The 5 Best Tiny Home Builders of 2020

A tiny house with large glass windows, sits in the backyard at night, surrounded by trees and party lights

Getty Images/Mireya Acierto

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Imagine living in 186 square feet of perfectly designed space — rent-free, mortgage-free, and carbon footprint-free. Tiny houses offer an amazing range of advantages for a very small price. Simply by living in a smaller home, you’ll make less of an impact on the local environment. Even better though, many tiny homes allow you to live entirely off the grid, making your own energy and compost, and having a positive impact on your natural surroundings.

If you’re serious about tiny home living — but you’re not ready to design and build your own home — you’ll want to look into tiny home builders and kits. Of course, kits are less expensive than custom-built homes, but both are far less expensive than buying a full-sized home. Tiny homes can also be built into RVs, some of which are designed to be environmentally friendly, so you can travel the country with your home in tow.

In general, well-built, green tiny homes cost well under $100,000, with some of the smallest running as low as $40,000. It’s very easy, however, for costs to escalate. Higher costs are most likely when you add custom designs, larger floor plans, unique or high-cost fixtures, or expensive wood and stone. And, of course, it’s important to remember that if you’re planning to live in a tiny home permanently, you’ll need to purchase a piece of property and provide yourself with water and (unless you’re living off the grid) electricity.

 If you’re serious about a tiny home, and you’re ready to live in harmony with the environment, contributing positively to the ecosystems in your backyard, you’ll want to look for some or all of these features: 

  • Composting toilets: toilets that require no plumbing and are designed to turn human waste into compost that can nurture a garden.
  • Solar panels: even a small number of solar panels on the roof of a tiny home can provide enough power for a stove, lamp, and other basic necessities.
  • Passive solar heating: if properly designed and situated, windows can provide a source of heat, even during cold winters.
  • Natural cooling features: some tiny homes are built into the earth or otherwise designed to stay cool in warmer climates.

Some tiny home builders and kit designers are all about looks. Others are all about environmental friendliness. Then there are those that combine both.

The 5 Best Environmentally Friendly Tiny Houses of 2020

Greenest Full-Service Option: 84 Tiny Living

84 Tiny Living

84 Tiny Living 

84 Lumber is a do-it-yourselfer supply chain that has embraced the dream of tiny homes with a strong environmental focus. They offer four fully-designed models that are all portable. In addition, they also offer a wide range of customized and/or DIY services, support, and materials to customize your project. Most significantly for a green home builder, 84 Tiny Living offers energy-efficient construction and materials that can lower both energy bills and your carbon footprint; water-conserving products that reduce water use; responsibly harvested wood, bamboo, and cork; and recycled materials used to make a range of home products from flooring to countertops to siding.

Prices range from $50,000 to $80,000 for a fully constructed tiny home.

Why It’s a Fit for Treehugger:  With so many different ways of ensuring environmental responsibility, 84 Tiny Living makes it easy to choose a green tiny home.

Most Green Options: Tiny Smart House

Tiny Smart House

Tiny Smart House

Tiny Smart House lives up to its name by offering a full range of smart and green options to homebuilders. They offer both foundation-ready and mobile options; in addition, they build their own custom trailers for use with mobile houses. They reuse waste and packaging materials and have a set of green policies related to construction.

Tiny Smart House uses non-toxic construction materials with a special focus on selecting building and interior products that are free of potentially harmful chemicals. They also select stains, paints, and glues to avoid noxious smells or fumes; use high-quality reclaimed building materials when available to reuse materials and reduce waste; install energy-efficient windows, doors, and skylights which feature plenty of glass to allow the use of natural light and passive heating; insulate with higher-than-required R-value non-toxic spray foam for walls, floors, and ceilings to increase energy efficiency and reduce energy loss and overall consumption; and install low-energy-use LED light fixtures.

Tiny Smart House doesn’t automatically provide the greenest plumbing and electricity, but they do offer custom packages for composting toilets and solar off-grid electrical power.

Prices range from $50,000 to $85,000 for a fully constructed tiny home.

Why It’s a Fit for Treehugger:  Tiny Smart House has already put a great deal of thought into selecting products, materials, and options for green living — so the buyer can relax and focus on design, cost, and other features.

Best Use of Reusables: Custom Container Living

Custom Container Living

Custom Container Living 

If you like the idea of reusing industrial materials to create a green lifestyle, consider a tiny home built inside a shipping container. While there are many companies that will create container homes for you, Custom Container Living is one of the best-established, with a great reputation.

