The Five Biggest Tiny Living Myths

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Going tiny is a big decision and certainly not an easy one. As this niche industry continues to build, so do its naysayers. Don’t give up on your big dream to live tiny! Most of what they say isn’t true anyway. Here are a few of the myths surrounding the tiny house community and the truths behind them.

I have to give up everything I want

First and foremost, let’s get this right out of the way. Downsizing does not mean you have to abandon all of your Earthly possessions. It does mean that you have to make some sacrifices and compromises. When you go tiny, you are trading in the cost of an item for the cost of space for an item. That being said, you are the one who makes the decisions as to what you need to have and what you don’t. On every tiny television show the people moving in are given one Rubbermaid container and told, “That’s all you can have.” You do have to get rid of a ton of stuff, but you do not have to get all crazy about it.

I have to give up my Privacy

Every time you see pictures or television shows about tiny homes, they are all bright and have as many windows as possible with as much open space inside as possible. The reason for this is to make the space look bigger. But you can have shades, curtains or blinds and even window treatments if you so desire. Also, don’t think that you can only have one big open room. There are plenty of designs where you can have walls, pocket doors and more. And if worse comes to worse, hitch up the home and drive to the middle of Montana.

I have to maintain a nomadic lifestyle

Just because you have a house on wheels doesn’t mean that you have to move it. There are plenty of people who find a nice comfortable spot to park their home and they just leave it there. People build decks on the front and sides of their home, plant gardens and even pour concrete walks up to the front door.

I can’t have guests

This is one of the biggest things for people to wrap their head around. You can still entertain. Sure, if you have 50 people over you will have to bring the party outside, but in most tiny homes there is enough room to comfortably hold a small party. People rarely move from one space when they have guests anyway and nowadays with the culinary world taking off, cooking while entertaining has become status quo. There is no better place to do that than in a tiny home.

I have to be young and childless

Just because you have children or you are over the age of 30 does not disqualify you from owning a tiny home. There are plenty of floor plans that have a room for the kids or have a guest bed in the loft, etc. As you get older and decide that tiny living is for you, there are plenty of single level homes out there to keep you from having to go up a ladder at night.

I can’t have full sized anything

When you decide to go into a tiny home, you need to make a priority list of what is the most important to you. Remember here, the commodity is space, not money that we are dealing with. For instance, if you like to cook, you might want to allocate more space to the kitchen. Are you a bigger guy? Maybe you want a shower that is actually big enough for you to move around in. The key word here is priority. If you want a king size bed, you can have a king size bed. Finding the way to compromise between function and form is the true challenge.

Those are just a few of the mental hurdles that people have to get over to get into living tiny. What concerns do you have? I will bet a good portion of them are just tiny home old wives’ tales. 

Dream Big, Live Tiny!

-Tom

A Tiny House Caboose

The Hobo Hilton

Home builders/owners: Bob & Lori Murrell

Everyone has a muse; a motivation or inspiration that changes our path. For tiny house enthusiasts, their muse is one of eco-friendliness or of financial freedom. Bob’s inspiration though was to remain single.  As fate and irony would have it, Bob met his real muse, Lori.

He still claims she would have lived in a cardboard box with him if she had to and at that point in time, you could very well say, she did.

In 2003,there were yet to be:

  • -interior walls
  • -Insulation
  • -electric with the exception of an alarm clock plugged into an extension cord from the garage.
  • -closets
  • -kitchen
  • -plumbing
  • -banks that would mortgage.

What there was,though, were:

  • -No zoning regulations
  • -A lot of drawings and plans
  • – Dreams
  •  -A County building code requiring 90 mph wind tolerance,a 5000.00 compliance for wind tie-downs in all for corners, and a yard of concrete in each hole in the ground.

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After complying, Bob, Dennis Smith, and Rudy Byler started building. The body was steel with bay windows which had been extended by 2.5 feet on either side making it 14’.

