13 Year Old Builds Tiny Home For Just $1,500

Published on June 28, 2018
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It’s no secret that building your own house is a difficult task. It involves a great deal of money, time, and effort. However, this tale that might inspire you: Luke Thill was able to build his own home at only 13 and only spent $1,500 on the whole project! Read on to find out how he did it…

13 Year Old Luke Thill Builds Own Home For Just 1500.JPG

13 Year Old Builds Tiny Home

How To Pay For It?

The young man from Iowa came up with the concept of a “starter home” all by himself. Of course, he had to find a way to finance the project and had a lot to learn on his own. He resorted to working odd jobs in order to raise funding for his house.

My Own Two Hands

How To Pay For It?

His Inspiration

Luke explained on ABC News what his inspiration was: “I was just on YouTube looking around and came across a tiny house idea and then that spiraled into looking at almost every YouTube video there is…I got obsessed with them and decided to build my own.”

His Inspiration

His Inspiration

No Ordinary Kid

Apart from the fascination, another reason Luke decided to build a house was that he was bored during summer vacation! Unlike other kids who chose to stay indoors playing video games, this teen stayed active by building his own home.

No Ordinary Kid

No Ordinary Kid

Permission

Once he was able to plan the building design, there was another mission he had to accomplish. Luke had to ask his folks for permission! Luckily, this wasn’t difficult as his parents saw his determination. They gave him permission to build anywhere on the property.

Permission

Permission

Dad’s Rules

Luke’s father Greg gave his son three simple rules regarding the construction. First, Luke needed to raise funds on his own. Second, he also had to build it by himself. Lastly, he would be the owner of the house. It’s amazing that Luke didn’t get discouraged and kept working towards his goal!

Dads Rules

Dad’s Rules

Ground Rules

“We said, ‘If you’re that serious we have to set some ground rules,’” Greg told ABC News. “We told him he had to have the financial responsibility of it, raise the money, and choose the materials and stay in the budget.” That’s some good parenting!

Ground Rules

Ground Rules

Housing 101

In the end, Greg did not force his son handle everything by himself. However, he made sure to assist only when needed. This proved to be a good thing as the teenaged boy was able to learn how to wire a house, frame a structure, deal with adults, and make smart financial decisions.

Housing 101

Housing 101

Life 101

“It was a chance for a kid to do something more than play video games or sports. It teaches life lessons,” said Greg. We’re with him on this one. Kids are now spending a lot more time on their phones, tablets, and computers instead of playing outside!

Life 101

Life 101

How He Made It Happen

Luke began by raising money on the web, mowing lawns, and finding reclaimed materials. He also bartered for additional help. Luke made many plans for his mission, some of which did not come to be. Nevertheless, most of them would turn out to be successful.

Honor Thy Neighbor

How He Made It Happen

The Barter System

Luke was able to get a good deal in exchange for various services. His neighbor asked him to clean the garage. In exchange, he helped wire the house. Luke also struck up a deal with a Scout leader. The terms? Mowing the lawn for carpet installation!

Rolling Up His Sleeves

The Barter System

Proud Papa

Greg takes great pride in his son, sharing that: “He’s a very driven kid for his age. There were times the project got stalled out and he had to earn more money for the next phase. He wouldn’t let it go and kept working at it.”

Proud Papa

Proud Papa

Luke Thill – The Minimalist

When it comes to funding, Luke was able to cut down on costs by asking his relatives and acquaintances for unwanted objects. His grandmother gave him leftover siding and a friend of his uncle gifted him a front door! “I liked the minimalism,” Luke said precociously. “And I wanted to have a house without a huge mortgage.” He definitely sounds older than 13!

Minimalism

Luke Thill – The Minimalist

Windows

Aside from the door, his uncle’s friend also gave Luke some of his old windows. That’s definitely a welcome gift! Who has ever heard of a house without any windows, after all?

Windows

Windows

Werk

Environment activists will love this fun fact: the tiny house was made using 75% recycled construction materials! The windows were also recycled. Most homes aren’t as sustainable as this one. After all, it usually costs a lot to have such an environment-friendly structure. It’s a good thing Luke has been able to accomplish this on his own.

Werk

Werk

Dimensions

The structure is 10 feet long and 5 and a half feet wide. It has a loft as well as an outside deck. Let’s not forget that the siding is 50% cedar shakes and 50% vinyl. We sure are impressed by Luke’s floor plan!

Dimensions

Dimensions

Come On In!

What about the interior area? You’ll be pleased to hear that he has a kitchen with a counter! There is also a sitting area fitted with an ottoman, a wall-mounted television, and a flip-down table. Impressive, don’t you think?

Come On In

Come On In

It’s A Shed

What about the bedroom? Luke was able to fit one it on the upstairs loft area. He has a mattress there for sleeping. According to the city codes, the tiny house is something of “a glorified shed”.

