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13-Year Old Boy Builds Jaw-Dropping Tiny Home All By Himself!

Kelly Taylor

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If you’ve been paying attention to the real estate market lately, you’ve no doubt seen how popular tiny homes are becoming. Tiny homes are all about maximizing your living space while taking up as small of a footprint as possible. Some people like to build their tiny homes as permanent dwellings while other folks want to be able to hitch them to their truck. For one thirteen-year-old boy, creating a tiny home wasn’t just a dream for the future, it was a plan he set in motion. Keep on reading to see the incredible tiny home that one teenage boy made all on his own for just $1,500!

Tiny Home Movement in Action

When we talk about the tiny home movement, we are talking specifically about custom-constructed buildings. Whether you want your tiny home on wheels or not is completely up to you! The primary benefit of tiny homes, from those that enjoy them, is that they allow individuals to prioritize experiences over possessions. The thought process is that tiny homes push you away from consumerism and more toward enjoyment. Having said that, some tiny homes are frankly incredible. Before we dive into the story of 13-year-old Luke Thill from Dubuque, IA, let’s show you an example or two of what we are talking about!

Modern Tiny Home Example

Here you can see a great example of a modern tiny home. As you can see, the builder of this home used vertical space in order to maximize their efficiency. Within this small home, the inhabitant will be able to do everything that they could in a more conventional form of housing. What do you think? Could you find yourself living in a place like this?

Size of a Tiny Home

While there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to sizing up your tiny home, there are some guidelines that you might be interested in. Typically, a tiny house will measure out at no more than 120 square feet of space. The goal of keeping the tiny home truly compact is that you will be able to avoid requiring a building permit for the project. Additionally, smaller tiny homes can be easily hauled behind a truck. Pretty darn cool, right? Now that you have a firm understanding of what tiny homes are, let’s meet Luke!

Meet Luke Thill

Luke Thill was just another teenage boy from Dubuque, Iowa, when he got an idea. Well, not exactly an idea, more like a feeling. Luke had wanted to spend his summer being proactive, but he didn’t know where to funnel his energy. So one thing led to another and soon young Luke was browsing YouTube. 

Dreaming of his Own Tiny Home

Like any other young kid, Luke was already dreaming of leaving the family home in order to live on his own. Unfortunately for Luke, that’s just not an option for a 13-year-old kid. Seeking a way to create his own independence while wisely using his energy, Luke began to watch more and more YouTube videos about tiny homes. Eventually Luke came to a simple realization, he could build his own!

Hard Work Makes the Dream Work

Unfortunately, if you want to build a tiny home you need money and to know what you are doing. For Luke, both of those concepts would have to be handled immediately. As Luke researched tiny homes and how to build them, he began taking as many odd jobs as he could in order to raise the funds for his new tiny home project.

Using YouTube For Inspiration

As the days turned to weeks, Luke’s enthusiasm for the project never waned. Unlike most kids his age, Luke was single-minded in his focus. He wanted to create something special not only for himself, but also to show his parents how capable he was. Besides, the tiny home movement had been gaining steam and the idea of his own house was appealing. Who wouldn’t be driven to work hard for that?

Luke Embraces the DIY Mindset

Unlike most adults, Luke wasn’t exactly capable of outsourcing the construction of his new home. With a tiny budget and large dreams, Luke knew that he would have to get his hands dirty. With his parents carefully keeping an eye on him, Luke decided that he would learn how to build the darn thing himself. By working with his own two hands, Luke would be able to save serious money on the project!

Finally Getting to Work

When Luke first pitched the idea to his parents, they were a little skeptical. However, since Luke had remained so focus while raising money for the project, they let him lead the way. Besides, his parents were loving how helpful Luke had become around the house. If Luke would do all of his chores without complaint, why not let him pursue his dream?

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Like most young entrepreneurs, Luke came to realize the value of reducing, reusing, and recycling. Not only was Luke looking to save money, but he was also looking to help the environment. He quickly began to scrounge around his home, basement, and garage in order to find components that he could repurpose for his tiny home. One friend even gave him an old door!

