Skip to Content

13-year-old builds 89-square-foot tiny home in his parents’ backyard for only $1,500

Most teenagers look forward to turning 18, so they can finally move out of their parents’ home and live in their own space. But for one teen, that came sooner rather than later when he began building his “starter home” in June 2016.

Luke Thill, then 13 years old, built an 89-square-foot tiny home right in his parents’ four-acre property in Dubuque, Iowa.

Thill spent $1,500 building the small structure from scratch, which he paid for by doing all kinds of jobs for neighbors and friends, including cleaning out garages and cutting lawns.

“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,” he told ABC News. “I got obsessed with them and decided to build my own.”

Most youngsters wouldn’t even think about building their own home, but Thill’s motivation for doing it was mostly financial.

“I liked the minimalism. And I wanted to have a house without a huge mortgage,” he told the Des Moines Register.

Thill was able to keep his costs down by using reclaimed materials. He took the leftover siding from his grandma’s house, and he got several windows and a front door gifted by his uncle’s friend.

His mother, Angie Thill, helped with the interior furnishings, while his father, Greg Thill, guided him along the way. His twin sister and brother also helped.

The project was a family effort, but Thill did most of the work himself, including tasks outside manual labor.

He learned how to frame and wire a home, bargain for labor and other assistance, and make major financial decisions.

“It was a chance for a kid to do something more than play video games or sports,” his dad said. “It teaches life lessons.”

In return for cleaning out his garage, an electrician neighbor helped him wire the tiny home. After he mowed at his apartment buildings, a local Scout leader helped Thill install carpet in the bedroom.

The dwelling may be teeny-tiny, but Thill managed to fit in a seating area, a wall-mounted TV, a mini-refrigerator, a sleeping loft, and a fold-up dining table.

He also built a small deck outside, the siding of which is half cedar shakes and half vinyl.

The mini pad isn’t fully livable because it has no plumbing, so Thill only sleeps there a few nights a week and uses his “glorified shed” to entertain friends. He also does homework there after school.

Thill’s tiny house endeavors don’t end here: He hopes to one day build a bigger trailer home so that he can haul it to college to save on living expenses.

“The main purpose is to be my starter home,” he explained. “I’m going to save money and expand.”

Thill’s tiny home gained massive attention; he was even invited to speak at TinyFest Midwest, a tiny home festival. The teen also started a YouTube channel where he shared his tiny living experiences and the home’s building process.

Before starting the project, Thill first watched tiny home construction videos.

“I couldn’t find anyone younger than 14,” he said. “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.”

Thill hopes his project inspires others to adopt a more downsized life.

“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.”

Check out Luke Thill’s cool 89-square-foot tiny house in the video below.

***Did you enjoy our feel-good and positive story? You can help support our site by simply SUBSCRIBING and sharing our stories with your friends and family.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Melissa Pouliot

Monday 27th of March 2023

13 yrs old is remarkable, you are driven and talented your going to do great things in life. You really impressed me. Please continue showing us more of your work/talent :D

Monday 2nd of January 2023

OMG some of you above are so negative. Instead of commending the 13 year old on the good work he has done through his own hard earned money, you are coming up with your negativity!

Steve Merchant

Saturday 8th of January 2022

Mate, great work. Love your initiative, drive and motivational factors. I have no doubt you have a v bright future in what ever area you so choose to direct your focus and energy. Don't listen to any negative comments and focus on your goals, passions and family. You are a remarkable young man. Your family must be v proud as you are of your actions and outcome. Congrats Steve in Australia...

HM Darius Noto-Holstein

Saturday 8th of January 2022

I am wondering if you need inspection? permits? I'm sure the city will be all over that with fees and code enforcements.

Tuesday 14th of December 2021

I think you are a remarkble young man! You are going to go far in life with your focus on building your own home and being so willing to share your ideas with others! I hope you have a wonderful life!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.