Choosing a Trailer

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Something exciting is about to happen! You are searching for the most important feature of your Tiny House to be. The cornerstone.

What should you be looking for in a trailer that is about to carry a house?

It should be defined with an appropriate GWVR (Gross Weight Vehicle Rating), equipped with heavy duty axles, high load radial tires, emergency brakes,running lights,dual chains, steel beams and flange,and a flat deck. It shouldn’t have any extra rails unless you incorporate them into the design and it definitely won’t help having a ramp or tilt feature.

Tiny House Trailers

 You can buy a custom trailer OR restore a used trailer. It’s a DIY revolution! Take that used trailer, though, and you will have to make changes that aren’t so cost effective or timewise. Try searching the toolbar on social media sites for previous experiences. You will find warnings and even tragic posts from tiny house DIY’ers who discourage others from repeating the mistake…using RV,rusted, poorly welded,and even just lightweight utility trailers. Sure, circumstances related to budget, time, skills, and energy might still have us searching craigslist OR it might send us clicking on a Tiny House custom trailer URL. Like the saying goes,”Why reinvent the wheel?

Is that a pun? 

To quickstart your build safely and efficiently, a custom trailer is what’s up. After all, investing intelligently in the foundation will keep your tiny home in it for the long haul! (pun!)

 

Let’s get know the possible types of foundations for your future tiny house on wheels.

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If you’ve ever seen the MiniMotives home, you would see a tiny home built on a gooseneck trailer. It’s a great option for a platform bedroom without having to climb into a loft. The gooseneck offers stabilization when towing.

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These trailers have a deck over the wheels. You won’t have to worry about a strategic layout of cabinets over wheel wells, but you will lose about 3-4” of headroom due to maximum height restrictions. Make sure it does not tilt, another feature common to deckovers.

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Most tiny houses are built on a utility trailer with the deck that is inline with the wheels. It is very popular to customize this type of trailer with drop axles. It will increase your headroom since there are max. height restrictions, but there will be less ground clearance which may effect your plumbing lines.

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

                                   Used Trailer                                         

Pros +

Cons –

Spend within your budget.Pay for improvements as you go.

weld reinforcements

search within distance

saw off extra rails

choice of 5th wheel, deckover,utility

sand off rust,paint

more wear and tear

possible tire/axle replacement

strip off decking

 

No VIN/ tougher DMV process:temporary plate, inspection upon registering as handmade trailer

New Trailer (manufacturer or non-custom trailer company)

Pros +

Cons –

GVWR (weight it can carry) is defined.

must provide plans to manufacturer to get special customizations.

No wear and tear

$$

less knowledge of appropriate specifications for Tiny Houses

Tiny House Custom Trailer

Pros +

Cons –

fully licensed VIN***

Pick up can be distant

Can register as camper van vs. homemade***

Choosing between Tiny House companies

1 Year Warranty on axles ***

Steel Flange for attaching tiny house***

Minimally squared fenders for easier sheathing/siding***

Heavy duty axles

No wear and tear

Delivery Option

Customer support specializing in tiny houses ***

Costs as much (or even less) as a new non- custom trailer***

bragging rights?

*** special and unique feature of Tiny Home Builders compared to other brands.

Size

Size matters. Not only will you have to consider the space and layout for your needs, but a few other factors:

  • =More length means more square feet of materials.

  • = More materials means more labor, time, and weight.

  • = More weight means you will need a heavy duty towing vehicle.

  • A length over 24 ft will may require additional axles and tires.  If you plan on traveling with your tiny house,your toll rate will increase per axle.Cha-Ching!

  • Places and spaces to park.

This is not to discourage you from buying bigger. No way! Tiny doesn’t have to be so tiny at all. It is just to help guide you to the best decision for YOU. Overall, if you plan to stay settled in one place for a long period of time, a larger trailer will work out. If you plan on traveling,living incognito, and/or living urban, the smaller the better.

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Can you guess which trailer I chose? :)

Before I even started contributing to Tiny Home Builders, I signed up for their trailer (pictured above). It was very economical and high quality. Naturally, we, tiny house people, are always looking for the best value! The biggest difference I noticed with this company was how much expertise and honest advice the owner supplied before even purchasing. I could tell if I had any questions, I would get an answer from the tiny guy rather than corporate.  As a result, came this shiny, 20 ft. custom trailer with drop axles.

Here are some resources that might help you in your quest,too.

Trailer 101 Learn all about the terminology of what makes up a trailer, the special features of a custom trailer, and pickup and delivery details.

Customize and Price your Trailer Get an instant quote on custom lengths up to 32 ft ,axles, deck widths,number of axles, and pickup/delivery.

Take a video tour! Must See! Dan will lead you around the trailer and tell you what to look for in a custom trailer. Seeing this video really was the deciding factor in my own search.

New Trailer Pickup Location In Toronto

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Are you in Canada or the northeastern US and in the market for a tiny house trailer? In the past we’ve delivered trailers as far north as upstate New York from our Florida location. But as you can image the delivery costs can get pretty expensive when travelling that far. Well we’ve now added a new pickup location in Toronto, Ontario Canada to service the northeast!

