Do you necessarily need your tiny home to be on wheels? That’s a question that an increasing number of Canadian tiny home builders are asking their clients.

This year, Minimaliste in Quebec, Teacup Tiny Homes and ZeroSquared in Alberta, and Acorn Tiny Homes and Instead in Ontario have all added tiny homes on foundations to their product lineups.

Tiny home buyers balancing their desire for easy mobility (wheels) with their desire for an easy building permit (foundation) are now often landing on the side of the latter.

But, weren’t the wheels crucial to the tiny home movement?

There’s much debate on this of course, because the tiny home movement did originate with tiny homes on wheels. THOWs were considered easy to move, ideally by the owner themselves, and would allow for a semi-nomadic lifestyle – less about possessions and more about experiences.

In many ways, tiny homes on wheels grew out of an RV-style of living, leasing parking spots in beautiful places and moving often.

We would argue that in Canada, unlike our neighbours down south, the tiny home movement has always been about affordability. In order to function in the Canadian climate, our tiny homes got bigger, heavier, and more technologically advanced.

Towing your own tiny home is often referenced by Canadian tiny home owners as “not as easy as we thought it would be”. And, according to our completely unofficial Instagram survey from last year, most tiny home owners expect to move their homes no more than every 4-5 years.

So, is a tiny home on foundation still a tiny home?

Yes, a tiny home on a foundation, as offered by some of the country’s leading tiny home builders, still has all of the appeal of the tiny home movement:

Fantastic small space design? Check.

A tiny home on a foundation is still a marvel of efficiency and minimalist living. You will get all the decluttering benefits of a tiny home, even without wheels. A little bonus – a tiny home on a foundation isn’t as limited in size, since you don’t need to satisfy highway regulations. For example, Minimaliste is building their initial tiny homes on foundations at 12 feet wide.

Photo: Teacup Tiny Homes

Mobility? Check.

A tiny home that is not built on site can be installed on a concrete foundation or screw piles. Depending on the requirements of the location, screw piles can be an excellent choice because they cause minimal damage to the site and are very quick to install. Since your home will be brought in and anchored to this foundation, you will be able to remove and transport it the same way in the future.

Land leasing? Check.

One of the most exciting areas of development for the tiny home movement is leasing the land that your tiny home sits on. Because of the mobility of the tiny home on a foundation, you would be able to lease the “pad” that the tiny home sits on, where the pad belongs to the land owner and the home still belongs to you.

Affordability? Check.

The tiny home on a foundation would be very similar in cost to a tiny home on wheels. Delivery costs would be similar as well. Additional costs include the foundation and installation machinery (who do you typically call when you need to rent a crane?)

With those benefits checked off, a tiny home on a foundation offers one more absolutely splendid gift. Your municipality will consider it a dwelling.

Ok, maybe not your municipality, because we can’t speak for the, literally, thousands of variations in municipal bylaws across the country. But, probably a municipality near you will allow a small manufactured home on a concrete foundation, perhaps even on screw piles.

Why is it easier to get a permit for a tiny home on foundation?

Typically municipalities’ “problem” with tiny homes lies in three separate areas:

Wheels – is it still a dwelling if it is on a chassis? Or is it one of those weird “mobile home” things that can only go in a “mobile home park”, designated in 1970 and forgotten.

Size – is it above the required minimum square footage for a dwelling, because we are old-fashioned and still want our homes to be… more like they were in 1970?

Number of dwellings –Many municipalities are working on allowing more dwellings per lot to increase density. The wave of Additional Dwelling Unit (ADU) bylaws continues to spread across the country, allowing for more density and viewed as a key solution to the housing crisis.

So, all that to say, if your municipality’s only problem with your tiny home plan is that it has wheels, THOW manufacturers are offering to omit the wheels while keeping all of the rest of the tiny home value.

Instead of petitioning your municipality for things that may take years, you can actually buy your tiny home and live in it… while still petitioning, because, why not.

Who is building tiny homes on foundations?

Technically, everyone? We would guess that your local conventional home builder could attempt a tiny home on a foundation. But! A dedicated tiny home builder will be able to offer a much better design. After all, they’ve been designing and building tiny homes for years and have been honing their models based on feedback from real clients.

Taking off the wheels is a minor adjustment in an already established and thoroughly tested design process. On the other hand, making a conventional home in a half-size version is a very major adjustment.

How will I get my building permit and how will my tiny home get to me?

There are three ways to get your building permit for a tiny home on a foundation:

Built on site

The traditional way to build is to have the builders come to your property and build your home. The building permit is given based on initial architectural plans and your local building inspector will come at regular intervals to inspect how your home is progressing – framing, insulation, electrical, plumbing, etc.

For example, this home by Tiny Estates was built on site:

Photo: Tiny Estates

Built somewhere else and delivered

Tiny home builders typically build homes in their facilities, and your tiny home on foundation can be built there as well. If the builder’s facility is CSA certified for Manufactured Home, or other certification accepted by your municipality as a dwelling, then your local building inspector will not need to inspect it while it is being built. You will still need a site survey to show your building department that the home’s size, shape, and intended foundation style fits within regulations.

For example, this tiny home model by Teacup Tiny Homes is on a foundation:

Photo: Teacup Tiny Homes

A third option available in Ontario and known among builders as the two-permit process allows for your home to be built in a different Ontario municipality and inspected there by their local building inspector. When the home is delivered, your local inspector would honour those reports and would continue where they left off.

For example, this tiny home on foundation by Whiterock Tiny Homes in built using the two-permit process:

Photo: WhiteRock Tiny Home Solutions

A tiny home on a foundation will require machinery to be installed, potentially even a crane. Imagine your tiny home flying above the neighbourhood! Good thing you’re not trying to hide it from the neighbours… because of that building permit.



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