Three Questions for Selecting Your Tiny House Trailer

[dropcap type=”type1″ letter=”M”]ost Tiny Houses are built on trailers of some sort. It’s the foundation that allows us to keep our houses portable (for the most part) and still give us the stability and assurance that our house will be strong. This post is written for those of you building a Tiny House on Wheels (a THOW, for short). If you’re planning on building on a more traditional foundation, this post might not be as helpful.

So, what type of trailer should you use for your THOW? Choosing the right trailer can often be a big stumbling block, keeping folks in an endless loop. How big should it be? What weight should it carry? What kind of axles? There seem to be hundreds of questions to answer before selecting the foundation of your Tiny House. That’s why we’ve simplified things to help you as you choose your trailer.

Jacks and Tires: Will Your Tiny House Move or Not?

The first question that’s critical to answer is whether or not you plan to travel with your Tiny House, or park in a single location for a long period of time before moving it again.

Why does this matter? This one decision alone affects everything to how heavy your trailer should be, what kinds of jacks your house will need (to keep things level), and tire longevity.

If you’re going to move your Tiny House pretty often, you’ll want to go with a lighter weight trailer than a heavy one. Combined with house weight and trailer weight, you’ll be pulling a lot with your vehicle. The less you have to pull, the better.

Another question answered by how often you’ll move is what kind of jacks you’ll need. If you want to move frequently, stabilizing jacks are the best because they’re attached to the house itself. These make it easier to level your house each time you move. With stabilizing jacks attached to the house, you save yourself time and headache when leveling your newly parked THOW.

However, if you’re going to park your Tiny House in one place for a good long while, you need a different type of jack. Stabilizing jacks are NOT a long-term weight solution. Instead, heavy-duty lift jacks are the safest option. These jacks are designed to support weight for longer periods of stress. You set them once and you don’t have to worry until you move your house again. However, these kind of jacks are not attached to your house.

Another thing to be aware of is the lifespan of your tires. Whether tires are used on the road or not, they only have a 3-4 year life span. And a tire loses one-third of it’s strength in a single year. Over time, the rubber integrity continues to weaken. Keeping your Tiny House in one place for long time on it’s tires can strain them beyond their capacity.

It’s a good idea to prepare to replace your tires once your decide to move your house. If you’re moving your house to a new spot on the property, or just going a few miles down the road (hopefully, to get new tires), you’ll probably be fine. But don’t take your house on a long road trip after parking it for a long time. You run the risk of tire blowouts. And if you’re moving your THOW more frequently, you’ll need to replace your tires every few years too.

Deck Height and Frame: How High And How Wide Will Your House Be?

Depending on the trailer design you choose, your deck height will influence how high your interior ceilings will be. Most Tiny House builders try to keep their houses no taller than 13 feet to avoid oversize vehicle restrictions. But if your trailer deck is 3 feet off the ground to start with, and then you add a foot of flooring, you just decreased your interior ceiling height to less than 9 feet (don’t forget to add the roofing structure thickness to the top).

The frame of the trailer can be a weight factor too. Will you build over the edges of your trailer, gaining valuable width? Building beyond the width of the trailer will also add weight. If your choose to build this way, it’s easier to start with a trailer already outfitted for this build type. Otherwise, you’ll need to do a lot of retrofitting before you can start building.

Frame length will also affect weight. A 12 foot-long trailer is much lighter than a 20 foot-long trailer.

Another factor to consider with your trailer is whether or not you’ll be outfitting it to RV Standards. RV Standards allow your Tiny House to have a legal license plate number and makes it easier to insure. This is essential if you’re building a THOW. When building an RV Standard Tiny House, you need to make sure all your connections for water, waste and power are on the driver’s side of the vehicle.

If your Tiny House will be parked, RV Standards might not matter as much, but they do make portability, even for the rare instances, easier.

Then there’s the choice of axle design. Axles design this influences build height and overall weight. Traditional axles restrict build interior height because the deck is so high. Less materials means less weight but a lower ceiling. Drop axles callow for a lower deck height, allowing for more interior space. But the trade off is more weight. And how much your THOW will weigh is the big question.

Materials and Axles: How Heavy Can You Go?

