Hi Tumbleweed fans,
It’s been an eventful month here at our group build site in Sonoma. We’ve been building subfloors onto our trailers and starting to frame our walls.
I’m sure we’ll get used to it one day, but for now Joseph and I often find ourselves thinking, “This is actually happening! This is our house!” There is something so special about knowing exactly what is going into every single part of this house–every self-tapping metal screw, piece of plywood, and batt of insulation.
We started by protecting our future houses by screwing pressure-treated 2X6s all around trailer’s outer edge. It’s not easy to screw through pressure-treated lumber or steel trailers, let alone both. But we got much better at it as we went around each trailer, eventually settling into the right balance between effort and gentleness to get the screws all the way in without breaking.
Next we put in the subfloors. Meg and Dan (Team Yellow) and Joe and Breanna (Team Purple) used polystyrene insulation that they cut to fit between their trailer struts. After Team Red’s (that’s us) woeful experiment with washing wool for insulation we bought batts of recycled denim and fit those in. We put down construction adhesive, sill sealer, then we attached ¾” plywood. Yahoo–we have subfloors!
We are doing a traditional “stick build,” so we got going on modifying our plans to fit our salvaged windows, and then cutting sill plates for the whole house. We then cut the studs for the back wall and nailed them together with our new serious, dangerous tool, a pneumatic nail gun. Ka-thunk! We now have a back wall.
Sharing tools, batteries, and hands was such a benefit in this physical process. Lifting ¾” ply is not easy by yourself, nevermind placing the tongue in the groove and getting it all screwed down. When we made a mistake on our house, it was satisfying to be able to talk about what happened, and prevent our co-builders from doing the same thing.
The other two couples are building with SIPS (structural insulated panels), which have not yet arrived. In the meantime, Joe and Bre are researching old-time-y locks with skeleton keys for their front door. They’re also shopping around for a speak-easy door hatch.
Coming up next, a good old-fashioned SIPS-raising. Also, torching exterior siding shou-sugi-ban-style (What? You’ll see!) And more walls from us, definitely.
Sarah Weintraub and Joseph Schommer of Seeds With Wings and Facebook.com/seedswithwings are part of the Tumbleweed writing team for the next few months, reporting on a group build of three Tumbleweeds to take place this Summer and Fall in Sonoma, CA.
Types of Trailers (Flat-Bed)
A deck-between trailer is a flat bed trailer where the bed of the trailer is between the wheel wells. The width of the bed is restricted by how far apart the wheel wells can be. The advantage of a deck-between trailer is that the bed of the trailer is low to the ground, allowing for a taller house to be built on it.
A deck over trailer is a flat bed trailer where the bed of the trailer is over the top of the wheels. The bed can be up to 8′ wide. A deck over trailer is higher off the ground, and is suitable for one-story houses without lofts.
A dovetail trailer can be either a deck-between or deck-over trailer, but it has a section at the rear of the trailer that angles to the ground. Generally this is found on trailers that are made to haul cars or other vehicles. The angled portion allows a vehicle to be loaded on the trailer more easily. This is not a good trailer to use to build a house upon. The dovetail creates an awkward platform to build on and requires additional welding and modification before it will be ready for a house.
A gooseneck trailer can be either a deck-between or deck-over trailer, but it has a special hitch connection. The trailer hitches to the bed of a truck that is fitted with a ball hitch in the bed of the truck. This connection allows for pulling larger trailers, and is generally a more stable way to pull a heavily loaded trailer. Building a house on a gooseneck is fine.
When choosing a trailer to build your house upon, there are several considerations to be mindful of. A trailer is built with axles connecting the wheels that are rated for certain load capacities. The axles will be able to carry a certain amount of weight each. This is referred to as the GWVR, or Gross Weight Vehicle Rating. A double axle trailer with two axles each rated for 3,500 pounds will mean that your trailer can hold 7,000 pounds total. Keep in mind that the GVWR includes the weight of the trailer. So if the trailer is rated for 7,000 lbs and the trailer weighs 1,500 lbs, you can put 5,500 lbs on it. On our website, we list the weight of our houses including the weight of the trailer.
Trailers usually include brake lights, a license plate, and a breaking mechanism. The lights and brakes attach to your towing vehicle, and when you use the brakes, it will also apply the brakes to the trailer to signal to the person behind you.
The hitch connection of the trailer attaches to the hitch ball on the rear bumper of your towing vehicle. There are many sizes for hitch balls, but almost all are either 2″ or 2 5/16″ (2 5/16″ are recommended). The hitch ball on your towing vehicle is easily changable. Parts for the hitch of your towing vehicle can be purchased at Auto supply stores and are generally not too expensive if you need to swap out a hitch ball.
