Mother Earth News Blogs > Green Homes

Green Homes

Building for the future, today – combining the best of historical wisdom and modern technology.


A Tiny Home 3 Different Ways

Tiny homes are gaining popularity for a good reason. The seemingly small square footage gets maximized, allowing for a different kind of home — one that still has all of the necessities but is eco-friendly and comfortable. The trend for smaller living quarters isn’t about subscribing to the latest fashion in home design. Instead, it’s about a new housing movement that prioritizes smart design, economization and a smaller footprint on the land.

These tiny homes come in all shapes and sizes and in a variety of materials and looks that make them desirable simply for their uniqueness. Tiny houses can be built out of anything from a truck bed to a train car, with many variations in-between.

pexels-photo-259618 (1)

Source: Pexels

Here are three different materials for the exterior of a tiny home: 

Steel 

Steel is produced in many forms. Think steel train cars, shipping cartons and the frame of your favorite car. These seemingly average products can be used as a base for a fully-customizable and interesting home. In the case of a large shipping container, the container is built and coated with marine-grade paint to slow the aging process. Its ability to withstand the natural elements, as well as it's desirable, rectangular shape, makes it a perfect choice for beginning construction on a steel-faced tiny home.

And you can feel good about using steel, too, since it’s one of the most-recycled materials out there. By and large, this option means your imagination is your only limit, as there can be no doubt about the viability and strength steel has to offer. 

Reclaimed Wood

One of the most admirable traits of tiny homes is the use of recycled materials. Often building with a consciousness of the footprint left behind by living spaces, many owners of tiny homes work to make the most of what’s already available. This can mean using materials like reclaimed wood.

Reclaimed wood can add personality and charm to a home with its aged look and feel. Chosen for these qualities, reclaimed wood is full of positive benefits. It’s most appealing benefit is, of course, that it’s a highly sustainable option. But because older wood was typically harvested from trees at a time when they were allowed to mature, it tends to be more durable and strong. This makes it an excellent choice for flooring, countertops or the exterior of a home. 

Cob or Adobe

Cob and adobe houses have been around for centuries and have a rich history of construction around the world. These homes use the surrounding earth to create unique structures that can boast of rounded walls and intricate details.

Both cob and adobe are constructed from a combination of soil, clay, water and straw. The biggest difference between the two is that adobe houses are made from dried bricks of the mixture, whereas a cob house is built when the materials are wet, allowing for those beautifully unique curved walls. Either technique, though labor-intensive, can be both cost-effective and long-lasting.

Though practically perfect, cob and adobe homes do have some hurdles to overcome during the build phase. Shrinkage, though more likely to be an issue with cob than with adobe bricks, is one factor that has to be considered. The adobe method reduces some of the risk, as the bricks are already dried before construction.

There may also be a few issues with obtaining the proper certifications, as cob houses aren’t quite the norm nowadays. And the build phase does take a lot of endurance and patience. As the trend toward sustainability continues, however, these hurdles should become easier to manage.

The tiny house trend isn’t one to be ignored, and it’s likely to continue to gain footing as sustainable efforts become a higher priority. As the average cost of a new house continues to rise — hitting $390,400 in 2017 — finding less expensive but still ecological options will become a necessity.

Tiny homes can be built out of a variety of materials in various shapes and sizes. If they’re built well, they may be able to help create a space of high efficiency, cutting down on home maintenance costs. Above all, owners of these small builds have the option to customize their dream home at a truly affordable price.


 All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.