Category Archives: Trailer Stuff

Things having to do with the trailer and integration of it

Update 5.5.13

Here is this days progress.  I started the pallet siding.  Here are some pictures:

Update 4.11.13

It was sorta a lazy night, well as much as I ever have those… mostly because I am SORE!  I’m not sure what exactly I did to strain every muscle in my legs but I feel like I was doing squats for 5 hours yesterday!  I took the opportunity to get a decent jump on my trellis, there is lots more to do but it only took about an hour to get this far so it should be done soon :).


So, to not feel so bad about not doing a ton of work I took the opportunity to think through my process on how to wrap this project up!

Announcement! I was accepted to be a keynote speaker at Boise’s first ever Mini Makers Faire which is pretty darn exciting! (I will probably be asking for advice on getting together some sort of presentation on this in the near future)  It takes place over Memorial Day weekend so I have decided that would be a good goal to be complete by (May 25th and 26th).  In order to make that happen though I need a game plan, the following is a list of the items left to finish and my estimation of time if applicable:

Trellis (3 hours)

Tile Floor

  • Install heat tape (4 hours)
  • Apply mortar bed (2 hours plus sitting overnight)
  • Install tile (8 hours)

Tile Shower

  • Apply RedGaurd (1 hour plus sitting overnight)
  • Install tile (8 hours)


  • Cut cabinet doors (2 hours)
  • Paint cabinets (6 hours)
  • Build drawers (10 hours)
  • Install pulls (2 hours)
  • Bookshelf (3 hours)


  • De-nail boards (20 hours)
  • Rip boards to size (4 hours)
  • Plane boards (4 hours)
  • Install Siding (16 hours)

Connect Plumbing 

  • Shower
  • Lav
  • Kitchen

Fix the Electrical I messed up (4 hours)

Install Toilet (3 hours)

Replace Tires (trip to the store)

Front Electrical Closet Doors (3 hours)

I have approximately 6 weeks to complete it in the timeframe, 2 and a half of those weekends I will be out of town or unavailable so this will be a tight squeeze and mostly weeknights after work!  It has been getting much easier to work on it now that things are getting all prettied up!  Each checkmark affects the aesthetics, it’s pretty neat for me.

Last night I was able to just sit and relax in the bed area, it equalled a pretty zen moment and an incredible feeling of pride!  That’s it for now!


I Have an Idea!

So, I am building on a goose-neck trailer and I drive a Prius… obviously I am going to need help when it comes to moving my house.  Here are a few options I have considered, let me know if you have others!

1) I would rent a UHaul if it was just a standard hitch, but it isn’t.  I have called everywhere to see about renting a truck with a goose-neck hitch, they just aren’t out there.

2) Plan ‘b’ has been to put an ad on Craigslist and find someone willing to move it for me with some sort of compensation OR

3) hire a tow truck, either would work ok but I would be tied on schedule, which is hard for me AND I would be out probably a couple hundred bucks every time I want to move… my next thought was

4) to install a goose-neck on my dad’s or my brothers’ truck which would cost near $800 and be sort of an inconvenience for them…

5) So, I had the idea to cruise over Craigslist, see what the prices were like on a truck that is able to pull it.  Now I don’t mean a brand new truck, I mean an old, reliable type of farm truck, I mean it’s a farm trailer… why not go for the matched pair.  Then the idea is that I can sell the truck back to someone else after it’s moved.  As I got to looking at the trucks I had another idea!

6) One of the biggest issues I have had with downsizing my life is that I am a ‘crafty’ person, I like building things, I have a decent amount of tools that I would be storing somewhere or getting rid of… either way it is hard to use them if they aren’t with me.  The welding truck below was what gave me the idea… service trucks are often made to be portable shops with toolboxes and storage throughout… I could get a truck that is able to become my sort of ‘shop’ AND pull my house when I need it too… I could probably even throw my plastic car on the porch and be all self contained when I want to move (joking!).

So that is where I am thinking now… just a quick look through CL and there are tons of options well under $4,000 bucks… With how low of a budget I have had on my house I don’t know that that is an option that is out of the realm of possibilities.

What are your thoughts, how have you, would you or do you move your house? or do you?

