10 tips for buying the right tiny house trailer

good trailer (dup)For many people, the words “tiny home” create the picture of a cozy miniature home, often snuggled gently into the surrounding scenery, soaking in the simple life. However, when thinking about tiny homes it’s easy to forget one of their most important components: the trailer.

Every home has a foundation and a tiny home is no exception. You want your home to last a lifetime. So why should your trailer be any different? If you’re planning to build a tiny house, it just makes sense to start with the right trailer. Choosing well at the beginning can add decades of enjoyment to your home.

With the summer do-it-yourself building season just around the corner, now is the time to get the foundation in place for your building project. Here are 10 tips to help you find the trailer that’s right for you and your home.

  1. Don’t build on a flatbed. The most common type of trailer is a flatbed. But they’re not designed for tiny houses. Look for a trailer specifically engineered for two things. One – to provide an optimal foundation to safely secure your tiny home. The lower your home sits in the trailer, the more stable it will be. Two – to provide the maximum amount of building space – both for height and width. That means more elbowroom for you.
  1. Grab a tape measure. Unlike in a regular house, every inch counts when you’re living tiny. Do some pre-planning to know exactly how much room you need. Make sure your trailer can provide the space you need to live comfortably and accommodate your lifestyle. If possible, work with a trailer manufacturer that can customize your trailer down to the quarter inch.
  1. Adjust your coupler. Transportation should be easy. Look for a trailer with an adjustable coupler so you quickly hitch up and tow away. This feature allows you to use any hitch to pull your home, regardless of the hitch’s height. This also means you don’t need to purchase a special hitch to make your load even.
  1. Don’t buy new tools. Normally you would need new tools and special drill bits for drilling through your metal trailer. Save yourself some time and money. Look for a trailer with the holes pre-drilled for hurricane ties and other reinforcements used to secure your home to the trailer.
  1. Look for a forward-facing side-winding jack. The right jack helps to ease the hitching and unhitching process. The handle should be on the front of the side-winding jack so you gain extra building space. (If the handle is on the top of the jack or on the side, its turning radius takes up valuable building space.) You can use the extra space to extend your house up to the jack or build an exterior storage box.
  1. Get the right axles. Options for trailer axles include drop axles, straight axles, and off-road axles. Each option has benefits along with corresponding tradeoffs. Look for a trailer that offers the axles that works best for your tiny house. You’ll also gain a longer lifespan for your trailer by choosing commercial-rated axles designed to withstand extensive wear and tear.
  1. Roll with tires that can handle the miles. Trailers can come with two types of tires: bias or radial. Bias tires are typically less expensive, but they don’t last as nearly as long as radial tires. Radial tires are also less likely to develop flat spots when they are parked in the same position for a lengthy period of time, and they run cooler on longer trips.
  1. License and registration, please. In some states, trailers don’t automatically come with paperwork needed to license them. Make your life simpler by buying a trailer that includes a title of ownership as well as a VIN number so you can easily register and license it.
  1. Say no to rust. Better quality trailers come with an industrial paint designed to inhibit rust. For maximum rust resistance, you may wish to galvanize your trailer (submerging it in molten zinc for a complete protective coating). This is good for people doing a lot of travel in the winter on salty roads or for people who live near saltwater.
  1. Do your research. With the tiny house movement growing rapidly, you’ll find many companies offering to sell you a tiny house trailer. Look for one that will listen and work with you to provide a trailer for building the tiny home of your dreams. If buying your trailer from tiny home manufacturer, ask to speak with their construction supervisor for tips on safely securing your tiny home to the trailer.

If you’re planning to build this summer, make your do-it-yourself experience the best it can be. Choose the right trailer for your tiny house project and eliminate unforeseen headaches and complications. The right foundation makes all the difference.

If you’d like to speak with someone about selecting the right tiny house trailer, feel free to get in touch with Sharon Read of Seattle Tiny Homes. She’ll be glad to chat with you for no cost or obligation.

How to buy a tiny home from the Middle East

 

Tiny home frame in sunset

Brooke’s tiny home beginning to come together.

Skyscrapers stretch up into the sky, gleaming in the Abu Dhabi sun. Verdant palm trees sway on street corners. The city streets are packed with people. Hidden in plain sight, however, is an unpleasant aspect of our humanity: wastefulness.

It was the wastefulness that made Brook stop and think. Brooke, a schoolteacher from Washington State, lived for several months in the city of Abu Dhabi. While the surrounding architecture and lifestyle were exquisite, Brooke could not help but feel that the lavish city was a little too extravagant for her. As her return to America approached, Brooke began to look for ways to live more simply, without sacrificing the quality of her home. She also needed to be able to accommodate her two dogs, something that many apartments refuse to do.

