Many people’s dream is to own a home. But, not many dream, or even imagine of building it themselves. If you think you can’t do this, you should know that Luke Thill, a 13-year-old kid, built his own tiny home. He constructed it in his parents’ backyard, all for under $1,500! Although it sounds too good to be true, he really did do it. Keep reading to find out everything this teenager faced. By the end, you may even feel like making your very own tiny home!
My Own Two Hands
Dubuque, Iowa native Luke Thill is an 8th grader who is not afraid to dream big. He dreamed up his very own “starter home”, an 89-square-foot tiny home. Initially, he had to work hard including many odd jobs to make the cash required. He was determined to accomplish his goal to say the least!
Curious as to how look got started? He told ABC News, “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.”
No Ordinary Kid
Summer vacation and feeling bored was another big reason he decided to construct his very own tiny home. Many kids spend all of their free time playing video games, but not Luke. He wanted to build, build, build.
But before drafting the plan, there was one thing he needed to get out of the way first and foremost. He needed the green light from his parents Greg and Angie. They saw how serious their son was about the project and granted him permission to build on their 4 acres.
Before he started working on the project, Greg Thill gave his son several rules to keep in mind. Luke had to raise funds all on his own, build it by himself, and lastly, own the home. Although that sounds hard, Luke was determined, now a step closer to building his tiny home.
Greg Thill spoke with ABC News in October 2017, and said, “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.’”
But of course, Greg did not simply let Luke go wild during the construction phase, he stuck around to watch over the young man. But, he ultimately wanted this to be a time for Luke to learn important life lessons. Luke learned how to deal with adults, make significant financial decisions, stick to a budget, frame a structure, and wire a home…pretty impressive!
“It was a chance for a kid to do something more than play video games or sports. It teaches life lessons” Greg said. After all, many kids these days become obsessed with their digital devices. Projects like this are always a good idea.
Honor Thy Neighbor
In the beginning, Luke was busy saving money and raising money by using reclaimed materials, mowing lawns, and fund me pages on the internet. He also bartered with friends and acquaintances for assistance. Luke planned carefully, and although he may have abandoned some plans later, many of them were effective.
Rolling Up His Sleeves
You will probably be impressed by the bartering skills Luke had. He actually mowed the lawn of a Scout leader in exchange for help with carpeting in the bedroom. He also cleaned the garage of a neighbor who promised to help him wire the house. Hard work certainly pays off!
If we were his parents, we would definitely be proud of this hard-working and determined young man. “He’s a very driven kid for his age,” Luke’s father 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
Aside from doing odd jobs and bartering with people, Luke also recycled materials for his home. He actually made use of his grandmother’s leftover siding, as well as a front door courtesy of his uncle’s friend. Luke sounded a lot older than 13 when he explained his motivations: “I liked the minimalism. And I wanted to have a house without a huge mortgage.”
The generosity of his uncle’s friend did not end there. He helped Luke once again when he gave the young man some windows. That’s awesome because what kind of home doesn’t come with windows? Luke just needs some blinds to go with them!
Can you believe that 75% of the material for the home had been recycled? That’s amazing! As we already mentioned, most of the windows have been recycled. Not many people get to say the same thing. It might sound difficult to build an environment-friendly house, but Luke managed to do it just fine.
We are sure you are wondering about the size of the home. Well, it is 10 feet long and 5 ½ feet wide. It is clear from the loft and small outdoor deck that he thought everything through. Let us not forget that the siding is half vinyl, half cedar shakes.
Come On In!
Step inside the tiny home and you will see the small kitchen area equipped with a counter. Aside from that, there are also shelving leads that go to a back sitting area with a wall-mounted TV, a large ottoman, and a flip-down table.
It’s A Shed
You will also find a ladder that you can climb to get to the upstairs loft, where Luke keeps a mattress. Greg Thill has explained that according to city codes, the tiny house is actually “a glorified shed”.
Hard Work Pays Off
There were some people at school who did not approve of the project Luke was working on. Despite this, he kept a determined attitude and continued working on the tiny home. We are glad to hear that he did not get discouraged!
