This Teen Built An Incredible ‘Tiny Home’ For $1,500

Spend a little time on social media or watch a couple hours’ worth of HGTV and you’ll likely read or see something about “tiny homes.”  This latest craze can be summed up by saying that folks are seriously embracing the concept that less is more. People are finding joy in minimalism and living in extremely small homes. One 13-year-old boy decided to get in on the movement himself and built his own tiny home for what many of us spend on a monthly mortgage payment for our “normal house.”  Here’s his story.

A Resourceful Teen

Most thirteen-year-old boys don’t show the kind of resourcefulness that Luke Thill Does. Luke is from Dubuque, Iowa. Even though he’s just a young man, he doesn’t engage in the kind of hobbies that most other kids his age do.

When Luke got bored one summer, he decided to give his mobile phone a break. Instead, he built a house!  He constructed one of the popular “tiny homes” in his parents’ backyard. Before long, his project was getting all kinds of attention.

Breaking The Mold

Most teens these days can’t even identify two out of six tools in a lineup. Building an entire home is certainly out of the question. Your average 13-year-old is perfectly content to go through the boring day to day routine of school, followed by crashing on the couch at home.


It’s not much of a lifestyle. While they’re hopefully getting a little homework done, most are glued to their smartphones, Xboxes, or simply Netflix-ing and chilling. Luke was determined to not follow the masses and instead decided to build his dream home.

Rekindling Childhood Games

When we’re very young, most of us love building things. Thanks to toys like Legos and Lincoln Logs, most of us have fond memories of constructing all sorts of villages, space stations, and countless creations of our own when we were young. Some of us continue the fascination as we get older.

We take apart anything we can get our hands on, just to see how it works. While getting to the next level in our favorite video game can be an accomplishment, it’s nothing compared to constructing something out of nothing with our own two hands. No one knows that better than Luke.

Plenty Of Support

The kids that are obsessed with their Legos are the next generation of engineers. While we’re focusing on all the fun we’re having while playing with them, those toys are actually teaching us that there are multiple solutions to one problem.

We’re breaking down issues and coming up with our own solutions. The good parents recognize these lessons for what they are. They tend to foster that inquisitiveness as the kids get older. So, when look said he wanted to build his own house in the backyard, his parents were 100% supportive!


Luke had received the green light from his parents. However, he still wasn’t sure where to start. He’d began to draft his plan for the home, but he still needed materials and supplies. Most importantly, he needed the funding for his project!

Luke’s father, Greg, said that he was glad that his son wanted to do something more than just sit inside and play video games. He was glad that Luke was so enthusiastic about wanting to learn some of life’s serious lessons. He also knew that Luke was going to have to put some serious work in if he was going to complete such a big project.

Getting To Work

If he was going to build his home, Luke knew that he was going to need some money. He immediately started mowing his neighbors’ lawns and doing odd various other jobs. He saved every dollar he could get his hands on.

Soon, he was able to pull enough of a stash together to start buying supplies and resources for his project. Soon, his friends and other family members started to offer to pitch in. In one case, Luke cleaned out the garage of a family friend who also happened to be an electrician. In return, the friend installed all of the electrical wirings in Luke’s tiny home!

Recycled Materials

After a year of doing odd jobs, Luke had pulled together $1,500 to put toward his project home. However, he had managed to pull together a bigger surprise. As friends and family heard what Luke had in mind, they began to donate building materials.

By the end, Luke had almost three-quarters of the material he needed to build his home!  It was recycled supplies, so his new home was also going to be good for the environment. As he started to work on his home, he had no idea that his project was about to get some serious attention.

Getting Some Attention

As Luke was saving up money and getting started on his home, word started to spread about his ambitious project. Before long, most of the folks in town knew what Luke was up to. It was a small town and he certainly wasn’t an average kid.

As a result, many people started to talk to Luke about creating his own YouTube channel dedicated to sharing his progress on the house. Soon, Luke was the talk of the town and most of his classmates at school knew what he was up to. That includes the principal!

Called To The Principal’s Office

Luke’s YouTube channel was getting all sorts of attention. As we’ve mentioned, most of the folks in town and his classmates knew what he was up to. As it turns out, his neighbors and friends weren’t the only ones who were watching his progress on the tiny home.

