The tiny house movement began when people wanted to escape the stresses and constant movement of the modern world. Now, many people get custom tiny homes built to suit their wants and needs. Zoning these little dwellings can be tricky – are they manufactured homes, or something else?
A tiny home isn’t considered a manufactured home. The pieces of manufactured homes are built off-site in a factory based on building codes set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Tiny homes aren’t regulated by the HUD code, which is what makes them different.
Let’s take a look at manufactured homes and tiny homes to see the key differences and similarities.
Defining the Homes: Manufactured vs. Tiny
The logistics of whether or not a tiny home is a manufactured home might not seem like it matters, but it does when you’re trying to get your home zoned. Manufactured homes and tiny homes might have some similarities, but they’re quite different when it comes to definitions. Let’s take a look at what a manufactured home is and what it must be to be considered tiny.
Manufactured homes are commonly called mobile homes or trailers. These homes are built piece by piece in factories. Once the pieces are completed, they’re transported to the building location and pieced together.
This process can also build tiny homes, but the codes set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, are what set manufactured homes apart from tiny homes.
What makes a small home a tiny home? “Tiny” is an arbitrary measurement, but tiny homes do fit the description.
According to the International Code Council (ICC) 2018 International Residential Code Appendix Q, a tiny house is defined as a building that has a floor area of 400 square feet (37 square meters) or less, not counting lofts. Homes can be put together like manufactured homes or they can be built from scratch.
There’s a bit of a grey area when it comes to defining manufactured homes and tiny homes. A manufactured home must be at least 320 square feet while a tiny home is anything less than 400 square feet. Where do you draw the line?
The government regulates manufactured homes, but they don’t regulate tiny houses. Tiny house regulations vary from city to city. While you might be able to have a tiny house in one city, you might not be able to have one in another.
Regulations are the main difference between manufactured homes and tiny homes. Manufactured and tiny homes can be the same size, but their specific requirements make them different.
The government regulates manufactured homes, so there are set requirements that all manufactured homes must meet in every state. Since all states are on the same page when it comes to standards, there are almost no issues when it comes to customizing a home.
The safety standards of manufactured homes have been in place since June 15, 1976. Manufactured homes built before this date remain the most popular image when someone talks about a “mobile home.” You might think of the rectangle with a couple of windows, a screen door, and an awning. You might also picture them flying away when a tornado hits.
The safety standards changed mobile homes for the better. Now, these “mobile homes” can’t be called that anymore. Mobile homes are manufactured homes, but modern manufactured homes can’t necessarily be called mobile homes. They can be three or 4-bedroom homes and even have a second story. Better yet, they’re much safer than their pre-standards counterparts.
The requirements that set a manufactured home apart from other homes include:
- Must be at least 320 square feet (29 square meters) total
- Must be built on top of a permanent chassis
- Must have plumbing, air, and electrical systems on the inside
The government does not yet regulate tiny homes. However, the ICC does have some regulations put in place.
The ICC’s regulations include:
- Minimum ceiling height must be 6 feet, 8 inches (2.032 meters)
- Lofts do not have to meet this requirement
- Lofts must be at least 35 square feet (3.25 square meters)
- They must have a window or skylight that acts as an emergency escape
Local jurisdictions can make their own regulations. Some cities don’t allow tiny homes to be parked in specific areas due to zoning laws. Some RV parks will allow them to be parked, while others have rules against them.
The ICC doesn’t mention regulations about air, plumbing, or electricity. These aspects of the tiny homes might be mandated by local jurisdictions, however.
Where Can You Put a Tiny Home?
Location isn’t much of an issue when it comes to building a manufactured home. You will need to speak to a local contractor, and they’ll be able to give you guidance on where you can place one of those homes.
Tiny houses, however, are a much bigger deal. The way you build it will determine where you can put it in some cases. If you put the home on wheels, it might be considered a recreational vehicle and will have to follow those rules. If it’s built according to those standards, it might not be allowed to be parked in residential areas.
If the tiny home is built on a foundation, you might have to follow residential building codes, which can cause several problems. Each state has its own regulations about the minimum square footage of residential homes that aren’t manufactured.
One hundred twenty square feet (11.15 square meters) is a common minimum, although it will depend on the state. One hundred twenty square feet is plenty small enough for a tiny house unless you’re interested in micro homes.
The following states are tiny-home friendly in most cases:
- California – Several counties allow tiny homes on wheels to be placed in the backyards of those who need living assistance.
- Colorado – A few cities have amended regulations to allow for tiny homes of at least 120 square feet.
- Florida – Rockledge has a Pocket Neighborhood meant for tiny homes up to 700 square feet (65.03 square meters)
- Michigan – Detroit is creating a tiny house community for low-income residents.
- New York – NYC is allowing micro apartments to be built. It’s not the same as a tiny house, but you can still experience tiny living in the big city.
- Oregon – Portland supports tiny homes and has tiny house communities and a tiny house hotel.
- Texas – Spur is a small town of about 1,000 people, but it’s officially America’s first tiny house-friendly city. They only have a few regulations for safety purposes but ultimately allow you to build your home as you please.
Tiny homes aren’t considered manufactured homes. While they can be built similarly, they’re two very different dwellings. Manufactured homes are regulated by the government and must meet certain standards. These standards are the same in each state.
On the other hand, Tiny homes aren’t regulated on a national scale like manufactured homes are. A tiny home might be okay in one city, but a city on the other side of the state might not allow it.
Both homes have minimum floor space and height requirements. Manufactured homes have requirements for air conditioning, heat, and plumbing that have been determined by the government. Tiny homes do not have regulations unless local jurisdictions determine them.