It did not take a long time before the whole town knew about his project. After all, there were only 58,000 people in the locality and word travels quickly. Whenever people saw the young man, they would ask him for details about the project. Luke eventually decided that it would be more convenient to keep them posted via a YouTube channel. This was when the media started to notice his story.
Luke explained what it was like to watch tiny home construction videos in the beginning: “I couldn’t find anyone younger than 14. 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 turns out that his decision to begin posting videos on YouTube had been the right call. He 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
There was one time he discussed the time he had been called to visit the principal’s office. The young man was a good student who got good grades, so he felt nervous about the summons. “I don’t go there very often. I’ve never gone there for anything bad.”
You’re A Star
His fear had been baseless, however. Apparently, the principal simply wanted to talk to Luke because he had a reporter friend who wanted to write about the story. We have to say that we did not have any reporters wanting to do a story about us when we were 13!
Quite The Mess
Luke Thill learned many things when he was working on the project, though the biggest lesson was about overcoming disappointment. A good example of such a moment was the “counter-top fail”. The young man used broken colored glass below for a lacquer surface. Things did not go according to plan since it was “too watery”, something he discovered when he poured it in. Yikes.
Learning From His Mistakes
Luke was definitely not the type of person to wring his hands and give up about experiencing setbacks. As a matter of fact, he did the opposite and made the most out of the mistake. The lacquer already created a bond that connected the counter and the wall. He only attached a traditional counter surface atop the lacquer surface he messed up in the beginning. Not bad at all, Luke!
Luke is more than just a builder and a visionary. This young man is a chef as well, though he is still considered a rookie. On his YouTube channel, he documented the “first meal” he had in his new home. Nothing beats breakfast for dinner!
The city code might have called the home only “a glorified shed”, but there were people who thought better of it. The TinyFest organizers invited him to speak at the tiny home festival held in Colfax, Iowa. It was actually Luke Thill’s first ever speaking engagement after people took notice of his project. He must have been nervous, but the speech was great.
He was getting closer to the finish, and he would have a place to call his tiny home at long last. However, one thing was missing… is was no toilet! We understand why. After all, young Luke would need more time, money, and effort to install plumbing in the tiny home. These are things he didn’t have.
It took him a year to construct the tiny home, but he finally did it! Are you wondering if he uses it? He certainly does. As a matter of fact, he sleeps in it several times a week, entertains his guests there, and finishes his homework in his own home. Luke set out to do it, and here he was at long last. We are glad people noticed the fruits of his hard work.
Cookouts And Chills
The tiny home is, well, tiny. Nonetheless, it does come with a huge backyard that makes it possible to host cookouts and barbeque parties. Perhaps he will have to ask for his parents’ permission first, but it’s not a big deal. At least he has a home of his own.
Read All About It!
Isn’t it amazing that Luke’s story made it to the front page of two major Iowa-based newspapers? We are talking about none other than the Des Moines Register and the Telegraph Herald. After this happened, other media outlets and local TV stations covered it as well. Good Morning America also contacted him!
Good Morning America wanted to interview Luke Thill and see the tiny house. When the interview went on air, there was another person who contacted Luke. It was a house designer that he admired! Luke must have felt like the luckiest man alive.
So who exactly are we talking about? Why, none other than author Derek Diedricksen, of course! Luke must have been over the moon since Diedricksen had been the inspiration behind the tiny home. The young man must have enjoyed hearing encouragement and chatting one-on-one with his idol. You will be glad to hear that the two are friends on their social media platforms. Luke is now like Derek in the sense that he inspires so many people.
In The Family
It seems like Luke was not the only creative person in the family. His brother, Cole, embarked on a project to make a teardrop camper instead! It was also made of recycled and reclaimed objects and materials. Cole also made a budget and shared the project on YouTube. He certainly had one advantage over Luke. After all, Cole did have a brother who knew how to go about it!
