How to Build a Small House Kit: Getting Started
February 21, 2020
Building your new dream home is always an exciting project. It’s a blank canvas for painting your vision of a safe and cozy personal space that’s uniquely yours, a special opportunity to create your home exactly the way you want, literally from the ground up. And if you’re among the new generation of homeowners who want the benefits of modern prefabricated homes, you might choose to build a small house kit instead of a conventional stick-built home.
Still, even those who have built traditional homes in the past may not feel as comfortable with the unknowns of the house kit building process. Between choosing the perfect piece of land, setting up connections to water and energy utilities, choosing the best house kit, filing paperwork to comply with city regulations, shipping the kit to your build site, and of course, completing the final build, there’s a lot to consider.
Like most construction projects, successfully building a small house kit depends on getting all the little details right. That’s why our How to Build a Small House Kit series will help you see the big picture, making it easier to understand how each step in your building process may affect earlier or related steps.
Over the next few weeks, we will post new blogs in the How to Build a Small House Kit series that guide you through each next step in your kit building process, all the way from choosing land to applying the final coat of paint on your new home. Let’s get started:
How to Start Planning Your Build
You don’t know what you don’t know, so your first order of business should be figuring out what you need to know about getting building permits for your new home. Local government requirements and regulations will dictate your application and approval process, and they can vary widely based on the specific location where you choose to build your home. It’s critical that you do not start any phase of your house kit build project before you get these permits.
It’s also important to know that your permits cannot be granted until you’ve had engineer-stamped floor plans drawn up–and those plans can’t be drawn up until you’ve decided on the exact house kit you want to build, including your choice of foundation. See what we mean about steps in your process affecting other steps?
Tip: Know who you will need to talk to at the city permit office before your visit, and ask lots of questions when you’re there.
Your city’s planning and permits office is a great place to start learning what other documents you will need to submit for approval on your project. Most will have helpful resources available online or printed at their office. After your initial meeting, you should come away with a more complete understanding of who you will need to contact and work with throughout your build project, such as utility companies, public works, and others.
More preliminary steps for your house kit building project:
- Learn whether the property you want to build on includes any easements or setbacks.
- Make an outline of your budget for the project.
- Make sure your building site is accessible.
- Talk to your bank about qualifying for a construction loan and mortgage.
- Shop for prefab small house kits, like those available from Mighty Small Homes.
- Get the appropriate insurance coverage.
- Determine utility needs for the home, such as water, sewage, electricity, and gas.
- Create a rough timeline of your project phases and steps.
- Know which local building codes will apply, and the necessary inspections that will be required.
How Kit Location Affects Preparation
Find out if there is a Home Owners Association (HOA) in the area where you hope to build. You’ll want to know their monthly or annual dues so you can factor them into your living costs.
It's also important to note that HOAs often have aesthetic and other requirements for homes in their neighborhood, which could dictate the style or design of house kit that you are allowed to build in that area.
Be aware of any environmental concerns related to the area where you want to build. Is Radon an issue? What about flooding or drainage? If the land is in a designated flood zone, you may be required to have extra insurance.
How to Prepare for House Kit Assembly
Plan to Build in Phases
You’ll be happy to know that building a new prefabricated kit home involves fewer steps than conventional home builds, while also saving you money on material and labor costs.
Building small house kits also provides environmental advantages by reducing lumber waste, helping you minimize your project's carbon footprint–not to mention the energy-efficiency you’ll enjoy once you move in, which is an ongoing benefit that will save you money on utilities for the life of the home.
Plan for Built-In Upgrades and Appliances
All these savings create room in your budget for adding and enhancing features within your home, such as bathrooms, kitchen appliances, and smart home tech. Knowing all of the in-home features you want to add or enhance before you start building your house kit will help ensure smoother installations during the assembly phase.
Assemble Your Building Team
It’s also important that you don’t overestimate your strength or your home construction expertise. Be sure you have extra arms available for lifting and moving heavy or cumbersome materials during your build. Additionally, you should hire contractors to complete any steps of your build process that you know they could handle better than you. This will help ensure your house meets local codes and will pass building inspections.
How to Find and Choose the Best House Kit
Look around Mighty Small Homes and browse our collection of kit homes in different styles and sizes. Make some notes about the models you like and their dimensions, keeping these in mind as you settle on the ideal location to build your house kit and begin early meetings with your local planning office.
With years of experience working with homeowners and builders, our experts can work with you to draw up floor plans for your house kit that meet your building needs and local permit requirements. We encourage you to ask lots of questions so we can help you feel more comfortable planning and building your new home.
If you want to familiarize yourself with more of the process on your own, feel free to check out the many frequently asked questions we have posted, which cover a wide range of house kit topics. You can also review our list of what's included in your kit home package.
Be Prepared for the Unpredictable
Getting started with your house kit building process can seem overwhelming at first, but remember this is an exciting time–your dream home is closer than ever to becoming a reality!
It's also important to remember that while all this early planning will help you avoid major surprises, hiccups are inevitable with any construction project, so you should still prepare to deal with them. Luckily, being prepared makes it much easier for you to overcome these obstacles when they do happen.
In any case, fear of the unknown should never discourage you from taking your first steps toward building your dream house kit. In the end, after all the planning and work, when you’ve got your feet propped up in your cozy new home, it will all be worth it!
Learn More about Building a House Kit
To read the rest of our How to Build a House Kit series, you can click the links below (we will update these as we post new blogs in the series), or sign up for our newsletter and get notified when each new blog is posted, in addition to the usual updates on our latest builds and what’s happening in the small home community:
How to Build a House Kit, Part 7: Assembling Your House Kit (coming soon)
How to Build a House Kit, Part 8: The Finishing Touches (coming soon)
Some FAQs About Starting Your Kit Home Build
How do I find my local office for kit home building permits?
This government department may be called something different depending on where you live. Building permits are typically issued by a city or county jurisdiction. Start by doing a Google search for “get a building permit in [your city, state or county]" or call your local government office and ask who you should contact for home-building permits.
How does a “setback” affect my kit building project?
Think of a setback as the margins for your lot. Your home and plans must stay within the lines. Local codes determine setbacks for reasons such as safety, privacy, or environmental protection.
What is an “easement”?
It gives somebody access to your property. You still own the land. Generally, you’ll want to avoid building on easements. Utility companies have property easements for electrical, gas, water, or sewer services. We generally all benefit from easements. Your electrical service may depend on an easement across your neighbor’s property.