This 89-Sq Ft Home Was Built By A 13-Year-Old For $1,500



It was an ordinary day at school when Luke heard the loudspeaker crackle as it got turned on. Just then, the principal announced that she wanted to see him. He had no idea why she wanted to see him, as far as he was aware, he’d done nothing wrong. Perhaps this had something to do with his after-school shenanigans.

Little did he know that by that afternoon, his dad would demand that he open his door and show him exactly what he’d been doing.

Being Idle

Des Moines Register

Luke Thill lived in Iowa and was a 13-year-old boy. As all teenage boys, he would get bored pretty easily and would get into all sorts of trouble finding something to do. This time he swore he’d build himself a house.

But he never knew just how much of an undertaken his new project would be once it took off.

All On His Own

Facebook/Luke Thill

Luke knew he needed both money and materials to build his house. So he found his parents and told them about his idea. Both mom and dad approved but told him most of the effort would have to come from him.

His father, Greg, said, “It was a chance for a kid to do something more than play video games or sports,” He said it would teach Luke important life lessons that he otherwise wouldn’t learn.

Collaboration Amongst Neighbors


To get as much money as he could, Luke cut many of his neighbor’s lawns and ran many errands for the residents in his town. He would also do work for favors, like cleaning the town electrician’s garage to get him to return the favor by installing wiring in his new house.

Before long, Luke had made up enough money to get to work on his house. But it would be a larger undertaking than he had originally planned.

One Man’s Junk…

Facebook/Luke Thill

After a year, Luke had raised a whopping $1,500 and collected all the supplies that he needed. Three-quarters of his house were built out of recycled materials.

This worked to everyone’s favor, as Luke took many items that his neighbors and friends didn’t want and used them to his advantage. He would even clean all of the junk out of some garages just to get more supplies.

The Buzz Begins

Facebook/Luke Thill

Word of Luke’s house soon spread across his community. Many people were curious about what the teenager was doing with all of the junk he was collecting. Luke capitalized on this too and created a YouTube channel documenting his progress on the house.

He was soon recognized at school and his principal would call his name over the loudspeaker. What had he done wrong?

Principal’s Office

Facebook/Luke Thill

Luke now sat outside the principal’s office and racked his brain at what could have gotten him into trouble. There was nothing that he could really think of, it couldn’t be what he was doing after school, right?

Maybe he would be told to focus on his marks in school rather than his silly project that he invested so much of his time into. But it was anyone’s guess in his mind.



It turned out that the attention that Luke was getting from the principal was negative. They were friends with a reporter from Indianapolis, who wanted nothing more than to meet Luke and share his story. Luke didn’t mind the attention but really wanted to focus on getting the project done.

But even with all of his hard work and planning, there was something that he could never have anticipated. And it was around the corner.

Trial And Error


See, when Luke built the kitchen to his tiny home he had decided to make his countertop out of stained glass and liquid glaze. He had seen it done before in a YouTube video and thought he’d try his hand at it.

But when Luke made the countertop the glaze leaked out of the mold. He would upset that it hadn’t worked like in the video, but then he’d receive a spectacular invitation he could have never seen coming.

Young Influencer

Des Moines Register

The teen was contacted by a representative of TinyFest Midwest, a festival celebrating tiny houses and small living. They not only wanted Luke to attend, but they also asked him to speak about the experience of building his tiny house.

He was excited about preparing his speech since he’d recently earned a public speaking merit badge. And with the house almost finished, he’d soon be able to move in… But he had overlooked one detail.

Finishing Touches


Luke’s tiny house was finally done, as it had everything he would need to sleep, eat, and go about his day. Still, no house is complete without a few homely touches.

After all, now was the time to expose a year of hard work, not only to his family but to his entire fanbase. But the house was missing an important feature.

Can’t Have Everything

Facebook/Luke Thill

Luke had one problem: the house had no toilet. The teen realized that installing plumbing was more than he could manage, but in the end, he didn’t mind.

“I liked the minimalism,” he told the Des Moines Register. Once the house was ready, he made a video tour that wowed everyone.