Here are some pictures of some of the trucks, I haven’t really looked at any in real life but they all seem to be decent deals:

Tiny House Weight Debate

How do you calculate the weight of your tiny house and how do you know if your trailer can handle it?  There are several ways these things can be determined, it all depends on your situation, as does everything… Here is my logic and some of the tools I used to get there.


The first thing to decide would be if you already have a trailer you’re going to build on, if so then you have to decide how much it can carry and design within this.  I am not going to go through the details of how to find out how much your trailer can already carry because Andrew already did a stellar job of demystifying that over at Tiny r(E)volutions HERE.   So, if you already have a trailer, figure out how much you can load it with and design your house using the basic principles below.  Note:  If you buy plans from Tumbleweed or the like they generally come with a gross build-out weight to them, that is handy to use so long as you know you’re going to use those plans with no/minor modifications, if however you are going to change some materials around (say you want granite counters instead of plastic laminate counters) you can use some basic calculations with the tools below and add that to their weight to verify that you’re in the right range still.  

What if you design your own tiny house, how can you guesstimate your weight so you know how much your trailer will have to hold so you can buy the correct trailer?  You COULD find a similar-ish Tumbleweed and err on the side of caution guessing a little heavy but that isn’t really a solid method and I don’t suggest it…  For those of you who have followed my project you know that I pretty much had the house designed before I got the trailer and that the trailer I found needed to be modified to hold the weight I wanted it to… Because I had these known modifications I was able to more accurately plan my axles, both the location and the maximum weight.  I ended up buying a duel 5600 pound (each) capacity axle flat-bet goose-neck trailer, but initially I was planning on a concrete floor (6000 # in itself) so I ended up installing a third axle just to be safe.   If you are going to go this way and customize your trailer be sure to calculate in the weight of your trailer, mine is just shy of 3000 pounds for all the steel.  If you add 6000 for the concrete and 3000 for the trailer (it is home made and a little beefier than a trailer shop would make a trailer, so it is heavier than most) it brings you to 9000 pounds before you even add the house!  So two 5600# axles would only leave me 1600 pounds for the rest of the house in that example, hence I welded on a third axle allowing me to go up to 16,800# total, allowing me 7,800 for the rest of the building materials.    Now, through the design process I have since nixed the concrete in favor of much lighter weight tiles so my trailer is overkill, that was a calculated decision though.

Through the planning phase you will most likely be doing a sketchup model or somehow actually drawing plans, tiny houses are small enough that you can pretty easily take a volume or square foot count of materials fairly painlessly, you have to do this to buy your materials anyway.  Once you have those calculations you can apply weights to things and get a pretty decent idea of where you’ll stand.

I have collected a list of common building materials that you can use.  I like to add a contingency onto the end weight to account for things that are harder to pin down, like the  faucets, hardware, furniture etc., I suggest about a 20% contingency, that may seem high but it’s better to be over than under!   If you make a material list and add things up and it’s too heavy you can start to massage your finishes to make things work out better.  This is a pretty important part of the process so spend some time on it.  I keep saying that this project is weird for me because there are three main design factors that went into my project and the least important is aesthetics (weird for someone with a design background).  The MOST important has been weight and number two is cost since I set a pretty tight budget.  THEN I get to worry about looks :).

Common Material Weights:

