You're Going To Build A What?

The saga of J building his tiny off-grid house

Archive for the ‘trailer’ tag

Caveat Emptor, indeed.

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When I bought the trailer for my tiny house, I was told it was weight rated at 2700kg. This was a little less than the 3500kg I’d prefer, but it was tough finding one of those second hand at a price I could afford, so I figured that I could build down to that weight if I was careful and was prepared to do things like drain water tanks and take out the big pile of batteries on what I hope will be the rare occasions that I move. It had been used as a farm trailer, towing machinery, landrovers, cars etc, and seemed strong enough, but didn’t have a plate on it. Some things you have to take on trust I guess.

Cleaning it up recently, I uncovered an old plaque on the trailer hitch you can see below.

trailer plate

trailer plate

Clearly stated, is the trailer hitch load limit of 1700kg. Damn. There’s no way that’s going to be enough. It does state that the weight limit is for a single axle trailer and I wondered if it would be double that for my twin axle trailer. So, I got on the phone to the manufacturer of the trailer coupling (there’s no trailer manufacturer plate) and had a chat with their technical bod who was very helpful. Turns out all their hitches share the same body, all the way up to the 3500kg model, the only difference is the draw tube inside and the damper outside. These can be replaced/upgraded for a moderate cost of £115, they’ll also give me a new plate for the uprated weight rating so it’s nice and legal.

That all seems fine and dandy, but supposes that the rest of the trailer is up to it. So, the next thing I’ve got to do is find out what the wheelhub/suspension units are rated for. If they’re up to the job and the rest of the trailer is strong enough, I can just swap out the hitch parts and I’m good to go. It’s a worrying ‘if’ at the moment. However, the trailer is solid box section steel, has plenty of reinforcing and appears to have held the weight in the past. In a week’s time, my big ‘brother’ John is coming down to stay for a few days and we’re going to get stuck in to stripping down and overhauling the trailer, hopefully having it done in the 6 days he’s here. I’m keeping fingers crossed for good weather.

Funnily enough, yesterday I applied for an evening class in welding, only to find that all the local places were full for the coming term, so I’m considering using what it would have cost to take the course to buy a welder and get my little brother to come over and teach me to weld, I also have some other friends who know a reasonable amount of welding so it looks like if there’s repairs needed then I should be covered with just some steel cost. I’m hoping fervently that this trailer will work out, otherwise it’s going to put a spanner in the works of getting it done in a reasonable time-frame. I haven’t seen a 3.5ton trailer go for less than about £1600, new they’re closer to £3k and that’s out of the budget. After doing so well on other purchases for the house there was bound to be something not go quite as smoothly, we’ll see what the next couple of weeks brings.

Written by justin

April 17th, 2009 at 12:21 pm

Posted in Construction

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A big day! Moving the trailer to it’s temporary home.

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Since I bought the trailer a few weeks ago it’s been parked outside where working on it wouldn’t be possible. Not wanting to annoy the neighbours I’ve been sitting and waiting until I could find a place to park it for the duration of the build. Thanks to an incredibly kind couple who have offered me a piece of their land for the duration of the build, I have the most lovely little spot to work.

New home 1

New home 1

New home 2

New home 2

As you’ll see from the photos, it’s set amongst trees, away from the road, secure and sheltered. My first job will be to strip the wood off the trailer and lay it out as a base on the flattest part of the ground and then push the trailer on top of it. Once that’s done I’ll be getting some axle stands and using those to make it nice and level so that I can make easy plumb checks as I start building the walls and pull the wheels off to clean out and rebuild the wheel hubs. Once the wood is off and the trailer set in place I’ll spread a couple of tarps underneath to catch any debris and start cleaning down the metal work, checking for any structural issues etc before painting it with something like hammerite and possibly a coat of underseal.

Once that’s all done I can finally start on the fun stuff such as putting the floor on and getting the walls up. It seems to be slow progress so far, with planning, searching, stockpiling etc, and I’m itching to get to the point where I can start cutting and nailing wood. Still, planning is vital and it’s giving me time to search for particular items, research more on some of the trickier parts of the coming build and get everything ready for when the really fun stuff.

Written by justin

April 6th, 2009 at 4:37 pm

I have foundations!

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So, after all the planning, how are things shaping up in the real world? Well, getting ready to start work on construction. The two most expensive things I expected to buy were the trailer and the windows.

Ebay has been pretty good to me so far: I have a trailer on which to base the house which I picked up for £560, it’s a second hand car transporter, 16′x8′. I’m going to strip the wood off and then all the paint, which will probably entail a couple of days with sanding wheels bolted to the angle grinder. I was after a 3500Kg max load trailer, but none were coming into my price range so in the end I went with a 2500kg model and I’ll build the house down to that weight. This will probably mean that at whatever time I move the house from place to place, I’ll drain off any water in the tank and put the batteries in a separate vehicle. More on those later.

Another reason for stripping all the paint off is to check the solidity of the welding all over and, if necessary, make any repairs. Fortunately my brother’s a qualified welder so I may get him over from Ireland for a weekend and borrow/rent a welder. I also have a great friend up in the midlands with a workshop and an industrial welder but without a regular tow vehicle it’s more difficult getting up there, though we’ll see just how it all works out. Once it’s been stripped, sorted and repainted I can get on with the building proper.

Trailer1 Trailer2

Windows are really expensive, I had no idea. I decided from the outset that I’d be looking for windows made of wood rather than upvc. I don’t particularly like upvc and have issues with the pollution caused by it’s production and disposal. Well managed and maintained forestry makes wood one of the most environmentally building materials, if you source locally. Problem is though, they’re not as common and are more labour intensive to build, which results in higher cost. I don’t mind occasional maintenance, treatment and upkeep on a house so longevity wasn’t an issue, although modern wooden windows are on a par with upvc for that nowadays. Cost though, wow they’re expensive. £350 and up, per window. All of a sudden my budget of £5k was looking seriously strained.

One of the interesting things about building is that much of the spare/surplus material can be reused elsewhere. Windows, though, are a different matter. If you want to replace a window you have to have an exact size match. If you’re building new you’ll want all your windows to be the same height and often same width. Any leftover windows are tougher to find a home for. This is good news for someone like me. I’m less worried about the sizes because I don’t have to start building until I’ve decided that. Bargains can be had if you’re prepared to wait and keep looking.

I knew what I wanted, which were windows similar to those that Jay Shafer uses on the factory built Tumbleweed houses, which are made by Jeld Wen. They just blend so nicely with the whole aesthetic of the tiny house. A daily ebay search started to come up trumps. I found a pair of Jeld Wen windows up in Stafford, unused, still in their wrapping. Starting bid of £100, I put them on my watch list and monitored progress. A couple of days went by and no-one had bid on them. A couple more days and still no bids. I couldn’t quite believe it, this was £700-worth of windows. I sat watching the last few hours of the auction convinced there’d be a flurry of last minute bids. There wasn’t. Mine for £100.

Did the happy dance.

Another week goes by and there’s two more windows, same style/make but slightly smaller. Another £100 and they’re mine. I need one last small window to complete the build, but that can wait. I needed these before I could start the framing plan for the walls, so that’s the next part of the project. I’m learning to use a home design program as so far my ideas and plans are all in my head. I’m not very artistic and drawing is something I only really do with graph paper, so this might be a useful piece of software to master as it also allows you to do 3D walkthroughs of the plans, which is quite handy for realising you’ve got heights wrong.

The budget is holding for now.

Written by justin

March 23rd, 2009 at 5:35 pm

Posted in Construction

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