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The chassis of the Hobo Hilton was found in a Railroad magazine classified section and soon to be purchased from a private owner in Henry,Illinois. After sending the owner a disposable camera to take photos, the owner sent it back. The photos revealed it to be weathered and in need of a lot of love. It had been through a lot during its heyday along the Topeka, Peoria, and Western Railroad. 

Lori stuck around after all, helping Bob build and design the interior.

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The design inspiration came from LGB brand drovers’ Caboose called the Colorado and Southern. Fully completed, it is 390 sq ft.In addition,it’s heavily insulated, only requiring a 8” baseboard heater  (or candle!) to get through an Ohio winter.The Hemlock siding is from an Amish Mill in Atlantic, Pennsylvania.

In the photo, their granddaughter, Malia, reads her first book. Their favorite book to read together is “I Saw An Ant on the Railroad Track”. Who would’ve known!

Malia’s bedroom is in the most magical space: The Cupola.

With many warm visits from family and friends, it’s second roof, it’s withstanding of prevailing winds and winters for over a decade, the Hobo Hilton has proven to be the foundation of a happy life that Bob and Lori have made together.

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Tiny House Mistakes

For the past 6 years, I’ve been designing and building tiny homes. In that time, I’ve seen EVERYTHING there is when it comes to people making the decision to go tiny. And I’ve noticed a lot of people making the same few mistakes over and over again, even though they are easily avoidable if you know what to look for. I see these same mistakes in my clients, at my live workshops, and when I consult with people. I want to educate you so that you can avoid this mistakes and be as prepared for your tiny house build and tiny living as possible.

Mistake #1: They think that if they’re having their tiny house built for them, they don’t need to know how it all works behind the scenes.

This is a big one. Many people decide to have someone else (a professional builder like me) build their tiny home because they don’t want to learn how to do it themselves. If this is your situation, you may not have the time, the bandwidth, or the inclination to build your own home. And that’s fine! That’s why we’re here to build tiny homes for you!

But – the entire design and build process is much much smoother when the client knows what the foundations of building a tiny home are. It can save a lot of time and money, when the client comes into the process with a base knowledge of how the tiny house is put together. You don’t have to know exactly how to build your own house, but being INFORMED about how things are built in a basic way can really make your entire experience so much better.

The other thing we see, unfortunately, is people get taken advantage of by dishonest and unqualified builders because they themselves didn’t know what to look for in a quality tiny house build, and by the time they realize what’s happened it’s too late. In order to have the best experience with a tiny house builder, it’s really important to have a basic understanding of how the tiny house works and what goes into building it.

That’s why something like our Virtual Tiny House Workshop is so perfect for future tiny home dwellers, whether they are building it themselves or hiring a builder to work with. You’ll learn all of the building basics, what to look for in plumbing (so that you can make INFORMED decisions about what materials and systems you want to be used in your house), and how to spot any problems.

You don’t want to get into a situation where your builder is using materials or things in your house that aren’t the right solution, but you didn’t know any better so you couldn’t give them your input.

Mistake #2: You approach your builder or a project with no clear design or starting point, making the process more expensive and time consuming.

Here’s another big mistake we see people make when they ask us about building a tiny home. When you approach your builder with no clear design outline, it can make the process more time consuming, and thus more expensive.

People who start the tiny house process without their design mapped out end up getting stalled in the design process – they don’t have a good foundation, so we end up going back and forth about design decisions. On a custom design, this can really add up in both time and money.

Although I have seen people successfully “build without plans”, the most successful tiny house builds have a good design foundation. You don’t have to have a degree in design (like Mariah does) in order to understand the basics – and it can end up saving you down the line.

We teach all of the tiny house design fundamentals in the Virtual Tiny House Workshop, and many people say it’s their favorite part of the whole workshop!

One of the issues we see is someone doesn’t have a good understanding of design principles, so they lay out their tiny home based on “something they saw online”, but not something that fits THEIR lifestyle and THEIR unique habits. Then a few months later, after spending thousands of dollars and many months or years on their tiny house build, they move out after a month or two or try to sell it because they realize the designs that worked for “someone” weren’t going to work for them.