Wood Stud, 2×4 (pine):      1.31#/linear foot

Wood Stud 2×6:    2.05#/linear foot

Metal Studs:  1#/linear foot

SIPs Panels, 6″:   3.47#/square foot

Insulation, rigid – 1″:  1.5#/square foot

Insulation, batt 1″: .04#/square foot

Insulation, spray-in 1″:  .5#/square foot

OSB Sheathing, 3/8″:  1.22#/square foot

OSB Sheathing, 1/2″:  1.63#/square foot

OSB Sheathing, 5/8″:  2.03#/square foot

Plywood, 3/8″:  1.08#/square foot

Plywood, 1/2″:  1.44#/square foot

Plywood, 5/8″:  1.8#/square foot

Gypsum (drywall), 1/4″: 1.1#/square foot

Gypsum (drywall), 3/8″:  1.65#/square foot

Gypsum (drywall), 1/2″:  2.2#/square foot

Gypsum (drywall), 5/8″:  2.75#/square foot

Metal Roofing: 2.5#/square foot

Asphalt Roofing: 2#/square foot

TPO Roofing:  .7#/square foot

Carpet: .3-.7#/square foot

Porcelain tile: 4.5#/square foot

Hardwood Floor (birch), 1/2″: 2.4#/square foot

Hardwood Floor (oak), 1/2″: 2.05#/square foot

Hardwood Floor (poplar), 1/2″: 1.45#/square foot

Wood Planks (pine), 1/2″: 1.46#/square foot

Cement, 1″: 12#/square foot

Granite, 1/4″: 3.6#/square foot

Hardie Board Siding, 1/2″: 3#/square foot

Linoleum: .75#/square foot

For a more comprehensive list click HERE.

For a more comprehensive list of various woods click HERE (a board foot is equal to a 1’x1’x1″ section of wood, you can do simple math from there to get to your thickness/width).

You’ll notice some of these are assembly weights, if that is the make-up of your wall skip adding up the individuals and just use that weight per /square foot of wall.

In addition to your building material weights you will need to account for your appliances, the best way to do that is, if you order them on amazon there is an exact weight.  If not you can certainly get an idea on how much a stove similar to the one you’re getting will weigh, again, lean to the cautious side and round up… If you are going to have a water tank on board or a water heater use it’s ‘when full’ weight (water weighs 8.34# per gallon).

Once you have all of that added up figure out your contingency, I use 20% to account for the faucets, the furniture and all those little pieces that it wouldn’t be efficient to add up…  Then you have your weight or at least a healthy stab at it to get you started!

Hopefully that is a semi helpful bit of info!  Anyone else?  How did you determine this?  Did you figure it out beforehand or just build?

Update 1.6.12

I have stairs!  Slowly but surely chugging along.  I have more work to do to get done with this weekends stuff but here is an update:

Update 12.25.12

Here is a collection of updates I have been hoarding.  In this post are a couple references, I can’t link to them in my captions so here are some links to the places/things I mention:

Amber’s work at The Refinerii

The book I mention, highly recommended: The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less by Berry Schwartz

Another thing to note, don’t pick paint based on the name, it’s a bad idea :).   My tile rears it’s pretty little head in here, and some hints at my other finishes.  Window trim goes up.   My next steps are to hook back up all my outlets and switches.  I can hardly wait to be using my own lighting set-ups!  It’s coming together guys, slowly but surely!

I hope you have all had a very Merry Christmas and are as excited as me to ring in the new year!  Every year just gets better and better, I can’t wait to see what 2013 has in store for me other than the big scary 3-0.  I have SO much that needs to get done before that fateful day in September!  😉

Tiny House Listing Interview

I answered a quick set of questions for Laura over at Tiny House Listings (among other places!).  I thought it was appropriate to regurgitate those questions here too though.   You can see the original post HERE and be sure to check out all their other blog posts, there are some really cool ideas in there!  I still LOVE the shower one best :).

On to the questions:

Where is the best place to start to find out what your local codes are?

The best place to start is to go down to your local City Hall, inside of it there is a “Planning Department.”  People are there to help the public through all their building and zoning questions.  If you are curious about code requirements but are planning to build on a trailer you may want to leave that part off in the conversation.  Once you mention that the tiny house is on wheels they will look at you like you’re crazy and stop helping – once it’s on wheels it becomes a DMV/Highway District issue rather than a city code issue.  However, the DMV will not be able, in most cases, to help you out with any ‘code’ related stuff. They will do their own checks as much as they can to make sure your house won’t fall off the freeway and endanger others, even then, they are not structural engineers so don’t expect too terribly much!

Even though most code officials won’t be able to help I still highly encourage people to go speak with officials, this will serve to let them know there is a growing demand for help and safety in this area.  Those people you speak with are more likely to bring it up at their next meeting and the code officials are the ones who make the codes – they all meet and discuss the priorities and adapt to them, the more people they collectively see coming in to ask about tiny houses the more likely it is that tiny houses are going to start to be considered at the code level.

If you want to go the passive way around things you can look up a copy of the Residential Building Code as well as your local building requirements (generally found on your cities website under something that resembles a ‘Planning and/or Development’ department – this book and these codes are however pretty complex and difficult to work through without experience. If you try and you get stuck you always have the code officials at City Hall to help you understand.

