Purchasing a home is by no means easy, but building one is no mean feat either. Nevertheless, 13-year-old Iowa native Luke Thill decided that he would build his own home, and so he did! He built his tiny home in his folks’ backyard – and all for only $1,500! It does sound so good that it can’t be true, but that’s precisely what happened! Read the impressive story of Luke and discover all the highs and lows of building your own home – and there are a lot of tips here that can help you build your very own (tiny) home in the future!
My Own Two Hands
Luke Thill is actually an 8th grader who hails from Dubuque, Iowa. However, he came up with the idea of building his very own 89-square-foot “structure,” which he refers to as his “starter home.” Go figure. A lot of Luke’s efforts had him doing several odd jobs just to earn the money he needed, but he was set on achieving his dream and nothing could stop him.
Wondering what Luke’s inspiration was? “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,” Luke said to ABC News in October of 2017. “I got obsessed with them and decided to build my own.”
No Ordinary Kid
In addition, there is one other simple reason that he decided he wanted to build his own home. It was because he realized he was getting quite bored during summer vacation. Even though some kids may complain that summer vacation is too short or they lock themselves indoors playing video games and what-not, Luke was making preparations to build.
When Luke started planning the specific aspects of building his own house, he had to get his parents’ permission of course. Luke’s parents, Greg and Angie Thill, immediately understood that their son had already been set on completing this serious mission. Therefore, the couple gave their son the go-ahead to build his tiny home on the four-acre property of the family.
Greg, Luke’s dad, explained to his son that as he starts working on the project, a couple of simple rules needed to be followed. Luke had to raise money on his own and he had to build the house on his own. What’s more, Luke’s the owner. We don’t know what others might think about those rules, but they sound pretty tough to follow! However, with Luke’s determination, everything seemed to be heading in the right way.
“We said, ‘If you’re that serious we have to set some ground rules,’” Greg Thill explained to ABC News back in October of 2017. “We told him he had to have the financial responsibility of it, raise the money and choose the materials and stay in the budget.”
Needless to say, Greg Thill was always around to guide Luke while working alongside his son, but ultimately the elder Thill wanted his son to learn different things on his own like wiring the home, framing a structure, dealing with grown-ups, making important financial decisions, and not straying from the budget. Some really important lessons that we should all learn.
“It was a chance for a kid to do something more than play video games or sports,” Greg explained. “It teaches life lessons.” Needless to say, Greg was completely right about his decision. In the viral world of today, a lot of children usually concentrate on digital things rather than what is right in front of them.
Honor Thy Neighbor
When Luke first started building his house, he did quite a number of things such as raising money online, raising money by mowing other people’s lawns and using reclaimed materials. What’s more, Luke even bartered to have some extra hands to assist him. A ton of planning was involved in Luke’s mission to build a house – while a few of the plans got chucked out the window, the others were quite successful.
Rolling Up His Sleeves
Some of the barterings that Luke did were pretty solid. The young lad cleaned his electrician neighbor’s garage so the latter would help Luke in wiring his tiny home. He cut the lawn of a Scout leader so that the latter would add some carpet in Luke’s loft bedroom. There’s nothing like some hard work to construct your own house!
Unsurprisingly, Luke’s dad is really proud of what his son was doing and the determination the young boy is showing. “He’s a very driven kid for his age,” Luke’s dad said. “There were times the project got stalled out and he had to earn more money for the next phase. He wouldn’t let it go and kept working at it.”
Luke Thill – The Minimalist
Luke didn’t only do odd jobs to get some help in building his house, but he also recycled! Luke used some of the leftover sidings from his grandma’s house and also the front door that he got from his uncle’s friend. “I liked the minimalism,” Luke commented (sounding much older than 13 years old). “And I wanted to have a house without a huge mortgage.”
His uncle’s friend, however, didn’t just stop with the door. He later helped Luke again by giving the young builder some old windows. What’s a house without some windows, right? We just hope Luke doesn’t have pesky and nosy neighbors who like peering in!
Before we forget, Luke’s house is actually made from almost 75% recycled materials! In fact, most of the windows in his tiny home are recycled too. We bet many homeowners probably can’t say the same thing. A house that is economically friendly often costs a lot and is usually hard to achieve. Yet for Luke, it wasn’t as difficult as he had initially thought.
Luke’s home is 10 feet long and 5½ feet wide, but it also includes a loft. There is also a small outside deck. Actually, Luke had a rather stable floor plan. In addition, the siding is half vinyl, half cedar shakes as well.
Come On In!
Taking a look inside, you will see that there is a small area for a kitchen which includes a counter. In addition, there is shelving that leads to a sitting area in the back which has a relatively large ottoman, a wall-mounted TV and a flip-down table.
