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Tiny House building tips

Tiny houses offer a more permanent housing experience in the form of a trailer. They can be the basic utilitarian style, made for basic living needs or they can be ultra modern with styling cues capturing a lifestyle or the rich and famous wrapped up in a 25' package. Living room, kitchen, bedroom, washroom and lounge all housed in one unique well planned out space.

Tiny houses can be built or bought. When they are built by a trailer / RV manufacturer, they come with the peace of mind that it has been done to spec and the trailer follows trailer guidelines set out by the DOT or Transport Canada for vehicles.

However, when building a Tiny house there are tips that can save you money and possibly headaches surrounding transport.

Tip 1

Choose a good foundation.

When deciding to build your tiny house... Start out right by choosing a frame that will support you masterpiece. The average tiny house will end up weighing between 8,000 lbs - 15,000 lbs, simply because, materials available to the average person embarking on a diy Tiny House project, are heavier than materials that RV builders normally use.

The average 20' tiny house out weighs a manufactured RV travel trailer double its size. Make sure the frame that you choose allows for the projected weight of a Tiny House. Choosing a frame with a 14,000 GVWR would be a good and

safe foundation for your diy project

If you choose to use an old frame from a previous RV, make sure that the weight capacity will be adequate for your project. Resist the urge to guess that it will be ok. When in doubt, go bigger. Its better for the frame to be overrated than underrated.

This Tiny Home was built on a purpose built Tiny Home frame with a 14,000 GVWR, equipped with heavy duty axles, safety chains and brakes that are more than adequate for the weight of the home. This is the best option for starting your Tiny Home build.

Tip 2

Keep your weight down.

RVs are normally built with extremely light weight materials which can sometimes leave them feeling flimsy. The light weight materials are used for a good purpose. The more room, walls, appliances, cupboards and storage spaces that you put in the trailer adds weight. If you build a trailer using normal building materials such as 2x4 lumber, you will end up with a trailer that needs a transport truck to haul it.

Resist the urge to use heavy materials, such as authentic hard wood, marble, metal finishes, tile. These materials add substantial weight and may leave you with a trailer that is not towable.

These two trailers below are similar in weight even though the one on the left is almost twice as large as the Tiny Home. Building materials play a major role in the weight of the end product. Weight matters.

Tip 3

Being too big & tall is a big deal

There are set length width and height limits set out by the Transport Canada or the DOT for the US. These limits ensure safe passage on public roads without running into problems.

The limit on width is 2.59m or 8'6" wide,

The limit on height is 4.15m or 13'6" tall.

Length of a single vehicle is 12.5m or 41' long

If any of these dimensions are exceeded you will fall into a problem of needing oversize load permits in order to have the Tiny House transported legally. Over width can cost more but with overheight transports, costs can be astronomical due to pilot cars, police escorts, and in some cases, Hydro truck escorts.

In many places, trees lining the roadway dip below the 4.15m threshold and rub on the top of trucks passing by. If you have built a trailer with an AC unit, shingle roof, or loose flashing on the edges, striking trees wires or bridges can be a concern if the trailer is too tall. In Ontario, there are actually bridges on the hwy 400 that are slightly below the legal height and having a Tiny House slightly taller than allowed could prove disastrous if a bridge strike were to occur.

Something that the dyi builder may not take into consideration is that eavestroughs, and roof edges need to fall within the 2.59m width limit too. All parts of the trailer need to be within the width limit to be considered road legal without oversize permits.

This Tiny house below was too tall. The owner ultimately had to take the roof off to make it more affordable to tow. The cost of permits and having high pole - pilot car escorts can make transport cost hundreds and possibly thousands more than if it fell within legal vehicle dimensions.


Tip 4

Build it tough.

Something that a Tiny House probably won't do very much of is travel, but it does need to be capable of travel.

Travel on public roads are not always smooth. Rough roads, pot holes, dips, and ruts can make transport very rough. When building your Tiny House, build it tight. Connections between the trailer and frame need to be substantial and walls and roofs need to be built to withstand he rigors of transport on rough roads and strong enough to withstand wind . (150 km winds could be faced when transporting on a freeway against a head wind of 50 km for example). Roofing materials, trim and flashings, wall exterior materials should all be able to withstand winds encountered during transport.

Large residential bay windows are not built for the roughness of transport. Another factor is twisting force during transport. Trailer frames are flexible to some degree. If you have a large bay window and do not build the walls rigid enough to withstand flexing, the window could end up shattering when it is subjected to twisting force of a rough uneven roadway. It would be wise to seek out windows from the automotive sector for RV trailers, designed for trailers.

Tip 5

Safety equipment

Lights, reflectors, brakes, safety chains, couplers are all essential to the safe transport of a Tiny Home. Lighting requirements can be found on the website

Be sure to have safety chains in good condition and strong enough to restrain the trailer if it were to break free. Grade 70 chain would be a good strength of chain.

Brakes are extremely important to the safety of a trailer and everyone else on the road during transport, and are legally necessary for trailers in excess of 1,360 kg or 3,000 lbs GVWR.

Hopefully, these 5 tips are helpful in your Tiny House build. If you have any other questions not covered in this post, I would be happy to help. Drop us a line any time.

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