We’ve also simplified the process of ordering a trailer with all the available options on our website. Just go to our trailer page and click “Build & Price Your Trailer”

Trailer Pictures

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We introduced a line of tiny house trailers a few months ago, but since the trailers are manufactured down in Florida and I live near Atlanta I hadn’t had a chance to take any pictures or them (and my Dad, who lives in Florida, is no Ansel Adams ;). But I finally went back down there to work on a house for the Jacksonville and Atlanta Home Shows and brought a trailer back with me to deliver to one of my workshop attendees (that makes 6 now that are building house, woo hoo). So I took the opportunity to take some pictures and record a video showing off the features of the trailers. You can get more information at http://www.tinyhomebuilders.com/tiny-houses/trailers

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Tiny Home Builders Trailers

When I built my first tiny house I used a standard equipment trailer with just a few special requests. These requests included leaving off the ramps, not having a dovetail (which is a slanted back which helps when loading heavy equipment like tractors), and using heavy duty axles. I actually forgot to have them leave off the front guard (which is a piece of metal on the front of the trailer that stops your equipment from rolling too far forward). That ended up not being that bad of a mistake since it made me build the front compartment which I ended up really liking and has stuck with several of my other designs.

While building on a standard trailer is definitely not a problem, there are a few things that I have had changed over the years for our houses to improve the way they are attached as well as to make the trailers a little lighter. I’ve been offering these trailers to others as well if they contacted me directly (which several have), but I recently decided that I needed to set up something a little more formal so that anyone who was interested could get one (without knowing the special handshake ;).

So we’ve introduced our new line of trailers specifically made for tiny houses over at http://www.tinyhomebuilders.com/tiny-houses/Trailers

These trailers have many of the special requests of my first trailer as well as a few more. Most notably are the steel flange and the metal deck replacement.

Steel Flange

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A typical trailer has wood decking that runs the length of the trailer. That decking is supported by steel beams (cross members) that run perpendicular to the decking and attach to the sides of the trailer. Since the subfloor of your house needs to be attached to the metal of your trailer you may think that the cross members would be a good choice. The problem with using those is that since they run in the same direction as the floor joist, you would have to perfectly line up the floor joist with those beams. Those beams are also pretty far away from the subfloor since they are under the wood decking, which would require a really long bolt. What you really need is metal that is running perpendicular to the subfloor joist and is right up against the subfloor. While the trailer side beams match both those requirements, it’s a pretty thick metal and is usually a ‘C’ channel which doesn’t give you much room to drill. So the best option is to just add brackets (that is how we used to do it) or a flange to the sides.

Why not pre-drill the flange or weld the bolts to the trailer?

While having the bolts welded to the trailer may seem like a good thing, it’s actually a pain to work with and doesn’t give you a good way to attach the subfloor (when the bolts are on the back and front). If the bolts are welded to the sides of the trailer you’ll need to make sure that you have a joist in that exact location to attach to it (not exactly builder friendly). This can require you to add an extra joist or change your plans around. It can also be a pain to work with a fixed bolt since you will need to predrill your wood before putting it in place. This can be hard to line up correctly and you will need to do so before you attach the board to anything. While it can be worked around, as a builder, I just don’t want that hassle.

The flange on the other hand allows you to put the bolts wherever your joist end up after you’ve constructed the subfloor. That’s why we don’t predrill the flange either. While it may seem intimidating to drill your own holes through the metal it is actually quite easy. It doesn’t take any special tools other than a standard drill and a good drill bit. Others like to talk about plasma cutters and special drills to scare you into thinking that you can’t do it. But you’re about to build a house, what’s a few more holes to drill.

Bolts welded to the back or front of the trailer are even worse. In these locations the subfloor doesn’t typically hang over the edge, so what is the bolt supposed to attach to? Cantilevering the subfloor over the back edge just so you can accommodate that bolt seems a little unnecessary.

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Finally, the flange also increases the width of the trailer, thus reducing the amount that the subfloor needs to extend unsupported over the edge of the trailer. More support is always a good thing.

Replace the wood decking with metal beams

By replacing the wood decking with metal beams, we eliminate some of the weight of the wood decking and provide another place to bolt the trailer to. Not to sound too redundant, but these beams are up against the subfloor and are perpendicular to the joists.

Summary

Basically what it comes down to is you want to have metal on your trailer that runs the length of the trailer that will give you a good place to attach your house too. If your trailer doesn’t come with those metal surfaces, you’ve going to have to add them.

I personally designed these trailers for what I want and need, and it’s what we use for our houses.

Tiny House 2 – Day 1

I drove down from Atlanta this morning and got to my Dad’s house in Deland FL around noon. My dad had picked up the trailer last week but the supplies from Home Depot still hadn’t arrived. So while we waited for the delivery we took that time to level the trailer. This task was a lot easier this time around since we started on mostly level ground. The last house was built in my driveway which has a pretty steep angle which made leveling a little difficult.

