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Green Building News

Lumber Store Chain Now Offers Tiny Houses

84 Lumber rolls out four portable houses, as kits designed for do-it-yourselfers or as move-in ready structures ready for the road

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"The Roving," one of four tiny house models in 84 Lumber's new line.
Image Credit: 84 Lumber
"The Roving," one of four tiny house models in 84 Lumber's new line.
Image Credit: 84 Lumber
The interior of The Roving, one of four models 84 Lumber is producing. The sleeping loft in 84 Lumber's first model, the Roving. The Roving incorporates reclaimed wood, cork flooring, and low-VOC finishes.

84 Lumber, a retailer with 250 stores in 30 states, is jumping on the tiny house bandwagon.

The Pennsylvania-based lumber chain said its “Tiny Living by 84 Lumber” line of portable houses makes the company the first major building supply retailer to offer houses under 200 square feet. They will come in four models, according to a company press release.

There are three ways to buy the houses: as architectural blueprints with a materials list and a trailer suited to the model you’ve selected; as a “semi-DIY” building shell placed on a trailer, complete with windows, a door and a shower; or as a move-in ready, fully outfitted house that doesn’t need any work on the part of the new owner. The last option has a lead time of eight to 10 weeks.

“Our four tiny homes, ranging from classic to contemporary, are portable and under 200 square feet,” says the company’s 84 Tiny Houses website, “giving you financial freedom and a greener environmental footprint. So you can focus on enjoying life’s little moments.”

Among goals of the new retail program are helping people live “happily with less,” and “to inspire a spirit of adventure that encourages our buyers to simplify their priorities.” These are familiar refrains among tiny house promoters and owners.

Packages for the Roving start at $6,884 for the trailer and plans (the balance of the materials is available at 84 Lumber). The semi-DIY package starts at $19,884, and the complete, fully furnished version starts at $49,884. Prices for other models will vary slightly.

Becky Mancuso, the company’s vice president for marketing and public relations, said by e-mail that all four models are available nationwide and can be ordered online.

Green building details

The 154-square-foot Roving has a half-dozen features typical in sustainably built houses, including the use of reclaimed wood, LED lighting, cork flooring, low-VOC paints and stains, and a composting toilet. The refrigerator is Energy Star certified.

The building is clad in cedar lap siding and comes with low-e, aluminum clad windows and a steel roof.

The website Curbed reports that the prices listed by 84 Lumber are competitive with others already on the market. The real breakthrough is that the houses can be ordered from any of the chain’s retail stores around the country, which should make them more visible and accessible to a larger pool of potential buyers.

Tiny houses have popped up in a variety of settings around the country, as stand-alone, single-family houses and also in larger communities, such as Quixote Village in Washington State, a cluster of 30 houses built for the homeless. Their defenders are often passionate about the advantages of shedding big houses and big mortgages, but mainstream builders are largely ignoring them, and zoning restrictions in many parts of the country limit where they can be placed.

Tiny houses are an ‘amazing opportunity’

Tiny houses are still a niche market, but 84 Lumber sees growth ahead.

“We see tiny houses as an amazing opportunity!” Mancuso’s e-mail said. “Our owner and president, Maggie Hardy Magerko, was actually the initial driving force behind Tiny Living by 84 Lumber. She was very aware of, and interested in, the continuing popularity of tiny houses, and thought that we had a unique opportunity to impact this movement and make it accessible on a large scale, through our relationships with leading building materials manufacturers, our expertise with green building materials, and our national footprint.”

It wasn’t clear whether the company has actually sold any of the units, but Mancuso said interest has been high, with inquiries coming in “from around the world.”

“So far,” she said, “we’ve found that interest in tiny houses has no geographic boundaries.”

8 Comments

  1. KEVIN ZORSKI | | #1

    Expensive
    $49,884. for a 154 square foot house with 2X4 walls seems pretty expensive. $325 a square foot with a loft "bedroom". Plus taxes and delivery. To each his/her own, but not for me.

