Converting a Shed Into a Tiny House in the Philippines: Part 1 (2022)

Francis and I traveled a lot pre-pandemic and we loved those tiny houses in the coastal areas we visited. These vacations definitely helped us decide that we wanted a tiny house.

But these were just fleeting daydreams. In fact, the design of our tiny house has changed so much in our heads and conversations through the years.

Fast forward, here we are. Our own tiny house is almost done!

In this two-part blog post, I’m going to share with you why we decided to build a tiny house instead of a standard house, how we converted Francis’ parents’ concrete shed into our house, the process of building our house, and how much we spent.

For this article (Part 1), let’s talk about tiny houses and how we decided converting a shed into a tiny house. Let’s go!

  1. Tiny Houses in the Philippines
  2. Why Did We Choose a Tiny House?
  3. Is It Cheaper to Turn a Shed into a House?
  4. How Did We Convert a Shed to a Tiny House?
    1. Budget
    2. Lot and Shed
    3. Contractor
    4. Plan
    5. Timeline
  5. In Part 2

Tiny Houses in the Philippines

To be honest, tiny houses are nothing new here in the Philippines. In fact, according to Statista, majority of Philippine houses are within tiny house dimensions.

Source: Statista

As depressing as it sounds, this shouldn’t come as a surprise, since the Philippines is a small country that operates on the reality of smallness. After all, Nick Joaquin didn’t write “A Heritage of Smallness” for nothing. Aren’t we, Filipinos, the only people that as a nation buys shampoo by the sachet, candies by individually wrapped packages, and peppercorns by half a teaspoon? We’re not the world’s single-use plastic capital for nothing.

In fact, to be able to write about how we chose to build a tiny house is privilege in itself. Most Filipinos don’t get to decide on something like this.

So, while the tiny house movement in the West is an ideal, a conscious effort to live small and live with less, for us Filipinos, we don’t have a choice.

But, let’s leave the depressing stories for another day. For now, let’s escape to our tiny house.

Why Did We Choose a Tiny House?

Tiny houses have enjoyed popularity these recent years, especially among young people. YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, and even Facebook is filled with photos that resonate with our aspirations for a simple life.

These are two main reasons Francis and I wanted a tiny house:

  1. Budget
  2. Practicality

Honestly, budget is the biggest reason we chose to build a tiny house. A tiny house will be a lot cheaper to build. We figured that a bigger house will be harder to maintain in terms of electric consumption. Although we are planning to go fully solar-powered in 2024, this size is all we can afford this time. We also want to scale down on our purchases and a bigger house will have lots of vacant nooks and crannies to fill!

In terms of practicality, we both believe that we don’t need a big house as a family of three. Not only is a big house harder to maintain in terms of housekeeping and bills, but we’re not sure that our daughter will want to live here when she grows up. In fact, if it were up to me, we will be moving to a different country. Sprout might decide to live somewhere else, so a bigger house will be too big for just Francis and me.

(We know because that is how our parents feel now that their children have all grown up.)

If you are looking into constructing a tiny house for yourself or your family, I found this article from Martilyo to be a great resource. Other articles that I loved from the website are How to Build a House Under P200,000 in the Philippines and 20 Tips for Building a Low-Cost House in the Philippines.

Is It Cheaper to Turn a Shed into a House?

To be honest, we thought earlier on that converting the concrete shed into a house would be cheaper. But it turns out that’s not necessarily the case. Once the workers started, we discovered that some of the walls did not have a good foundation so they had to be replaced. Nevertheless, we managed to save one wall and one beam.

The original shed was one-story and we wanted a loft, so that’s another half wall. We needed a better foundation. Our contractor wanted to make the structure was strong enough in case we want to add a full second and even third floor someday. (We won’t.)

Finally, we had to raise our floor by two feet to be safe from flooding, since the neighbors are raising their lots as well.

In hindsight, it would’ve been cheaper to build a house from scratch.

How Did We Convert a Shed to a Tiny House?

