One of the most revolutionary movements of this decade, tiny homes are conquering the hearts of couples and families around the world. The benefits of these homes are undeniable: affordable, mobile, and compact. But with their reduced spaces, are they also safe?
Tiny homes are considered safe, but owners should invest in ventilation and detection systems. Windows, ladders, and emergency exits are mandatory. Tiny houses are more vulnerable to natural disasters such as tornadoes and storms. However, they can be weatherproofed and strengthened with panels.
Find out how to make your current or future tiny home even safer with the tips below.
What Are Tiny Homes? Defining the Movement
According to the indications released by the International Code Council, tiny homes are defined as homes that cover a surface of 400 square feet (37 square meters) or less. Some of the smallest ones are not larger than 60 square feet (5.5 square meters).
These tiny houses are often built on wheels and are particularly loved by those who would like to experiment with a nomadic or travel-based lifestyle.
An Overview of the Pros and Cons of Tiny Homes
However, tiny homes have become increasingly popular in the last year for the benefits that they offer. Indeed, these houses’ owners have been seen to have a much lower debt than the rest of average Americans. And this is if they have one at all.
Due to the financial benefits they offer, tiny homes are considered a tool to eliminate homelessness in the US. However, due to the little waste they produce, they are also a sustainable option for many couples.
While these homes are excellent for anybody who can adapt easily to any space and environment, they have some downsides. Of course, the lack of living space and a reduced number of utilities puts many people off this choice.
However, another critical aspect to consider is the safety and security of these homes. After all, you will hold all of your valuables and essential items in them. Damage to the house can turn into economic and emotional damage for the whole family.
Due to their reduced size, tiny homes are more vulnerable to natural disasters and daily wear and tear. However, fixing most issues is not as challenging as it would be in normal-sized homes.
Safety Requirements for Tiny Homes
While there are no set safety requirements for tiny homes, some guidelines are released by each state. These indications need to be followed for tiny-home-owners to be able to put their houses on the road.
However, each state has different requirements regarding safety, construction, amenities, and regulations. Moreover, not all states are as tiny home-friendly and provide the same amenities and facilities.
Below you can find the basic guidelines to follow before setting up your tiny home. However, it is always recommendable to check your local regulation before driving off!
It Must Have at Least a Bathroom
All tiny homes need to have at least one bathroom. This room needs to be separated from the other rooms and easily accessible.
Bathrooms in tiny homes assume all forms and shapes since their design mostly depends on the rest of the building. However, everything your need to get started is a toilet, a sink, and a shower.
There Must Be Emergency Exit Points
Emergency exit points and a well-crafted evacuation plan are required for most buildings, and tiny homes are not excluded. Of course, your main door is your first point of ingress and egress.
However, the law also requires your tiny home to be fitted with other exits. These could be windows, a rear door, or a hidden entrance. Anything that can help you and your family in the case of a disaster or accident will do.
Each tiny home, no matter the size, will need to have at least one of these emergency exit points – which needs to differ from your main door!
Minimum Ceiling Heights for Tiny Homes
As we have seen, there are no standard measures for how big or small your tiny home should be – if it covers a surface smaller than 400 square meters, you are fine! However, there are very specific requirements regarding the ceiling height that you need to consider when designing your home.
- Common spaces in the tiny home, such as living room, kitchen, and bedroom, should have a minimum ceiling height of 6.66 feet (just over 2 meters)
- Bathroom spaces can have lower ceilings that are at least 6.33 feet high (1.92 meters)
It is also essential for tiny homeowners to notice that the bed or bedroom is placed above the main living space in many cases, such as in a loft or mezzanine. While this solution can be incredibly stylish and result in an excellent use of the space available, you should always check if you have enough space between the floor and the ceiling.
Since there is no maximum height to stick to, it is recommendable to opt for taller tiny homes as your first choice.