No sooner did we finish than Home Depot showed up with our delivery. My dad lives on a dirt road so it was interesting getting everything back to where we needed it. It will be even more interesting getting it out.

We then removed every other board from the trailer and added the aluminum flashing layer (to protect the under side of the subfloor). Finally, before getting rained out we started to construct the framing subfloor.

Tiny Living Subfloor

The aluminum looks pretty messed up in the picture but it was just trying to roll back up.

The wheel wells on this trailer are in a different location from the last 20 foot trailer I purchased. That is one of the advantages of having the SketchUp model to the house and not just the plans. I can make adjustments on the fly.

Of note, when we ordered the supplies, I didn’t specify the type of wood for the studs. The pro desk at home depot selected southern yellow pine (SYP) for me. This type of wood is very common in home construction because it is inexpensive and very strong. However, it also warps easily. This won’t be an issue once the home is complete but could prove troublesome if we take too long to get the sheathing on (which we won’t). Next time I will specify SPF (spruce/pine/fir) though.

(UPDATE: We ended up taking back about 30% of the studs because they were so warped and switched them out for SPF)

More updates tomorrow.

Full Throttle

It was only a few weeks ago that I decided to build another tiny house and things are moving very quickly.

I’m planning on beginning construction Monday in Deland (far from my home owners association). When I originally mentioned the idea of building a new house to my dad, he suggested that I build it on his property down in Florida. His reasoning was that he has all the room and tools down there and he could also give me a hand (my dad used to build homes for a living). Initially I didn’t think that would be possible since my wife Beth is 8 months pregnant with our second child. However, when I mentioned it to her she was surprisingly all for it. At first I thought it was a trap but she assured me she just thought it would be nice for me to spend time with my dad ;) Did I mention she is a saint? I’ll be down there for 2 weeks and plan to post frequently during this time so stay tuned.

The Idea

My plan for this house is to put it up for sale once it’s complete. I’m interested in seeing if there is enough demand for these to make this a full or part-time job. I would also like to put a tiny house on some property in North Georgia for my family to vacation at. If this house doesn’t sell then this will be it (It’s a win win :) Finally, I also like the idea of having actually built a house for which I am going to sell the plans for in order to fully document and validate them (plus I really enjoy building tiny houses).

The Plans

When I first started looking at tiny houses I loved the idea of a sleeping loft. I think it is an excellent use of the limited space available. However, since my first tiny house was designed for my mother, I knew I couldn’t include a sleeping loft since she wouldn’t be able to easily climb a ladder every day (you should see her climb regular stairs ;) So for this house I am adding a sleeping loft and moving the door to the rear (as well of some other minor changes). As I mentioned above, I will eventually make these plans available as well (at which time my first plans will return to their original price of $250)

Purchases So Far

I ordered the trailer from a manufacturer in Florida so that I wouldn’t have to drive it down with me. The cost, $2700, was just a little bit more than what I could get it for up here. The company that I got the trailer from for my first house had increased their price from $2300 to $2600 in just the last couple years. The turnaround time for the trailer was just over a week.

Since this house will be similar to my first house I used a slightly modified version of its parts list to get quotes from Home Depot and Lowes. As with my experience with the first house, Home Depot turned out to be quite a bit cheaper. The initial order came in at $5500. That doesn’t include everything but enough to keep me busy for a while.

I also placed a separate order for the windows. This was quite an ordeal and caused me a decent amount of stress. Since there aren’t standard window sizes between manufactures I needed to have the windows selected before I could complete the plans (which I am still in the process of doing). This sounds simpler that it actually is. On the first house I didn’t put that much thought into this decision and ended up buying white vinyl windows. Afterwards I had some regrets when I felt white windows locked me down to certain siding paint colors. Despite this I ended up really liking the appearance of the first house when it was complete. On this house however I wanted something other than white, which automatically bumped me up to a higher grade window. The other issue was finding a window series that includes some of the smaller windows that I needed. Finally, at an expense twice that of those used in the original house, I ended up selecting Jeld-Wen Wood Clad windows for $3000 (ouch!). This house design has more windows and these are really high quality so the additional cost isn’t just for the color  (it’s what I’m telling myself to feel better).

It’s been an expensive couple weeks!

Using the information from my first build (specifically the sketchUp model and materials list), I’m at the same point in two weeks that previously took me three months.

And so it begins…

I went this past weekend to pick up the trailer I ordered on the 9th. I was originally looking for a used one but I found a place about an hour and a half away that sells them new for around the same price (~$2300).  It’s 20 feet with two 5200 lbs. axles. Also, by buying new I was able to have them leave off the ramps which I would have had to remove and discard.

I’m working on the design now. I had originally decided to use a plan I found online but a few days before I picked up the trailer I decided that while I really liked the look of the design it really wasn’t the best for my needs. So now I am rushing to finish the new design. Hopefully I should wrap that up by the end of this week. Assuming that goes as planned, I should be able to put in my first supply order next week.