Its A Shed

It’s A Shed

Hard Work Pays Off

Luke’s plan was subject to criticisms from his school friends! It’s a good thing that the teenager was able to look past it. Apparently, nothing could stop him from making his dreams come true!

Hard Work Pays Off1

Hard Work Pays Off

News Spread

It would not take long for the news to spread to the rest of the town! After all, the town had a small population of 58,000 citizens. Luke would receive a lot of questions about the project, so he decided that the best course of action was to launch his own YouTube channel. His tiny house would eventually catch the attention of the media!

News Spread

News Spread

An Example

When watching other home construction videos, Luke noticed something. “I couldn’t find anyone younger than 14. I thought if no one is out there, I might as well do it so I started documenting the whole process and putting it on YouTube.”

An Example

An Example

An Inspiration

“Now lots of kids have messaged me and showed pictures of their tiny houses that they’re building and they’re even younger than me,” said Luke. It’s great that he decided to post videos about the process! And nice to see just how much he has influenced others!

An Inspiration

An Inspiration

Come On Down

As his project gained momentum on social media and across town, Luke was everutally called down to see the principal. He was a good student and this was rather unusual. “I don’t go there very often,” he said in one video. “I’ve never gone there for anything bad.”

Come On Down

Come On Down

You’re A Star

Luke would soon experience relief though. He was only asked to go down to the office because the principal was on good terms with a reporter who wanted to hear more about the project! Did you ever have a reporter write a feature about you when you were 13? Probably not!

Youre A Star

You’re A Star

Quite The Mess

Luke learned many things during the construction period, but one of the biggest lessons was overcoming disappointment. Not everything went to plan. He even recounts his so-called “counter-top fail”. He resorted to using broken colored glass for a lacquer surface. When he began to pour the lacquer, it ended up being too runny!

Quite The Mess

Quite The Mess

Learning From His Mistakes

He didn’t give up, however! Luke was able to find a way to solve the problem. To make things work, Luke attached a traditional surface over the lacquer surface. Luckily, there was a hinge provided for storage purposes. We’re glad he didn’t have to start from scratch!

Learning From His Mistakes

Learning From His Mistakes

First Meal

Luke is also a rookie chef. He was able to demonstrate his cooking skills in one of his YouTube videos. He posted the “first meal” he had in his home: breakfast for dinner! The kid knows what he’s doing if you ask us.

First Meal

First Meal

Speech!

While his place was merely a “glorified shed” to the city code, other people admired his efforts. The young man was even invited to TinyFest as a guest speaker. The tiny home festival was held in Colfax, Iowa and served as Luke’s first speaking engagement. Despite this, he was able to deliver a great speech that the attendees all enjoyed!

Speech

Speech!

Golden Throne

According to his blueprint, Luke already had somewhere to eat and sleep. There was one thing missing, though… the toilet! It required a fully functional plumbing system, but a lot of cash and work were necessary for the installation process. Luke simply couldn’t afford it. Luckily his tiny home is in his parent’s background.

Golden Throne

Golden Throne

Cozy Setup

After one year, the tiny home was finally finished. We’re sure you’re thinking about the same thing: does Luke use it? The answer? He certainly does! He spends the night there a few nights every week. It is also his study space and receiving area. It took an entire year to finish, but at least Luke was able to finish his project.

Cozy Setup

Cozy Setup

Cookouts And Chills

Yes, the house isn’t very large. However, he has enough space to hold cookouts in the backyard! It’s an area that he shares with his parents, but at least he can turn to his own home when he needs privacy.

Cookouts And Chills

Cookouts And Chills

Read All About It!

The Telegraph Herald and the Des Moines Register, two Iowan newspapers, would also run the story! Luke appeared on the front page of both publications! It would not take long for media outlets to follow in their footsteps. Good Morning America would also approach Luke for a feature!

Read All About It

Read All About It!

Attention

Good Morning America was able to hold an interview with Luke Thill. They were also toured inside the tiny house! After appearing on national TV, a house designer would contact the teenager. Not just any designer — it was someone he looked up to!

Attention

Attention

Idol

It would be none other than Derek Diedricksen, the author-designer whose works influenced Luke’s project. The teenager was understandably excited about this development! Not everyone gets to chat with their idols one-on-one. Derek gave Luke some advice and words of encouragement. The two are now friends on social media. It’s a good thing the platform exists — more people are now able to follow both inspirational designers!

Idol

Idol

In The Family

Luke is not the only Thill boy to express interest in design and construction! His brother Cole would actually follow in his footsteps. Instead of a tiny house, the younger boy went for a teardrop camper. Cole also opted for environment-friendly materials, created a YouTube channel, and planned out his budget carefully. He had one advantage, however: he had an experienced sibling to help him out!