One day while he was at school, Luke’s principal called him into his office. Luke later said on one of his YouTube videos that he rarely did anything bad enough to get called into the office, so he wasn’t sure why he was being summoned.

The Paper

When Luke got into the office, his principal told him that he’d been following his progress on the home, too. Then he told Luke that he had a friend who was a newspaper reporter in Indianapolis. His friend was interested in doing a news story about Luke and his project for the paper.

Luke was flattered, but he was also nervous. He still had a lot of work to do on his tiny home. Every day he was coming across new challenges. As it turned out, he would have plenty of more obstacles to overcome before his project was finished.

Getting Creative

Luke was able to really flex his creative side once he got into the build. One of the areas he really got creative with was his kitchen counter. He had researched some interesting ways to make countertops on YouTube, and he put the techniques to use in his own tiny home.

He used some liquid glaze and pieces of stained glass. However, his results weren’t as flawless as those on the YouTube video. He had some of the glaze leak out of the mold he made and it created quite a mess. However, in Luke’s mind, it was a small setback and he wasn’t going to let it ruin his master plan.

A Surprise Invitation

Out of the blue, Luke got contacted by an organization called TinyFest Midwest. TinyFest makes a point to celebrate those who have adopted living in tiny houses and who promote minimalist living. They wanted Luke to make an appearance at their festival.

What’s more, they wanted him to give a lecture about his journey and building his own tiny home. Luke was pretty surprised by the invitation. He had no problem accepting the invitation, as he actually enjoyed public speaking. He was close to finishing his project, but he still had one challenge ahead of him.

The Festival

In a humorous case of irony, TinyFest is actually a pretty big deal. Especially for those who have embraced the culture of minimalist living and tiny homes. Each year, the festival explores the latest in trends, designs, and sizes of tiny homes.

Luke was thrilled that he’d received an invitation to not only attend the festival but to actually speak to some of the attendees. He had worked on his speech and also managed to actually complete the construction on his own tiny home. But there was still one more issue that he needed to work out.

Turning A House Into A Home

Luke’s little house was finally finished, but he couldn’t exactly call it a home yet. In his eyes, he still needed to do some work to make the tiny project a little homier. The home was fully functional, but that wasn’t enough for him.

It had everything he needed to live, but he wanted just a few more items to make it perfect. Luke wanted his home to be perfect. After all, he was about to reveal his project to everyone who had been following him, from his family and friends to his YouTube followers.

A Great Example

Luke and his tiny home project serve as a great example for other young people. Parents should foster the kind of creativity and entrepreneurial attitude that Luke showed. It builds vital skills and experience that can be absolutely invaluable.

That kind of support will help them as they get further down the road of life. Plus, if they develop the kind of following that Luke acquired from his YouTube page, they might just get a ton of followers and get invited to speak at a major festival.

The One Thing That Was Lacking

Luke had officially finished his project. He’d posted pictures of the progress along the way so that all of his followers, friends, and family could see how he’d progressed. But there was one major component missing. Luke’s house didn’t have a toilet!

He would admit that he would like to have installed one, but that it was simply above his level of experience. Still, he was perfectly happy with the finished project, and nobody could give him a hard time over the lack of a toilet.

A Lot Of Work

Luke had shown just how much work had gone into building his home. He’d poured a ton of blood, sweat, and tears into the project and most would agree that the work had paid off. Luke would agree, too.

He was thrilled that he’d managed to put in the amount of work he had and it had paid off. The only real question that still remained was whether or not he would actually be able to live in the tiny house and enjoy all of the creature comforts that his parents’ home afforded him.

The Ultimate Clubhouse

In the end, Luke was still a kid. Like any other kid, he wanted an epic clubhouse. He just elected to go out on a limb and put in all of the hard work himself. His final project was an 89-square-foot dream!

The house is completely outfitted, with a small living room, complete with a couch and television. He also has an electric cooktop where he can make his own meals, and a loft where he can sleep. When he’d finished his project home, Luke assumed that his popularity would decrease and his followers would find someone else to keep tabs on.

Famous As Ever

Luke had spent more than a year building his tiny home. In that time, he’d amassed a pretty good following thanks to his YouTube channel and the word of mouth that accompanied his progress. He assumed his fame had come to an end when the last nail was driven.

