How little space could you call home?

Students at the Career and Technology Center are working on a small project that may have a big impact on the future of senior housing in Frederick County. The county and city have green-lighted the construction of a “tiny house” that is less than 600 square feet.

“They thought it would be a good learning experience for our students,” said Jim Thuman, the carpentry instructor at the school.

CTC students have built homes since 1978, but unlike previous projects, this one fits inside the classroom workshop.

Mark Lancaster, of Lancaster Craftsmen Builders, approached the school about creating a sample dwelling for seniors to “age in place.” The tiny house is a lifestyle alternative that would require less maintenance while keeping seniors close to their families and maintaining their independence, he said.

Lancaster serves on the Frederick County Housing Trust’s board and the housing board at CTC. He acted as the project liaison, designed the home and is continuing to help with permitting.

The tiny house being built by CTC students is not the typical HGTV trailer and loft microstructure. This one will sit on a foundation and be connected to water and power. It also is much wider than the remote cottages that have captured audiences’ attention.

This senior cottage, or senior bungalow, meets the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act and could be lived in by a person with a walker or wheelchair.

The class has worked on the tiny house since October. On Feb. 14, the class climbed into white protective suits, gloves and safety glasses to install pink fiberglass insulation. Brad Garlowich, 16, laid a board across a strip of insulation to cut a straight line. He flipped up the piece over and fitted it between the wall’s studs.

“I’ve seen [tiny houses], but I didn’t think much of it,” Brad said. Working on the school’s project has made the ones on TV seem misleading, he said.

There are local regulations that limit how long a structure on wheels can sit on a property, as well as national livability standards. There is no zoning regulation that exclusively permits a tiny house structure, Lancaster said. The health department also has a say in livability of a structure.

The project has also been an opportunity to expose the students to green technology.

Glory Energy Solutions demonstrated for the students how to install foam insulation, which is very energy efficient for cooling and heating. The Frederick company’s owner, Tim Jones, has donated to the programs at the school for several years.

A crew showed two classes the chemistry, physics and mathematics behind foam insulation. “We’re able to turn that brief exposure into a real learning experience,” Jones said.

Because the house is designed to be energy efficient, its residents can keep living expenses low, Thuman said. “There’s still the assumption seniors will be on a fixed income.”

In fact, Lancaster said the structure could cost less then placing an aging relative in an advanced-care facility or senior-living community.

The tiny house the students built cost approximately $55,000, Thuman said. The school is not paying for labor, so a similar house completed by contractors would cost more. If a person decided to build one on their own, $55,000 is “the sticks and bricks” cost, Lancaster said.

The house includes a living room, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and walk-in closet.

At 597 square feet, the tiny house could have been pared down even further with exemptions for fewer than two people living in the dwelling, Thuman said. However, the school is still unsure who will purchase the home and what their specific needs will be.

“We don’t want it to feel like a hotel room,” Lancaster said. There is space for the person to have a friend over and make small meals.

Beyond gaining the physical skills to build a home, students learn construction codes and current standards.

Because the house will be transported on a truck to a home show and its final destination, the house is “overbuilt,” Thuman said. There are extra strapping and reinforced areas to make sure the tiny house survives the moves.

Still to be built is a capped roof, which wouldn’t fit inside the school’s workshop.

Matt Seeback, 19, caulked the boards around the bedroom sliding-glass door window. One of his favorite portions of the class was learning how to install the windows.

“After the program, I’ll probably be going up to Pennsylvania to build a house for my grandmother,” Seeback said. He will use the skills he learned building the tiny house and other construction projects to build her a house.

People interested in seeing Frederick’s first tiny home can take a tour of the project at the annual Frederick County Building Industry Association Home Show on March 18 and 19.

“In order for people to accept it, they need to touch it,” Lancaster said.

Follow Samantha Hogan on Twitter: @SAHogan.

Samantha Hogan is the state house, environment, agriculture and energy reporter for The Frederick News-Post.

(8) comments


No question, Frederick County will not permit these homes in the county. Will the sellers provide a legal lot or at least a land lease on a legal lot or in a trailer park where they can be connected to health department approved water and sewer systems? Will the sellers pay for the sewer and water system connection fees? Will the sellers pay for the County impact fees? Will Sellers pay for the transfer taxes, sales taxes, & financing cost document recordation fees? These are all extremely significant costs in Frederick County and most all of Maryland that drive housing prices way beyond affordability, and as long as the costs of purchasing a home keep being driven up by local and state government, the rents being charged for rental uses will continue to rise accordingly.


It seems to me that the builders are just constructing a much smaller trailer (with more insulation) which, they say, are meant to be in the ground permanently. And, "no," they do not cover the price of the land if that element is like what it shown on HGTV. Those "homes" are typically $60,000 to $75,000 on that show (when I was watching for my education. I got sick of it, though, because the concept was so stupid). On HGTV, the fundamental idea is having a tiny house is so you can move it anywhere. The counter-culture, free spirits liked the novelty of it. I also always noted that an owner would have to be in top physical condition to claim the ladder to the bed, of which one did not have standing room to get in it. I'm guessing that the design of the one these guys are building are all on level since it is ADA compliant.

