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.
Salvaging an old or destroyed RV trailer can be a great way to furnish your tiny house. Many salvageable items can be claimed from an old trailer to be used again in a tiny house on wheels.
The above photo shows a 32 foot trailer that was listed in Kentucky for $600. The side was ripped off but the owner still had the sink, tub and other appliances available that were included in the purchase. Watch your local craigslist for bargains like these or check around your town, you may find someone who would be happy for you to take it, just to get it out of their way.
The base trailer was not damaged so the the outer shell could be completely removed and you would than have a 32 foot trailer to build your tiny house on. You could than salvage all the internal items, such as the electrical control system, plumbing and water supply. Re-use the furniture and cabinets and incorporate the kitchen appliances and bathroom toilet and tub into your tiny house.
What is not salvageable you could take to the dump or donate to a local charity organization. Below are a list of three things that you should consider as options when using an old RV.
RV components are designed to withstand trailering long distances, are made to be turned off for many months, so they are very durable.
Most RV’s utilize 12 volt direct current systems or DC electricity, so generally use 12 volt appliances. However they usually have an inverter for when they are plugged into a grid which converts everything back to AC usage. Most inverters will transfer back and forth automatically.
Many RV’s have portable gas stoves that can be moved in and out of your home. Many of the new bathrooms are one peace and incorporate everything in them form tub to toilet, so this can make setting up your new space a relatively easy process.
So keep your eyes open at your local craigslist and ebay for a great deal and you may find that you will have just about all the items you need for furnishing your tiny home. by Kent Griswold