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.
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.
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.
Sue Danic spent summers in her gram's pre-World War I cottage and ever since, she's wanted a tiny house. She's seen it all: straw-bale, cob, rammed earth, cabins, sheds, tree-houses. Or, at least, she's bought the book, visited the website or attended the workshop. In 2009, Sue traveled to New York City to attend our tiny house building seminar. Eureka. She hit gold. Since, she couldn't build on her gram's land, a tiny house on wheels would solve her first problem. Problem Number two was building the thing. Sue has almost zero talent in building. Sure, she's built a table and even a bench, but a project of this size was beyond her grasp.
Enter Bob St. Cyr who teaches construction and cabinet making at Kitchener Waterloo Collegiate and Vocational School (KCI). This was a project that Bob thought his construction and cabinet making classes could accomplish under his guidance. The plan is to build the entire structure in one semester. The students will not only build and finish the interior, but they will blog about their accomplishments while building the Fencl.
Over the spring of 2009 we built our largest home on wheels, the Fencl. This small house is 130 square feet and features a kitchen, bathroom, sleeping loft, fireplace and much more.
How long did it take to build?
A crew 4 built this house over 10 weeks. We spent 825 hours to purchase materials and build this green design house.
How much did it cost to build?
When all was said and done we spent $19,148. We shopped around and shaved almost $2,000 from the cost when he found a trailer 100 miles away at a much lower cost.
Build one myself?
Depending on your skill level and determination it is possible to build a mobile home for a fraction of the cost of buying on already built. We do recommend hiring licensed contractors for the plumbing and electric work. When we build a house we hire specialist for those tasks. Typically, the electrician and plumber are the highest paid people per hour, so we keep the amount of their work limited to just those two areas. We spent less than $2000 to have that work completed on the Fencl. When we build a small house we usually hire a finish carpenter as the job foreman. We keep the number of workers at any given time to 2 or 3. Aside from the finish carpenter and electrician and plumber, the other crew doesn't need as much experience.
Buy this house from Tumbleweed?
This green home can be purchased for $53,997 plus shipping and applicable tax.
Is the price negotiable?
We price our homes and home plans with a very low markup. We do not leave room in our pricing for a discount. Our expenses are subsidized by selling ad space on our website and by the sale of our books. We are proud of the fact that we pay our crew a fair US wage with insurance.