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Beginner Tiny Home Question

 
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I realize up front this is a rather vague question so I will try and provide as much information as possible. I am planning on building my own tiny home, the cost is preventing me from purchasing one outright so I (meaning myself and several people vastly more talented than me) will build it in baby steps.

After a design process my first major purchase will be a trailer. Mine has to be mobile, living in New York if it's not on wheels you are subject to a myriad of rules, taxes and restriction.

My hope is to build a 10 X 24 home. I will have a Murphy bed setup because my health is getting to the point where stairs are not an option. A simple stacked apartment washer dryer, frig, and normal bathroom appliances.

I will have a storage space where the loft normally, a ladder once in a while to get storage is fine just not climbing everyday.

As far as the trailer is concerned. Can anyone who has built a similar sized home tell me what weight range I will be dealing with?

New trailers are quite expensive, I have a friend who welds and she has offered her services on the cheap to modify a used trailer to accommodate a tiny home.

Let me know if you need more information. Being a severely disabled veteran this will be my only chance to have a home of my own. I'd rather not make mistakes, I have read the forums and realize they can be rather expensive.
 
Posts: 291
Location: SW Missouri
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I've always been of the mindset, if your going to build something on wheels, just buy an old camper and be down with it. They can be had around here far cheaper then building a tiny house
 
Posts: 167
Location: New Hampshire
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I live at a place where we have a Tiny House Makerspace in New Hampshire, and we're seeing out first client get going.

The trailer is the foundation so making sure it is solid enough is important. If I was going to build one I would buy a $3-5K trailer built for making tiny houses. I think it is that important.

I have taken apart 3 camping trailers and I have two main thoughts on them. First, YUCK! They always have mouse nests in them and usually a good amount of rot and mold. I wouldn't want to live in one unless I had no better options. Second, the trailers are made cheaply and you have to be very careful when building on them to keep your weight down. If you want standard appliances then you are very likely to be over what a camping trailer can handle.

You should be able to look at the tires and axle to see what they are rated for. This will tell you how much it can hold. And if you weld more metal onto the frame to make it more solid, you are adding weight to the frame so there will be less you can build. The companies that build camping trailers really skimp on the quality to make them light enough for the cheap trailers they use. For example, the wall studs are usually 1x1s instead of the 2x4 or 2x6 you'd expect.

[As an aside, you might think that the wood used in a camping trailer might be good for burning in your rocket mass heater. But you would be wrong. They use lots of staples instead of nails or screws, so the wood is infested with metal and it isn't worth trying to remove it.]
 
pollinator
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Location: Anjou ,France
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As someone who has moved many a washing machine in my time I can tell you they weigh a F@@@@&&& tonne . Do you really need one in your home 24/7 can you build a tiny home plus a shed for storage that would include stuff like your washing machine

David
 
Posts: 29
Location: Warsaw, MO
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I do not know the specific regulations and it does vary by state but make sure you know that you could tow something 10 foot wide when I believe the normally allowed trailer width is 8.5 feet off the top of my head.

You would for sure either need a premium recent year half ton (150 or 1500 series) or older 3/4 to 1 ton truck for something like that, I believe.  Fifth wheel preferred but some people may try it with a bumper pull.
 
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My Tiny House (24x8.5) is around 14,000-15000# fully loaded.

I agree with getting a new trailer due to you're putting your house on it, but I am also not a metal worker so not an authority.  Somebody is welding the new trailers together so maybe it would be legit having a competent welder welding one together for you.

You will need a special moving permit to move a 10ft wide Tiny House and I believe, depending on the state, may have to move it only at specific times.  I believe that considering Tiny Houses aren't travel trailers that should be tearing around the country and you'll only be moving it once in a while, the extra 1.5ft would be appreciated and worth the extra moving effort.

As far as just buying a camper.  This is a common thought for plenty of people that haven't felt the inspiration for Tiny Houses.  It's not just about inhabiting a small space and being mobile, it's the occupying an inspiring place.  You're not settling, you're choosing.  My wife and I have lived in our self built tiny house for 3 years and rarely a day goes by that we don't "optimize" the space more.  Because of it's construction, it lends itself to transformation at any point.  We've built a little ofuro hot tub, an infrared sauna, hang hammocks, climbing walls etc.  Our walls are T&G pine which allows us to easily hang things at any point on the wall thus maximizing the building up principle for space saving.  These "fort building" options are not available with a typical camper.  They are a completely different beast.  