If you’re not planning on moving your Tiny House often, you might not need to worry so much about keeping the weight down as much as possible, but this still affects what trailer you select. For both THOW and semi-permanent Tiny Houses, your trailer must be able to support the weight of your house. If not, your foundation can crumble and take your house with it.

This is another critical area influenced by your answer to the portability question. Portability affects what materials you’ll use to construct your Tiny House with and what kind of axle design will work best to accommodate your weight goals.

A THOW is best built when it’s as light as possible. The heavier your building materials, the heavier your house will be. There are many different building material options for your Tiny House, ranging from how thick your housing studs will be, what you choose for insulation and siding, and the materials you use for your roof.

Axle choice also can contribute more weight to your THOW. And there are really two options here: traditional axles or drop axles. Traditional axles have a higher deck height and limit the overall interior height, but they can help contribute to a lighter Tiny House. Drop axles allow for a deeper subfloor structure and lower deck height, gaining valuable interior ceiling height. But they can add more weight because you can add more building materials.

Drop axles can also allow you to better insulate water pipes if you bring them into the subfloor. This is particularly useful for water pipes and grey water waste. Building these into the subfloor can provide insulation to prevent freezing. If you build with traditional axles, you’ll need to figure out how to protect your pipes if you run them underneath the house, especially if you plan to live in a place that experiences below-freezing temperatures.

Ideally, you want to over-build the decking for your floor as well as the sides of your house. Over-building contributes more weight, but it provides a stronger THOW. For everything else, under-build to compensate for over-building.

While there is still no calculated average for the weight of a THOW, in our experience here at DIY Tiny talking with our neighbors and visitors, it is easy for a Tiny House to come in at 8-10,000 pounds. Almost everybody agrees that their Tiny Houses weigh “too much” more than they expected. When it comes to how heavy can you go, every little bit can contribute or subtract from your overall Tiny House weight.

Trailer Conclusions

How you want to live and use your Tiny House is the critical factor to all your other building decisions. We can’t always have everything we see in our Tiny House dreams, but we can make the best informed decisions that will help us match our dreams to reality.

A questions we get asked from time to time is, “where can I find a trailer that meets all these needs?” Thankfully, there are a few good places we recommend for your Tiny House trailer:

Tumbleweed: Tumbleweed was one of the first Tiny House trailer manufacturers and is still one of the best. And with good reason: their trailers are designed by Tiny House builders for Tiny House builders. They have a variety of length and axle options and are made based on your build specifications.

Jim Campen Trailers: This local, Asheville, NC trailer manufacturer designs and builds custom trailers. These handcrafted trailers can be made to you exact specifications. In addition, they’re subfloor ready, meaning you can attach your deck directly to the trailer.

Nu-Way Trailers: This company is relatively new to the trailer building scene, but their designs are excellent for THOW designs.

But wait! What about utility trailers?

We get this question too. A lot of folks look at the price of a custom trailer and balk. And understandably. It’s one of the most expensive Tiny House components. Compared to an utility trailer from Harbour Freight or Home Depot, it seems to be a no-brainer.

Here’s why we recommend against an utility trailer: they’re not designed for the weight. With most of the Tiny Houses we’ve seen coming in at 8-10,000 pounds, you need a trailer that can support the weight. You also need a trailer built out of quality materials that can take a beating and still survive.

5 Things I Wish I Knew BEFORE I Built My Tiny House

It’s no secret that I love tiny houses. I built Tiny 1 in the driveway of my house in Davidson, NC, learning all I could from online resources and from others in the Tiny House community. Tiny 1 was built over 2014 and completed in 2015.

And right after finishing it, I started making plans for Tiny 2. The first time I built a Tiny House, there were questions and concerns that I didn’t know I had to address. But after completing the first house, those concerns and questions became apparent. My goal for Tiny 2 was to solve a lot of these issues.

If you’re planning to build a Tiny House, do yourself a favor (and save yourself $20,000-$40,000) and answer these five questions before you put hammer to nails:

1). Where will I put my Tiny House?

This can seem like a bit of a nebulous question when you’re first planning your Tiny House build. There’s the allure of traveling with Tiny, the idea of parking it in a friend’s backyard, or even looking for a more semi-permanent solution like what we offer here at DIY Tiny. With so many options, does it matter?