Budget

Budget is the primary consideration in this construction project, since we weren’t really able to save since we got married. Our budget for our tiny house was 400,000 Philippine pesos (around 7,300 USD). Although you can watch YouTube videos where owners managed to build their houses for one, two, or three hundred thousand just a few months ago, PhP 400,000 is miniscule in today’s economy.

Lot and Shed

Our tiny house is converted from the unused concrete shed in Francis’s family’s lot. It used to be a kamalig where they stored tanduyong (shallots) they harvested from their farm. (This was before agriculture became depressingly unprofitable.)

Before we talked to his family about converting it to our home, it housed their old stuff and clutter. I don’t know what happened to their things when the construction began, but we managed to salvage a hardwood round dining table.

The Shed

The shed itself is 30 square meters (~323 square feet), which is well within the dimensions of a tiny house. However, it is almost square (6 feet by 5 feet), not rectangular like most tiny houses.

Aside from the strict budget, I think this is what made constructing our tiny house a challenge for our contractor. There was an existing structure he had to work with.

Contractor

Obviously, we did not build our tiny house ourselves! Francis and I are not really the handy type, unlike my dad and his dad. Even if we were, we will never dream of building a concrete house by ourselves.

My dad is a retired civil engineer so, at the very least, we know that we must never try to DIY our house. Unfortunately, he cannot help us because he lost his eyesight from diabetes. He also admits that his designs are passé and that we should go for someone younger.

So, the contractor we chose is Engr. Jonathan Felipe of A. Pascual, San Jose City, Nueva Ecija. He is both Francis’s trusted friend and Sprout’s ninong by affinity.

What we loved most about our contractor is that he made sure that our foundations are strong enough if ever we decide to add a full second or even third floor in the future (although I’m pretty sure that will not happen). He is a master electrician and master plumber as well, so we trusted that our house will be in good hands.

Now, many will say that you should hire an Architect for your home. (The billboard in front of a construction supplies store says so.) We would have wanted to, but our budget didn’t allow it. If your budget allows you to hire an Architect, definitely go for it!

Plan

The Original Floor Plan

To be honest, the final design is not at all what I originally wanted. What I wanted was just a huge white multifunction room and a beautiful bathroom. But Francis wanted to have a loft, which will be our daughter’s bedroom when she requests to have her own. (We co-sleep.) So, I left them to do the planning with these “special requests” (Pattispeak for non-negotiables):

  • Not prefab/container van. Container van houses or extensions are becoming increasingly popular here at San Jose City. I admit I entertained having a prefab house for a while. Thankfully, Francis talked me out of it, given the climate in this part of the Philippines.
  • No indoor kitchen. We do not cook inside my parents’ house. We used to, when we were younger, but stopped because we always burned food so the house was constantly gross and greasy. My parents built a dirty kitchen outside, so that has since become my ideal. (In fact, my parents’ house is my ideal, that even the color scheme is almost the same.)
  • Huge windows. All the houses I grew up in had huge windows, so naturally, I would choose huge windows for our house as well. The house we’re building has a small one in the bathroom, two large ones in the bedroom, and three lean and tall ones in the “multipurpose” area.
  • Roof must NOT be red or green.

And since my husband took charge of the layout, I was assigned with the finishing touches.

Timeline

Because both our Ilocano contractor and Francis’s parents are superstitious, we did not start with the project in August, which is believed to be a ghost month or gawat.

The original contract was to finish the house in a month in time for my 34th birthday. Unfortunately, my birthday had passed and our house is not yet finished because of a couple of accidents and a typhoon.

As of now, it’s been a month and a half. They will hopefully finish before November.

In Part 2

That’s it! That’s the backstory of this tiny house construction journey.

In Part 2 – which I promise to finish as soon as our home is completed – we will talk about the construction process, challenges encountered, and the price of converting a concrete shed to our tiny house for three. We will also share with you a list of reliable suppliers here in San Jose City, Nueva Ecija.

Stay tuned! Bye for now!

Love lots,

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