Your towing vehicle should also have a maximum GWVR for towing. This can be found online for your year, make and model, or in the owner’s manual for your vehicle. Confirm that the weight rating for your towing vehicle is appropriate for the weight of your tiny house before towing it.
Tumbleweed has made it easy for you to find the right trailer, by designing…
The Tumbleweed Trailer
Hello, Tumbleweed fans!
My name is Sarah. My partner, Joseph and I are Tumbleweed fans too… so much so that we are building one! We are super-excited to be joining two other couples in a group build this summer.
Meet the awesome folks we’ll be building with:
- Meg and Dan Stephens will be building Meg’s own design, the Tumbleweed Linden. Meg is the rockstar, ahem, in-house architect at Tumbleweed.
- You may remember Joe and Breanna from their sweet Valentine’s Day story about how a love of Tumbleweed houses actually brought them together. They will be building the classic yet modern Cypress 20 with dormers.
- And finally, Joseph and I can’t wait to get started building the tiny house of our dreams, a modified Cypress 20. You can read more about us, and follow our tiny house journey at seedswithwings.com.
Over the next few months we six will be sharing a work site, some tools and resources, and muscles. Each couple will be working mainly on their own house, but we’ll help each other out as needed, with practical things like lifting up the walls, and with the intangibles, like advice and learning from each others’ mistakes. Even as we’re just getting started, it’s also nice to know that there are others in this with us.
We’ll be reporting back to you every week or so about our progress, what we’re learning about building, and about building with a group.
We’ve been planning for our builds and buying materials for a couple of months now, but we felt like we were getting started for real a few days ago when our beautiful new Tumbleweed trailers rolled into town. As you can see in the photo, the trailers look great (and so do we!)
Joseph and I found out they also roll (and brake!) just as beautifully when we hitched ours to our truck and towed it a few hours into Eastern California to pick up some cedar siding. We’re already seeing a financial benefit to doing the build as a group as we were able to share the cost of a full pallet of surplus siding at a good price. A pallet is too much for one tiny house, but should work out just great for three houses.
We’ve got the trailers; the group build begins!
Sarah Weintraub and Joseph Schommer of Seeds With Wings will be joining the Tumbleweed writing team for the next few months to report on a very exciting new project… a group build of three Tumbleweeds to take place this Summer and Fall in Sonoma, CA.
This series discusses the “What”, the “How” and “Why” of Tiny House Living
The tiny house living concept raises a lot of questions for tiny house visionaries on their quest for freedom, simplicity, and personal fulfillment. In this series we answer some of their queries and explore the lifestyle a little more deeply.
We hope you find this series enjoyable, thoughtful and thought-provoking!
Tiny House Living: Cost Versus Lifestyle Value
At some point, people new to the tiny house living always ask the same question: “Is it cheap to build a tiny house because it’s so small?”
In a word, no. It’s true that it’s much more affordable to own and maintain a tiny house once it’s built rather than a conventional house, but the most expensive parts of a habitable dwelling are the core systems; climate control, plumbing, electrical, and appliances. All those systems provide a quality shelter. In a tiny house those systems are used and viewed at close quarters and often need to be specialized. For example, Tumbleweed’s plans call for the smallest, safest propane fireplace designed for use on boats, so there’s very little danger of fire. It’s a beautiful little piece of clean modern design, and it also happens to be quite expensive!
Other appliances offer similar challenges. I buy bathroom ceiling fans for my tiny houses because I value the active ventilation they provide. But I spend a good bit of money on them because I prefer extremely quiet fans. In a big house you can flip the fan on and walk away. However, in a tiny house, if the fan has a high decibel rating it will be roaring away in close proximity.
Further, many tiny houses are beautiful gems of custom construction. Created with an exceptional level of quality throughout the build. Cedar plank siding, stainless steel siding nails, all plywood sheathing, rigid foam insulation, solid wood floor and wall coverings, premium low VOC finishes and more.
There are some moments when it feels like it’s cheap to build a tiny house. When buying flooring, for example, it hurts a lot less to multiply your cost per square foot by 120 than by 2000. This is delightful when you price materials and do the math, but it can get you in trouble. If you’re like me, you might have a tendency to shop higher end because of the smaller figures involved. I have to watch myself and make sure I’m selecting upgrades that are more than simply cosmetic. I stick to options that provide superior performance or meet my personal environmental impact criteria.
In the end, you might be startled to find out that the tiny house is amazingly economical, until you calculate the cost per square foot.
In our next segment we’ll go into more detail on all the upsides to the tiny house lifestyle; quality, control, financial freedom, environmental benefits, and the profound relief of simplifying our lives.
-Workshop Presenter & Designer