Braving the Electrical Work

While Luke was a quick learner thanks to YouTube, there were some projects that you can’t handle without a little help. In order to take care of the electrical wiring inside of his tiny home project, Luke turned to the community for help. Luke’s neighbor, an electrician, came by to make sure that the installation process safe. With just a little help, Luke’s home suddenly had power!

Luke’s Story Goes Viral Locally

As Luke continued toward finishing his tiny home project, the neighborhood began to notice. Pretty soon, the entire community was asking Luke how the work was going. Luke was always excited to share stories about his project. Soon, Luke realized that he could create his own YouTube channel in order to inspire other kids like him. Luke decided to record the entire process and before long he had many followers! 

Media Attention Begins to Pour In

Before he knew it, Luke’s work was going viral beyond the confines of his own community. The local newspaper decided to run a story on Luke’s project. How did they contact Luke? Well, by having him called to the principal’s office during a school day! When Luke went to the office, he had no idea a reporter would be there for an interview. Pretty cool surprise, right?

Staying Focused on the Task At Hand

Even though Luke was suddenly the most popular kid in town, he knew that he had plenty of work to do. So as the community watched on, Luke started to get down to business. Thanks to his summer of hard work, Luke had managed to save almost $1,500 to spend on his project. With that kind of money in the bank, Luke knew that he could make something pretty special.

If At First, You Don’t Succeed…

While Luke had tremendous success for a 13-year-old child, there were still some road bumps to deal with. At one point, Luke decided to try mixing his own custom counter top. Luke wanted to use stained glazed glass that had been broken into small pieces. While Luke worked hard on his arrangement, the glaze would eventually leak before breaking the mold. You win some, you lose some!

Hitting a Serious Roadblock

While Luke was rightfully upset about his broken countertop, that was nothing compared to what came next. It soon became apparent that plumbing would not be a possibility for his tiny house. After trying numerous times, Luke eventually realized that this was one aspect of the project that he couldn’t handle. Luke decided that maybe it was okay to run into the house to use the bathroom.

Showcasing His Project

With most of the work done by this point, Luke decided to bring his friends and family together for the grand opening. While the project had gone by relatively quickly, Luke had worked his hardest in order to facilitate an efficient outcome. His family and friends gathered as Luke took questions about the project.

Luke’s Winter Test Run

After finishing the bones of the structure, winter rapidly began to approach. With the temperatures dropping in Iowa, Luke knew that he had his first real test ahead. Could he actually comfortably sleep overnight in his tiny house when it was cold? Fortunately, Luke was better at insulating his home than he had thought. In fact, he had to crack the window while he slept in order to stay comfortable!

Mission Accomplished

With all of the excitement surrounding the home, Luke hadn’t checked in on his YouTube as much as he should have. Unbeknownst to him, one of his videos had gone viral. How viral? Well, Luke had pulled together 7.5 million views as well as more than 45,000 total subscribers. Those are ‘Grumpy Cat’ numbers! What started as a summer project had turned into an internet sensation.

Taking the Official Tour

We can’t talk about Luke’s tiny home without seeing the inside of it. So, Luke decided to take some pictures to show off what he had done. Here, we see Luke sitting in the lofted sleeping area of his tiny home. The loft is a common feature inside of tiny homes because it maximizes the amount of space that you can use. Could you sleep comfortably in a tiny home loft?

89 Square Feet of Prime Real Estate

While Luke loved the loft, he was particularly proud of the downstairs area. Here you can see all of the hard work that Luke had put into the project. At 89 square feet, this tiny home was small, but it still remained comfortable. You can see the seating area, part of the kitchen counter, and some of the storage compartments in this shot.

Creative Solutions For Common Problems

We already talked about Luke’s winter experience, but we still need to talk about his summer ones, too! Dubuque is no stranger to serious heat during the summer, so Luke knew that he’d have to bring a cooling solution into the building. His home wasn’t strong enough to power an additional A/C unit, so Luke rigged up an impromptu swamp cooler by using a fan, furnace filters, and water. The evaporative cooler would be more than strong enough to keep Luke comfortable!