In The Family

In The Family

But Wait There’s More

The boys’ YouTube channel boasts an impressive 9,000 subscribers! They don’t simply focus on their own constructions jobs, however. You will also find videos about a wagon belonging to a sheepherder as well as their mom’s camper renovation project!

But Wait Theres More

But Wait There’s More

His Own Space

We all know how important privacy is during our teenage years. What we would have given to have our own house at that age! “I have a twin brother so it gives me the chance to have my own space,” Luke elaborated. I think we all would have loved this as teens.

His Own Space

His Own Space

In Total

Luke gave a tour of the tiny home in one of his YouTube videos. In the same post, he also explained the financial cost of the project. He said that the overall cost was “more like $1,200, but I rounded it up just in case I forgot anything.”

In Total

In Total

Hero

Luke did not expect his summer project to earn so much attention! After all, it wasn’t part of the plan. Regardless, he took the opportunity to inspire other young people: “I want to show kids it’s possible to build at this age.” How amazing is that?

Hero

Hero

Upwards and Onwards

So what’s next for this little builder? “The main purpose is to be my starter home,” Luke explained. “I’m going to save money and expand.” His next goal is to create a bigger tiny home, one that could go on a trailer. This is a great idea if you ask us. Perhaps he can even take it to college! It will probably be more affordable than staying in the dorms.

Upwards And Onwards

Upwards And Onwards

Why Not?

“In a couple of years I want to build a bigger house and stay in it full-time,” he told ABC News. A tiny home is probably the perfect project to hone one’s building skills. It’s almost a given that Luke will be able to successfully build a larger structure!

Why Not

Why Not?

The Best Part

When asked what his favorite part of building the home was, Luke gave a rather unexpected answer: “Me and my dad really bonded through the process…he was really busy but he made sure to spend time with me.” Not many teenagers would admit to that.

The Best Part

The Best Part

Smart Thinking

You probably don’t need more evidence of Luke’s intelligence, but here it is anyway: “Everyone had to have a big house, and now people have changed and realized it’s not practical. You can save money, travel the world and do what you want instead.” You’d expect that advice to come from someone decades older!

Smart Thinking

Smart Thinking

Meet Renee McLaughlin

There are many people who believe in the same thing that Luke does. Take Renee McLaughlin, for example. This woman used to own a 3,300 square foot home! She now lives in an 87 square feet tiny home. Why is that? She elaborated, “I think we’ve reached a threshold where this ‘stuff’ is running our lives. We spend all our time working to buy it, clean it and organize it. It’s not making us happy.”

Meet Renee McLaughlin1

Meet Renee McLaughlin

The New “In”

These days, more and more people are looking at tiny homes as a place of residence. Renee organizes TinyFest Midwest and she was actually the person who asked Luke to appear at the festival! It’s safe to say that she enjoys living in her tiny home!

The New In

The New “In”

An Affordable Option

It’s hard to believe that there are people who scoff at the idea, considering the housing prices. “I now own everything outright with no debt,” Renee explains. “I can move around. It’s nice to know I can just go.” Aesthetic preferences are no reason to overlook tiny homes either! Do you need more evidence aside from this image?

An Affordable Option

An Affordable Option

Chuck Em Out

It is important to let go of many material things in order to live in a tiny home. It also involved a bit of a lifestyle change. These days, Renee shops less and lets go of excess belongings. However, she revealed that it was hard to get rid of her shoes and clothes! “I’m a simple girl, but a girl, nonetheless,” was what she had to say about the matter.

Chuck Em Out

Chuck Em Out

City limits

Don’t head out to buy materials for your tiny home just yet! Make sure to check whether your local infrastructure supports the idea. Sadly, city codes don’t always accommodate such structures. Many places have a minimum house size requirement. Luke Thill’s tiny home almost didn’t make the width requirement in Des Moines!

City Limits

City Limits

Let’s Move

Don’t make the mistake of disregarding the tiny house movement as only an architectural fad. It is also a social movement as more and more people are understanding the importance of downsizing.

Lets Move

Let’s Move

Looking At The Numbers

Tiny houses have been gaining a lot of traction in recent years, but the movement still has a long way to go before it goes mainstream. Apparently, there are only 3,000 tiny homes in the United States! It barely made a dent in the 1.5 million residences in the United States!

Looking At The Numbers

Looking At The Numbers

No Mortgage

Trivia time: tiny homes cost $23,000 on average! It also means that about 70% of tiny home owners have no mortgage to pay. Homeowners are familiar with the difficulties posed by monthly mortgages. It will take a huge toll out of anyone’s financial capability! This problem is eliminated when you make the switch to a tiny home.

No Mortgage

No Mortgage

It’s In Our Hands

If a teenaged boy can do it, why can’t we? Environmental issues are now receiving a lot of limelight, but don’t be discouraged! There are some methods we can employ if we wish to lessen environmental damage. Tiny homes are one of them. There is no better time to make the switch than the present!

Its In Our Hands

It’s In Our Hands