There is nothing wrong with the camper option, I have a mother who converted an old 5th wheel into a very cozy cottage, but it truly has it's limitations and lacks plenty of the inspirational qualities of the Tiny Houses.  They are an amazing housing option for many, and probably the more realistic option that should be taken serious when playing ones finances into play.  Unless one has great sources for reclaimed materials and skills to utilize them, Tiny Houses are not cheap to build.

tinyhousebuild.com  Andrew is my favorite when it comes to the nuts and bolts of tiny house builds and his 4 disc dvd set is absolutely worth it.  Saved my $1000s in mistakes for sure.

Continue to ask any questions, there are plenty of them!

 
Posts: 137
Location: Maritimes , Eastern Canada
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Get at least a shell on trailer.

I have been looking at a used 10x40  industrial type office/jobsite trailer. Metal exterior , empty space inside. Available for just under $20,000. USD. That is with repainted interior ready to go.

Since they are made here in Canada they are insulated much better than your average camper trailer type.

THese have the so called "labrador package". Are used alot by mining companies and others in the north.

You would have to put up light partitions , they are all wired and lighting/ ac standard on them.

10x20 are harder to get and I didn t price them as I need 10x40.

Must be lots of these in NY.

Industrial type trailers often with toilets and showers  would be a good deal for you. You might get lucky and find a 10x40 with kitchenette toilet shower and then make it a bedsitting with a sofabed.

This approach would save the whole ladder/loft thing which will wear you out , especially if health not great.

Good luck!
 
Posts: 639
Location: In the woods, West Coast USA
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I would highly recommend watching the video of this young fella building his own tiny home.  He thought he could do it over the summer, and it turned into a year-long project.  He ran out of money several times.  His final figure was somewhere in the $26,000 range for a very small one.  The property he bought for it was too remote.  Then he had to find someone who would store it for him.  He doesn't live in it.   I don't know how these folks get these vehicles to qualify at the DMV.

I found the DVD at the library.  Maybe a library computer could stream it for you if you aren't able to stream it on your own.

http://tiny-themovie.com/

Having grown up in a travel trailer family, having inherited a motorhome with the driver's compartment inside, and being involved with/living on rural property since I was a kid, I've learned a lot.  My father developed his own retirement property, while I helped, starting at 12 years old.  As with anyplace we live, the Number 1 issue is location, location, location.  

Where are you going to put it?  If you have property to put it on, is it near a paved road, near propane, gasoline, a laundromat, grocery store, hospital, drug store, home-improvement store?  By "near" I mean 20-30 minutes, so that a round trip doesn't take more than an hour and a half.  You'll have plenty of emergency repairs and projects that require you getting back before the sun sets so you can fix it.   The more remote these businesses are, the more expensive they are.  Gasoline is a lot higher in remote places, and hauling a heavy, non-aerodynamic trailer gets you down around the 5 MPG range.

In the winter a 10 gallon tank of propane lasted us 2 weeks.  It's a very heavy tank when full.  It takes a lot of propane to cook, heat and actually be comfortable, even in a small space.  

Are you prepared to change flat tires, even if it's parked permanently on wheels?  Do you have an air compressor to keep the air up in all the tires?  Or a very strong back and a very decent bicycle pump?

What kind of building is going to hold your tools, your hardware store kind of supplies, fixit stuff?

If you are chosing a mobile life, where are you going to park it at night?  How do you level it every single time you move and park it?  You'll be hunting for where to get propane all the time.  You'll have to pay what they ask, because you won't have much choice.   Driving any kind of trailer on the road requires closed cabinets that lock so everything doesn't crash out as you drive along.   That adds weight and expense.  The refrigerator needs to have a lock on it.  If a jar or bottle of liquid falls out and breaks, then rolls up and down the length of it for several hours, staining carpets that won't dry in winter, leaking into a floor furnace, unbeknownst to you....well, you get the picture.

You might want to talk to the people who are priced out of housing in major cities and are trying to live in their motorhomes, mostly in the industrial, not-very-safe neighborhoods where they are sometimes allowed to park at the side of the road.  Being rousted by the police is a constant thing.  Drugs are a constant thing.  

