Want a 3D Model of your Tiny House Plan but too busy to learn SketchUp? Try this cheap and easier alternative

A trendy choice for tiny house builders is to build a 3D model of their tiny house using SketchUp, whether in the planning stages or as another way to ensure your 2D measurements will turn out the way they should.  I’m currently trying to learn SketchUp, but when you spend 60+ hours on research (or work in general), you know finding that time to devote completely to something is tough- especially is there is a steep learning curve.

We have a cheaper (in terms of time) and easier alternative that works just as well, and arguably more fun.  What would that be? Foam board and balsa wood! Yes, as adults we are going to play Doll House.

The first step is to create everything to a scale that will be easy to visualize.  We decide to make plans that were 1″ scale on blueprint paper. A 3/4″ scale works just as effectively.  You likely already have a floor plan available just not at this scale and need to bump it up!

The first step is to create everything to a large scale such as 3/4″ or 1″ on paper, then create the form board pieces to match!

Once everything is to scale, all you need is foam board and a glue gun.  If you already know what appliances you want, create these to scale as well:

appliances closeup
A 10 cu. ft. fridge, composting toilet, and 30″ range to scale so we can re-arrange our floor plan as many times as we’d like!

We are playing around with different stair options in our tiny house.  We know for sure we want an actual staircase leading to our bedroom loft rather than a ladder.  The question is h0w much space would that really take up if you try to get it as close to code as possible?  Now you can see for yourself!

staircase closeup.jpg
A 3D version of your staircase really puts into perspective how much space a staircase really takes, and what kind of rise/run you want to live with- will you keep it close to code or not?

For the secondary loft above the bathroom, we are considering a fold-out ladder and a spiral staircase of some kind.  You can create working versions of these with wire and balsa wood:

Constructing spiral-style staircases are not the easiest thing to do. Making one in mini will save you lots of swear words and money if you decide to go that route:

One style of functional spiral stairs that swivel we’re considering

Make sure when you are gluing these together that you allot for the fact that the foam board pieces are roughly 3/16″ thick. For instance, if you are building a cabinet that is 3′ tall with a top and bottom foam piece, and your scale is 1′ for every inch, you will make your cabinet 3′ 3/8″ tall when you glue all your pieces together if you don’t factor that thickness.

Once all is said and done, you will have a large-scale tiny (doll) house where you can re-arrange your bathroom, kitchen, etc. to your heart’s desire without having to make a new sketch each time and without SketchUp know-how.  If you ever make a 3D version of your tiny house this way, I’d love to see it and would post it here!

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