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Just starting my tiny house project!  RSS feed

 
Jordana Gunsinger
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Well first off let me say that though we want to do this well, money doesn't come easy so we do have to take a few "shortcuts" in our journey. For example it sounds like most people start with a custom utility trailer made specifically for tiny houses. I would love to have the ability to use one of those but being 22 its not easy to save the 5-6 grand while paying rent and only $1000 a month coming in. So I'm planning on being resourceful and using as many recycled materials as I can to be able to afford our future home. Plus having a family who welds, I'm hoping we can reinforce the crap out of the old frame to give it a little extra support.

So now that you know why we have to take the "easy" way out. I will be using an old trailer with a good frame, dual axle. I'm getting it for $200 from a family member. Its fully in tact, in fact its almost a shame to tear it down but it still isn't a tiny house. So I will be beginning the salvaging of the trailer hopefully in the next two weeks.

Now my first question is have you had any experience stripping down a travel trailer to its frame? Any tips? Has anyone done a tiny house build from an old travel trailer? Please feel free to share any experiences you may have, I am new to all of this besides woodshop in highschool and helping with our own home renovations.

Once I get things underway I'll post pictures and updates of progress. Also please know, I am fully aware of how risky it is using an old frame from a travel trailer to build a tiny house. If I had any other feasible solution I would be all over it but I'm trying to make the best of what I have available to me.

Any help would be great! Thanks!
 
Thyri Gullinvargr
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Oddly enough, I just posted this post about a tiny house build with free plans because I thought people might be interested: https://permies.com/t/68422/Free-tiny-house-plans-YouTube. I don't have experience with building a tiny house or travel trailer tear down, so unfortunately I can't help you there.

One of their videos is about how they picked their trailer. It was new, but it was purposely not a custom built tiny house trailer, but instead a 24' extra wide utility trailer. This one, for reference: https://www.pjtrailers.com/trailers/b6-6-inch-channel-super-wide. It might give you some ideas and maybe you and the family welder could go have a look at one to get ideas for mods to your trailer.




Good luck!
 
Ron Helwig
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I'm a fan of the Ana White videos. Some good stuff there, especially her tiny house stuff.

I've torn down three camping trailers. I've come to hate the stupid square bits you need to unscrew stuff. There's always mold and mouse junk. The goop they use to seal the outside seams is a pain. Often the screws are rusted so badly or painted/gooped over too much so they can't be unscrewed. You just have to tear them apart.

A good reciprocating saw (sawzall) is handy. A good hammer, a catspaw (for nail pulling), and a crowbar are definitely needed.

You might find a few of the appliances might be useful, but most are going to be scrap-worthy. Don't bother trying to keep any of the wood intact - the built-ins are too flimsy and there's always at least one screw you can't get to so you have to break it up anyway.

Taking the roof off without it all falling on you is a challenge. But then we were trying to keep the roof in one piece.

The entire job can be done with just one person, but I would suggest that there are some spots where having a second person there is very good.

There will be a lot of junk left over, most of which is probably best burned. It will be too gross and too much work to bother trying to keep it for in home fires, so just have a bonfire. Yeah, there'll be some icky stuff burned.

Since I had other stuff to do (disassembly not being the full time job) I figure it took about a month for each trailer.

If I was building a new tiny house I would buy a trailer made for one. All the work involved in disassembly and refitting an old trailer is too much effort. If you can't afford a new purpose-built trailer, you probably shouldn't be building a tiny house. You won't be able to afford to insure it, and if the trailer fails you're screwed.
 
Jordana Gunsinger
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Thanks for the quick and informative replies! YouTube has been a best friend to me for getting some idea of where to begin. Luckily we always have family to welcome us until we find other solutions, and our current living situation is not a good one so if the trailer to tiny house doesn't work out, we essentially will be back to square one. It really isn't much lost if it happens to fail.

Luckily I do have family experienced in many fields of the trades that have offered help, so it is going to be built quite sturdy but that being said, I can't say it isn't possible for it to fail somewhere along the way.

