After building dozens of tiny houses, and talking with hundreds of tiny house builders, I’ve distilled the top five ways mobile tiny house builders inadvertently shoot themselves in the foot. If you want to build a mobile tiny house, and do it up right, don’t make these mistakes. You’re better than that.
1. Wood Framing
Metal is a more practical and structurally superior choice for mobile tiny houses. It’s important to keep the center of gravity low on you tiny house, and metal framing is one of the many techniques you can implement to achieve this goal. When framing with wood (which is heavier than metal), the center of gravity is pushed upward creating a dangerous situation every time the tiny house is moved. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
The interior of the tiny houses should be sheeted with a material that is lighter and more flexible than drywall. Mind blown? That’s what I thought. Thin plywood or synthetic lightweight materials should be used, and joints should be engineered to grow and shrink over the seasons and during transportation. Use wall sheeting materials that have a lot of give. It's important to realize that transporting a tiny house is the equivalent to an earthquake. Make your structure earthquake proof.
3. Pitched Roofs
In a mobile tiny house every inch of height brings you closer to the dreaded highway bridge overpass, so you need to get as much useable height as possible but keep the structure safely under 13' 4.” Building a flat roof will give you the maximum interior height within the tiny house. Additionally, a flat roof creates a space that can support a living or garden roof, or even some additional useable deck space, adding an even higher dose of coolness, sustainability, and livability to your tiny house.
4. Exceeding Maximum RV Code Width
As a tiny house builder, you’re used to pushing the limits, figuring things out yourself, and going your own way (with a nod to Fleetwood Mac). A lot of people don’t know that your mobile tiny house needs to comply with RV code, even more so than building code. In order to stay within RV guidelines in many states, a tiny house must be 8'6” wide or less. Many tiny house builders make their exterior walls at exactly 8'6”. It's easy to make a big mistake and not account for venting, trim, or connection sockets that will add an inch or two, thus making your mobile tiny house an oversized load, which makes transportation very expensive and dangerous. That kind of defeats the point of having a house you can take with you anywhere when you get the urge to flee.
5. Insufficient Trailer Weight Load Capacity
A tiny house gets very heavy very quickly. All that framing, sheeting, venting, plumbing, HVAC, clever cabinetry, living roofs, and people add up fast. Many people find old RV trailers and build a tiny house on that platform. But an RV build out is a very light load compared to a tiny house. RV manufacturers tend to cut corners in quality and weight in every possible way - that’s their business. When you repurpose an RV chassis for your tiny house, it’s easy to double or triple the engineered weight load, which is a formula for failure of the subfloor frame and a devastating loss. Imagine losing your whole tiny life through the floor on the highway. Not a pretty sight.
Now that I’ve made you weep with fear and sadness, let me cheer you up a little bit. At HOW TO BUILD TINY, we know that building a tiny house is among the most exciting, exhilarating, challenging, devastating, amazing things you’ll do in your life. Building a house with your own two hands is truly an accomplishment. We can help you get this right the first time. If you make any one of these mistakes - much less a handful of them - or - gasp! - all of them - it will cost you a lot of time, money, and tears. Save all of that by learning How to Build Tiny up front. You can get in on this action in an unprecedented (and never to be repeated) way by supporting our Kickstarter. You can snag a ton of our educational courses and services there for a fraction of what they’lll cost in the future and you’ll help make tiny house building more efficient, effective, and productive for yourself and your tiny house compatriots in the future.