Stairs Are a Must
Stairs are mandatory additions in tiny houses. However, due to the reduced amount of space in these constructions, you can opt for ladders instead.
These are essential components that allow you to reach lofted areas and storage cupboards. While you might be able to reach your bed without a ladder, you might be putting yourself at risk.
Therefore, adding a ladder allows you to increase your tiny home’s safety level while creating stylish designs.
Utilities in Tiny Homes
Tiny homes, today, can be whatever you want them to be. In terms of utilities, there are no set guidelines you should follow. However, tiny homeowners need to understand that the utilities picked for their house can influence the level of safety of the entire home!
Many owners who have opted for a tiny house for sustainability have decided not to include specific amenities and utilities. This choice allows them to live a more sustainable lifestyle and use less energy. However, it is undeniable that gas-based stoves and fuel tanks would also represent a safety risk.
Other options to make your lifestyle safer and more sustainable include limiting the use of running water and electricity, utilizing solar panels, and investing in composting toilets.
Risk Factors for Tiny Homes to Consider
Tiny homes are much more prone to be damaged by events like natural disasters and storms. So, while they are safer than other types of homes in several aspects, there are other types of safety measures to consider.
Just like you would execute fire and earthquake drills in a normal building, you need to know what to do when the wind is blowing at a speed higher than 45mph (72km/h) in tiny homes. Below you can find the major risk factors for tiny homes and suggestions to make your tiny home safer.
Vulnerability to Natural Disasters
Natural disasters such as hurricanes are particularly dangerous for tiny homes. While these constructions are less expensive than normal-size houses, they also don’t have foundations that would keep them in place in the case of a powerful storm.
While metal straps can help you secure your tiny home to the ground, it is always good to look out for an incoming storm. You can always drive your tiny home to safer grounds or park it in a garage for a night!
Due to the several different types on the market, it is difficult to estimate how much a tiny house can withstand. However, generally, you should start thinking about another place to spend the night when the winds are foreseen to be as strong as 45mph (72km/h).
Are Fires Likely?
Many tiny houses need to be lightweight to be moved around easily. Therefore, they are often made of materials such as wood or other lightweight combustible materials. While this type of design makes them particularly attractive, it is also what makes them more prone to accidents like fires.
Additionally, tiny homes are characterized by narrow exits, and the utilities – especially in the kitchen – might be crumpled up. Such small spaces can cause a fire to spread across the whole length of the house in minutes!
That is what makes it particularly important to have at least two emergencies in the house. If they are located on different sides, you will know that you can’t remain trapped because of a fire.
Lastly, if your bed is located in a loft, don’t forget that heat rises. Therefore, it is incredibly necessary to install detectors that can tell you if something has gone wrong while giving you enough time to leave the loft.
It Is All About the Ventilation System
The ventilation system of a tiny house is what tint homeowners rely the most on. These systems must be easy and efficient while ensuring that the air quality in the living spaces is excellent all day around.
The ventilation system is one of the components of a tiny house that makes it as safe as it is today. However, ensuring its proper functioning and proceeding with a regular maintenance routine is paramount.
Are You More Exposed to Theft in a Tiny House?
Walls are thin, windows are wide, and doors cannot be as secure as those in normal-size houses. So, are tiny homes more prone to theft episodes and burglars’ attacks? It depends where you have parked and what the area crime rates are like.
Technically, you could invest in a security system that can work as a barrier and a deterrent. Keeping all house’s entrances under control is indeed much easier than in the case of normal-sized homes.
However, deciding to park in lots that are not supervised or guarded can lead to increased chances of being the subject of a burglar.
You can find some exclusive tips to protect your house in the video below:
Durability and Stability
Some tiny homes are designed to remain as stylish and functional as they are today for many years to come. However, many others are likely to lose some of their value as they become lived-in, and they are subjected to the family’s daily wear and tear.
If you suspect that something in the construction of your older tiny house is not as efficient any longer, it is recommendable to speak to an expert. Even if you have become knowledgeable about tiny house construction and DIY in the last months, structural problems should be dealt with professionally.
