Are you considering building a tiny home? Or are you trying to figure out how to frame a tiny house? Constructing a small house is not as hard as it seems. With the right tools, equipment, and some patience, you can have your own tiny home up in less than three days!
Framing is a term in construction that refers to arranging and joining materials to create a structure. In the case of a tiny house, this usually means using dimensional studs to frame your walls.
The Four Components of Framing
Framing is typically broken down into various tasks:
Framing the Floor System
In a tiny house, the floor system is typically made from treated lumber or sometimes cedar, but treated pine can be used as well. The floor joists are attached to the rim joist, and then a plywood subfloor is installed.
Some people also frame a small storage area under the main section of their floor system that they call a “tumble up.” This is often done when building on a trailer or uneven surface where an open crawl space is not ideal.
Framing the Walls
Studs are the members of the structure that form its vertical supports. They hold up your roof sheathing and subfloor, as well as your wall cladding (brick veneer, stucco, siding, etc.).
Studs are usually 2x4s or 2x6s but can range from 1-1/2″ x 3-1/2″, to 2″ x 4″, to even more prominent in some cases.
The rafters should be installed on top of the walls before the next step to level each other. If you have trusses instead of rafters, you will attach them now if they are not pre-assembled.
The rafter ties your top plate and your roof sheathing together, so it is crucial that they not be installed more than 1/2″ out of plumb (perpendicular to the ground).
Placing them too far out of plumb makes the roofless structurally sound. However, this is mitigated somewhat by shimming them until they are straight.
Keep in mind that you will still need to check the angle on each end and make sure it is fastened tightly to prevent tearing or splitting. It’s also helpful if someone helps hold them in place while you install any interior blocking.
If you build with trusses, make sure you install rafters on both sides of the trusses. Trusses are the only proven method to create a structure that can span up to 20+ feet.
If you’re building with trusses, make sure you install rafters on both sides of the trusses. This is important for two reasons:
- It provides additional support
- It ensures you have proper ventilation under your roof.
Four Material Options for Tiny House Framing
Four material framing options provide the most versatility when it comes to building tiny houses. And each of these materials has its own advantages and disadvantages.
Steel framing is the most expensive material option but also one of the strongest. It is highly durable and will last longer than other framing materials.
Tiny houses built with steel frames can be easily moved from place to place without compromising their structural integrity.
Steel frames are also fire-resistant and can stay perfectly straight, ensuring that your construction will remain consistent and tall. It is also easy to use as a foundation as well as having the ability to be finished with insulation, drywall, and other materials.
Tiny house frames have the additional benefit of being endlessly recyclable, which is ideal for the eco-conscious small house inhabitant.
Wood framing is probably not your first option for a tiny home. However, they provide the next best strength-to-cost ratio among your framing options.
It is easy to work with, widely available, and inexpensive compared to all other framing options. Wood framing expands and contracts due to temperature variations which can cause it to fall out of the square over time.
Basic carpentry skills are needed for wood construction, but no special tools are required (although you might want a nail gun)
The top reason to use wood for your tiny home framing construction is if you’re still undecided about your design. It’s easy to modify or replace the wood framework if anything goes wrong.
The whole procedure will require a lot of measuring and cutting, but the final product and savings could be worthwhile in the long run.
The next best choice in framing materials is old-fashioned timber combined with pre-cut lumber. These methods can be complicated because it requires building a post and beam structure then attaching the structural members later.
However, hybrid framing for tiny houses often combines the strength and lightness of steel with the warmth of wood. You can have the best of the two.
Hybrid construction can start with a steel frame with columns supporting the roof, then be stabilized by adding wood walls in between.
Screw cladding onto the steel sections and have design freedom with the frame. Not only can hybrid construction help keep costs down, but it can also save weight over all-steel construction.
4. Structural Insulated Panels
Insulated panels of various thicknesses provide a quick and efficient way to build.
These can be made from polystyrene insulation (extruded like drywall) or expanded polystyrene beads (similar to beadboard).
The panels are light, make the wall cavity airtight and add structural strength. This method lends itself well to factory-built walls delivered on-site for assembly.
Planning to build using structural insulated panels (SIPs) requires extensive preparation. Plumbing and electricity wiring should be considered since they are inconvenient to install without confined spaces.
Eight Primary Tools and Equipment You’ll Need When Framing Your Tiny House
1. Tape Measure
It is the most common and essential measuring tool in tiny house framing.
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2. Cordless Drill
This allows you to drive screws in and out of wood quickly. Consider getting one with a variable speed for greater control and a lower risk of stripping or harming screw heads.
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- DCF885 Compact (5.55-inch front to back), lightweight (2.8 lbs) design fits into tight areas
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3. Speed Square
It will help you with your cutting works, especially for 45-degree angles where a standard tape measure is not long enough to read interior angles accurately.
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4. Utility Knife
This inexpensive tool is used constantly when framing, such as making starter furring strip openings in the wall sheathing.
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5. Circular Saw
An electric circular saw with a 5- to 6-inch blade is probably all you need for most of your cutting. But consider including a 10-inch blade if you think you might need it for some big timbers. All blades should be carbide-tipped or better. You can also rent circular saws.
SKIL 5280-01 Circular Saw is one of the most popular circular saws on Amazon. It is very powerful and affordable.
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6. Hammer and Framing Nails
These tools must be on your list. You will need it to secure the studs to each other and into the plywood. Do not use finishing nails.
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7. Beam Level
The beam level comes in standard 8-foot lengths. Use it to monitor plumb, level, and square on framing assemblies.
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8. Quick-Grip Clamps
These are the “C-clamps” of framing. These allow you to hold the wood in place while you nail it, but they take some practice and muscle to tighten them down.
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In addition, when framing your tiny house, don’t forget to wear protective gear. Safety goggles are essential to protect your eyes from flying debris. A dust mask is also good if you’ll be cutting fiberboard or material that kicks up a lot of dust.
Earmuffs are great on construction sites but not needed on the worksite on your land. If you are nailing more than three sheets of plywood, you might also want to wear rubber gloves.
Some Final Words
Framing is a method of building that uses dimensional lumber cut into studs, rafters, joists, and other structural pieces to support your home’s walls, ceilings, and floors.
The choice you make about which type of framing to use will have a significant impact on the actual design of your tiny house as well as how easy it is to build!