The tiny house guide - dimensions, regulations and more - Building AU
The tiny house guide - dimensions, regulations and more

The tiny house guide - dimensions, regulations and more

The number of tiny houses in Australia has risen in recent years with many drawn into the lifestyle they offer, their affordability and their low carbon footprint. With house prices continuing to rise especially in urban centres it’s becoming an increasingly attractive choice for many but what exactly is a tiny home and what are the rules about getting one built?

Words by Yohei Guy

What is a tiny house?

Tiny homes are generally separated into two categories which include those that are fixed to the land and those that sit on wheels. The first type is at its core, a small version of a functional permanent house, similar in size to a large caravan. The second type is similar but is built on a trailer and not fixed to the ground, giving it mobility if desired.

How big can a tiny house be in Australia?

With regards to tiny house dimensions, there are no set dimensions as to the maximum size tiny homes can be as they don’t have an official classification. Anecdotally experts in the area suggest they shouldn’t be any bigger than two stacked 20ft containers (a modifiable option for some). At that point, they cease being tiny homes with a floor plan and square footage closer to that of a regular home.

A Tiny House on Wheels (THOW), however, must be constructed on a trailer designed to road-legal dimensions. This is typically a maximum of 4.3m in height, 2.5m in width, and 9m in length. There are also weight limitations that state that it must not be more than 4.5 tonnes with regards to its aggregate trailer mass. This does somewhat limit the size of a wheeled version though for many it is exactly what they’re after.

What is the average size of a tiny house?

While there aren’t any official statistics on the average sizes of tiny homes, generally a tiny home would be thought of as a dwelling that is 37m² or less.

Do tiny houses have to be on wheels?

No, tiny homes can exist as permanent, fixed dwellings with foundations but in doing so, they need to comply with the Building Code of Australia (BCA). Tiny homes on wheels on the other hand are not considered permanent buildings so do not have to adhere to the BCA. This is why many in Australia choose to make their tiny homes portable.

Do you need a building consent to build a tiny house in Australia?

In Australia, there are no specific regulations relating to tiny houses specifically. As tiny houses are generally on wheels, the rules for caravans typically apply. If a tiny house is built as a transportable dwelling it is typically exempt from BCA requirements.

If you’re building a tiny house that is a fixed, permanent dwelling then you need to comply with the BCA, State and council regulations. The process for doing this is just as expensive and extensive as that for a regular house development so you really need to be entirely committed to the idea of a tiny life to make the investment of time and money worthwhile.

Are there any tiny house regulations or legal requirements in Australia?

As there are no set regulations for transportable tiny homes in Australia as they fall under the same rules as caravans. Permanent tiny home fixtures however need to comply with the same legal requirements as other dwellings.

How much does it cost to build a tiny home in Australia?

As previously mentioned, one of the most appealing elements of tiny home living is their significantly lower cost when compared to building a traditional house. This does vary somewhat, especially with one’s personal preference for fixtures and furnishings.

If you have the trade skills to do a full refurbishment or build yourself, you’ll save a huge amount of money and maybe even pull it off for under $10K. If you are looking to get one built you can generally expect to pay between $3,000 - $5,000 per square metre which roughly comes to around $85K - $100K.

Can I put a tiny house on my property or in my backyard?

A fixed tiny house build will be subject to the regulations of the local council or State in which you are living. Key factors will likely include the space you have available, zoning restrictions, electrical and plumbing requirements etc. Essentially the same rules that would apply for a regular house build.

Where can I park a tiny house?

Most councils permit parking for transportable tiny homes/caravans on the land of an existing dwelling but it’s always important to check what the precise rules are before doing so.

Designing a tiny house: which design professionals specialise in this space?

Tiny houses, like any homes or buildings, are often collaborative projects in which various design and building professionals are involved including architects, interior decorators, builders and so on. However, you can also find tiny home specialists that can manage your project from start to finish which appeals to those looking for a more convenient solution.

Join the trend of tiny home living

If everything you just read filled you with excitement then a tiny home could be the perfect type of dwelling for you. With any major building project, there are regulations and challenges to be aware of but by following the rules and being determined, you’ll be able to become one of many happy tiny homeowners throughout the country.

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