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Summer Project
Okay, I've started a summer project. This may become a long post, so I'm going to cut it here for those who aren't interested.

This summer I've decided I'm going to build a house. I've been wanting to build a house for a long time now but I've been putting it off... mostly because I've had nowhere to build it. With recent real estate prices reaching all-time lows, now would be the time to buy. Of course, I'm also paranoid that, as soon as I DO buy, I'll end up wanting to move. Hardly any of y'all live around here anymore, you know? I don't want to end up stuck with a mortgage - I'm very debt-averse and it just feels wrong to me. I'm also tired of living in "standard" houses. Don't get me wrong, this is a nice house... I just want someplace where I can live more in tune with my ideals.

I think it was my mother who first pointed out Tumbleweed Tiny Homes to me. Basically, a dude out in California started building homes on the back of a trailer. Okay, okay, yes... I've worked customer service before, so I'm well aware that people living in trailers is not a new concept. However, his homes don't look like "manufactured homes." They function more like RVs, only without the old people atmosphere. Basically, it looks to me like a log cabin on wheels. I shall provide a link: http://www.tumbleweedhouses.com

If you follow that link and check out the houses, you'll get an idea at what I'm doing. I bought the plans for the Fencl (http://www.tumbleweedhouses.com/houses/fencl/) and am working on that. I bought the trailer earlier this month and have it sitting in my sister's driveway. That's where this project is happening. I've already started work on it, and have the pictures to prove it!

When I ordered the trailer, I pointed at one with a level deck and said "get me one like this, only with better axles." Well, that's not EXACTLY how it went, but close enough. When I got the trailer, the guy told me the manufacturer also beefed up the frame because of the axles. As a result, the sides of the frame were higher than the deck. That's a problem for my floorplans, so I had to build up the deck. Above are some shots of my trailer after building up the deck. I had to cut some steel off of the tongue end so the frame could hang over, too. This trailer prep work took a lot more effort than expected.

Here's a chunk of steel that I had to cut off of the front end to allow for my floor frame. My RotoZip cut through it like butter, but it wore down the cutting blades fast. I say "blades" because I had to use 2½ blades to cut all of that. Half an inch of steel is a lot to go through, ESPECIALLY when I had to drill through the sides to bolt my frame in place. 14 half-inch diameter holes through half-inch steel will wear your arms out fast-like.

This is a layout of the floor frame. The "notches" on the sides are for the wheel wells. The part furthest from the camera is the back of the house, which goes toward the tongue of the trailer. The part closest to the camera is the front, and the section in the lower-right of the picture where the two right-most rectangles are cut short is going to be the support for my porch. It's a very small porch.

Once the floor frame was done, I realized the spacing for my decking wasn't lining up with the "vertical" supports in the picture for the floor frame. I had already driven about 120 deck screws into those boards, so I wasn't about to move them. I did have some extra deck boards, though (the trailer came fully-decked, but the plans called for some of the boards to be removed. It's the bottom side of the house, so you want to make there's no way for moisture to accumulate under there.) I cut one of them into 42" strips and screwed them in place for support.

Finally, here's a shot of my poor sister's garage. The big stack of white stuff to the right is 56 sheets of styrofoam insulation. There are also 20 sheets of plywood under the bikes, 46 strips of flooring, about 50 8-foot 2x4s, another 50 6-foot 2x4s, and over 100 other boards of various dimensions. You can also see the solar panels I bought from Harbor Freight in this picture. Once the walls go up, a lot of this will be cleared out. Until then, though, we're garage-less.

I hope to post more updates as the project evolves.

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This is really exciting! Please keep posting photo updates!

I'll definitely try. The camera likes to hide, though. I spent 3 days looking for it before finding it this time. Also, it's hard to remember to stop at pivotal moments and take pictures when you're on a roll, you know? It's hard enough to get me to start working... the last thing you want me to do is stop!

That's awesome! Does that mean you're going to get a big truck to pull it?

Eventually I'm going to have to. I have a bit of cash saved up. Whatever I have left over after finishing the house will go toward finding something strong enough to pull it. It's very likely the thing'll weigh 3 tons when it's done. Do chicks dig dudes with big trucks and... uh... tiny houses? Maybe I should rephrase that. "I may have a tiny house, but I've got a big truck to pull it?" You know, there's no way a guy can use the word "tiny" while describing himself and still come out as sounding favorable, is there...

(no subject) (Anonymous) Expand
(no subject) (Anonymous) Expand
I came across the Tumbleweed site before and thought it seemed like something you could get behind, so it's kind of fun to see that you're actually making one.