The reality is that where will often dictate the what of your electrical and plumbing solutions. Your Tiny House can be off-grid, with solar power and water storage systems. Or it can be wired to draw power from a plug, run off propane, have no running water…the choices are up to you and where your Tiny House will live once it’s finished.

Where it’s parked can also dictate how these systems are placed throughout your house. If your Tiny House is to be mobile, you’ll need certain systems. If it’s going to be stationary, you can use others. And then there’s the whole issue if you’ll be living in your Tiny House legally or off-the-books on a remote plot of land in the mountains.

When I built Tiny 1, I designed it to be both off-grid and connected like an RV. This created a multitude of complexity as my systems had to be designed for both. And while I enjoy the flexibility my systems have given me, it also increased my headaches when building, traveling, and parking my Tiny House.

2). How Do I Want To Cook?

Eating is a big part of life. And it doesn’t go away in a Tiny House. Matter a fact, the whole issue of cooking is much more complex because you have less space. While it is possible to build a high quality kitchen in your Tiny House, you’ll end up sacrificing something else in your build.

So will you microwave? Will you cook outside? Do you just want a stove top? How many burners? What about food storage? Do you need a pantry? Do you need a full sized fridge (which means different things to different people! Most Tiny House builders means an apartment-sized, full sized fridge)?

There are a few fantastic companies that build small apartment appliances that are perfectly sized for a Tiny House, but they’re expensive. And if you don’t intend to use a full oven, is it really worth buying?

Take the time to consider how you eat, how you like to cook, and what tools and appliances you’ll need in your kitchen so you can plan your cooking space well.

3). How Do I Want to Heat My Tiny House?

Tiny Houses are famous for needing very little energy to heat and power. But just because it won’t take much doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot to consider.

If you intend to live in your Tiny House where it gets cold, you probably will need some sort of heat source. Will it be wood? Propane? Heat lamps? Also, what systems will you need to winterize and protect water and power systems during the cold? What if you intend to leave your house for a few days when it’s cold enough to freeze?

For every system there are pros and cons. Taking a proactive mind to think forward for what you’ll need when the weather gets cold will help you choose the right heating system for your Tiny House.

4). How Will I Do With House Guests?

This part is probably the area where most folks do a lot of day-dreaming, but not necessarily a lot of actual planning. We all long for the day when we can show off our Tiny marvel, but do your daydreams include where those guests will spend the night?

If you intend to host inside your Tiny House, you’ll need space. So do you include space for an extra bed? Or for more room at the table? What is the max number of folks who can fit in your Tiny House and still feel like humans rather than sardines?

Maybe it’s just easier to ask overnight guests to bring their own tent and let you save the space of a sleeper couch for other useful tools like an extra water tank.

5). How Much Will It Weigh?

Tiny Houses, no matter if they’re stationary or mobile, have to think about weight and where it’s distributed along the frame. You’re carrying more than just the metal hulk of an RV; you’ll most likely have solar power, a wood stove, water storage, battery banks, kitchen appliances, tile in your shower, wood walls and ceilings…all of this adds up.

Weight and its distribution becomes critical when building a Tiny House that will be towed. Heavier components should be over the tongue of your trailer, but you can’t put everything on the tongue either. Too much weight on the back can cause other issues.

Learning to think about this kind of weight distribution is a challenge, and definitely one that I wish I had more help with when I built Tiny 1.

Conclusion: Answering these five questions before you start building will help you in your planning process, as you plan your building budget, and prevent you from making costly mistakes with your Tiny House.

And if you’d like more help planning and executing your Tiny House build, be sure to check out my three-month build consultation here: Expert Build Advice:

7 Ways to Learn To Build a Tiny House

apple and books

Where do you begin to learn how to build a Tiny House? If you’re a general contractor, or have had some experience with house repairs, you might already feel up to the challenge.

But what if the sum total of your building experience comes from playing with legos? Can you still take on the challenge of building a Tiny House?


At DIY Tiny, we truly believe that You CAN do it yourself. And there are lots of resources available to you as a learning Tiny House builder.

First off though, let’s talk about learning styles. Everybody learns differently. Some folks learn best when they’re shown how to do something. Others can pick up a skill from a book or a pdf. Others need to actually put the item together themselves, figuring out the nuts and bolts as they go along.

