwater option. Solar panels can be used to supplement tiny home living power requirements. In some rural areas, composting toilets and grey-water systems are allowed and where electricity is unavailable, solar can be the main source of power.

Tiny homes can be constructed to meet building code as well. While some unique construction methods are surfacing, traditional stick, steel frame, and SIPs (structurally insulated panels) can be used to build a tiny home to code. Windows, doors, siding, roofing, plumbing, electrical, heating, and flooring can all meet traditional housing style, materials, and code.

Tiny homes can be anchored to a pad or low foundation wall, securing them when they are lived in. Once they are at a location and off their wheels, they can be the same as any dwelling, just smaller. In Ontario, the provincial building code stipulates that a dwelling where living, dining, bedroom, and kitchen spaces are combined that contains sleeping accommodation for not more than two persons, the area of the combined spaces shall be not less than 13.5 m sq. This means that tiny home that is 2.59m (8.5 ft) wide by 5.21m (17 ft) long will meet the minimum dwelling size. Most single floor tiny homes are between 25 sq m (270 sq ft) to 37 sq m (400 sq ft).

Once the tiny home is taken off the wheel chassis, it becomes simply another form of dwelling that can be built to code. A traditional home can be relocated to another property. While this is a complex and costly endeavor it is done. In a similar way, a tiny home can be relocated to another location, albeit with less cost and complexity. This is a key feature to keep tiny homes affordable into the future.

Watch for my next blog on keeping tiny homes affordable by not owning land.