I have yet to keep mice out of a trailer or motorhome, because the driver's compartment has openings where they can squeeze through from the engine.  A half an inch opening for a mouse is a boulevard.  The pack rats smell the mice and follow, chewing an even bigger hole.  They go up tires, go across the axles, and that wooden flooring will have a gap, or the sink pipes will have a gap around them, or they will chew one.   Once they get into the wall space, chew on wires....repairs begin, tearing off walls begins, and being near a DIY store is crucial.  Crawling underneath is crucial because chances are that's where they are getting in.  Fashioning a hardware cloth covering over their new access point requires crawling underneath, not with nails or screws in case you screw into an electrical line, or puncture a PVC water line.

And as with any major project, if it doesn't work out, if it doesn't suit you, can you sell it and get at least half of your money back?

I am at the 25-year point where things are needing to be repaired and replaced in a rural setting.   I spent the last 5 days, 9 hours of labor each day, came in to find the counters covered with ants.   Way too tired that day to deal with them.  I emptied the counters, sprayed them with Simple Green, but didn't wipe it off.  They haven't been back...surprised me!!  All of this said, it's doable, but the circumstances are difficult.  



 
Cristo Balete
Posts: 639
Location: In the woods, West Coast USA
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Oh, and as with even building a shed, the foundation is everything.  Spend all your time and money on a foundation you think is overkill.  You'll never regret it.
 
Mark Deichmann
Posts: 137
Location: Maritimes , Eastern Canada
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All and all if a person can do it "old school"  and just buy a little land and build a structure on the ground or even in the ground, they can still have a tiny house but without all the stress of "travelling".

Christo points out quite a few issues around this and houses on wheels in general.

As I have put forth in other threads, compact a good base, lay out rigid foam, pour a reinforced slab 4-5 in and build your structure on this using construction or cinder blocks. Easy to learn and cheap ,strong , fireproof , rot proof and rodent and insect proof.

I can't understand why this simple and readily available material isn' t more widely used.

It can after all be insulated inside and out , stuccoed, covered with wood , membrane, soil , sod...

Why do so many tiny houses have to be on wheels?  

Lots of  big families were raised in tiny houses, in our area you can still see these here and there.

I think building on land with all the benefits it offers is a better option for most people, unless of course you are trying to live for next to nothing in a major urban center. Where , of course, a very different kind of wolf will be at your door !
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Posts: 35
Location: The Ozarks
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Quick note for you.

This may depend on your current physical condition (ie. results may vary), but I live in a 10x16 structure and have found the cloth cotton "banana" style hammock to be incredibly useful for a space-saving, yet surprisingly comfortable sleeping situation. It is still light-weight for putting away in the morning and rolling out at night, and it cost me less than 100 dollars.

Note: I am NOT talking about those ropey-wooden-bar-type atrocities that are commonly used in backyards today.
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Cristo Balete
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Mark, sounds like an interesting foundation.  I've been wanting to do a root cellar/wine cellar with a minimum of upkeep.  What's the minimum thickness on a slab like that?
 
Mark Deichmann
Posts: 137
Location: Maritimes , Eastern Canada
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Thanks, I put alot of effort into the prepwork. Compact it well. Then 1.5 " extruded foam (not the white styro as ants will hollow it out)

The slab can be 3 " minimum for a small structure, the steel mesh MUST be used. Its the steel that prevents cracking as it allows the concrete to stretch.

Keep in mind that in root cellars the floor is usually just dirt and always below frost . The reason for this is to let cool moist air rise up as this will help preserve the food.

Downside to dirt floors is more rodents/insects get in and they can get TOO damp.

You get sand delivered ( make sure its certified concrete sand) from a concrete plant or  gravel pit.  Buy bags of Portland cement(NOT masonry cement)

For slabs you will also want to add clean crushed rock as aggregat.

Basic mix is 1 part portland to 3 parts sand , mix dry first and then add 1/2 bucket of water mix with small shovel add until quite wet, then add 3-4 measures of aggregate.

If you have access to a mixer this will speed it up. When using a mixer put the water in first and then 1 of sand 1 of cement etc.

When mixing in a wheelbarrow it is usually 6 shovels of sand and 2 of cement. In a mixer usually bigger mix , 9 sand and 3 cement ( always 1:3


Keep the mixes consistent and finish the job each time, don't do half a slab and break off to do the rest the next day. The join will crack.
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Stone bridge pier showing foam extending at base
 
Cristo Balete
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Mark, thanks for all the info!   A few months of the year I'll have high ground water levels, so no shortage of damp, cold air, even through cement.

That's great looking stonework around that drainage, did you do that?
 