This quest for a simple yet personalized life led Brooke to discover Seattle Tiny Homes. While still living in Abu Dhabi, Brooke was able to arrange several webcam-advising sessions with Sharon Read, the company’s tiny home designer. Taking advantage of the partial build option, Brooke was able to choose which components Seattle Tiny Homes would build and which components she would finish by herself. Seattle Tiny Homes framed Brooke’s house just the way she wanted, with dormers specifically sized to achieve a very open feeling, as well as a doggy door to accommodate her two furry roommates.

tiny home with sunflowers

With our part completed, Brooke is free to choose her final paint colors.

When asked what she liked best about Seattle Tiny Homes, Brooke said that it was our ability to communicate and be flexible. At the time of the purchase, Brooke was still living in the Middle East. This made securing property for her home and getting insurance more challenging than it normally would be. We at Seattle Tiny Homes worked hard to make sure all other aspects of Brooke’s transition to a tiny home went smoothly.

“I was able to text Ben (Seattle Tiny Homes’ lead builder) and ask all the questions I wanted,” Brooke explained. “I even got to peek in on the progress a little. I just felt everything was very out in the open.”

Brooke’s satisfaction is something Seattle Tiny Homes strives to achieve with every customer. Our endless options of customization exist for one reason: to make your tiny house dreams come true.

Why HydroGap for your tiny home?

HydroGap keeps a tiny home dry and mold-free.


Seattle Tiny Homes’ lead contractor, Ben Klassen, is known for being cutting edge. While attending a recent national building convention (where he took first place among all the contractors in a final test for certification), Ben learned about HydroGap, a state-of-the-art house wrap. Because mold and moisture can cause significant problems in tiny spaces that are not built properly, Seattle Tiny Homes is vigilant to intelligently construct a problem-free product that will last a lifetime.

The benefit of HydroGap is that it has built in spacers, with a gap of 1 millimeter, for water to flow freely away from the house. The house wrap provides superior protection against mold and moisture damage. And it’s an ideal combination of strength, water-holdout, and vapor permeability.

Innnovative products like HydroGap, combined with old-fashioned, high-quality construction, ensure that every Seattle Tiny Home will provide a lifetime of comfortable use.

Make a house look like a home (and keep it stable)


For a truly homelike feel, there’s nothing like cedar siding on the exterior. For the Ballard model we’re building, we used kiln-dried, tight-knot cedar. We chose a lap pattern with a seven-inch reveal alternating with a one and three-quarter-inch reveal. We love the distinctive look it gives.


Here’s a close-up of one of the dormer windows. We used cedar sidewall shakes rather than continuing with the siding. Someone is going to enjoy his or her view out of the little red window!


A bay window also adds a homelike touch, but window manufacturers don’t build bay windows small enough for tiny homes! So we had one custom built. It’s installed at the back of the home and adds a sense of light and extra space.


Each corner of the tiny home is secured with a hurricane tie-down. For added safety, the stud securing the hurricane tie-down is affixed to five inch steel tubing on the trailer.


In addition to working on our tiny home, our building team has been busy with another tiny structure. We thought you’d enjoy a shot of their handiwork. Notice the classic gambrel roof that makes this little building really stand out.

Details that make a difference


So what’s this and why are we showing it? It’s an image of the tiny home’s electrical box (above), which is where electrical power enters the structure. It’s also the location for the breakers. We also wanted you to notice the metal drip edge and extra flashing just above the box. It’s details like this, duplicated over all the windows and door, that ensure that air and moisture stay in their places.


Here’s another detail you might appreciate on the Ballard model tiny home we are currently building. We’re putting beautiful kiln-dried, tight-knot cedar siding on it, and we insert a metal plate – like the one you see above in the photo – behind the planks at every seam. Why? It’s just one more step to keep water out so the happy owner of this home will never have to deal with mold or rot.


The exterior of the Ballard model tiny home we’re building will soon be done! Here’s a shot of the cedar framing we’re adding to all the doors and windows (above). You’ll also notice the double flashing system to keep water and moist air out of the home. The first line of defense is the metal drip edge that slightly overhangs the window or door. Then, in addition, we’re also using Tyvek flashing tape to seal the top of the metal drip edge – creating an additional line of defense.

Take a peek at a sleeping loft under construction


We’ve been really behind on blogging (the tiny house will be built before we catch up!), so we wanted to start featuring some photos to give you an idea of what’s going on. This is a picture of one of the two sleeping lofts in the Ballard model we are building. Notice how the dormer window gives it a real sense of spaciousness – and a view outside.

Let the Light In

A large window on this side means plenty of light in the tiny home.

