Jay Shafer Builds a $5,000 Tiny House

Bryce Langston visits Jay Shafer in Sebastopol, California and tours Jay’s newest tiny house design. Jay is considered by many – including myself – to be the godfather of the modern tiny house movement.

His latest design weighs less than 2,000 pounds, cost less than $5,000 in materials, and measures just 80 inches by 100 inches on the exterior. It’s diminutive size allows it to be towable by almost any car.

Jay started with a trailer that cost only $800 and had a maximum capacity of 2,000 pounds. This small foundation helped shape and inspire the final form of the home, because nothing larger would have fit.

Jay’s designs stand apart from most. He focuses on simplicity, authenticity of materials, beauty & aesthetics, and the balance of the overall composition. But I think it’s his ability to restrain adding too much to the design that makes them look so pure and perfect.

Foam board and thin pieces wood were used to create the ultralight shell. On the interior Jay carefully placed built-in storage which meets all his storage needs while keeping a sense of volume and function. The bed doubles as a sofa. The desk doubles as a bench. There’s even a loft which can be used for sleeping or storage. The house is heated by a tiny fireplace powered by candle – or propane for convenience.

The home doesn’t have a kitchen or bathroom. Jay is able to share a kitchen and bathroom on property where he lives… and like he says… he’s not always in the bathroom, so why not share it?

I also want to congratulate Bryce for surpassing 1 million subscribers to his YouTube channel, Living Big in a Tiny House! Photos & video credit to Living Big in a Tiny House.

13 thoughts on “Jay Shafer Builds a $5,000 Tiny House

  1. Bruce Ferrell says:

    Some of my questions is how many man hours did it take to assemble? Was it just “stood up” or ready to occupy (connected to necessary infrastructure… Wired, plumbed etc)?
    There is a long distance between “the materials cost… ” and the finished cost.

    • Michael Janzen says:

      I think he built it himself, so no labor cost except the sweat equity. There is no plumbing and appears to have minimal wiring for solar LED lights, laptop, and phone charging. He says it’s perfect for his needs, probably not too many other people could live so simply – but for a little more cost/effort one could have plumbing and power.

  2. mick says:

    What a breath of fresh air from all the mini mansions. Jay is truly “the” tiny house expert and always on the cutting edge. Thanks Jay, for all the ideas you give.

  3. Robert says:

    I would love to see the cabinet hinges and whatever holds them closed. The simple no-hardware look is very attractive. I’m interested in all the joinery, actually. The devil is in the details, yes?

  4. Amy L Turnbull says:

    Well, these are two of my favorite people in the tiny house world! Thanks for posting this, Michael! This design would work well in combination with a host property–love the idea of sharing space!

  5. Sheliah Lewis says:

    Jay was my inspiration for building my tiny house. If it hadn’t been for him I would have never thought I could have done it myself. Although it may have taken me 4 years 5 if you count planning, I’m finally living my dream. I’m 68 years old and with the help of my daughter we accomplished it. I did it for less then $13,000 including all my tools. A lot of Blood Sweat and Tears but it can be done! Thank you Jay Shafer!

    • Cate says:

      I would love to know more about your build. I’ll be 67 in another year and retiring, and plan the build to begin in January 2020, maybe sooner, but if sooner, slower. Friends are eager to jump in and teach me what I don’t know and I’m grateful for it. How did Jay Shafer influence you so considerably? Did you have a workshop with him and/or read his writings?

  6. Mike says:

    Thanks again Jay for reminding everyone what a Tiny House is all about. A 38 foot, three axle
    13.25′ tall gooseneck trailer with granite countertops isn’t a Tiny House. Self-built mobile home maybe, but the charm and ethos is lost. All the cedar shakes in the world don’t help.

  7. Christoffer Dyre says:

    I have watched it inspiring video with Jay Shafer 20-30 times, it appeals to me. I hope he will make plans available for purchase, eventhough simple, some clever features incorporated.

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