DIY Tiny House | The Most Important Tools for Building A Tiny House

One of the most frequently asked questions by DIY tiny house builders is, “What tools will I need to build a tiny house?” You’ll often find greatly varying responses depending on experience, skill, and budget. For those with larger budgets you’ll often see lavish tools labeled as being integral to the building process, but this guide is for those looking to build a tiny house with the smallest reasonable budget. This brief overview is designed for beginner to novice individuals searching for a more concrete idea of which tools they should consider purchasing before pursuing a DIY tiny house build.

Drill & Impact Driver

A century ago If you had asked a builder, framer, or carpenter what the most used tool in their arsenal was they might tell you a hammer or mallet. However, a lot has changed since then, and so too has construction methods and technology. These days the most common answer would likely be either a drill, impact driver, or both.

While it is possible to complete a build with just a drill, just about any experienced craftsman will tell you that an impact driver will not only save you valuable time, but endless frustration as well. When using a traditional drill it is not uncommon to strip the threads of the screw making it extremely difficult to pull out of a frame and replace. Due to the vibrating impact motion of a driver, screw threads are much less likely to be stripped during installation. The sensation of driving a screw through wood as easily as butter is a pleasant and satisfying feeling that can’t be easily described. Another time saving feature of having two instruments – one for drilling and one for driving – that way you don’t have to constantly swap drill bits or attachments during the construction process. If the quality of your wood requires you to pre-drill pilot holes before landing screws to prevent cracking then a double tool setup is invaluable.

Hand Tools & Tool Belt

Even with all of the new innovations in tool technology you’ll almost certainly want traditional hand tools in your arsenal. However, when working with traditional hand tools, it’s extremely easy to misplace or lose small equipment. It’s not uncommon to mindlessly place objects down when measuring or hammering and lost or misplaced tools means more trips to the hardware store and an inflated budget. That’s why it’s best to utilize a toolbelt to the fullest and find specific places for each of your most used tools. Not only will it increase production but the building process will become a much more enjoyable one, guaranteed. While some might advise purchasing a quality leather tool belt a simple and cheap tool belt is just fine for a hobby builder.

Tape Measure & Speed Square

When pursuing building and woodwork the old adage “measure twice cut once” rings particularly true when building a tiny home. Because a tiny home must be solid, mobile, and aerodynamic making correct measurements and cuts is crucial to the success of a build. That’s why it’s important to have a reliable and professional tape measure. We recommend using a fat max 35 foot tape measure as the length comes in handy for large builds and all types of roof construction. One tip, however, is to try not to extend the measuring tape past 25 feet as sand and dirt has a tendency to enter the roll and prevent it from functioning properly.

Speed squares are one of the most useful and versatile tools for woodworking and carpentry. You can find them in plastic or aluminum, but I personally much prefer a sturdy metal speed square. You can rotate a speed square on its axis to find angled cuts (also known as miter cuts) or you can use the side with a fence to grip your 2×4 and make a completely straight cut on the fly. A carpenters pencil is a necessary addition to a speed square – you can use any kind of utility knife to sharpen the pencil and take advantage of its unusual rectangular shape.

If you need to mark something longer than a speed square, such as a rip cut, you can use a chalk line tool. A chalk line has a reservoir where the chalk goes, and when you pull and snap the line, it leaves a clear white marking along the thread. You can also use a chalk line as a level if you attach a weighted bobber.

Utility Knife

A utility knife is an invaluable tool if you don’t already own one. Their usefulness speaks for themselves, but it’s important to get the right type of blade for the longest life possible. Titanium blades are of high quality and last a long while for the cost. We recommend buying a utility knife with a quick blade refill compartment to speed up your process.

Hammers & Other Hand Tools

Hammer – A good quality framing hammer can be an invaluable tool when building. You can buy a smooth hammer or mill-face depending on your preference. A mill face hammer leaves grid lines which is fine for framing work that won’t be seen in the finished product, but not desirable as a finishing hammer when you need to wedge a piece into place.

Cat’s Paw – A cat’s paw is essentially a miniature crowbar – great for pulling up nails when needed.

Chisel – A chisel can be used to cut off blown out nails or break off the ends of broken nails while leaving the metal grounded in the wood.

Bullnose Pliers – Bullnose pliers can be used for correcting mistakes by rolling nails out and twisting and cutting material off.

All of these hand tools can be acquired at an affordable cost and most likely won’t make up the majority of the tool budget. If you’re willing to put in the manual labor hours to accomplish the work with fewer tools, its a noble pursuit, but sometimes luxury tools can save time and serve as a worthwhile long-term investment. While they’re not necessary by any stretch of the imagination, here are some premium tools you may want to consider buying or renting during your DIY tiny house build.

Power Saws

Circular Saw – The circular saw is the bread and butter of modern woodworking. I can guarantee that you could build an entire DIY tiny house from the ground up using just a circular saw. While it may seem basic and limited, this compact power tool can be versatile and invaluable. When you combine the flexibility of a circular saw with rip cut jigs and a speed square, the possibilities are endless. To save on budget you can even make jigs at home using plywood and spare 2×4’s. While cheap circular saws can get the job done we recommend going with a trusted brand name.

Miter Saw – Miter saws are useful stationary saws that utilize a large cutting saw to make straight cuts along planks of wood. The blade can be rotated for precise angles and offers options for cutting metal, pvc, and more. Miter saws featuring telescoping arms allow you to make longer cuts and move the blade away from the saw body.

Jigsaw – A jigsaw cuts using a flat reciprocating blade to make precise cuts with organic curves. They use t-shank blades and the detailed cuts that you can achieve helps greatly with interior elements like cabinetry. They’re best used with plywood but can be used to cut thicker beams if need be.

Clamps

Clamps are an essential part of any DIY build and you’ll want to own a few different types.

Spring Clamps – You can use spring clamps to make sure your wood is firmly in place on either on top of sawhorses or on a workbench. You can also create make-shift jigs by lining 2×4’s or 1×2’s up using a steel square.

Ratcheting Bar Clamp – This clamp does a great job of applying pressure to two end pieces that need to be either screwed or glued together. You can find some reasonably priced brands that offer quite long bar clamps for the price. If larger connections need to be made a ratcheting band clamp can achieve long and precise 90 degree joints.

Nail Gun

The nail gun is heralded as a luxury in the DIY hobby but can prove to be invaluable when building. They require an expensive compressor but can be used to quickly and accurately place pieces that can later be drilled, screwed, or attached using nuts and bolts. The needle-like projectiles that nail guns use come in different lengths depending on the joint.

Today, it’s not uncommon to find online video logs of individuals building their own personal tiny houses for the first time. Often times, while these individuals do have some carpentry and construction experience, many are novices that are learning on the fly as they construct their home. An individual embarking on such a journey might find it useful to draw from the experience of those who have been through it first-hand. One aspect I found particularly helpful is watching post-mortem videos describing the mistakes people made along the construction process that may be avoided by those pursuing the same methods in the future. One of the more interesting aspects of these post-mortems is the break-down of budget and the amount spent on construction equipment.

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