Personal Haven

Des Moines Register

The 89-square-foot house, which took a year to complete, was a teenage boy’s dream: a micro living room, complete with a TV and couch, a lofted bed, and a kitchen area with an electric griddle.

It was so comfortable that Luke started spending his afternoons there doing homework, and now sleeps there a few nights a week. Now that the project was done, he thought his fame would subside – but he was wrong.

Media Darling


After speaking at TinyFest, the teen’s story made the front page of major Iowan newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Telegraph Herald. Then it got picked up by local TV stations and other outlets across the country, until it reached Good Morning America.

The show sent a crew to Luke’s house to interview him and do a tour of the house. But it was a different encounter that blew the young boy’s mind.

Meeting His Hero

YouTube/Luke Thill

Luke was contacted by Derek Diedricksen, author of a guide for designing and building tiny homes. This book was actually the inspiration for the teen in his mission to build his own tiny house, so being able to chat with him meant a lot.

Diedricksen sent him messages of support and they became online friends. Little did Luke know that soon he himself would be the inspiration for someone else’s DIY journey.

It Runs In The Family

YouTube/Luke Thill

In a recent video on his YouTube channel, the teen shared the news that his brother Cole was starting to build a teardrop camper. Like his brother, Cole was relying on reclaimed materials and a tight budget for his build, but he had something invaluable: the advice and support of his brother.

Luke has been documenting the progress on his channel, which has recently become a bigger focus for him, and for good reason.

Branching Out

YouTube/Luke Thill

With more than 9,000 subscribers and growing, the teen’s YouTube channel is becoming a force of its own in the tiny home community.

Aside from chronicling his own building journey, Luke is now also showcasing other people’s small living projects, such as a sheepherders wagon and his mom’s renovation of a 1972 camper. Does this mean being a tiny house celebrity is this kid’s true calling?

Role Model

Facebook/Luke Thill

When Luke set out to build his tiny house, his intention was just to create a very simple, shed-like house. As soon as he recognized his skill for it, the project grew more ambitious, and the rest is history.

Though he does plan to go to college, he also likes the idea of inspiring other kids to do what he did. “I want to show kids it’s possible to build at this age,” said Luke.

Minimalist Lifestyle

President Mommy

There have been other teens who were enamored with the idea of building a tiny house, too. Annabel O’Neil had the idea when her sister went off to college.

She had taken note of how expensive tuition could be and decided to build her own tiny home. Subsequently, she adopted a minimalist lifestyle in order to save money.



Another teen in Sicily also built her own tiny house, and she was only 13 years old when she embarked on the project. It took an entire year and 4 months to complete the 128-square-foot home.

The project had started as a fun venture, but unfortunately, her father passed away before she completed it. After her father’s death, she used the project as a form of therapy that helped her cope with the loss, carefully documenting her journey on her blog “La Petite Maison”.


Beauty of Planet Earth

Luke’s plans don’t end with the completion of his tiny home, though. “The main purpose is to be my starter home. I’m going to save money and expand,” he explained.

He has plans to eventually build a home large enough for a trailer. For now, he is content to sleep in his fully-functional home a few nights a week, and he uses it as a quiet spot to do his homework.

In The Spotlight

Public Domain

In a recent interview with YouTube, the delightful Luke told us his Tiny House story in detail. He was actually 12 years old when he started building it. The exact measurements of the space are 10ft tall, 5.5 ft wide, and 89sqft.

The main reason for him building the tiny house is that he was getting really bored during the summer.

Summer Projects

Public Domain

He had a lot of extra time on his hands so he decided to do something educational and fun. He was always fascinated with tiny houses. When he had the idea to build, he thought about how he was going to make the money to buy all the materials.

Worked hard enough and made enough money, could build a tiny house.

A Good Community


He didn’t know then that his determination would really inspire his community to help him out.

Luke learned a variety of skills. At his age, it is extremely good that he had hands-on experience in how to build small projects. Some of the skills he enjoyed learning were woodworking, learning how to use power tools, and handling the impact drill.

Luke’s Father


His dad is the one who taught him how to use all the tools. It was a learning curve for him. He always grew up learning how to build with his dad.

In the beginning, he was confused about the process of building, but now he knows what to do and is confident that he can handle another TinyHouse project by himself.