What are the typical things that tiny house builders will come up against in the process?

Typical things that will come up and what drives a lot of people to go with the wheels route instead of a foundation are minimum house sizes. That is probably the biggest limiting factor as I see it.  The smallest minimum habitable dwelling I have heard of is 400 square feet and even that had to be as an accessory dwelling (in combination with the bigger “main structure”).  There are of course other factors, I think the next biggest one would be the egress requirements from a loft type of space.  [This is typically] 5.7 square feet of operable [window/door], which are navigable; but not if you already don’t meet the size requirements.

Once you get into a tiny house on wheels situation you have other enforceable code issues you will have to work with, not so much in the structure but in the parking.  If you are on wheels you will have to register your house as a semi-trailer, an RV, or a mobile home (these are the only divisions I have heard of, there may be others out there though).  The issues with each should be considered, a mobile home can only be parked in designated mobile home parks (maybe not the ideal situation for most of the crew that is interested in tiny houses… unless someone starts to develop tiny house parks… which is a development option I am interested in looking into – but that’s a whole OTHER story! :) – the best I can tell this is because they have systems set up to tax these dwellings appropriately for city functions like fire/police/schools etc.).  Semi-trailers cannot be lived in for any amount of time and RVs generally have rules set by each city for how long you can live in them in the same location (our limit is 30 days).  Not to say that you couldn’t find a place to park it where no one will ever complain.  Generally the time limit with RVs isn’t enforced unless there is a complaint. The best way to avoid this would be to speak with your would-be neighbors and make sure the subdivision/city codes don’t have any statements prohibiting RVs.

What is the best way to make your case to the local government about building a tiny space?
Right now there is no way I know of.  These are not legal; you won’t get any sort of official approval.  You may be able to do it and fly under the radar but there is not a single tiny house that is fully “legal.”  The best thing we can do right now is bring the issue up to local officials so they can start to put it on their radar for future meetings when talking about codes.

Right now the 2015 codes is being worked on, I have pretty much been assured that tiny houses won’t be addressed in it.  Currently most areas are still on the 2009 code, switching over to 2012 next year (they re-evaluate codes every 3 years).  That means, in the best case possible, we are looking at getting tiny houses incorporated into codes by 2018 and not fully adopted until 2019-2020 but every government process is very involved and time consuming.  We need to be able to show a demand for change and we need a few strong leaders that can push at a higher level for change.  I think we definitely have a group of willing people to step up and push at a higher level, myself included, but if there are others I would highly recommend they get involved, they can email me specifically if they want! 

What are the best ways to get around codes when thinking of building tiny? 
Building on wheels is the biggest thing you can do.  You become a DMV/Highway District issue, you pay your permits through them (which are much cheaper than building permits) and you do what you can. There is a huge lack of security in knowing you can just be where you are, you become very dependent on your relationships and finding someone who will share their lot with you and hopefully doesn’t have neighbors that will complain. If they do, you find a new spot.

What are the best ways to work with the community to make changes that will help tiny house builders?
Be involved!  Talk to city planners and code officials and let them know what you would like to do. You can do this without telling them you’re going to do it anyway.  Get this on your local cities radar, just endure the crazy looks.  One local county here actually saw the demand and have changed their local zoning codes to say that you can live in an RV full time, so long as you meet a short list of requirements, that means that, in that county tiny houses registered as RVs are in-fact legal with a little extra care. Unfortunately this is a very rural area and isn’t where I personally want to be.

I have actually expected more crazy looks than I’ve gotten. There are a lot of people who will think you’re brilliant for wanting to do this. Tiny houses were not a big deal 60 years ago, they were totally normal.  Now there are whole generations of people who have bought into the “American Dream” of so much debt you can’t help but work ridiculous amounts of your life away paying for it.  With the economy how it’s been we are seeing a lot more understanding and almost jealousy of being able to pare down to something that makes so much sense!

I should say, if you ever get a chance to talk to a planner/code official, either by going down there purposefully or just bumping into one, the best question you can ask is “Are you guys (or is your city) looking at the possibility of tiny houses and allowing for them in zoning codes?”  They will almost always say “nope,” but it will plant a seed in their head and it will carry forward.