It’s A Shed
Get this, you will even find a ladder that takes you upstairs to a loft, where there is a mattress for sleeping. Greg Thill said to reporters that the tiny house is actually considered as “a glorified shed” by city codes.
Hard Work Pays Off
Despite the fact that he received a bit of negative feedback from a few people at school, Luke just brushed it off and continued to work at his dream house. There was certainly nothing that would be able to bring down his determination to achieve his goals.
It didn’t really take long for others within the town to find out about Luke’s adventures. We aren’t surprised at how fast word traveled, though, with the town’s population of only around 58,000. Every time someone ran into Luke, he or she would ask the young builder questions about the tiny home – so Luke thought of creating a YouTube channel that would allow everyone to follow along with the progress. However, this channel didn’t just get the attention of the people in town, it also caught the media’s eye too!
“I couldn’t find anyone younger than 14,” commented Luke. He discovered this fact when he first started watching videos of tiny home construction. “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.”
It appears that his decision to upload videos on YouTube was right! Luke explained, “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.”
Come On Down
In one particular video, Luke says that he had been told to see the principal. Considering that Luke is a good student who gets good grades, he got quite nervous. He said in the video, “I don’t go there very often.” He added, “I’ve never gone there for anything bad.”
You’re A Star
Actually, Luke didn’t have any reason to worry since the principal asked to see him due to a reporter who wished to do a story on the boy. The principal and the reporter were actually friendly with each other. Now that’s really cool when you are 13 years old and the paper would like to feature you!
Quite The Mess
Luke Thill admits that among the biggest things that he learned when he was building his tiny home was overcoming disappointment. One crucial moment was his absolute “counter-top fail.” Luke utilized broken colored glass for what was supposed to be some kind of lacquer surface. Unfortunately when he poured the lacquer, the consistency was way “too watery,” and practically ran over everything.
Learning From His Mistakes
Rather than throwing his hands up and quitting, Luke was set on making the most out of it, so that is exactly what the young builder did. The counter was attached to the wall because the lacquer created a bond to do it – job done. What Luke did was fasten some traditional counter surface on the messed-up lacquer surface, which has a hinge used for storage space with a lift top. Nice work, Luke!
Actually, Luke isn’t only a builder and a visionary but is also a chef! He’s a rookie at cooking…for now but he proudly uploaded on YouTube a video of the “first meal” he had in his new house, and it received a ton of attention. Nothing can compare to having breakfast for dinner!
Luke’s home may have been considered a “glorified shed” by city code but people from TinyFest definitely didn’t see it that way. In Colfax, Iowa, there was a festival for tiny homes and Luke Thill was invited to be a special guest. Apparently, this was Luke’s first ever speaking engagement after getting a ton of attention! And he successfully gave his speech without any problems.
With the home construction nearing its completion, Luke now had his own place to relax, eat, and sleep in. There was, however, one hiccup…his home doesn’t have a toilet! For Luke to be able to install plumbing in his tiny home, a lot of work and much more cash would be required. Something he simply didn’t have.
Even though it took Luke Thill one whole year to complete his tiny home, the fact that he did is certainly amazing! If you’re wondering whether Luke uses it, he does. He does his homework in his house, sleeps in it some nights a week, and also entertains friends in his tiny home. Despite the fact that it took one year, it doesn’t matter because Luke accomplished what he planned to do, and even other people took notice.
Cookouts And Chills
Despite the fact that his home is quite small, Luke has a huge backyard where he has some amazing cookouts with friends. He shares the backyard with his mom and dad, but then, which kid doesn’t? At least, Luke can say he has his very own home.
Read All About It!
The story of Luke Thill was literally front page news! A couple of major newspapers in Iowa, the Telegraph Herald and the Des Moines Register, put Luke on their front page. Not long after that, a few local TV stations and other media outlets decided to pick up Luke’s story. Even Good Morning America got in touch with Luke!
Good Morning America wanted to see Luke’s tiny home and needless to say, to interview him. When all of that was done, a house designer contacted Luke. It was someone he really admired too! Luke was very surprised but he was very pleased as well.
Apparently, it was an author of designing and creating tiny homes by the name of Derek Diedricksen who contacted Luke. Naturally, Luke was extremely happy because Diedricksen ‘was’ actually the one who inspired Luke to build his tiny home. Luke was really grateful that he got to chat to the author one-on-one and hear words of encouragement from him – Derek and Luke have also become friends on different social media platforms! As is the case with Derek, many have been and are continued to be inspired by Luke as well.
In The Family
Luke’s brother, Cole, followed in Luke’s footsteps by making his very own teardrop camper. It also used a lot of reclaimed and recycled materials – just like the tiny home that Luke built. Cole also thought of a budget and went on YouTube to share his success. Actually, Cole had one advantage that Luke did not have – a brother who has the experience necessary to give a hand through the project!
