Be aware of local building codes and zoning BEFORE you build.
Interest in tiny houses is very high thanks to TV shows like Tiny House Nation, and Tiny House, Big Living. However, people are finding that it’s quite difficult to live in one legally. As usual, the government regulations change at a snails pace and many tiny home enthusiasts are finding that they need to urge their county officials to change their current codes and/or adopt regulations from forward thinking governments that have already adopted building code changes.
A blog about tiny house building codes and zoning
Here is an excellent blog from Rachel Keyser at ViewPoint about this issue: A Government’s Guide To Tiny House Regulation. This is an in-depth look at the current building code and zoning situation surrounding tiny homes. As is my custom, when someone has addressed an issue well I point you to the resource rather than laboriously write my own piece which would be so similar.
Building Codes and Zoning for Tiny Homes:
Below you will find a list of codes that apply to certain home buildings. Andrew Morrison, a pioneer of the “Tiny House Movement” wrote Appentix-Q (link below) and got it adapted into the International Residential Building Code at great personal cost. Here is a link to his website: https://tinyhousebuild.com/ Here is a link to the book he wrote that has a chapter on codes and zoning:Tiny House Designing, Building, & Living (Idiot’s Guides)
Building codes regulate how to build your house. Zoning regulates what you can do with your property and infrastructure requirements (sewer, water, etc).
IRC: International Residential Code
A comprehensive, stand-alone residential code that creates minimum regulations for one- and two-family dwellings of three stories or less. It brings together all building, plumbing, mechanical, fuel gas, energy and electrical provisions for one- and two-family residences. This would cover “modular” homes set on foundations.
Appendix Q -relaxes various requirement that apply to houses under 400 square feet in area or less.
Attention is specifically paid to features such as compact stairs, including stair handrails and headroom,
ladders, reduced ceiling heights in lofts and guard and emergency escape and rescue opening requirements
ANSI: American National Standard Institute
ANSI A119.5 covers building codes for “Park” models.
HUD: Department of Housing and Urban Development
Building codes for “Manufactured” homes.
RVIA: Recreational Vehicle Industry Association
Building regulations for RV’s, campers, trailers, & motor homes.
Many RV parks require campers to have RVIA certification. Some tiny house builders boast of being RVIA certified. Here is an example: https://cornerstonetinyhomes.com/rvia-certified-builder/ If your tiny house is on wheels it is considered an RV. Take the wheels off and lock it on to a foundation all of a sudden you are under a different set of building codes. Keep in mind that RV’s are rated only for short term occupancy so it really doesn’t help you if you want to put a tiny home on your own property.
Watch out for “Shiny Sticker” scammers.
Be aware that there are non-accredited companies willing to sell you a “shiny sticker” claiming you are certified. The RVIA sticker shown here can only be rightfully obtained from a certified manufacturer for their vehicles.
Because your tiny home can move around:
Building codes vary from one jurisdiction to another. If you move your THOW (tiny house on wheels) to another location the local inspector may not accept the certification given from another area. When you build keep a detailed video and photo log of the building process. Show all plumbing, electrical, and framing before you close in the walls. Keep a record of all of the contractors and companies you used. This will help convince an inspector that your home is built to code.
Here is a great two-part YouTube series about adapting your counties codes to allow for Tiny Homes:
Here is a good organization to keep abreast of news as cities, towns, and municipalities adapt their building codes to accommodate tiny homes: American Tiny House Association
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