Thanks to everyone who suggested questions for me to ask at the Tiny House Workshop I recently attended, I have the answers to a variety of questions about tiny houses. I’m including mostly information on trailers, much of it for beginners like myself. If you have more experience, I’d love to hear any other advice from you.
1. What are key things to look for when buying a trailer to build on? While it was recommended that we purchase a custom trailer as that’s what they do in their business of selling tiny houses on trailers, I knew that wasn’t what I wanted to do since I’d like to make mine as inexpensively as possible. Here are some of the things I learned about buying a trailer:
- You can find a good 16′ used for $1000 or new for $2000
18′ for $4500 new
20′ for $5500 new
- For the 16′ trailer, you want each axle to be able to hold at least 3500 lbs. Honestly, I didn’t even know what the axles were, so it was helpful for me to be there to see the trailer! For the 18′ trailer, you want the weight capacity to be 5000 lbs. for each axle. For the 20′ trailer, it’s 7500 lbs. each. I was most interested in the 16′ trailer because it’s cheaper and can be pulled by a V8.
- Before purchasing a used trailer, watch out for serious rust…meaning rust that has already caused holes. The guy’s advice to me was to bring a hammer to see if the trailer chips away.
- Good leaf springs are curved. I had never even heard of leaf springs.
- Tires are expensive, so keep that in mind when buying used. Once the trailer is parked, take the tires off or make it where the weight isn’t on them so that they will last longer.
- For the foundation you’ll want to make layers as follows: trailer, pressure-treated plywood, 3-inch-thick insulated foam board, 3/4 inch subfloor.
2. What are the top 3 things not to “cheat” on (as far as trying to get a deal or save money by doing it yourself)? Framing, plumbing, and electric. Lucky for me, my brother is a plumber/electrician. As for framing, keeping it level is priority. The wood for it also needs to be straight with no splits in it and no knots near the ends. If you’re building on a trailer, the trailer would also be at the top of this list. It was also suggested that you turn your plans over to an engineer, which is what they do for their business. That lets them know the details of what they need their trailer to have.
3. Pros and cons of building over the wheels? Basically, their advice was to never do it. Yes, it adds space, but it’s not worth the strength you lose in your structure when you have that break in the foundation.
4. How tall are trailers? It varies from trailer to trailer but usually about 20 to 22″ from the ground to the top of the trailer where you would begin your foundation. (I had this question because I knew tiny houses on trailers couldn’t be over 13′ 6″, but I didn’t know how to calculate how much room I could have for my floor to ceiling height if I didn’t know how high up the floor would be starting!)
I hope this has answered some of your tiny house questions and even some you didn’t know you had. So thankful to Chris and Joe Everson of Tiny Tennessee Homes for taking the time to share what they’ve learned through experience. I have lots more notes from the workshop that I hope to share in the next few weeks.
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How will you live tiny & dream big this week?