In the 1930s, Edgar Dale created what is commonly called the Cone of Learning. In it, he evaluated teaching methods and their effectiveness of helping the student retain knowledge. According to his research, learning methods fall on this spectrum:

  • Lecture or classroom setting with formal teacher
  • Reading information
  • Audio/Visual aids
  • Demonstration of technique
  • Discussion
  • Practice doing
  • Teaching others

Applying these methods, here are seven different ways you could learn how to build a Tiny House:

1). Attend a Community Class about Tiny House Construction

2). Read a book or pdf on Tiny House Construction

3). Watch a video series on how to build a Tiny House

4). Attend a hands-on 3-day workshop

5). Join a MeetUp and discuss Tiny House techniques and ideas

6). Come to Build Week at DIY Tiny and work on a real Tiny House

7). Work alongside other students and show them what you’re doing as you learn at Build Week.

According to Edgar Dale’s research however, not all of these learning methods are equal. When students simple attend a lecture or read a book, the average information retention rate of information is only 10%. Adding in a video or set of images doesn’t improve the situation much. Matter a fact, it’s not until students ACTUALLY START DOING THE WORK THEMSELVES that they actually remember how to do something more than 70% of the time.

This is the reason why we created Build Week at DIY Tiny. We knew that by giving folks the opportunity to spend five days actually working on a Tiny House, seeing how the pieces come together, and learning from experienced builders, that they could be effectively equipped to build their own Tiny House.

So can you learn how to build a Tiny House, even if you’ve never built anything else before in your life? Absolutely! But how you learn and what learning method you use is critical to your success. If you’re serious about taking the best step forward to making your Tiny House dreams a reality, then learn by the best learning method: actually doing the work yourself at a Build Week.

Don’t wait any longer, wishing you knew what to do and where to start. Register for your Build Week today!

Find Your Perfect Parking Spot

So you build a Tiny House. It’s perfect. It’s efficient. It’s probably legal. What?

Regrettably, yes. Stick that Tiny House on a foundation and the local building code officer may come slap a notice to your door. For some folks, the work-around is to put your Tiny House on wheels and classify it as an RV. But now that it’s on wheels, where do you park it?

What decisions do I need to make?

If your Tiny House is on wheels, yes, you need a parking space. As you look for where to park it, here are some things you’ll need to consider:

  • Yes, a parking spot is essential! Unless you can build a hovercraft…
  • Is it large enough? The area has to accommodate your trailer from tongue to tail, and it’s width. Walking space around your Tiny House is good too.
  • Also, will you have to pull your Tiny House in? Or back it in? The space might be great, but if you can’t get your house in, forget it.
  • Is it flat and stable? You’ll level your Tiny House with leveling jacks. Soft places like sand and sod can cause a Tiny House to sink. Blacktop might not give your jacks enough purchase. Crushed gravel makes an excellent base for a Tiny House on Wheels.
  • Access to Utilities? Things to think for include power hookups, gray and blackwater disposal, incoming water systems, internet connections, etc.

What are my options?

In addition to the foundation space, there are still local laws to consider. Some municipalities do not allow long-term living in an RV, even on private property. In others, the neighbors might not like it. Here are some options to explore:

  • Hiding
  • Renting/borrowing someone else’s backyard
  • Moving your Tiny House every few months
  • Moving to a Tiny House community
  • Renting Parking Space from DIY Tiny.

Knowing how you plan to living in your Tiny House can help with these decisions. Do you intend to travel, taking your house with you? You’ll want short-term parking options. Hoping to live somewhere permanently and legally? A long-term solution is best for you.

Thankfully, that’s where DIY Tiny can help. We have parking options for both short-term and long-term parking needs. And they’re probably 100% legal.

Give us a call today @ 704-650-0130 to discuss your parking needs.


Finally have a little bit of down time to start this blog. SO many people has asked me and I have little to respond with other than, “I’m not a blogger.” But I do like to share ideas  So, here is today’s idea. Make yourself step away from whatever is in front of you. Then make up your mind what action you will take. Plan then act. Except when planning will keep you from acting. I’m a consultant, of course I prefer action to inaction.

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