I have to admit sentences like this concern me: "Once the floor frame was done, I realized the spacing for my decking wasn't lining up with the 'vertical' supports in the picture for the floor frame." Although I'm sure your construction skills have improved in the intervening years, it brings to mind memories of shoddy War Room paneling.

Oh, hush. I actually CARE about this project. Also, Gord's been pitching in to help, and he actually used to work on new houses for a construction company back in the day, so he knows a thing or two. My Dad'll also be around to offer suggestions, so I wouldn't worry too much.

Looking good... I'm going to come over and see it soon.

Well, there's not much to see right now... but once this weather clears up I'm darn near to the point where I get to put up walls!

How did you secure the floor to the trailer as in how did you bolt it down, also did you use metal strapping?

Huh. That's a good question! I don't really remember, to be honest. I know that no metal strapping was involved. I DO remember that I had to build up the deck to compensate for a steel rim around the edge of my trailer. To do that, I essentially took off the deck boards, then built a 2x4 frame that placed a support directly on top of each of the metal supports from the trailer. I then bolted that frame in from the side (7 1/2" thick bolts on each side) and screwed the new wooden frame beams to the metal frame beams using the screws that the decking originally connected to the frame with. I then ran the decking over that.

As for the floor frame itself, I just used a lot of screws to screw it to the decking. A LOT of screws. I remember my arms being sore after that one. Something like 100 3" deck screws. Ugh.

Hi Jonathan, I'm not sure how I stumbled onto the Tumbleweed home pages, but I have a small piece of land in upper Ohio and I became very interested in the website. I'm loving watching what you're doing and will keep following your posts, so more pictures and post, and Good Luck with your project. Don't say "someday I'll......just do it" Good Job to you. Thanks for sharing Gloria--Apollo Beach, Fl

Thanks, Gloria!
Hopefully one day I'll be able to have my own piece of land, too. That's actually becoming the hardest part of this whole process! Once it happens, though, I'll be sure to post that as well. Thanks for reading!


Where did you get your trailer from? My Wife and I live in Tecumseh, MI just a couple hours away from you and are looking into building the same model as you but it is hard finding the right size trailer down here in this part of the state.

I actually shopped around a bit when I was first looking for my trailer. I went to a couple of trailer sales places but they kept telling me "oh, our supplier is having issues. Come back next week." I eventually turned to Craigslist.

There was a guy on there that had a bunch of trailers offered along with his contact information, so I called him up. He didn't have exactly what I needed, but he said he could order it and get it in a couple of weeks. The funny thing was, when I went to pick the trailer up, I recognized the guy! I sold him and his family their roller skates back when I ran the skating rink.

The name of his company was "Doutre Auto Sales," and he operated out of Flint. He didn't have a storefront at the time, but he may have one by now. I honestly haven't tried looking it up since then, as I haven't has a need for another trailer yet!

Why a tiny house?

Hi Jonathan,

Great job! Just curious, are you going to live in the house? Building to resell? Wondered, besides the challenge of building a tiny house, what your motivation is? If you are planning to live in it, what kind of property? Thanks for the terrific photos!

Re: Why a tiny house?

Well, I've been living in the tiny house for about a year now. I actually started living in it while I was still building it, essentially moving into it in Fall of 2009. I still used my sister's house regularly for a while, but she moved and put it up for sale in June 2010. Since then, the tiny house has been my home. I spent about 2½ months with some friends in Troy, New York last fall and about a month at my parents' house this winter, but aside from that I've been in the tiny house.

I basically built it because I had an "itch" to build a house for a few years. I wanted my own place, I wanted the experience that came with building it, and I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. The original plan wasn't to make a tiny house, but when I couldn't decide on WHERE I wanted to build, the concept of a house on wheels made more sense.

As for "what kind of property," well... I'll have to let you know about that when I get there. I spent last summer in campgrounds and last winter on a relative's property. I'm currently looking to get my own land, but I need to build up some funds first.

Trucks and land....

For the people that are worried about having a big truck to pull these small houses, I've seen listings on Craigslist (under RVs) that advertise moving services for 5th wheels, RV homes, etc. Of course, there are trucking companies that will move a manufactured home for you. Seems like for the few times you may move these, worrying about a big truck is silly. It's all about downsizing, not owning a huge truck and paying for that too.