Container homes aren’t for everyone, but they do have some real advantages. Not only are they low cost, sturdy, and well-insulated, they’re also a great reuse of materials. Containers come in a variety of sizes, and you can purchase design plans, prefab options, or custom design services. They are not the least expensive option available, but at well under $100,000 you can purchase a complete, customized container home made at the factory and delivered to your site.

Container homes are rock solid, but hard to tow: the metal weighs many thousands of pounds. They come in two standard sizes: 20 and 40 feet with 8.5-foot ceilings – but they can have raised ceilings to accommodate lofts. It’s also easy to create a “modular” container home by connecting or stacking containers.

Custom Container Living homes come “solar ready,” and it’s not hard to set up your home to function entirely off the grid. In addition, containers have a very high “R” rating, which means they retain heat and cool air for longer than standard homes. There is a huge range of options available; most are “certified manufactured homes,” which means they are guaranteed to be up to code.

Prices range from $29,000 to $100,000 for a completed tiny home, depending on the size and choice of custom options.

Why It’s a Fit for Treehugger:  Homes built from shipping containers offer the ultimate opportunity to reuse and recycle materials that would otherwise be scrapped.

Best Tiny Mobile Homes: Tumbleweed Tiny House Company

Tumbleweed Tiny House Company

Tumbleweed Tiny House Company

True to its name, Tumbleweed is all about creating RVs and mobile homes with a “tiny home” aesthetic. Tumbleweed is also committed to building green-certified homes, making them a great choice for an environmentalist who wants to travel. You can purchase an existing tiny home, order a finished tiny home for delivery, or customize your own home with support from designers.

If you’re not sure about the tiny home lifestyle, you can stay in one of Tumbleweed’s tiny home “hotels,” scattered across the country. Actually, most of these are Airbnb offerings — from the look of the photos they seem pretty awesome, and the locations are great. For a very reasonable fee you can try out the tiny home life with no obligation — and in some cases you can choose from among a number of models.

If you’re a DIYer, you can purchase just the shell of a tiny home from Tumbleweed — or they can provide a shell with wiring and plumbing installed. That way you can build your own cabinetry, stairs, and other interior elements. If you prefer a composting toilet or have your own lumber, appliances, or other items to install, this may be a great way to save time and money on a custom product. Tumbleweed also offers extensive DIY workshops and events (for a fee) that can prepare you to build your very own tiny home.

Prices range from $56,000 to $87,000 for a fully constructed tiny home. It’s important to bear in mind, however, that Tumbleweed makes mobile homes — which means you will need a truck or van with a lot of power to pull it, and a trailer built for a large load. Tumbleweed offers special discounts to teachers/aides, first responders, and military personnel. If you fit into any of these categories, be sure to check it out.

Why It’s a Fit for Treehugger:  If you’re an environmentalist who loves the open road, you can’t go wrong with a green-certified mobile home. The “shell” option also allows you to make smart green choices without having to go DIY.

Best Luxury Homes: New Frontier Tiny Homes

New Frontier Tiny Homes

New Frontier Tiny Homes

Want to go with the tiny home builder that’s collaborated with Disney, been featured on HGTV, and has appeared on Good Morning America? New Frontier Tiny Homes started on a shoestring budget as a father-son company and gained fame as it grew. Today it offers a range of prefab tiny home models as well as custom design services. Their homes are architecturally beautiful and are designed with solar power, passive heating, reclaimed wood, and other environmentally friendly elements. 

New Frontier isn’t cheap (though they do have an option that runs under $100,000), but you can be sure you’re getting an impressive home for the money. Their designs include natural wood siding, huge insulated windows, high-end kitchen fixtures (granite and butcher block, for example), and beautifully-designed spaces for indoor and outdoor living. You also have the option to select the Off-Grid Package, which includes solar power, water system, and a composting toilet.

Starting prices for the five high end tiny homes range from $75,000 to $180,00 — but if you’re a fan of beautiful architecture, the extra cost may be worth it.

Why It’s a Fit for Treehugger: Luxury homes are rarely green, but New Frontier makes it possible to have your cake and eat it too, with a “luxury tiny home” that incorporates a full off-the-grid living package.

How We Chose the Best Tiny Home Builders

Everyone has a slightly different idea about what the “best” house should incorporate, so we explored tiny home companies that offer a range of price points, styles, and building options. The key to selecting the “best” in each category, however, was the company’s commitment to green products, practices, and philosophy. 

Some of the most important options we looked for included solar and off-the-grid energy options, availability of composting toilets, use of energy-reducing lights and water-reducing fixtures, non-toxic but highly effective insulation, and use of recycled materials. We also considered each individual company’s dedication to the concept of tiny house living as a way to reduce owners’ carbon footprint and their impact on the environment.