Embracing His Newfound Fame

Thanks to all of his hard work, Luke was quickly becoming semi-famous. Not only had he impressed his parents and the rest of the local community, but he had also begun to inspire people all around the country. If a 13-year-old kid could create a tiny home, shouldn’t everyone else be able to, too? In any event, Luke began to brand his work with t-shirts, sweatshirts, and other merchandise that he had designed himself. 

Hosting Dinner for Friends

What would a house be without guests? Luke quickly impressed all of his friends by inviting them over to hang out. Guess what else? Luke was such a great host that he generously cooked his ‘camper stew burritos’ right there in the home! According to Luke, he can clean the entire home after eating in less than 15 minutes. We’re pretty jealous of that!

Luke Inspires His Older Brother

When Luke’s older brother Cole saw the tiny home, he knew that he had to have one too. Cole was so inspired by his brother that he got to work immediately on his own DIY tiny home. Cole decided to create a tiny house on wheels with a teardrop camper as the foundation. Cole also documented his entire journey on YouTube as he used only recycled materials to save money.

Learning From His Work

While Luke’s journey had been a resounding success, he still had to admit that he had made mistakes. From the countertop problems to the issues with plumbing, Luke knew that he had room to improve. Thanks to how quickly his merch had begun to sell, Luke began to realize that he could make another tiny home in the future. What’s more, Luke would use his mistakes as a chance to learn!

How Luke Became a Tiny Home Authority

Before long, Luke was getting attention from all over the place. Instead of letting the viral fame take him where it may, Luke stayed focus on helping those he cared about. Soon, Luke was working with his mother as they renovated a 1972 Forester Kayot camper into another tiny home.  The entire Thill family had gotten in on the action!

The Community Embraces Luke’s Efforts

When you do a good job, it’s always nice to be rewarded. Dubuque is a relatively large city and as such, they tend to have frequent communal events. Luke Thill was chosen along with nine other individuals to participate in the ‘Movers, Shakers & Newsmakers’ event. Luke was recognized for his work as well as how he had handled all of the media attention that had come his way. Luke received an award, a fancy meal, and recognition from the city.

Luke Finds Viral Fame Online

While Thill had become something of a big deal in his own neighborhood, he was still taken aback by how the internet had embraced him. As his accounts became more and more popular, comments continued to flood in. Many young kids were so inspired by Luke’s accomplishments that they left messages of support. Some of the kids even mentioned that they were working on their own tiny home models!

There Is Always That ONE Person

While the internet can be an incredible and beneficial tool, it sometimes brings the worst out in people. As with any online interaction, you are eventually going to run into a few jerks. Fortunately, Luke had plenty of defenders online. The jaded people who sought to tear down Luke were soon quieted by the crowd.

Other Young Tiny Home Lovers

Around the country, other kids began to follow Luke’s example. Here we see another fantastic tiny home that was created by Jacob Dille. Dille, also 13-years-old, had followed Luke’s story on YouTube. Eventually, he began to work on his own model. Jacob’s tiny home measured in at 500 square feet.

Understanding the Origins of the Movement

The origins of the tiny home movement can be traced back to Sarah Susanka, author of the book, ‘The Not So Big House’. The book had come out in 1997 and focused largely on building better homes rather than bigger homes. The book helped to spur on one of the more important housing developments in recent memory!

Could You Live In a Tiny Home

It’s fine to not like tiny homes, but we still need to acknowledge what they provide. As inflation continues to wreak havoc, it is going to be more important than ever to have affordable housing. What’s more, tiny houses offer an environmentally friendly way to live close to nature. In a world beholden to the environment, it never hurts to do what you can to help. Could you find yourself living in one of these small homes?

The Inspiration Continues

In order to celebrate the completion of his project, Luke went back to YouTube, the source of his inspiration. On his main channel, Luke uploaded a video titled, ‘The Best Year of My Life’. The video showcased Luke’s thoughts about tiny home living as well as the skills and knowledge that he had acquired throughout the work. 

What Comes Next

So what comes next for someone like Luke Thill? Was this just a summer project that kept him busy and out of the house? While we can’t say for sure where Luke will go from here, we can admit that he had a profound impact on his community. Even more important, Luke acted as a positive motivational force for other children his age.


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