Also, times being what they are, there will be more and more people out there who will gladly rent a spot in their backyard (preferably private and slightly hidden away...) or on acreage to put one of these. You could even trade childcare, gardening services with the free food that would provide, handyman services, etc., for the space rent; make it a win-win for both sides. Try putting an ad on Craigslist offering what you could afford and see who responds; I think you'll be surprised.

Good job!

Re: Trucks and land....

You're absolutely right about not needing a truck. I originally bought my truck because I planned on driving to some family reunions, to visit friends, and eventually across the country with my tiny house. Also, my Buick had over 200,000 miles on it, and years ago I had promised myself I'd replace it at 200,000. So, buying a big truck fit into my plans at the time. If you're moving it a lot, the costs for those trucking companies (or even a rental truck) can really add up.

Of course, that's not what ended up happening, and I've now got a gigantic truck that likes to suck gas almost as much as my dog likes to roll in horse poo. It's quite expensive, and I'm coming to recognize it as a bad decision. You live and you learn!

And the problem with renting a spot in someone's back yard or field is that it's illegal - at least around here. A lot of counties have adopted laws and restrictions prohibiting it. I always figured that if it was my land, I'd be able to do what I wanted with it, but that's not the case at all. You never own the land - you just own the liability associated with it.

So right now I'm technically living illegally, and the county can come by at any time and kick me out, possibly with a fine. It sucks, but it's all I've got for right now.

mobility of tiny houses

Thanks for the great pix! I have always wanted to build a house too just for the joy of doing it.. but I would be more interested in using my tiny house as an RV.. or a house to take camping. My biggest concern is that these houses aren't necessarily built for frequent traveling. In your experience, do you think these houses/frames could stand up to frequent road trips or should I just stick with the traditional manufactured RV's? Thanks and great job!

Re: mobility of tiny houses

Well, it's held up so far. Of course, I didn't move it much last summer and haven't moved it all yet this year. I honestly have nothing really to compare it to, though, since I've never owned or traveled in a traditional RV. Sorry! Tumbleweed may have some better answers for you on that one.

Hey Johnathan,
I have read your entire blog cover to cover and thanks for posting all the information and photos of your build. Its truly inspiring.

As far as the trailer I guess you have to custom order when you want say two 5,000 lbs axles and/or electric brakes on both axles?

I am of the belief that with extras like tv, music recording equip, office equip etc that I would want a bigger margin for weight.

I also looked at Dee Williams ebook and she suggests having angle iron welded onto the outer edges of the trailer frame to securely bolt the floor frame to the trailer.

I am thinking that I may just have to wait for the right combination of a miracle on craigslist because the beefed up trailers ad at least a thousand to the trailer cost.

Re: Trailer beef up?

Hi, Chris

I actually got my trailer by searching Craigslist, although the trailer in the ad I answered wasn't the one I bought. I went out there to look at it, got to talking to the guy, and told him what I was going to do with it. He, in turn, told his supplier, and they put the extra angle iron on for me. I didn't even ask for it. In fact, at first I was a little annoyed that it was there, but I ended up using it.

As for your recording equipment, I'm sure it'll add some weight, but unless you literally have a ton of equipment, it probably won't be a major factor. I mean, my house weighs almost 8,000 pounds - the amount that the TV and electronics add to that is insignificant compared to all the steel and lumber.

Unless you mean "bigger margin for weight" as in "greater capacity to handle stress to therefore protect my equipment from catastrophic tiny house engineering failure."

But yeah, I wanna say I ended up spending about $3k on my trailer, maybe a bit more. It was pricey, but it helps me sleep better at night.

"hero" is just a little over the top me thinks.

Hello Jonathan,

Lets just call you my small "h" hero then. Just like every other poor sod on these comments I'm planning also to build a tiny house on wheels. I own property in the north of Saskatchewan (don't even bother with the proper pronounciation) with a cabin on it but that will never be where I work. I'm a journeyperson carpenter and mostly work on industrial projects like oil refineries and mines (uranium, diamond, potash)... sounds a little like I'm in league with satan but i swear i'm not. I just wanted to see if there is a site with more photos on it and congratulate you on your work.

Peace and love,

Re: "hero" is just a little over the top me thinks.

Hi, Shannon!

Even with a little "h," hero is still too kind. I'm just a normal dude! But thanks! I see you've found the pictures in a later comment, too. Good luck with your build! Northern Saskatchewan... wow, that's up there... but with your professional skills I'm sure you won't have a problem!

ahh... so THERE"S the photos. up and to the right.

found'em... move along folks. nuthin' to see here.

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