Using Tyvek Drain wrap instead of a rain screen saves a half inch in the width of the house - meaning that much more space inside.

The high quality Tyvek system for window flashing helps ensure water and air stay in the right places.

Living in a tiny space is great, but you want to ensure plenty of light and a sense of airiness. That’s why we designed the Ballard model with an abundance of windows.

For the windows themselves, we chose solid wood frames with aluminum cladding on the exterior for longevity. When installing them, we used the Tyvek system for window flashing. It’s more expensive than simple window flashings but is one more step to ensure that moisture and air stay in the right places.

Inside the house, the natural wood frames are beautiful and add a sense of elegance. No matter where you are in the house, the view outside is always close by.

Of course, adding windows to a tiny home is a bit of an art. There are multiple goals to consider: a sense of architectural balance, ensuring there is enough light inside, and best use of the space inside. In an environment where every inch counts, it takes a lot of effort to get the windows placed for maximum beauty and effectiveness. But we think we’ve succeeded with the Ballard model!

Raising the roof!

Early stage construction of the roof. You can see the beginning outline of one of the dormers.

A close-up of one of the dormers. Every angle of the wood has to be cut exactly right.

 

The roofing structure is in place, seen in this view from the back of the home. The actual windows will be added later.

The roof with the WIP (water and ice paper) installed. It's now ready for the final roofing material!

In a tiny home, you want the maximum amount of living space within the exterior dimensions. That’s one of the reasons the roof our Ballard model – a space designed for a small family – includes two dormers.

These dormers add a significant amount of space and light to our two sleeping lofts without making the house taller or wider. Of course, dormers that rise from the roofline are time consuming and require a lot of carpentry skill. Every angle has to be cut exactly right. But dormers are well worth the extra time and effort.

We also framed the roof for two skylights (which will be installed later) to let in even more light and views of the sky.

Some technical details: to create the roof, we glued and screwed half-inch CDX plywood to the rafters, then covered it with WIP (water and ice paper). The rafters themselves are secured to the top plate of the walls with TimberLoks®, which meet code requirements for hurricane tie-downs.

 

“Glue and Screw” Makes the Walls Go Up

The wall begins to take shape. The studs are secured to the trailer with TimberLoks®, a corrosion-resistant bolt that tightly ties the walls in place.

Each wall panel is glued into place, then screwed. This creates sheer panels for extra safety and also keeps squeaks and rattles to a minimum.

Progress! With the walls up, work has already started on the roof. Openings for the windows will be cut out later.

Construction is rapidly progressing on the Ballard model (a space designed for a small family) that we’re currently building. We’re a little behind on blogging, but here are a few details about the walls:

  • We designed the trailer so the majority of wall studs would rest on top of angle iron (extremely strong), then be secured to the trailer with corrosion-resistant TimberLoks®. Each corner of the walls is also secured to the trailer with hurricane ties.
  • Our team took care to glue and screw all structural components. This is extremely time consuming – taking more than five times longer than simply nailing – but it turns the walls into sheer panels that are super strong and able to stand up to high winds on the highway and any bumps or jostles from the road when the home is towed. We don’t want any squeaks or rattles!
  • We’ve chosen products with the greatest strength yet lightest weight, while trying to be as green as possible.

Our goal is to create a home in which the structure is fully integrated with the trailer. The measures we’ve taken exceed the international standard of building for hurricanes, but we want to create the safest environment possible for a family.

Labor Day celebration – construction has begun!

The floor framework inset into the trailer. The black material is a moisture/rodent barrier.

The insulation has to fit perfectly!

Zero ozone depletion potential - the way we like it.

The floor with the insulation installed. Now ready for the subfloor!

Building a tiny house is very different from building a regular home. Almost nothing is “standard.” It’s like creating a piece of art. It’s enjoyable, fun, but also takes a lot of time and skill to make sure the home is structurally sound. We’re thankful for our highly qualified team!

Just recently construction began on our Ballard model, and we’d like to share some details about the floor:

  • The base of the floor is hand-selected marine grade plywood.
  • We used a special vapor wrap barrier for the floor that breathes one way and is extremely resistant against condensation and rodents. Keeping moisture out is a top priority.
  • Because of the way the trailer was designed, we were able to set the floor down into the frame, adding even more stability to the house than if we had built it on top of the trailer.
  • Each piece of the floor was cut to minimize air gaps. Then the smallest cracks were filled with spray-in foam insulation. Using the latest insulation from Dow (zero ozone depletion rating), we were able to get an R-value in the floor of almost R20 (counting the flooring materials). No cold feed in this house!

We’ll keep you posted as construction continues. Happy Labor Day, everyone!