I still think it's a fad. I don't think it's the greatest thing, either, to stick "Grandma" in one. For many reasons, the tiny homes do not have washers and dryers, so seniors are going to have to do their laundry at their nearest family. Seniors are not going to do that. And, in the event that smaller capacity machines are in this house in the article...well just because you're one person doesn't mean that you have smaller loads of laundry! (One misconception by designers).


Sue: I hate to say it, but there is so much mis-information in your reply I almost don't know where to bein in response to avoid having others read it and walk away convince d that tiny homes are just "a fad". First, only some tiny homes are built "so you can move it anywhere." Those are generally referred to as tiny homes on wheels (THOWs). And, yeas, there are those out there that enjoy the freedom of being able to move their homes as their circumstances change or for other resons. Although, that is not a given as there are only a limited number of places currently in this country that allow THOWs, especially if someone wants to "park" it for an extended period of time.

There are a number of tiny home owners that choose to have a permanent structure built and as long as they seek to have it built in a municipality that permits tiny homes (or in an off-the-grid area) they will likey realize peaceful home ownership. And, as you appear to recognize, not all tinies are bulit the same fact, some of the greatest creativity I have seen in years in the residential housing market has come in the form of tiny home builds. There are several designs that place the bedroom (even more than one occasionally...although that generally takes one from the realm of tiny into a small home) on the first floor.

Also, I doubt too many people are looking to "stick grandma" in one of these. The people I know who have looked into these alternative homes for their elderly relatives have been caring people who are simply looking for a cost-effective way for their elderly relative to continue to live on their own (and, farnkly, that has to be a helluva lot better then virtually any "age in place" facility I have evr visited...and significanlt cheaper in the long run). And, your statement that these homes do not have washers and dryers is just wrong. There are any number of designs out there allowing for washers/dryers. Sure they are of the compact variety but so what, it would be the extremely rare senior citizen that would need more than a compact unit. Any "permanently" designed tiny home can be built with virtually any utility you can find in a large home, you just need to build it in an area that allows tinies and access to electroc, sewage nd water hookups, and those do exist.

Do I think tinies are for everyone? Hardly. But, neither are either mini or mega mansions. The avergae home size these days is roughly 2,700 sf. That's ridiculous for either a single senior or a senior couple. Even some small houses above 1,000 sf are a waste of space for one or two elderly residents.

Too much money gets sucked away from many of us these days for all the wrong reasons. Housing is clearly one significant example of that. If tinies (or slightly larger smallers) allows people (including some seniors) to have their own roof over their heads and to do so largely debt free, all the more power to them. That is hardly a "stupid" concept. I say all the more power to them whether they are "free spirits" or not.



esleep, I'm going with what the HGTV has on their show re tiny houses that has been on for a few years now. That's where I got my "information." They were not called "tiny houses on wheels." The wheels were a given. You could count on hand the people planning on a permanent location.

Your assumption that I am comparing them to mcmansions didn't even come into my thinking! Wow, talk about judgmental.

The idea that seniors have small loads of laundry where compacts are practical is unrealistic thinking and has no basis in fact. Individual loads of laundry are just as large as when one is doing laundry for a family. You're just doing less number of full loads. Ever have to divide up one set of sheets to get them done in a compact washer? I know what I'm talking about.

I also think that seniors who have their houses paid off are not going to downside to the degree of a tiny house. And, I don't see that tiny houses are the solution to somebody who needs assistance in living day to day. In other words, comparing to going into either assisted living with going into a tiny house is comparing apples to oranges. (I'm meaning true "assisted living," not a nursing home).


This is the solution to the need for low income housing while providing home ownership. It is time for the county to change regulations to allow small home structures and neighborhoods with small/tiny houses. Neighborhoods of small/tiny houses would help many people. Then stop the fee developers pay to not build low cost housing.


To me, $55,000 still seems a pretty high price for one of those.


I am sure that would include the land.


"Sticks and bricks" - it's being built in a classroom. It's large for a tiny house and being built high end. If you watch the tv shows, they can be cheaper in other states, but you have to know what you want. For instance drywall isn't suitable if you plan to be constantly mobile, and other wall coverings are more costly. Will you live off the grid? That affects plumbing and elec. I CANT WAIT TO SEE IT

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it clean. No vulgar, racist, sexist or sexually-oriented language.
Engage ideas. This forum is for the exchange of ideas, not personal attacks or ad hominem criticisms.
Be civil. Don't threaten. Don't lie. Don't bait. Don't degrade others.
No trolling. Stay on topic.
No spamming. This is not the place to sell miracle cures.
No deceptive names. Apparently misleading usernames are not allowed.
Say it once. No repetitive posts, please.
Help us. Use the 'Report' link for abusive posts.

Thank you for reading!

Already a member?

Login Now
Click Here!

Currently a News-Post subscriber?

Activate your membership at no additional charge.
Click Here!

Need more information?

Learn about the benefits of membership.
Click Here!

Ready to join?

Choose the membership plan that fits your needs.
Click Here!