But Wait There’s More
The YouTube channel Luke and Cole run now boast of more than 9,000 subscribers. Cool, right? The boys do not simply focus on their projects, but they also make sure to shine the spotlight on projects by other people! Among other things, they featured a sheep herder’s wagon and their mom’s 1972 camper renovation project.
His Own Space
The tiny home serves as Luke’s personal sanctuary, somewhere he can go when he needs personal space. “I have a twin brother so it gives me the chance to have my own space,” the young home builder explained.
Luke did not only tour his YouTube followers around the tiny home, but he also talked about how much it cost him. He said that the overall cost of this structure was “more like $1,200, but I rounded it up just in case I forgot anything.”
No one could have foretold just how much attention Luke would get for the tiny home. After all, that was not part of his plan when he started making the tiny home. Nonetheless, the young man used the attention for good. He said, “I want to show kids it’s possible to build at this age.” That is really admirable, Luke. What could be next for this teenager?
Upwards and Onwards
“The main purpose is to be my starter home. I’m going to save money and expand,” Luke said. He wants to build a somewhat larger tiny home that he can put on a trailer sometime in the future. Maybe he can skip campus housing and live there when he leaves for college. At any rate, it will surely be cheaper.
Luke explained his future plans to ABC News: “In a couple of years I want to build a bigger house and stay in it full-time.” He already has the experience of building a tiny home under his belt, so he will likely do great when it comes to making a bigger home.
The Best Part
We are sure that making a tiny home is a fun process. The best part for Luke, however, is bonding with his father: “Me and my dad really bonded through the process…he was really busy but he made sure to spend time with me.”
Luke is clearly a bright young man who is always thinking ahead. “Everyone had to have a big house, and now people have changed and realized it’s not practical,” explained Luke Thill. “You can save money, travel the world and do what you want instead.”
Meet Renee McLaughlin
Like Luke Thill, Renee McLaughlin also made a tiny home to live in. You heard us right. She now lives in an 87 square feet home, which must have been very different from her old 3,300 square feet home. “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,” McLaughlin explained. “It’s not making us happy.”
The New “In”
Tiny homes are structures that have dimensions of less than 500 square feet. It seems like they are on their way to becoming the next big thing! Renee McLaughlin had been in charge of TinyFest Midwest. She was also the person to invite Luke Thill as a speaker during the event. We bet she loves her tiny home!
An Affordable Option
There were people who laughed at her decision, but she is now in a much better situation than they are. “I now own everything outright with no debt,” McLaughlin said. “I can move around. It’s nice to know I can just go.” And just so you know, tiny homes can be just as stylish as regular homes. Take a look at this one!
Chuck Em Out
Renee recommends disposing of excess things that you are holding onto for no good reason. Nowadays, she shops less and gives away things she no longer needs. However, she had a hard time letting go of clothes and shoes. “I’m a simple girl, but a girl, nonetheless,” she explained.
Are you convinced that you need to make your own tiny home now? Before rushing into things, you should know that it does not make the cut in most infrastructures. Many city codes require that houses have a certain measurement. In Des Moines, a home must be 24 feet wide at the very list. That’s right – our young homebuilder only just made it! Whew, that was close.
Do not go around thinking that the “tiny house movement” is only an architectural idea. We will have you know that it is actually a social movement as well. These days, people are aiming to downsize. This is one way to go about it.
Looking At The Numbers
By now, you must be considering living in your very own tiny home! Despite the fact that more people are considering it, there is still plenty of work to be done before you see it every day. Let us take a look at the statistics. Only 3,000 of 1.5 million homes listed in the US fit the description of “tiny homes”.
On average, the cost of a tiny home is $23,000, give or take. This means that about 70% of people who own tiny homes don’t pay a mortgage! One of the worst parts of being a homeowner is that you will have to suffer through monthly mortgage payments for two to three decades. Yikes. A tiny home makes these additional costs completely unnecessary.
It’s In Our Hands
We are sure that you are just as impressed by this young man as we are. He has shown us that determination can go a long way. The future might seem bleak with the domination of mass consumption. A tiny home is the way to go if you want to save both your money and the environment. We hope that more people follow in the footsteps of young Luke Thill!