  2. James Morgan | | #2

    Like a travel trailer
    But heavier and more expensive

  3. Charlie Sullivan | | #3

    $325/sq ft is not bad
    Kevin, I'm not sure what $/sq ft cost you would target, but $200/sq. ft. is sometimes used as a ballpark residential number. That's average over a whole house--rooms like kitchens and bathrooms cost more because of the extra stuff in them. This has kitchen and bathroom all squeezed into the same space. So I think it's perfectly reasonable that the cost should be higher per square foot.

  4. User avater
    Stephen Sheehy | | #4

    Cheap, but expensive
    Kevin and Charlie are both right. $325/square foot is a lot for what looks like cheesy finishes, but wouldn't be unreasonable with nice details and fixtures.

  5. Alan B | | #5

    I like
    Turnkey small housing is awesome

    I'm not a fan of the finishes, but that can of course be changed.
    They should be able to do better on the prices, perhaps thats in the future with more competition, the trailer and plans could sell for about half that, the semi DIY can probably be cut 25%, and the fully built model can probably be reduced 25-35% as well.
    Of course custom product always costs more then factory/mass produced, so i expect the prices to improve in the future.

  6. Malcolm Taylor | | #6

    Cost
    I agree with Alan that turnkey small housing is great - but not when it is on wheels.

    I don't think cost has a very big role in whether this type of housing becomes more popular. As James Morgan has pointed out, apart from using a vocabulary of materials and building methods more commonly associated with houses, these trailer homes are to all intents and purposes indistinguishable from RVs - and the few ways that they differ work against them.

    If a mobile housing type was going to transform the way in which people live it would already have done so. There are RVs more luxurious and costly than these homes, but they remain a niche market. That's probably because they require a support network of land and services that communities typically don't provide. To do so on any large scale would require a fundamental reorganization of North American society.

    The ways in which they differ from RVs - that they can be built by anyone and use common building materials - mean they are not subject to either building codes or manufacturer's standards. It's hard to see how any governing authority could take responsibility for them, leaving an undesirable void in oversight we don't see in any other type of housing - and this is reflected in the inability of these tiny homes to secure loans or insurance.

    The only way for them to become part of a community is much the same as some trailer parks have managed. That is to ditch the wheels, put down roots in one spot, situate themselves in relation to others to form a district or town, and take the hit in cost all other housing types do to provide services. Otherwise they will continue to eke out an existence hooked up to a relative's hose and extension cord until the neighbours complain.

  7. James Morgan | | #7

    How fashions come and go...
    For six or seven decades cutting edge designers have been trying and failing to scale up modular industrial construction technology of a travel trailer to a full size home - Bucky Fuller's Dymaxion et al - and now the tiny house movement is trying to do the reverse. There are many excellent traditional models for tiny homes - the Romany vardo, the narrow boats of the English canals, small sailing vessels - but for good reason none of them emulate the stick frame, siding and sheetrock of a regular house.

  8. User avater
    Elden Lindamood | | #8

    Reality check
    I actually think this is a good thing. I've known a few mis-guided souls who thought "I'll build my own tiny house and save a bunch of money and live for free!". Then they get into it, and $20,000 later they are broke, disillusioned, and still pretty much still homeless with a 3/4 finished trailer house that is too heavy to move. The plan/materials package should be a good reality check on what it will actually cost them at least.
    I also don't think the price of $50K is out of line for the finished product. As mentioned by Charlie, it costs a lot to build a regular house, and you lose every possible efficiency of scale in building these things.
    I also agree with Malcolm in that a regular travel trailer or RV makes way more sense if you actually want to live nomadically or inexpensively. There is some intangible appeal to a "house-shaped house" though that has lured many dreamers to take an irrational bite at the hook. Why they wouldn't just buy a used camper instead, for 1/10 the price, is ponderous.

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