At just 15 years old, Austin Hay decided to build his own Tumbleweed. About 8 months ago, Austin showed up to a Tumbleweed open house and announced that he was going to build the Fencl before he graduated high school. He carefully shared his plan of raising money and enlisting friends and convinced us to donate a set of plans. I was impressed by how persuasive and genuine this young man was.
Over the summer, Austin worked and saved $3,000 to cover the cost of the trailer and beginning supplies. Two weeks ago, we had a chance to catch up with Austin again when he came to our Tiny House Workshop and shared his story with the class.
He said his long term goal with the house was to live in the Fencl while in college and save money on housing. When someone asked if his house "impressed the girls", he shyly admitted "not yet".
Austin just finished the roofing on the house in time for the upcoming rain. Working mostly on Saturday and Sunday, Austin said he's been having fun with it. You can read Austin's blog at minihousebuilder.webs.com
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Today was eventful. The snow is almost gone which is unusual for Ontario in March. It was probably one of the rainiest and windiest days we've had all year. Not a great day for driving a trailer 100 km (60 miles) but we managed. Dave Cook the owner of Intruder Trailers was fantastic. He had the 18 foot Suretrac trailer ready to go when we arrived. The cost was 2895, with taxes it ended up being 3271. Dave made sure we had the proper hookup for the electrical and a 2 5/16 trailer hitch ball. They also filled out the paperwork for us to take down to the Ministry of Transportation to get the license we needed. 10 minutes down the road, $35 for the license plate and a quick trip to Tim Horton's for coffee and we were ready to head back to Intruder Trailers where Dave fixed up our trailer hitch and showed us how to hook up the trailer.
The one thing we found out was that most tandem trailers need to undergo a safety check each year if they are going to be on the road. Hmmm. That was news. The ministry sites I'd consulted didn't note that anywhere I looked. They've got height, weight and length restrictions, and the Fencl conforms to all of these. Whew.
It might be a pain to have to move the house each year for a safety, but it might be enough just to get the safety when we eventually move the house again which could be years after we park it the first time.
Dave was keen about the idea of our tiny house and had even been looking at them on line. We'll keep him posted as the house goes up. He also recommended that if indeed we are parking the house for years, we should consider taking off the tires for the duration. He says tires will deteriorate in the sun and be useless after a few years.
Since it was crazy windy, we decided to drive the back roads to return to Kitchener. It took about an hour to drive from Nilestown and then another hour just to park the trailer in the shop where the classes will do the building. They're using one of the auto shops rather than the woodworking shop because of its access to outside. They've set up workbenches and circular saws in the auto shop and it should work. Bob and the students will tell you more about the challenges of this space.
All I know is it was very challenging getting the trailer into the space. I'm sure my husband was ready to scream "Lucccy" in exasperation. He probably wanted to swear too, but he refrained. Although the automotive shop is huge, two metal posts that operate the car hoists block the space about 18 feet from the door. We (and by we I mean my wonderful husband) had to back up the trailer so that it was centered perfectly between these hoists. Needless to say, this took a long time. Ultimately we (and again by we I mean my wonderful husband) ended up having to manually lift up the trailer and reposition it so it would fit between the hoists. There are only a couple of inches of clearance on each side.
I can't believe it is actually happening.
Bob St. Cyr teaches construction and woodworking classes at Kitchener-Waterloo Collegiate and Vocational School (KCI) in Ontario, Canada. Normally the classes might build sheds, but this year the 45 students ranging in age from 15 to 19 are building a Fencl. Not only will they be building a tiny house on wheels, but the project will raise the student’s awareness of environmental issues and consumerism. It’s the perfect assignment for students because it covers all elements of building: reading architectural plans, ordering materials, framing, exterior work, insulation, plumbing, electrical, roofing and interior finishing.
Bob has been busy putting together a materials list and ordering. Susan been busy figuring out what kind of cupboards, siding, finishes, etc. Do we get propane for the burners and fridge or just go with electric? We've got to make decisions about how to customize things and it is all fairly anxiety inducing. What if we make the wrong decision? Is it fixable? It is important to remember nothing is set in stone and learn to breath again.
One decision we made that is definitely right is to use a new trailer. We trekked out to a farm to look at a used one, and by the time we put on new tires, new suspension, new electrical, sandblasted the rust off and painted it, it would have cost only marginally less and since it is already at least 20 years old who knows what the true condition of the axle is.
The axiom -- a house need "good boots and a good hat" -- is true in this case. If the trailer represents the boots, it better be the best one around.
I've had lots of great discussions with students and teachers about why I'm doing this. The most common question is "why not just buy a real trailer? Second hand ones are cheap." Yes, but they're all metal and plastic and not remotely anything I'm interested in living in. I'd stick with a tent before I'd move into metal. Heck I've tented for 27 years on my gram's property and it is doable, but a tiny house on wheels will be a home.
Written by Susan with Kitchner-Waterloo
Over the years, we've accumulated a catalog of interior photos for our tiny house on wheels. However, since we don't build the larger houses (250 square feet or more), but only sell the plans, we simply haven't had the photos to show. We've begun creating 3d drawings of the interiors, and will add more photos for our other "small house" over the next few months.