It’s been my goal to build a home on wheels for a while now. When your father is a carpenter, you want to be more sustainable (or figure out what that buzzword actually means) and house prices are out of your reach, it makes the most sense economically, environmentally and socially.
How to build a tiny house on wheels: Part One
1. Find a trailer
Until you’ve accomplished this step you won’t be able to build. Trailers will cost you around $3,000-6,000 depending on who you buy from and if you customize. Thankfully, I have awesome neighbors who give away their old trailers for free so I’m only spending around $600 on repair: new tires, springs and fenders.
2. Brainstorm your plans
Your plans will revolve around certain factors. 1. The size and weight capacity of your trailer. My tiny house will need to be under 7,000 pounds and around 135 square feet in size. 2. Living codes. Where are you going to park this thing? Does your city allow THOW? Do they need to be under a certain size? These are all factors to consider. 3. What do I personally need in my home? Composting toilet or regular sewer system? Electrical and water systems or pure off-grid capabilities? Loft or no loft? You’ll need to plan this before building.
3. Get your plans
Are you going to design the house yourself based on previous plans you found on the internet or will you buy plans from a secondary source? Will you hire someone to do them for you? (Will you ask your dad to help you draw them?) These are all questions to consider.
4. Identify your systems and make a spreadsheet
Every home is made of systems. They include foundation; framing; roofing; heating and cooling; plumbing; electrical; flooring; interior finishes, insulation, etc. It’s important to identify and think about these systems. You should know how much each one will cost and what materials they will require. We made a spreadsheet and entered in the rough cost of each system along with their weights and the amount of materials they would need. This helped us get a clearer idea of what to buy.
5. Browse materials
This step involved a trip to the local Home Depot to look at materials and make decisions based on what’s available. Did I want cedar, pine or vinyl siding? What kind of hardboard did I need? Did I want single-hung or slider windows? How deep did my sink need to be? Would I have an stove or a hot plate? How big could my fridge be? What sort of flooring should I buy? Did I want shingles or metal on my roof? These are things to consider.
6. Finding recycled and reclaimed materials
For my house, I want to use reclaimed and recycled materials so I started researching what was available. I found this site that shows materials in Texas. I’ll also start browsing sites like Freecycle and the Craigslist free pages.
7. Stabilize the trailer
The first system of any home is the foundation. This is why your trailer is so important. It needs to be completely stable and ready before you can start building. You don’t want to go back and mess around with the foundations after you’ve started building. Make sure everything is working properly and secure. Check your axles, springs, wheels, fenders. Replace and secure anything that needs work, especially if you have a used trailer like mine. You will also need to make sure you’ve licensed the trailer. This will cost you $50-$100.
Right now this is where I am with my home. We’ve got the trailer, brainstormed and drawn the plans, identified our systems, browsed materials and ordered the parts to stabilize the trailer. The next steps will be stabilizing the trailer and buying materials for the house. We’ll have to be careful with materials because we don’t have a place to store them, and we don’t want them exposed to the elements for extended periods of time. Another challenge will be finding recycled and budget materials that are ready to go. If anyone has something they’re not using or want to get rid of, shoot me a message. I’ll keep you updated on our progress and answer any questions you may have about going tiny yourself. Thanks for the support. 🙂