This mistake can be easily avoided. You just need a few lessons and examples about how to design a tiny house FOR YOUR NEEDS and the principles of design as they apply to tiny homes. Again, you don’t need to go to school for it like Mariah, but she can teach you all of the most important things you need to know so that you don’t end up in one of these situations!

Mistake #3: You think that by the time your tiny house is built, you’ll be magically ready to make the transition.

Some people approach tiny living in a backwards way, and I see this again and again. People are ready to get started on their tiny house, they feel excited and gung-ho and ready to go! But they put the cart before the horse and don’t properly prepare for how long it can take to downsize your stuff and make this transition. Of course, we have seen people in extreme situations get rid of all of their stuff in two weeks, but that’s usually out of necessity or timing, not by choice.

In reality, downsizing into a tiny home is a process that takes time. And I wish more people would start the process as soon as possible, so that when the time comes to move in to their tiny home, they are truly ready. If you don’t start this process now, you won’t magically be ready to go tiny when your house is built. If you’re ready to start thinking about your tiny house journey, it’s time to learn the foundations. You should have a basic understanding of building, design, and downsizing – even if your tiny house is in the future and not happening right away. So many of these mistakes can be avoided by a little fundamentals, and that’s why we put together the Virtual Tiny House Workshop.

Whether you’re a few years away, hiring a builder, or ready to get down to business and build your own off-grid home on your own, the Virtual Tiny House Workshop provides lessons and demos on everything from choosing a trailer, to plumbing and electric, to composting toilets and solar power. We also have in-depth lessons on design and downsizing – two really important first steps you need to take!

We hope to see you this weekend at the virtual tiny house workshop!
The workshop takes place December 12th and 13th from 12 pm Eastern to 4 pm Eastern both days, but you can watch it at your leisure as you will have lifetime access :)

Dan (and Mariah)

Fun Stuff!

A collection of a few fun things I’ve been working on:

The Tiny House Map

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I’ve been making some improvements to the Tiny House Map (THM) recently. For those who don’t know the THM is a great way to find and contact people, groups, and communities that are close by in your area. I’ve refocused the categories to better help individuals find other likeminded individuals. This included adding ‘groups’ and ‘communities’ (so there isn’t too much up there now for those items quite yet. If you are aware of any groups or communities out there I encourage you mention it to them so they can add themselves to help spread the word!) Right now there are over 800 people from all over the world that are on the map!

https://www.tinyhomebuilders.com/map

 

Inspiration

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Looking for inspiration to help get you motivated to downsize, simplify, and build tiny? I’ve put together a list of 31 things that you can do right now. Check it out at:

https://www.tinyhomebuilders.com/inspire

 

Savings Goal Calculator

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I’ve already mentioned this one in a previous post but I thought I would add it to the list anyways because I like it :) I put together a calculator to help you see how long it might take to achieve your financial goals (regardless of what they are). Including steps you can take to shorten that time:

https://www.tinyhomebuilders.com/home/savingscalculator

 

Tiny House Directory

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Lastly, I’ve made some improvements to the Tiny House Directory (THD). If you haven’t heard of the directory, it’s a collection of websites, books, and other resources specific to tiny houses. Do you have a favorite book or other resource that has helped you? Add it to the THD!

https://www.tinyhomebuilders.com/tiny-house-directory

The Fallacy of the 5 Year Plan

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This is an email from my friend and Virtual Tiny House Workshop co-host Mariah, who wanted to share this with you today

As you probably know, I’ve taught at more than 25 tiny house workshops and events over the past 2 years.

My favorite part is talking with everyone at the workshops, hearing their stories, and helping them start their journey.

Every time we teach a workshop, I end up losing my voice answering so many questions! It’s always fun to stay up late with people who share your values.

(Psst – I’m hosting the first and only VIRTUAL Tiny House Workshop this weekend! You can register here and join us!)

One thing I’ve been noticing more and more while teaching and speaking at these workshops, is that people have long timelines for their tiny house journeys.

I definitely think everyone should follow their own path and work within a time frame that suits their unique situation and life story. I’m all about marching to the beat of your unique drum!