I will be building at my parents and we are hoping to station it there for a while until we find a lot that we can get zoned for trailers. It will be mainly stationary and if its travelling, its not likely going far from where it was built. Also my grandfather does trucking/trailering so I would likely have him help me with any moves.

Now if you are in Canada do you know which companies insure tiny houses and any recommendations for insurance? I figure between myself and my partner, insurance costs and living costs of the tiny house are less than our current situation. $700 in rent with two less than superb roommates and $170 in internet, so sharing the costs with my family and using solar and wind power accesses my family is hoping to set up on their farm should be quite an improvement. Currently we are pinching our pennies but once we begin the house build, we will likely move in with my parents since it is on their property, so a fair amount of money will be freed up for extra costs.

We aren't rich by any means at all, but I'm pretty good with budgeting so I think we will be able to make it work, especially considering I'm not in a huge rush, I can wait until good materials are affordable or come up for free. My goal is to keep the total cost of the shell built and frame refurb to be under $10,000. Finishes are going to be a lot of hand-me-downs and repurposed items too. Pinterest is also a good friend of mine for ideas.

I think its going to be quite a challenge, and no it may not be be the best solution but compared to our current situation I'm willing to risk it and try and build one. To just finally have a little space of our own is very necessary, and having a little home that you can say you built yourself and chose each and every bit of just is so appealing.

I'm hoping a combination of doing research and the fantastic level of support that my family is offering that we can make it work. Thanks for your advice! Please feel free to share any other things you come across or that may pop into mind!
 
Deb Rebel
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Doublecheck what the rated load of your trailer is. Overweigh it, and it will fail. This means axles, tires and frame are meant to take so much. If you try to put 2000# on a 1000# rated trailer for very long something's going to fail. And probably when you don't want it to. That's why building on a trailer made for it is often the wisest move. I mean Harbor Freight has some cheap trailer frames, but I wouldn't put a large permanently installed load (the build) onto one.

If you've ever ripped apart a camper trailer (I have) you will find how cheaply (lightweight) and often flimsy the build is. Cut the weight for cost, and to keep the load weight down on the trailer frame.

In your design, make sure you put jack pads at the corners. Once you park your trailer, you level and put stands or jacks under the corners to stabilize the unit and take some stress off the axle(s) and any suspension the trailer has. It will make things better if the wind comes up as well. You may even design some skirting to pop on once the trailer is positioned. 

(from she who has broken her foot on a trailer swinging down onto it and being forced to wait 7 hours before being able to get treatment and having to stay on that foot....)
 
Jordana Gunsinger
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Ouch!! That sounds like it must have been quite the experience! Fantastic info, I was planning on having my partner weld leveling jacks on each corner, our land isn't bad but its still not perfect and I'd like to be able to not have a potential tip. I definitely am going to look up the load rating on the trailer once I get all the info off of it and can look it up.

We hope to weld in reinforcements to help the original frame but I'm planning on trying to use mostly lightweight materials. Try and keep as close to the weight capacity but I won't lie this little bugger will probably be still quite heavy. I'm sure we will run into issues down the road of things I didn't think of or things going wrong but I'm figuring, we are trying to do it cheap so I'm trying to imagine it like the first run down house a couple would typically buy that would come with its issues. I want to have it built right but being realistic I know its hard to make something perfect when you have a very tight budget to work with. We are going to make the best out of what we have.

Thanks again for your experience!
 
Thyri Gullinvargr
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This was showing in "similar threads" at the bottom of the page: Choosing a Tiny House Trailer. Worth a read.
 
Thyri Gullinvargr
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I'm wondering if the travel trailer is livable as is? If so, maybe the best bet would be to move into it, save up some money, and keep an eye out for a used 10,000 - 14,000 lb car hauler to build your tiny house on. Wandering through Craigslist I see a couple for under $2000 in my neck of the woods and more for $2000-$3000. It would be a shame to build a nice house and have it fail because of a bad "foundation". The other thought is I wonder what it would take (time, skill, money) to build a trailer to put your house on, since you have a welder in the family? Something like this (link to plans): http://www.northerntool.com/shop/tools/product_200333037_200333037. It seems to me that if you plan ahead, you can start with an insulated box with electrical and plumbing roughed in and some way of heating (depending on your climate) then add interior finishing gradually (basic shelter, then more and more niceties).
 