However, he was still growing in popularity as more people heard about what he had done. It’s also important to remember that despite the very adult undertaking, Luke was still a teenager. How would he handle all of his newfound fame?

All Over The Media

Luke had already gotten plenty of followers thanks to his YouTube channel. However, after he appeared and spoke at TinyFest, his fame and following multiplied exponentially. Soon, the media caught wind of his accomplishment. His story appeared in newspapers all over the state, including the Des Moines Register and the Telegraph Herald.

Newspapers were just the start. He soon started getting approached by television outlets as well, including Good Morning America. The team from Good Morning America actually came to his tiny home for a tour and interview. But the surprises didn’t stop there.

The Table Turns

When Luke was getting started with his tiny home project, he found inspiration from a book written by Derek Diedricksen. After look had finished his home, Diedricksen actually reached out to him to chat. Luke was thrilled.

The chat with the author meant as much to him as all of the support he’d gotten from his followers. Since then, Luke and Diedricksen have become good pals. However, Luke’s biggest surprise would come when he realized that he had become the inspiration for someone else’s idea for a tiny home project of their own.

His Most Valuable Tool

It’s probably no surprise to learn that Luke used a wide range of tools to help build his tiny home. He was able to learn how to use just about every power and hand tool on the market as he sawed, measured, nailed, and outfitted his home along its way to completion.

However, Luke will tell you that his most valuable tool along the way was the simple idea of trial and error. He made plenty of mistakes on the way, and his experience in getting around those hiccups would act as an equally valuable tool for his followers.

A New Builder

As it turns out, Luke would serve as an inspiration for someone else who was pretty close to him. His brother, Cole, decided to undertake his own tiny DIY project. Luke made an announcement on his YouTube channel that Cole would be building a teardrop camper of his own.

Like his brother, Cole planned to use recycled materials and a tiny budget to build his camper. His most vital resource, though, was his brother’s experience in building his tiny home. Luke posted all of his brother’s progress on his YouTube channel.

The Importance Of Support

Luke’s and his brother’s projects are great examples of what determined kids can come up with. However, they’re also good examples of what kids can accomplish when they give the right amount of support. That support is incredibly important.

Giving kids words of encouragement can help them accomplish more than they maybe ever thought possible. Luke and Cole got plenty of support from the family and friends. Of course, they were also getting a lot of support from people they’ve never met before thanks to an online presence.

A Serious Online Following

Luke’s popularity isn’t slowing down. Even though his tiny home project is completed, he continues to maintain his YouTube page and he earns more fans every single day. He currently has over 9,000 subscribers on his page. A good portion of those he earned while he was building his own tiny home.

However, many have followed him because he also covers other peoples’ projects. We’ve already mentioned his brother’s camper project, but his mother was working on an antique camper of her own. Who knows, maybe he could have a career in DIY home building.

Shoot For Stars

When someone Luke’s age tells you they want to build their own home, it would be easy to laugh and downplay the undertaking. After all, it’s not an accomplishment that most teenagers achieve. And let’s face it, it would have been easy to fail at such a task.

However, thanks to some perseverance and plenty of support, Luke as able to tackle the challenge head-on and succeed in achieving his dream project. Sure, he developed some great craftsman skills along the way. While those skills helped, it was his mental attitude that allowed him to accomplish the feat.

Sticking With It

In the end, Luke didn’t give up. That’s perhaps the best lesson that other teenagers can take from his story. It was his perseverance that not only allowed him to achieve his dream project but also earn almost 10,000 followers on YouTube.

Teens can certainly be stubborn. Oftentimes, we immediately think that’s a bad thing. However, with the right guidance and support, that stubbornness can be fostered into something positive and beneficial. So, if a teen in your life tells you they want to build their house, don’t immediately laugh in their face!

What’s Next?

So, what’s in the cards for Luke?  Honestly, he isn’t sure. He originally started his project simply because he wanted to see if he could build a tiny home. He never thought that the project would become as popular as it did.

He certainly didn’t think that he would be so popular as a result. He has said that he plans to attend college someday. In the meantime, he likes the idea of being a role model for other kids with similar ideas. He’s certainly proof that when you have a dream, age is truly just a number.