That being said, I heard a lot of the same thing at the most recent workshop we spoke and taught at. We asked the group, “When do you plan to move into a tiny home?” and went around the room hearing answers.

“Five years”

“Ten years”

“6 years – when my kids are moved out!”

People were at the workshop, getting all hyped up, learning awesome new skills, and gaining knowledge and momentum – but that wouldn’t be put into action for another five to ten years.

Hmm, I thought, that seems like a lot of planning.

But then I thought about me, a few years ago.

See, I had a five year plan. I was 18 and I was going to save up all my money for five years, I was going to purchase the “vintage trailer of my dreams” – which at the time was an Airfloat.

I wanted something in the 25 foot long range (OMG can you imagine? I’m so glad I didn’t go that big haha).

I don’t think I quite understood just how expensive those rare beauties really are! In my mind, I would have my own place to park it, my own land with my own garden, and everything would happen at exactly the right time just the way I’d planned it all out.

Then, my entire five year plan of saving/researching/designing and planning went out the window when the COMET Camper (originally just a scrappy little 1969 Avalon) landed in my proverbial lap.

At 3 AM on a Tuesday morning (I’m not kidding – it was really that early and crazy), my friend from NYC dropped off what would become the COMET Camper and told me to do whatever I wanted to with it. I figured I’d sell it and use the money to put towards my imaginary “dream camper” – you know, stick to the plan.

Turns out, that scrappy little trailer WAS my dream camper, I just had to let the opportunity take shape and realize it’s potential.

Here’s the thing:

I’m really glad that the camper I live in now ended up in my driveway at 3 AM on a Tuesday 5 years ago, instead of 5 years in the future.

I’m glad because even though at the time it wasn’t in my “life plan” and that really freaked me out, I probably would have waited and waited and postponed making my major life change into camper life much longer than I had even planned. And since taking the leap, you know I can tell you it’s the best freaking thing that’s ever happened!

There’s no perfect time, and the sooner you get started, the better. That’s why we’ve put together the Virtual Tiny House Workshop. So you can get started now, take some action steps, and stop waiting.

We made it super affordable so that you don’t have to save up for years  to attend, and you can start sooner rather than later.

Planning is good – trust me I believe in good planning. Planning can lead to a lot of good stuff! Planning is smart.

But don’t be afraid of opportunity. Remember that it will NEVER be “the right time”, and there will ALWAYS be reasons (excuses) not to dive head-first into a new lifestyle and new way of living.

Things will never be “perfect” – so roll with it and if something amazing comes your way, allow yourself to say yes and let it work itself out.

If you’re ready to start taking those steps now, Dan Louche and I are excited to be bringing you the first and only Virtual Tiny House Workshop, called “Design/Build/Downsize”. We’ve got 8 trainings and lessons, step by step tutorials, live discussions and Q & A sessions, and more.

You can see the entire curriculum and register here >>>

We hope to see you there!

Latest Tiny House

We just completed our latest tiny house for a young couple in Gainesville FL. This house was by far our most complicated build with many custom built-in’s and some unique options.

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The owner plans to build a deck in the front the length of the house. The large window is an accordion window which fully opens up and will provide a nice opening, joining the inside and the outside areas.

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This is the interior view as you enter the house.

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This L-shaped shelf under the accordion window is for storage, with the larger portion also acting as a seat for a table (not shown). An extra chair will also be placed at the table so that two can dine.

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With the accordion window fully open it feels as though you are outside while standing in the house.

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Next is a cabinet that holds the range, oven, and additional pull out shelves for storage.

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Each of these shelves fully extend to hold a ton of stuff.

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The stairs lead up to the main loft. Under the stairs are open cubbies as well as a pull out pantry.

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The pull out pantry extended.

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The stairs also hold a drawer and well as a storage pocket.

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Across from the oven and the range is the refrigerator, dishwasher, and kitchen sink. There is also additional storage under the sink.