William Bronson
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First,good luck with your endeavor!

If you could stay in one place,a "shed" that avoids zoning by being small is bound to be cheaper and easier to build. I mean WAY cheaper and easier.
If you need to be mobil, well it just has it's own costs.

Let me suggest using steel framing to save weight.
Aluminium or fiberglass cladding could help as well.
 
Jordana Gunsinger
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Now completely starting from scratch and building a trailer I hadn't considered. With my grandpa working in trucking and being a mechanic he comes across a lot of material and would know where to get it, how much it would run for. He also can do industrial scale welding so building a trailer would be something he could do. I guess it would just be me having to see how much he would be willing to be paid to build a trailer. Getting materials and budgeting for it. I'll look more into it but still I'll need to strip down the old travel trailer. Its not in terrible shape exterior wise the interior and electrical all need to be redone. Plumbing I was scared to look at. It makes a nice shell but not liveable.

I am in Canada so insulation is a must and heating as well. I also wanted to build a separate trailer that had a deck so if building my own custom does work out perhaps the travel trailer would work well as just a portable deck. For now though all my drawings are going into the scale of the travel trailer.

As for living in the "shed", not a terrible idea but our bylaw allows I believe 112sqft max and even though we are looking to go tiny, I don't think we could fit our critters and plus my 6'5 partner into 112. Our trailer minimum is 25' and I've already forewarned the tall partner that its still going to be snug. Plus the idea of being able to take it to some of the local parks that are near by after its done is really appealing.

Thankfully my family is willing to take us in when we are building and they have a really nice space for us. We just don't like to impose and enjoy having some space and independence so we are going to try and make our stay as short as we can. But then again, once we "move out" we will still be just across the lawn essentially.

I will be definitely checking in more to the building a custom ourselves. Unfortunately steel framing is fairly expensive compared to lumber in our area, or at least the binding bits are, plus I already had an offer from a cousin for discounted prices on his lumber that he produces. Again I'm very lucky to have family in a wide variety of trades that have either offered their services for free or have offered better rates than I would typically find on bigger stuff. Everyone seems excited to help wherever they can.

Are there any suggestions of best insulation for a 4-season tiny house that doesn't take a huge chunk of space? I figure a little insulation and a good heating solution can go a long way in such a small place. I also wanted to put hay bales under the trailer to help keep some of the heat from seeping from the underside of the trailer in the winters. Any tips for those who are looking to frequently "visit" the trailer in the winters and keeping it warm and ensuring no propane freezeups, plumbing, etc?

Thanks for keeping the information coming, every bit helps!
 
Thyri Gullinvargr
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Jordana Gunsinger wrote:Now completely starting from scratch and building a trailer I hadn't considered. With my grandpa working in trucking and being a mechanic he comes across a lot of material and would know where to get it, how much it would run for. He also can do industrial scale welding so building a trailer would be something he could do.

Are there any suggestions of best insulation for a 4-season tiny house that doesn't take a huge chunk of space? I figure a little insulation and a good heating solution can go a long way in such a small place. I also wanted to put hay bales under the trailer to help keep some of the heat from seeping from the underside of the trailer in the winters. Any tips for those who are looking to frequently "visit" the trailer in the winters and keeping it warm and ensuring no propane freezeups, plumbing, etc?

Thanks for keeping the information coming, every bit helps!

FYI, there's a couple of other plans for trailers on the Northern Tools site, including at least one bigger one with 24,000 lb gross weight limit.

I'm going back to Ana White's videos. FYI, she lives in Alaska.

Check the bathrooms in these 2 videos for plumbing ideas.



They don't show insulation installation, but they used spray foam, which you can see here.
 
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