A13-Year-Old Boy Builds His Own Cute Little House
If you've ever met a 13-year-old boy, you know that they are primarily occupied with video games, comic books, movies, and all sorts of other media. Not all of them are like that though. Some are into much bigger things. Luke Thill, of Dubuque, Iowa might be into one of the biggest things of all. One summer in 2017, he decided to take on a big project in his parents' backyard. Well, a tiny big project, anyway. What does that mean? How can a project be tiny and big at the same time? It can when it's a tiny house! How did he do it? Let's find out!
Where Did He Get The Idea?
Luke was bored one summer. He told ABCNews that he was bored one summer and decided that he wanted to build something. He told ABCNews "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, it felt like...I got obsessed with them and decided to build my own." What did his parents think? Keep reading!
First, Luke asked his parents, Greg and Angie, for permission to build a house. They thought he was crazy, but they also realized that he was deadly serious about building it. They had four acres of land on their property, so there was plenty of space. They didn't hesitate to give Luke permission, but there were a few ground rules that they needed him to follow. What rules does a 13-year-old need when building a house? It's unprecedented! Read on!
What Is A Tiny House, Anyway?
A "Tiny House" is a small house that can still accommodate a full lifestyle. It's not a clubhouse or a treehouse. IT's designed to be lived in, except that it's, well, TINY. According to the Tiny House Movement website, it's "an architectural and social movement that encourages living a simpler life in a smaller space". They encourage a simpler lifestyle and less personal possessions. A 13-year-old with less possessions? Yes! Keep reading!
The first rule was that Luke needed to raise all of the money on his own. The second rule was that he needed to build it on his own. The third rule was that once Luke built the house, it was his to own and maintain. Sounds pretty simple, right? In Greg's own words, "We said, If you’re that serious we have to set some ground rules. We told him he had to have the financial responsibility of it, raise the money and choose the materials and stay in the budget.” How would he do it on his own? Let's find out!
Of course, Greg was going to be there to help guide his son. Tiny or not, it's still a house and it was going to be a big project. He helped with the framing and construction. Luke also bartered and worked for other help. He explained to ABC News, "I have a neighbor who is a professional electrician so I cleaned his garage out and he taught me how to wire the house. And in Cub Scouts I knew a guy who was a carpet layer and I mowed at his apartment buildings and he helped me install the carpet." It sounds like he has it figured out! Keep reading!
Framing The House
It was important to get the framing of the house done exactly right. Otherwise, Luke wouldn't have had much of a house, would he? This was the part where he needed Greg's help. As you can see, framing the house was a process, but it seems to have worked perfectly. Not everything went as smoothly and easily though. What happened? How did he fix it? Check out the next page!
Some Amount of Trouble
Not everything in Luke's build went perfectly smoothly though. He tried to build a countertop made from colored glass that turned into a real mess. He found that the glaze he was using was difficult to work with and it leaked through his mold. It created a gigantic mess, and he had to find a new way to build his countertop. He eventually settled on tile. What else did he use? We'll tell you!
Many of the materials that were used for the tiny house were reclaimed from other projects. The siding came from his grandmother's house, and the front door came from his friends. All-in-all, the house was made from about 75 percent reclaimed materials. He did end up spending around $1500 to build it, but all of that was also earned on his own. Why a tiny house though? Keep reading!
The American Dream
Luke told ABC News that he liked the idea of the tiny house because, “I liked the minimalism and I wanted to have a house without a huge mortgage.” He's not wrong there. We'd all like to have that too. His tiny house wound up being 89 square feet. It's wired for electricity, but there is no plumbing. The windows were donated by a friend of his uncle. It is one story, with a loft. How did his first night go? We'll tell you!
The First Night
Luke wanted to try out his new house before he completed it because he had to make sure that he could actually live in it. He deliberately chose a very cold night with sub-freezing temperatures. The house has no heat, so this was a big test. Fortunately, the design of the house kept it warm. He said that he even had to open a window because it was TOO warm! What does the interior look like? Find out next!