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Looking back towards the door, there is a washer/dryer combo unit in a separate closet. The bench seat wraps around the corner of the house to create a huge sitting area (where the owner plans to add custom cushions). The table can also be moved over to this area to create a larger dining area for additional people. The bench seat also opens up on hinges to reveal a very large storage area.

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The main loft has 2 windows and a skylight that provides a large amount of natural light. There is also a mini-split air conditioner to ensure the temperature is just right while sleeping. Finally a custom built shelf provides additional storage.

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The view from the lounge loft

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The view of the lounge loft. Since this loft is above the front door it is a little higher than the sleeping loft, but still comfortable to move around on. There is also an air circulator located on the top right of the back wall which periodically refreshes the air in the house.

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The bathroom has a bump-out over the tongue of the trailer that makes room for the bathroom sink. To the left is a toilet and to the right is a walk-in, tiled shower with a glass butterfly shower door.

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Under both lofts the owner wanted a more industrial look for their lighting. So we took track lighting that they liked and created this lighting solution.

Are you interested in learning more about tiny houses? We have several workshops coming up, including a new online workshop for those who can’t travel to Georgia. Get the full list of all our upcoming workshops at https://www.tinyhomebuilders.com/tiny-house-workshops

Lily’s Tiny Living

Lily attended one of our workshops last year and left determined to build herself a tiny house. So she bought one of our trailers and got to work. Now, as I say in our workshops, she gets to live in a temple of her awesomeness every day :) Congrats

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Tiny House Insurance

Your Tiny House may be the most valuable asset you own in your life. Protection for it may very well be second most important. After all, weather damage, fires, and theft are all real world situations and although tiny houses on wheels can run, they can’t always hide.

rp_Kim-Langston-Tiny-House-Fire-After.jpg Take it from Dee WIlliams‘s friend, Kim Langston…

Saturday, April 4th - the discovery of the fire - and Sunday, April 6th after starting the cleanup process.

Photo:Tinyhouse43.com

Meg and Brandy of Tiny House 43 who accidently,improperly disposed of hazardous materials after a long day of building…

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and Casey Friday, whose tiny home was stolen and pawned.

While no one relishes being an example of the unfortunate, there were things we all took away from it.

That is the beauty of the Tiny House community. Remember when everyone came together to crowdfund Kim Langston’s rebuild after her tiny house was caught in a barn fire? or when Tiny House 43 restored what they could from the ash covered sheathing? Or when news was shared of Casey’s quest to get justice from the thieves and reunite with his long lost tiny home?

We watched, were moved to help and encourage until all those challenges were overcome. The harder the struggle, the sweeter it was to celebrate their victory! And we all learned what NOT to do.

While some factors we can control (parking farther from adjacent buildings, taking the time to properly dispose of hazardous materials, or buying hitch and wheel locks). Some, we simply can not. Insurance for Tiny Houses under all unique circumstances, settled in one place or rolling along a highway, is non-existent. However,there are efforts in progress and it is a great opportunity for insurance agents to hop on board the Tiny house market.

Tiny Housers who creatively received insurance:

#1 – No matter what insurance you pursue,work with an insurance agent to work through the loopholes. It will also help other tiny home owners in the future by being able to recommend them to an agent that has already written an accepted coverage.

#2 Look for a reputable insurance agent already exploring the Tiny House insurance market.

Darrell Granz Insurance finalized a deal that will allow them to offer tiny home coverage in all US states (except Alaska & Hawaii), not just the West Coast states they currently serve. Even better, they will have coverage for transporting your tiny home and the unique solutions.

Coverages that will soon be available: moving Tiny Homes on wheels, full-time residents, self-built, construction type, tiny home rentals, AirBnB, and other alternative structures.

Archambault Insurance, CT, used by Runaway Shanty Tiny House.

Insurance Resource Center,Neil Gritz, Fairfield, IA, used by Aleks Lisefski.

Foremost Insurance (related to State Farm Insurance), only rumored to be able to insure tiny houses since they cover mobile homes, boats, etc.

 

Where there’s a will, there is always a way. Don’t let a gap in insurance discourage you to build tiny. BIG things are happening!

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.