I'm considering building a cabover camper style tiny home to go on the back of my truck, and am wondering if wood alone will be a suitable building material. It crossed my mind that most campers and RV's are typically made from a metal frame, not lumber. This tiny home would go on the back of my F250 which has a very stiff suspension as do most 3/4 ton trucks. Good for the capability of the truck to carry a camper, but possibly not so good for any structure riding in the back of the truck. Wooden structures aren't particularly known for holding up to constant vibration. I am considering using screws instead of nails for anything holding the frame together. Would this be enough to build a structure that would stand up to a bumpy ride? Or should I stick with nails? Is a steel frame necessary to build a cabover camper? Any feedback based on personal experiences, as well as typical building methods in the tiny home community, would be appreciated.
Hi, Nails have shear strength, screws may have fastening strength. Drilled first and screwed is stronger adhesion. You might want to consider metal braces for strength. Most rv campers are built from aluminum foam filled structures with fiberglass or aluminum skin.
I've known these kinds of builds as truck [campers, shells, toppers] and such, and there are loads of specialized forums that you want to find and ask your questions in. Some specific to 4-wheeling, and others to stealth-camping, off-the-beaten path camping, etc. Those forums and folks really have the experience. The top of the line experience is an "earthroamer" (be sitting down for the price tag) ... and then there's my budget range ... a Leer Topper, for a few bucks.
A real specific consideration for you might be ... are you still 4wd'ing, off the beaten path, every weekend? If that kind of driving, you'll want to pay close attention to what you build out, and the forums will help you figure it out.
We now just "get off the beaten path" to primitive areas, so we could've built a full truck camper on the back ... the truck and camper would survive getting way out there (no state parks & asphalt roads or campsites, more national forests & BLM 4wd driving for primitive sites). The camper would've survived our earlier 4wd days, but it would've looked like a dent clearance-sale item, what with tree branch clearance and other tight situations from that kind of 4wd'ing.
I've waffled a bunch with building out a camper or a topper, and when I found just the right high head-clearance leer topper (for a song, almost) for the back of my F350 8' truck bed, things have been moving towards a topper buildout for us. This should survive our kind of 4wd'ing these days. It's got a pass-thru boot to the 4-door cab, so we can pass back and forth (if raining or such). A high-topper on an 8' bed has tons of room to build in, so this topper and the truck should accommodate up to 4 of us on BLM or other such boon-docking, middle of nowhere trips.
I am thinking about making a shell to use for farmers markets and camping. I had the idea of making some laminated bulk heads like in a boat to make the structure more rigid. This is and also using fiberglass to use thinner plywood and stronger joints. Still thinking on it for now...
I've certainly seen wood ones drive by, often looking like cedar strip canoe construction which suggests they may use a fiber-glass type finish, but not necessarily. I would do your research, particularly looking for examples on the web that aren't brand new, not actually ever used in real life! Particularly pay attentions to planning diagonal supports and I'm pretty sure I read somewhere that using actual Simpson strong tie hurricane straps to hold the roof rafters makes a big difference. Depending on your design, you may not need exactly that, but just the concept. You have unmoving air inside, and fast moving air outside, so the Bernoulli principle that keeps airplanes in the air may be trying to make your house fly!
I would also pay more attention than usual to the interior design. Many motor homes are flimsy inside and have weight in less than ideal places.