Luke Thill, a 13-year-old from Dubuque, Iowa, is our new tiny house hero. Most middle schoolers we know are concerned with school dances and Instagram followers. But this smart, savvy 8th-grader built his very own tiny house in his parents’ backyard! For just $1,500 he’s living the dream of homeownership at a young age.
Thill’s story is truly one of good old-fashioned goal setting. As he explains on his YouTube channel, his desire to build a tiny house grew out of summer boredom. So, after doing lots of research, he came up with a plan to build a tiny house.
It took him about a year to he raise the funds for the house and gather the materials. Thill cut lawns, raised money online and worked out barter agreements with neighbors and other adults in his life for both work and supplies. An adult electrician friend helped him wire the house in exchange for Thill cleaning out his garage, for example.
He used about 75 percent reclaimed materials as well—leftover siding from his grandmother’s house and a front door from his uncle’s friend. At 89 square feet, the house is wired for electric, but does not have plumbing.
“I liked the minimalism,” Thill told the Des Moines Register. “And I wanted to have a house without a huge mortgage.” He considers it a “starter home.”
Thill posted a variety of videos about his tiny house. As more people began to hear about his endeavor, he started recording some question and answer sessions to share.
He did, of course, have a little help from his parents, both financially and in the actual building of the house. Still, his dad, Greg Thill, explained that he told his son he would support his idea if he raised the money and built the house himself.
“It was a chance for a kid to do something more than play video games or sports. It teaches life lessons,” Greg Thill said.
TinyFest Midwest, a tiny house and simple living festival where Thill spoke earlier this year, shared a photo of him hard at work on his tiny house:
Thill’s truly created a tiny teenage haven, complete with micro living room (with TV and seating) and a lofted bed. He does homework there after school and sleeps in it a couple of nights per week. His ultimate goal is to eventually build a larger tiny house, one he can haul to college to save money on living expenses.
And, it looks like he didn’t take his parents’ support for granted, either. Pretty awesome, right?
Along the way, Thill also posted updates on the successes and challenges he faced as he built his house. It wasn’t always easy, but this young man always showed the creative ways he used his building and design skills to work through the obstacles along the way.
Color us impressed—and inspired. Thill’s story is a great example of what a kid can accomplish with a solid goal, a support system, and a good work ethic. You can see the pride in his work as he gives a tour of his completed project.
Word began to spread about Thill’s accomplishment. Between his videos and word-of-mouth, media not just in his hometown but from around the country took interest in his work. In his videos, Thill occasionally talked about the press coverage and what he thought about it. He got a surprise one day when his principal called him to the office.
“I don’t go there very often,” he said in one of his videos. “I’ve never gone there for anything bad.”
It turns out his principal had a friend who works for a newspaper in Indianapolis. When the reporter heard about Thill’s house, she wanted to get it in the paper.
And who knows, maybe Thill will inspire other kids to become interested in budgeting, building, and simple living. That’s what he’d like to do:
“I want to show kids it’s possible to build at this age,” he said.