A Bit About The Inside
For such a small area, Luke has really used the space effectively. There is a living area, dining area, and kitchen all on the first floor. He has a fold-out table that separates the areas to keep everything efficient. The loft contains a mattress, which is where Luke sleeps. It's definitely livable in there, and as we'll see next, pretty comfortable too! Let's see it! Next up!
The interior of the house is equally impressive. Luke's mom helped with the interior decoration, and the house includes a micro-living room, complete with a TV. There's a small kitchen area, and Luke built some shelves that drop down into an ottoman and seating. He also put a mattress in the loft upstairs in case he wanted to sleep there. He has a refrigerator and some basic climate control. It's really impressive! What does he do in there? Let's find out!
More Of The Interior
Here's a shot of the kitchen area of Luke's tiny house. You can see the wood paneling that he installed and linoleum for the flooring. All of this was reclaimed or recycled from other people's projects. You might also notice that he has installed a small electric fireplace in the middle of the kitchen to help heat the home, just in case. Is it missing anything? We'll show you!
The house is really missing two big things. Luke was able to get a heater to work on the house's electrical system, but it didn't have enough power for even a small window A/C unit. So, he took an air filter and sprayed it down with water. When these are placed next to the windows, air blows through them, and you have a makeshift swamp cooler. This is a cheap and easy solution! Was it missing anything else? Keep going!
Missing One Thing
The house is nearly fully livable, except for one important thing. It lacks running water or a toilet. Plumbing was a bit too difficult for this tiny home build. He didn't have a permit for a septic tank, and using something akin to a portable toilet was just too messy and smelly. Instead, he has to make the compromise of using his parents' restroom in the family house. Still, that's not a bad compromise at 13! What else does he do in the house? Read the next page!
Luke built his house in about one years' time. That includes the amount of time he needed to raise the money and the actual construction. He sleeps in it 2-3 nights a week, does his homework there, and has his friends over...well, as many friends as he can fit, anyway. He also hosts his own cookouts right in the "backyard". He says that his new goal is to build a larger, portable house that he can take to college. What else is Luke doing? Keep reading!
Having a small house hasn't stopped Luke from having dinners there. He regularly made dinner at his house and invited his friends and family over to eat. There isn't enough electrical power for a real stove or oven, but there is plenty for a hot plate. He uses the hot plate to make burritos and other favorites! How did this go for Luke? Let's find out!
No Muss, No Fuss
As you might imagine, the house can get messy with a teenager living inside! Luke has said that he needs to clean the house at least four times a week to keep it in good shape. Fortunately, the entire cleaning process only takes about 15 minutes. We wondered how good of a cleaning job he could do in 15 minutes, but he also says that his mother inspects it for him. If it's good enough for mom, it's good enough for us! Was there anything he'd do differently? Next page, please!
A Few Mistakes
Luke has said on his YouTube channel that his build wasn't perfect. The lighting he used in the loft area was too big, and it caused people to knock their heads on it when they were up there. He also wasn't happy with the original wood paneling that he used because the job was done too quickly. This caused the wood to get scrapes and scratches. Overall, he was pleased, but it's the little things, you know? How did people find out about the house? It's a funny story...keep reading!
Called To The Principal's Office
Luke got a lot of attention for his tiny house. So much attention that he was called into the principal's office at his school. Even more reporters were getting interested in Luke and his projects. The principal was friends with a local reporter who wanted to get the local scoop on Luke and his tiny house. This lead to a lot of media coverage for Luke. Soon the story went viral! How did that affect Luke? Next page, please!
Front Page News
As you might imagine, a kid building a tiny house was a really big deal to the local and national news. It's not often that you hear about a kid taking on and completing such a huge project. He was interviewed by ABC News, both Des Moines newspapers, and was invited to speak at TinyFest. TinyFest is a tiny home festival in Colifax, Iowa. Luke ended up being their special guest! What else has he been up to? Check out the next page!