Mark Deichmann
Posts: 137
Location: Maritimes , Eastern Canada
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THanks, happy to share.

Keep in mind that laying down foam under the slab will eliminate the moisture if so desired.

Yes I do stonework for a living. That picture shows what will be underneath a stone bridge i build.

Heavy split granite. Heres photos of the finished product.
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Mark Deichmann
Posts: 137
Location: Maritimes , Eastern Canada
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Back to tiny homes on dry land rather than on wheels, just to inspire , here is a photo or two from Norway , where the sod roof is also traditional, this is laid over metal or membrane(birchbark in the old days) this is different from thatch, which is dried reeds. This is the soil and sod method.
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at Saltstraumen, northern Norway
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Small farm, "crofter s farm " northern Norway
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Small houses/sod rooves framed by Saltstraumen bridge and peaks
 
Mark Deichmann
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Location: Maritimes , Eastern Canada
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Sorry that last photo was the one "without " small houses !
 
Mark Deichmann
Posts: 137
Location: Maritimes , Eastern Canada
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Heres the better shot. Also nice boathouse/ fishermans house with sod roof. Awesome surroundings !
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Salstraumen Norway, north of actic circle
 
pollinator
Posts: 1190
Location: Los Angeles, CA
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I agree with Eric above --- a used motor home is a quick and sensible way to go.  It's tiny enough (if thats your goal), created to be moved, highway legal, and it's already built.

My parents sold a 20 year-old Southwind that they had kept in pristine condition.  It had cherrywood cabinets, a nice queen bed with a brand new mattress, satalite TV, a big old cummins engine, a slide-out, granite countertops . . . it was absolutely beautiful.  They let it go for $18,000, including a hitch to pull a car.  It had a lot of miles on it, but if you are going to park it, that doesn't matter.  Even with over 100,000 miles, it wasn't burning any oil and the transmission was rock-solid. I can't imagine that you could build anything remotely comparable, particularly something that is self-propelled.

I see these YouTube videos of people rebuilding an old school bus, spending hundreds and hundreds of hours to convert it into a tiny home, and ending up spending 10's of thousands of dollars . . . and it still looks like an old converted school bus.  You can find a quality used diesel pusher with two slide-outs, washer and drier, and all the bells and whistles for less than 25K.  Even if you only can pay $500 a month, you'd still have it paid off in 4 years.
 
Mark Deichmann
Posts: 137
Location: Maritimes , Eastern Canada
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Agreed Marco !

If a person is determined to have a mobile tiny home rather than one rooted in the land, then a selfpropelled unit is superior to a trailer which will require a truck to tow it and therefore twice the maintenance, registration fees etc.

There is also a wide range of sizes available from standard van to bus sized.

As well, the dealers are usually motivated to sell the unit so they will work hard to finance it for you , if that doesn"t work try getting a lease.
 
Posts: 743
Location: Bendigo , Australia
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10 x 24 seems pretty big as a Tiny house.
 
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You can retrofit a car-hauler trailer rated at 10,000 #'s into an 8x20 tiny home, for $13,000-$20,000. This is factoring in assistance from professionals on such important things as electrical, plumbing, and insulation. I would not go much wider than the trailer, which is usually 8 ft. Doing so may put you in the "wide load" category and make hauling it more difficult from a legal and practical standpoint, on small roads and highways especially.  When building, minimize weight by doing the following:

1. Use treated lumber only where necessary.

2. Frame with 2x4's, not 2x6's and insulate as lightly, but efficiently, as possible.

3. Use vinyl, aluminum, or, if you have to, galvanized steel metal siding. Wood looks pretty, but it's heavy.

4. Minimize heavy appliances in the home (washer, dryer, etc.), and when buying appliances, go for the lightest you can get.

5. Use PEX or PVC piping for plumbing, not metal.

6. Hardwood floors sure are nice, but if you can do without, and just have a well-insulated sub-floor, it will reduce weight.

7. When moving the tiny home, haul heavier items in the truck-bed, not the house.  

If you are still worried about weight, it sounds like your friend has the knowledge necessary to be able to reinforce a car-hauler trailer for you as well.
 
John C Daley
Posts: 743
Location: Bendigo , Australia
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1. Use treated lumber only where necessary.


Why would this save weight?
Do you have access to 11/2 inch x 4 inch framing?
I have heard or a single appliance, washer/ dryer somewhere.
 
George Bastion
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Treated lumber is heavier than untreated.
 
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