Rick BissonThe concept of tiny homes continues to gain popularity and recent regulatory changes point toward further acceptance.

At the state level, after a year-long effort by a Midcoast lawmaker to remove obstacles to tiny homes in Maine’s building code, the State of Maine removed some of the previous obstacles that impeded some Mainers interested in seeking the lifestyle of tiny home living.

“The Maine Uniform Building and Energy Code has in fact been amended and as of yesterday, it went live and we now have specific definitions and allowances for tiny homes here in Maine,” said Seth Berry, a Bowdoinham state representative.

Berry said rule-making by the Maine Building Codes and Standards Board will change the state’s building code to permit certain features of the 100- to 400-square-foot structures that might otherwise have been in violation of the code.

“They still have to meet some standards and there still are some things that have to be resolved,” said Berry. “I think gray water is one, I think the whole question of wheels or no wheels is another. But issues like ceiling height, being able to have ladders instead of stairs, it’s those kinds of things that have been addressed and dealt with in the new code.”

The new standards include defining a tiny house in Maine as a dwelling less than 400 square feet, allowing sleeping lofts, permitting ladder access to lofts and approving skylights as points of emergency egress.

Towns are still free to accept or deny tiny house construction. The difference now is local building code enforcers have a legitimate uniform code to act upon. Further, with these new state building codes municipal zoning and code enforcement boards have some standards around which they can develop their own local building codes.

“Maine is now one of the first states to have adopted this tiny house code language,” Berry said. “This is very positive for the growth of this cottage industry and will allow more Maine homeowners the option to pursue tiny house living.”

Finding a consistent and specific definition of a tiny home is not easy. According to thetinylife.com, a resource for those seeking information on tiny living, which encompasses simple living, tiny houses, and environmentally responsible lifestyles, the typical small or tiny house is between 100 and 400 square feet. The outer width is typically 8.5 feet wide, 13.5 feet high and the total length, including the towing vehicle is less than 60 feet.

Tiny houses come in all shapes, sizes, and forms, but they enable simpler living in a smaller, more efficient space. Tiny houses range from small, primitive huts to award-winning displays of sustainable architecture with elegant streamlined design. Many are built on wheels, providing the added benefit of traveling about in your home. Additionally, some capitalize on the increasingly popular movement to live “off the grid.”

The average cost to build and outfit a tiny home is approximately $30,000. Do-it-yourselfers can expect to pay between $15,000 and $20,000 for the materials to build a 20-foot tiny house. The cost to contract with a tiny home builder for a turn-key package could be around $45,000. Upgrades to appliances trim packages and materials can increase the final cost.

Common social myths and stigmas behind living in a tiny home are the perceived sacrifices and psychological hurdles to parting with many of life’s possessions. Another misconception exists that tiny homes are only meant for one or two inhabitants.

The reality is that the cost for high-end features and finishes are less of a factor in a tiny house. Further, many couples and families are making the choice to and finding great pleasure living in smaller spaces.

Whether or not a tiny house is in your future, there is a degree of intrigue to the lifestyle and opportunities afforded by the tiny lifestyle. If your curiosity about tiny homes is heightened; do some research. Find out the building code guidelines in your town and contact your trusted, expert Realtor.

This column is produced by Rick Bisson and his family, who own Bisson Real Estate with Keller Williams Realty of Midcoast and Sugarloaf.

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