Luke won a "Mover, Shaker, and Newsmaker" award from his hometown of Dubuque, Iowa. This was a big deal to him because he was the youngest person to ever receive such an award. He was recognized not only for building his tiny house, but also for documenting it and using the footage to inspire others! Awesome! What else happened for Luke? Check out the next page!
Meeting His Hero
One of the better moments to come out of this for Luke was the opportunity to meet one of his heroes. Derek Diedricksen, who was one of the innovators of tiny houses, saw Luke on Good Morning America and contacted him. The original inspiration for Luke's tiny house was provided by Diedricksen, so meeting him was a big deal for Luke. They've become friends on social media and they've kept in touch ever since. Awesome! What about the rest of his family?
All In The Family
Soon after Luke completed his tiny house, the rest of his family decided they wanted in on it too! His first project was helping his twin brother Cole build a teardrop camper. Like Luke, he was given the same ground rules, but this time, Cole had help in the form of Luke. They opened a YouTube channel too. Now they encourage kids and young teenagers to get in on building their own homes too. What does Luke think of all of the attention? Keep reading!
Luke has become an inspiration for a lot of people. He said in an interview in 2017, "I couldn't find anyone younger than 14 (when he first started watching construction videos.) 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. 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." Pretty amazing! What else are people saying?
Almost all of the comments that Luke has received on his YouTube channel were positive. He seems to be inspiring a lot of young teenagers to build their own small houses. One commenter even proposed marriage to him! Not all of the comments have been positive (it IS an internet comments section, after all) but his fans always leap to his defense. His project really has helped inspire people! What has he done with his newfound fame? You might not expect it! Next!
Luke has become very associated with the Tiny House Movement, to the point where he is now selling his own merchandise. The money from the T-shirt sales goes back into new projects and into his college fund. Pretty enterprising, huh? Where did this lead Luke? We'll tell you next!
Making A Profit
One commenter suggested to Luke that he actually started selling his homes too. There is a shortage of affordable housing, and something like Luke's tiny house would help to solve that. He hasn't done this yet, but has admitted that if he could find a way to put a tiny house "kit" together, he would do it. It's a little bit too large of a venture for a now-high school-aged kid, but he's considered it. Who else has he inspired? You'll never believe it!
Not only has Luke's brother gotten in on the building, but other members of the family have started their own projects too. His mother decided that she would renovate a 1972 RV, and they documented it on the boys' YouTube channel too. She helped design the interior of the first tiny home, and it was only natural that she would also want her own space. That YouTube channel now has 66,000 subscribers! How did her project go?
Luke's mom helped design the interior of Luke's house, so it was only fair that she had her own project. She didn' want to have to frame a house, so she bought a camper and went to work on that instead. Along with Luke and Cole, she refurbished the camper. They rebuilt large parts of the inside and refitted the counters and curtains. And, of course, they documented the whole thing on YouTube! What's he up to now? Let's go!
Luke said on his YouTube channel that his first house was really a "practice house". What he really wanted to do was to build one that he could live in full-time. He considered selling the first one to help pay the costs of the second one, but he hasn't done that. He did start working on a new one anyway. What happened to his new house? Keep reading!
Here And Now
About two years after he completed his first tiny house build, Luke decided to build another one! This one was slightly bigger, with better wiring, and slightly wider too. He continues his YouTube and Instagram channels, and moved the original tiny house to another section of the property. He continues to upload videos and has opened a Patreon account so that his fans can help support him too! Wow! That's a lot for a teenager! What else can he do?
A lot has happened since Luke's initial tiny home build. He's now 16 years old (as of 2019) and continues to try and inspire others. The YouTube channel was recently updated with a video of Luke ice fishing with his father, and in it, he talks about building an ice fishing structure for the two of them. He certainly learned a lot and will continue to keep building in the future too!
We hope you enjoyed the story about a teenager building a tiny house. It's really a remarkable story, and he will continue to inspire others for years to come. If you liked the story, and you want to inspire someone you know, please share it with your friends! Thanks for reading!