But Wait There’s More
At this rate, Cole and Luke’s YouTube channel has garnered over 9,000 subscribers! Isn’t that impressive? What’s more, their channel doesn’t only focus on the projects that they do. Other people’s projects are also featured, including Luke’s own mom’s 1972 camper renovation and also a wagon of a sheepherder.
His Own Space
Luke spoke about how his new home gives him the space that he needs from family sometimes. The self-assured home builder said, “I have a twin brother so it gives me the chance to have my own space.”
On his channel on YouTube, he talked about how much the building cost as he gave audiences a tour of the finished tiny home. Luke explained that the overall cost of the home was roughly “more like $1,200, but I rounded it up just in case I forgot anything.”
It would have been impossible for Luke to have any idea that the tiny home would give him a lot of attention, and that isn’t what he planned to do. When all is said and done, Luke wants to share a message, “I want to show kids it’s possible to build at this age.” Isn’t that admirable? But what could be next for Luke Thill?
Upwards and Onwards
“The main purpose is to be my starter home,” Luke explained. “I’m going to save money and expand.” Luke hopes that in a few years he will be able to build a slightly bigger tiny home which is on a trailer – perhaps he will be able to use this instead of campus housing. It will definitely be cheaper!
In an interview with ABC News, Luke mentioned, “In a couple of years I want to build a bigger house and stay in it full-time.” Well, if you have tried building a tiny home, you are probably more prepared to build a large home as well. With Luke’s determination, the odds are that he’ll succeed!
The Best Part
If you’re wondering what the best part was of making the tiny home, according to Luke it had been bonding and spending time with his dad. He said, “Me and my dad really bonded through the process…he was really busy but he made sure to spend time with me.” Just a sweet kid.
For Luke, he’s looking to the future, which seems to be closer than ever. He explained, “Everyone had to have a big house, and now people have changed and realized it’s not practical.” He said, “You can save money, travel the world and do what you want instead.”
Meet Renee McLaughlin
Just like Luke Thill, Renee McLaughlin built her very own tiny home. She did not only sell her 3,300-square-foot house but at present, she is also living in a small home – one that’s just 87 square feet. She said, “I think we’ve reached a threshold where this ‘stuff’ is running our lives. We spend all our time working to buy it, clean it and organize it.” She added, “It’s not making us happy.”
The New “In”
Tiny homes, which measure less than 500 ft2, are becoming the ‘in’ thing now. The TinyFest Midwest organizer Renee McLaughlin is the one who extended the invitation to Luke Thill to speak at the festival. McLaughlin totally loves her small home – which is actually on wheels – and she isn’t ashamed either!
An Affordable Option
Despite the fact that some laughed at her, probably because they’re not intrigued by housing prices, it seems that tiny houses have become the obvious choice these days. “I now own everything outright with no debt,” she revealed. “I can move around. It’s nice to know I can just go.” If you’re wondering if it is possible for tiny homes to be stylish, just take a look at the amazing image below.
Chuck Em Out
Renee’s advice is to get rid of extra and unneeded things which we all have the tendency to hold onto. In her case, she has decided to shop less and give away clothes which she has no need for any more. However, she did reveal that chucking out clothes and shoes was hard – “I’m a simple girl, but a girl, nonetheless,” she admitted.
Even though the idea of living in a tiny home is tempting and gives us all the chance to reduce what we need and use, most infrastructures don’t really support it. Case in point: City codes generally require houses to meet specific requirements when it comes to their size. In Des Moines, the housing codes stipulate that a home should not be less than 24 feet in width. Actually, our young innovator barely made the cut!
In the “tiny house movement” of today, it is not only an architectural idea but also a social movement that advocates living in a tiny home. Everyone is looking to downsize, and this is definitely a way to go.
Looking At The Numbers
Despite the fact that living in a small house seems like an exciting idea, if you look at the degree of influence the movement has made, we can see that there is still a lot of work that needs to get done. According to a survey that was recently conducted, out of the 1.5 million homes which are listed in the U.S., only 3,000 are “tiny homes”.
A tiny home will set you back around $23,000 on average. If you have no idea what this means, then we’re here to tell you that means nearly 70% of tiny homes owners have no mortgage. Now if you yourself own a home, you know that the monthly mortgage is among the biggest killers that usually lasts for roughly 25 to 30 years. That is almost completely cut out if you have a tiny home.
It’s In Our Hands
This young lad’s determination can greatly influence our chance to change how we live. The future appears to be heading towards mass consumption and even more massive disposal, so it is imperative that we look for other ways to reduce our carbon footprint. There is definitely room for small homes in the future. In fact, tiny homes are the future!