Buildings under 200 sf

Started by jraabe, July 10, 2005, 10:07:46 AM

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That's downsized more than I could stand on a permanent basis.   :o

Used to have a travel trailer about that size that was bearable for a couple week or so vacation. It didn't have the nice porch tho.


I lived in a school bus with three little kids and an alcoholic and I was the only one who actually liked it.  I fought moving out of that bus.  It was easy to clean and the kids were always in thier own area or outside and my ex was never home.  Loved it.  


Sounds like quite an experience, tanya..  I guess smaller places can have their advantages. :)


Are there any plans on having any additional contests for small home plans?  I just recently found your website and have a passion for functional small homes.  I would love to be involved in a design contest for homes of a minimal size.

glenn kangiser

Welcome to the forum.

There was a little talk of another contest but it never went anywhere.  Someday maybe.  

I'm a non-participant as I don't know how to build real small stuff. :)
"Always work from the general to the specific." J. Raabe

Glenn's Underground Cabin

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I'd love to see that contest John.


One summer I lived in a shelter systems dome it was pretty rugged but not to bad.  We stayed dry and survived.  My son was 16 at the time and he had his own dome a 14 ft. one for his room I stayed in the biggger 20 ft one which also served as kitchen/office and living room.  I bought the greenhouse model for the bigger one because i knew I wouldn't want to live in a dome forever but I would want a greenhouse.  We still have the domes and I would live in them again in a heartbeat but unfortunately they really attract snakes it is the moist warm air I think.  My new land has a big rattlesnake population so dome living is out.  The best part of living in the domes was hearing the birds in the morning, the frogs singing at night and when it rained it was like being inside a bubble in a big waterfall.  These domes are perfect in the mountains and I think they would be great in Hawaii or other places with no poiseness snakes.  I met a family who lives near us in the high snowy mountains who actually set up a wood stove and lived in theirs all winter.  NO way not me!!!  Maybe if I absolutely had to I would, but I would surround the whole thing with straw bales.  Just another idea for temporay shelters. Perfect for storing building materials or work site shelter.


Cool Tanya, and the strawbales would keep the snakes from freezing. ;D


No, I still wouldn't live in the domes where there are poisoness snakes.  That would be dangerous but I would live in the mountains or Hawaii in one or two and if I lived in the mountains in the winter in one I would entomb it in straw bales for protection.  These domes have to be staked and tied down!!!  I just came in from taking mine down we had them tied to a tree but not staked down.  The wind came up and blew them away.  Lockily the plastic is strong and so far hasn't ripped or torn.  Last year the big one blew about a quater mile away and landed in a huge hawthorn patch I thought for sure that was the end of it but nope not a single puncture.  If I didn't have all these animals I would be on my way to Hawii already but it is hard to go to Hawaii with six cats, three dogs and two horses.  


I think this will make a nice addition to the discussion here.  This link takes you to a bus conversion that looks quite nice:

Each of the sections is clickable for more info and pictures.  I especially like the pics of the interior.



Homegrown Tomatoes

Bellla!  Good to see yet another person I know here!  DH and I are thinking of building a little house, though we're going for more than 200 ft. sq.


Hi Homegrown!

Glad to see you!  I've been posting here for several years off and on.  I've sort of dropped the other forum from my rounds when they switched to the new setup and haven't quite gotten back more than a few times.

I've been meaning to build my own 200SF but life keeps throwing me curves.  I'm hoping to start next year (says she for the umpteenth time).   When/if I finally do get a chance to break ground I will take lots of pics and probably have lots of questions.  One good thing - since getting my property I have graduated from college with a degree in Construction Management.  That means I know which end of the hammer to hold, how to order them from the distributor, make sure the crew gets them, track the crews progress, and file the necessary paperwork when they fall off a ladder.  Now to apply that to building my shed...  First I will need a hammer....



Jackson Landers

Look at this; 14 pages of posts still going on this thread about little houses under 200 square feet.  Clearly this is something that people find fascinating and have a lot to say about.

Here's my idea; John Raabe, you need to write a book about this. Full of pictures.  Find people on the forums to build each of the top designs from the contest and have them photograph them all the way through.  The book would be part coffee table book full of thoughtful, small houses, part DIY manual for people thinking about building such a thing and all inspiration for would-be owner/builders.  Try to devote a lot of attention to the details of how you make these small spaces work for everyday life and you'd also find an audience of people who live in tiny apartments and don't know how to work with the space.

Talk to Lloyd Kahn about it. He's got a publishing company and one look at his book 'Home Work' tells you that his company is very well equipped to design, publish and distribute this type of book.

Seriously, this would sell. You can push the 'green' angle and get major media outlets to review or otherwise publicize the book. With good photography, the NY Times would eat this up.
Albemarle County, Virginia


I'm planning to do something along the lines of Bart's shack as a guest cottage when I finnish my main house. I'll put the bed on the main floor though. Maybe use a sleeper/sofa.

John Raabe


Thanks for the suggestion. Loyd Kahn stayed at my place on one of his trips to BC on his last book about Canadian wood butchers. What a prolific author!

It is true this a great topic and has had continued interest.

Maybe this means we should have another contest!!

