I am in the beginning stages of building a tiny house and came across an old RV trailer for sale. I am just curious if anyone has experience taking this route for their tiny house trailer. Are there any precautions to take before using this type of trailer? Any tips on questions I should be asking or things I should be looking for would be much appreciated.
- X 3
To add...I do not recommend "travel trailer" frames being reused. Most are inferior at best. Look for cargo trailers with heavy or upgraded suspensions and build of this armature. If you are really investing in this as a long term home...spend the money to do it correctly...This is the foundation of the home...and a very critical element...Scrimping here will cost a lot later.
Old travel trailer frames are really minimal and often have poor axles (undersized/no brakes and small bearings). Many people have used them, many end up (re)building a whole new trailer around it and basically only using the VIN tag.
If you are going to build it in place and never going to move it (the trailer is only for code reasons), then sure. Just build your subfloor strong enough to not need the trailer frame.
If you plan to move it around, you need a strong frame with adequate axles and BRAKES, especially if going through the mountains.
Tiny houses get heavy fast, plus remember the trailer rating is GROSS weight so that includes the trailer itself. Most 7,000 lb trailers weigh 1200-1600 lbs, so that leaves you about 5,500 lbs FULLY FURNISHED. A 10,000 lb trailer weighs 2000 or a bit more, so that is 7500-8000. The weight adds up really quick.
Also make sure you think about balance and tongue weight. Often people set it up with the kitchen and bath along one side to make plumbing easier (smart) but leave the other side empty for openness (messes up the left-right balance of the trailer).
It also illustrates some of the primary issues I have with many of the tiny houses that are being built today on frames just like this. I love the tiny house movement, I think folks culturally are really taking account of just how much space they actually need. I also see folks really trying to reinvent way to many "wheels" in "trying" to design their own structures even the frames themselves. I stress "trying" as I see way too many errors in the ergonomics, design approach, modalities of construction, and material choices that could be change for the better of the design...especially on some of the more expensive models sold.
As stated that is a really well built frame...super heavy duty...actually that is the problem...it is over built in some ways, too heavy, and clearly not "engineered," and design to require load specifications. It reminds me of the carpenter (stick builder) who would say..."...Hey man, if you're not sure, just put more nails in it...that way it will be even stronger..."
Well that actually is not the case and/or it just demonstrates a lack of understanding in how something should work in concert with the rest of the design. I listened to the entire video and noted clearly that this frame was going to have an entire additional wood frame built on top of it...that is simply overkill, and a poor use of resources. I also noted that the frame had absolutely no functional oblique bracing in the design of the steel armature...this is a material (metal) and a "frame type" that actually needs and benefits from "obliques plates, straps, struts and tensioning rods," without a single one present from any view in the video.
As for "leveling jacks" I am not sure if he just doesn't want the expenditure or what by his logic did not apply. Attached "frame jacks," at least the good ones, are meant to raise the frame at critical load points (assuming the frame designer/builder knows how to calculate where they are to be on the frame) and if the terrain is to out of balance to allow proper raising...guess what...you should park in a different location, or "pre level the frame before deployment of the "frame jacks" and "stabilizers." This again illustrates someone that is play "discovery" without complete understanding of this type of architectures dynamics...That is fine if an individual wants to experiment and discover...but don't try and sell stuff and educate others on what is a "good or bad idea."
"Stick building" is stick building. Trailer frames should be designed by folks that build great trailers. Of all the wonderful "tiny houses on wheels" I have seen "properly" engineered over the years...they have been done by folks that build boats, airplanes and a few Timberwrights. Many that are now being produced commercially I do recommend structurally at all, nor many of the interstitial design elements. They simply are not thoroughly thought through or working in concert with the rest of the architecture....I would rather see someone research well and build it themselves...
If I built it, it would be designed so it was the entire subfloor. Those center channels would be 3 1/2" tall so you could block above the cross braces and sink the subfloor down so only a 1/2-3/4 plywood deck above the trailer flange (with a minimal thermal break). I also would have it built to easily add the rodent barrier sheathing to the underside of the trailer and fill all that space with insulation easily. So many tiny house guys think "box on a trailer" and the house is self supported and the trailer is the foundation and only the rim attaches the two just like a foundation wall. Boat builders definitely think better about these things.
I currently live in a modular house--stick built on a factory floor and moved halfway across the state to my location finished (drywall taped and painted, everything done except flooring and baseboard trim). No popped tape or cracked corners (and everything was actually square!). There are a few key things they do to build a stronger box that they learned the hard way. Outside sheathing goes all the way from base of rim joist to top plate in one piece (yes, they buy 10' long osb to do it) and proper hurricane straps top and bottom. It costs them maybe an extra $200 on a 2000 sq foot house. Just details. And it isn't a GREAT house, only good by modern standards.
The RV trailer can have value for the appliances, if they are good and fit your space and plans. But you have to be OK with all the oddities of propane RV refrigerators.
Jay C. White Cloud wrote:"Stick building" is stick building. Trailer frames should be designed by folks that build great trailers. Of all the wonderful "tiny houses on wheels" I have seen "properly" engineered over the years...they have been done by folks that build boats, airplanes and a few Timberwrights. Many that are now being produced commercially I do recommend structurally at all, nor many of the interstitial design elements. They simply are not thoroughly thought through or working in concert with the rest of the architecture....I would rather see someone research well and build it themselves...
Companies like Aerostream (founded by former WWII aircraft engineers) come to mind. As for the design of the trailer, sure I have some ideas on improving it. I think the main point is that many trailers are not adequate enough so the guy sells a stronger chassis that gives more flexibility. Hats off for identifying a need and being entrepreneurial! There are others in the market, this one just came with a great introductory video.
On the side note, I think we need to ask the OP if he plans to be stationary with some freedom of travel or does this person want to be on the road frequently. I think many people (advocates and skeptics) have the wrong perception on the benefits of a DIY trailerable homes. They are advantageous in their movability with the wheels that allow them to avoid building restrictions combined with the flexibility to enable the person to choose what they want. Many people who live in trailerable homes usually stay in the same location. These are not designed to sustain frequent and casual travel like proper aerodynamically engineered products. If frequent travel is desired, stick with an engineered product like an RV or buy a used Aerostream. Otherwise, build a trailerable home but make sure you budgeted the build correctly.
Little bit longer...go for it, if you would like to use it as a guide and armature to facilitate re-welding and "scabbing" and entirely new frame over it...then you will have a useful frame...and...probably have spent twice to three times what you would have spent in just buying a new frame.
As others have pointed out...if...you are not planing on moving the structure very far, very fast and absolutely not very often then just about any frame that is not rusted out will serve the purpose....I neither condone this practice nor believe it is wise to do...