A New Passion


He enjoyed building the little house so much that he wished he learned how to earlier. When asked if his TinyHouse came out the way he imagined, he said that he had a different vision, it didn’t exactly turn out the way he wanted it to.

But that it was never meant for living in at all.

Learning Project


He made it a strong learning experience. He never intended on moving into the Tinyhome. He can build a bigger Tinyhome later on.

To earn money, he helped clean his dad’s friend’s garage They lived down the road. Luke learned a lot about bartering. His dad’s friend was also an electrician by trade and had no problem helping his buddy’s son out.

A Helpful Neighbour


He helped to pay and showed him how to wire the house. The friend helped him with the whole wiring process. He cut the wires and taught Luke about the electricity box.

Many people were inspired by the young boys’ determination and intelligence. Luke started a Gofundme page, he knew that he would need a bit more cash to complete his project. Most of the money he made himself and his parents gave him the rest.

Support Galore


His GoFundMe page created some online stir. And then big things happened, he was contacted to be on the front page of the Telegraph Herald. They asked him if he wanted to talk about his experience.

He inspired many young boys and decided to start a Youtube channel about his interests in the outdoors and woodworking.

Becoming Recognized


They wrote an inspiring story about him. It was a quick process and he was an overnight hit. Luke received lots of emails from TV producers from tinyhouse shows. He was also invited to speak at tiny house festivals.

He was enjoying being a young local celebrity Today, a lot of people from the city know him because of his TinyHouse success.

Going Places


When asked what his current plans are, he said that he wants to hold a Tiny house open house. The reason is that he wants to invite everyone who helped him make the tinyhouse a success.

He doesn’t live in the tinyhouse, but he does spend a great deal of time there. It is now a homework centre for the next few years.

An Identical Surprise


Not many people know that he has a twin brother. So, it is great that he has created his own personal space. He approximates his building costs at $1200- $1500. He thoroughly enjoyed the whole building project and saw it as a way for him and his father to bond.

The father and son spent many days and nights bonding and building together. Luke’s dad is really special because he made time for his son even while working a full-time job and going to college. He helped his son to complete the project no matter what. Luke is very grateful for a good family and he is studying hard at school to prove to his family how thankful he is for all they do.

A Tour Outside


On the official tour of the tinyhouse Luke showed off all the exterior features. He didn’t really do a pattern, just made sure that it was neat outside. He has a mini fireplace and a Deck outside. He didn’t use any money, all his outside décor was reclaimed

Luke showed off the new trees he planted around his tinyhouse and also the modernity of the electricity box. He had power running through.

A Familiar Touch


The side panels were reclaimed Vinyl from his grandmother’s house so it had a special touch. His gran also stitched all the curtains herself for some privacy. His front steel door was also reclaimed and he just painted it which made it look brand new. It all came together very nicely and was starting to look pretty decent.

On the inside tour, we a greeted with a long carpet, to make it feel more homely, Luke says. The centerpiece is a beautiful reclaimed frosted glass from his own home. He reused them because they didn’t fit and the doors were leaking.

Eye For Detail


When you stand inside you can see that Luke has all the basic essentials. Even though there is no running water, he saves water by using a glass urn and bowl. The tinyhouse has a flat-screen TV, so he can play video games and watch his favorite shows.

In the corner, he has a sleek ottoman and a practical fold-out table where u to 4 people could sit, but would be a pretty tight squeeze!

A Private Bedroom


You would think that the tour is over but no, that’s not all. There is a second level. When you climb the ladder up to the deck. Luke has a single foam mattress where he comfortably sleeps. He also has fitted storage cabinets for playing cards and tissues.

During the winter he just uses a space heater. This helps to keep the space warm as the roof is low.

A Lovely Little Home

Public Domain

There is no aircon but he does use a filter. It’s an old trick to spray water on them, place them by the windows or fans and let cool air pass through them.

Luke is currently busy with the Scouts club and his camping. He loves being outdoors and has much to learn as he grows. At least we know where he will be for the next 5 years, working on his tinyhouse projects. Keep following him on YouTube to see what adventures this club scout is on next.

Disclaimer: To protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblances to actual events, places, or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.