None of us are as smart as all of us.

paul s

i have recently come back to this thread because at our new house i am building a shed/barn building in phases.  just finishing up a 10 x 20' shed  with a shead roof   plan to extend the shed roof out 8' more  to make  one half of the roof for the 16' x 20'  "barn" on the  side of the barn will be another  10 x 20' shed which will become a small apartment as  there are acertain frw related people that usually need a place to stay  and we want our privacy.  so have  been looking at things 10' wide for ideas  will be a year or two before i build it all

the end resule will be  a 20 x 36  building in total
yes people keep returning to this thread


how much would one of these building cost roughly????

glenn kangiser

Doing it yourself, I think we pretty much figure depending on how thrifty you are you could do it for $30 to $50 per square foot.  Lots of variables. w* to the forum.

Scrounging everything and using natural resources from my site - dirt - rocks - donated timbers and  antique corrugated roofing and boards - sawn lumber from my mill - I did a 2 story RV garage with a loft -no permits- unfinished inside for $200 or about $.30 per square foot not counting the loft (under $.20 psf counting the loft and cupola) and my labor is of course worth nothing.  I own my own equipment so didn't count it.

That building was about 1000 sf counting the loft though.  Point being -- there are lots of variables in pricing.
"Always work from the general to the specific." J. Raabe

Glenn's Underground Cabin

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A great thread.  So inspiring, I decided I needed to build a little cabin.  I look forward to sharing it with everyone.   

glenn kangiser

w* to the forum and we will be watching. :)
"Always work from the general to the specific." J. Raabe

Glenn's Underground Cabin

Please put your area in your sig line so we can assist with location specific answers.


Is 200 sf. the standard around the nation for "Accessory Buildings" without a permit?  In my county it's 120 sf..  Even our ag buildings need a plan review as of the beginning of the year (Too many people moving into their barns.  Poor people are a pain in the butt.  Why don't they just get a loan or something? Jeez!).

Breath, Drew.  Better?  Okay, continue.  :D

Anyway, my wife, Dan, and I had an idea about building a collection of 10x12 buildings in close proximity of each other, but over the 6 or 8 foot limit imposed by the county.  We're thinking putting them on a square with the doors on a gable end and all facing the center.  In the center there would be an outdoor kitchen.  Each of the four buildings would have a special purpose.  One would be (If it was legal of course) for sleeping.  One would a shower/outhouse with a composting toilet.  It might also house the solar electric system if I can do it safely.  The other two would be home offices for herself and me.  No more mysterious stuff showing up on my desk OR magically disappearing.  Ahhh.

My dad and I have a joke about solar powered air conditioning.  While I think I'll see what else we can do to beat the summer heat besides even a small AC unit, heating or cooling a small space is easier than a big one.

The kitchen in the middle will be covered but not walled.  It will be unfriendly after dark in the rainy season, but other arrangements will necessarily be made for that.  Canned tomatoes, stuff like that.  Dirt.  Rodents.

(Side note:  Just got off the phone with the building supply store.  Our framing and roof lumber is on its way to my place.  Enjoy your AC tonight, fellow Spartans, for tomorrow we frame in Hell!")

While Dan and I had done some home improvement jobs together, Casa Guacamole was our first attempt at a free-standing structure.  Here it is, a 10'x12' built to plans from a book.

Aside from the learning all aspects of this kind of construction there was the working with family aspect (Ahhahahahaa!).  Now after three years of experience I am only a complete jerk for the first 45 minutes of the work day.  We also learned a lot about what not to do next time and how to "componentize" a lot of this.  With four near identical buildings we should see some economies in design and reusable parts.

I'm thinking gambrel roofs for the extra space up top, but four little barns in a square?  It sounds like it might look a little, um, what's the word?  Dopey?


Drew, I have seen this before.  I have had a similar concept.  I have researched codes in NY and PA.  Most counties that I have seen in NY range from 100-140 square ft without a permit.  PA you don't need a permit or code compliance as long as it is a "camp" and not a primary residence.

There is a good diagram of the compound idea at  Some jurisdictions don't consider a pavillion without walls a building.  You can build an open air roof over all the buildings that way.

John Raabe

So many local variations on zoning and what size buildings require permits.

The more an area has grown in the last 40-50 years, the more restrictive the zoning and building departments are likely to be. That's the price of land and building speculation. Government steps in to protect "consumers" and "property values".

In slow growing rural areas the consumers are often the builders so protection is not asked for and government can get out the way. There things aren't much different than they were in 1968.
None of us are as smart as all of us.

glenn kangiser

Great Post Drew -- I like it.

Quote"Too many people moving into their barns.  Poor people are a pain in the butt.  Why don't they just get a loan or something? Jeez!"

Not exactly what my great grandpa had in mind when he came over to the US for a better life.  When he was around, private property meant private property.

Drew - there really is such a thing as solar air conditioning.  Run into the shower - cold water of course in your T shirt and underwear.  Come out and stand in front of a solar powered fan.  It's cool.
"Always work from the general to the specific." J. Raabe

Glenn's Underground Cabin

Please put your area in your sig line so we can assist with location specific answers.


I hear you, Glenn.  In the Valley we'd call that the Personal Swamp Cooler.  I think Google owns the idea now.   :-\

Squirl, you are exactly right.  I remember crawling through the Balewatch site looking for ideas on what to do for our straw bale building.  I liked the compound, but couldn't see losing the internal space to 18" walls (The county measures its 120 sf on outside dimensions.).  If we end up doing the four buildings, they will be from something besides straw bales.

BTW, the Courtyard looked pretty good too.