Making Tiny Homes Safer
Now that you have seen the risks you are facing, if you decide to live in a tiny home, it is time to consider the strategies to make it safer. These won’t require your significant investments, and you can implement them yourself over the next few days.
Not all the strategies below are useful for all tiny homes, but they might offer you the inspiration you needed to make yours a little safer!
Invest in a High-Quality Ventilation System
As we have seen above, a tiny house’s ventilation system is the most important construction structure. It determines the air quality inside the home and can influence the safety of the whole house.
Investing in cutting-edge technologies that allow you to breathe fresh air no matter the external conditions is paramount. Indeed, you might be spending entire days within one room. While you are never going to be short of chances to explore the surrounding, it is recommendable to create a healthy indoor space for the whole family.
Weatherproof Your Tiny Home
If the materials your tiny home is made of seems fragile, you are probably not the only one who had this impression. Tiny houses are designed to be lightweight and mobile. Therefore you might experience the force of nature even while indoors!
If you live or travel through a region where tornadoes, storms, and hurricanes are frequent, you might need to check the weather forecast often – no matter the precautions you have taken.
However, if these natural disasters are not that common where you live, you might consider weatherproofing your tiny home. You can do so by adding panels, water-resistant covers, and more resistant outdoor structures.
Power outages are also major risks during these events. Be ready with emergency batteries and torches to make it through these eventualities.
Use the Solar Panel and Renewable Energy
Solar panels and renewable energy sources can help you limit the usage of gasses. These substances can, of course, increase your monthly bills. However, they can also represent a significant health hazard for the whole family.
Ultimately, swapping to greener energy sources can have several advantages – among which lower bills and economic incentives!
Secure the Windows and Doors
As we have seen, the chances of being the target of thieves and burglars are slim. However, if this is your only home, and it is where you keep all of your valuables, you should ensure that your doors and windows are secure.
Moreover, installing a CCTV security system can help you create a useful deterrent and barrier for potential criminal acts.
Luckily, some parking spaces dedicated to tiny houses, vans, and caravans are sprouting across each state. If you can park here for a while, you know that your belongings are safe, even if investing a little more in the parking space’s cost!
Install Detectors and Fire Extinguishers
Depending on the type of gas you are using, there are three types of detectors you should consider installing:
- Smoke Detector
- Carbon Monoxide (CO) Detector
- Propane Gas Detector
You are likely to be far from the nearest exit when sleeping in the loft. Therefore, these detectors can be life-saving additions if used well. Place them just above your cooking section (or where you use a specific gas) to identify the leak as soon as possible.
Create an Escape Route and Add Sprinklers
As we have seen, most buildings are complete with escape plans and routes. Especially if more than a family lives in it, these routes can be life-saving. Even if you now live in a tiny home, you should not underestimate their importance and create your own today.
You can easily create one and hang it where it is the most visible. Glow-in-the-dark stripes and indicators can also be useful in the case of a power outage.
If your tiny house is not complete with these routes yet, you might need to consider adding other entrances and even a lofted area egress. These areas are indeed the ones that are the furthest from the exit and can represent a hazard.
Always Have a First Aid Kit
Especially if you love to dedicate yourself to DIY projects in your tiny home, you should always have a first aid kit at hand. You can find smaller ones bound to fit better in the reduced-size cupboards of your tiny home.
Lastly, if you drive your tiny home around and you like to change location every now and then, make sure you know the contact details of the nearest clinics, doctors, and medical centers. If you suffer from specific conditions knowing a specialist in the area can also be helpful.
Tiny homes can be considered safe, but they require some adjustments. Implementing detectors, emergencies, ladders, and windows is essential to increase your own family’s safety level.
If you live in an area characterized by a rainy or cold climate, it might also be necessary to weatherproof your tiny home to maximize comfort.