The Pros and Cons of a THOW vs. A Tiny House on a Foundation

The Pros and Cons of a THOW vs. A Tiny House on a Foundation

Written and graphics made by Isabelle Nagel-Brice of A Tiny Good Thing

Since the time when humans first began building shelter until now, most homes were small. Many groups of people lived nomadic lifestyles, so their houses could be considered the first mobile houses on wheels,. It’s been in our most recent history that many people in developed countries know what it’s like to live in large spaces, with more belongings than necessary. Now we have reached a movement where people are choosing to live tiny due to an affordable housing crises. With the growing interest in tiny living, there has grown a divide and distinction between tiny houses on wheels (THOWs), and those on permanent foundations. 

Photo: Jay’s house the Matchbox via https://boneyardstudios.org

The choice to place a tiny house on a permanent foundation or a trailer most often boils down to legal issues, land, or potential living spaces and lifestyle choices. 


Tiny houses on wheels are typically the visual depiction of the Tiny House Movement and have been the chosen form of alternative housing for about 15 years. However, the Tiny House Movement didn’t really start to gain momentum until about 2012 following the 2008 recession when people began contemplating other ways to live and explore outside of the previously popular 2200 average sized American home. THOW are a perfect combination of living a mobile lifestyle while also creating a high quality of life. There’s not much “roughing it” in a tiny house, and that contributes to the wide age range of people choosing tiny house living. 

The growing movement has caused municipalities all over the US to crack down on THOW in both rural and urban areas. Although evictions are mostly complaint-based, it has become increasingly difficult to find places to park, partially due to the legal issues and also because more people are choosing to live in THOW more than ever before. 

Tiny Houses on a Foundation

Tiny houses on foundations are growing in popularity as a way to increase affordable housing and density in cities that allow tiny houses on foundations as accessory dwelling units (ADUs). Additionally, most municipalities dictate a minimum square footage for tiny houses on foundations and in some places that can be quite a bit larger than a “tiny house,” especially one on a trailer. However, in places that allow smaller footprints, it’s more common in recent years to see tiny or small houses being built instead of large houses on private property. 

For some, 200 sq ft, which is about the footprint of an average sized tiny house right now is too small, and they may not plan to move their house anyway. Putting their home on a foundation and building slightly larger and taller can make a huge difference to their overall interior living space.

Living in a tiny house community is the golden dream for some and in a few cities across the country they have created laws that allow tiny house communities as long as they are on foundations and tied to the grid. However, that process can be quite costly for the land developer and, in some cases, not worth it. THOW communities are also becoming more common throughout the country whether that’s due to converting an existing RV or mobile home park, or creating new zoning. 

Photo: Tiny house on a foundation at The Hiatus community by https://tongueandgroovehomes.com/

Tiny houses in whichever form create an alternative and affordable housing opportunity. Their builds can both be properly certified and insured, as well as fully customized to suit the lifestyles of the inhabitants. They are also a great way to increase density in neighborhoods without disrupting or changing the landscape of those communities, and it’s an awesome way to live minimally and reduce our environmental footprint.