Home & Garden

Teenager Builds Tiny House to Be Rent-Free for Life

Teenager Austin Hay decided to start his adult life a dozen steps ahead of his peers, and possibly some people a decade or two older than him. Hay built a tiny, personalized house during his junior and senior years in high school so he could be rent- and mortgage-free when he set out for college. Filmmaker Kirsten Dirksen visited Hay at his home and filmed a documentary about his project.

It all started when Hay’s high school gave students an assignment to research any topic that piqued their interest. He chose the tiny house movement. The project really took off when he parked a small trailer in his parents’ backyard.

Then he framed it, put the roof on and added insulation over a few months. He began sleeping in the tiny house before the interior was even finished and only the basic insulation lined the walls. What teenager doesn’t want to get out of the house as soon as possible?

YouTube/Kirsten Dirksen Screenshot

He began building the project in earnest after taking a single shop class. However, after about 18 months the house transformed from an empty trailer to a cozy space.

YouTube/Kirsten Dirksen Screenshot

Hay says the project cost around $12,000 to complete and he paid for it in tiny increments over those months.

Now he has a compost toilet, an on-demand water heater for the full-size shower and a sleeping loft.

YouTube/Kirsten Dirksen Screenshot
YouTube/Kirsten Dirksen Screenshot

He learned how to build his own sofa-bed with some basic carpentry skills and foam padding. His tiny stove and modest refrigerator provide all the cooking space this young man could need.

YouTube/Kirsten Dirksen Screenshot

He also planned to add solar panels to the house for increased efficiency and less reliance on standard electrical outlets.

Austin Hay has even become a local celebrity after news spread about his work ethic. High schools in the area started to ask Austin for advice on creating a fully functional small space. He also received some grant funding to finish his efficient home. As Hay says, “It feels great every day where I accomplish something. Even a simple ladder.”

YouTube/Kirsten Dirksen Screenshot

Dirksen was there to film Hay’s tiny open house when his home was nearly complete back in 2012:

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Teenager Builds Tiny House to Be Rent-Free for Life