The trailer for your Tiny House forms the foundation of the home, much like a concrete slab is the foundation of a typical Australian home, so it is very important to give this part of the build the attention that it deserves. In this article I want to cover the key considerations when designing your own trailer and some helpful guidelines to make the process of getting started on this exciting journey, a little easier.
First of all lets look at the three different types of trailers that are suitable for building a Tiny House on and then we can work from there. The choice of which trailer to go with is purely a matter of personal opinion. No one is better than the others, they are just slightly different. Here are a couple of my thoughts on each to help you make an informed decision. The three main types of trailers that are suitable for building a Tiny House on include:
Flat Deck trailer are a great option if your main concern is keeping cost down whilst maximising floor area within your Tiny House. As you can see in the picture below, the deck is completely flat and sits above the wheels which means you have no wheels protruding through into your future living areas. The only downside to this type of trailer is that you will lose a small amount of total available height for your completed house as the maximum height the trailer and its load can be, is 4.3 metres. So, if your trailers deck is 20 centimetres higher because you opted for a flat deck trailer you will lose that 20cm (8 – 12 inches) from your internal roof height if you are building your tiny house with a loft. If you are building your Tiny House without a loft bedroom then this option could be perfect for you.
Flat Deck With Wheel Arches
The flat deck with wheel arches is very similar to the Flat Deck above but with the key difference of having a lower deck height due to the wheels protruding through the deck and into the house space. This type of trailer design also has it advantages and disadvantages. It is great if you are looking at incorporating a loft area into your Tiny House because by having a lower trailer deck height you will gain that extra 20 – 30cm in head room in the loft. The biggest down side to this is the fact that you lose a little bit of floor area where the wheels arches protrude through the deck. For some people as in my case this is not a big deal as I have designed cupboards to go in these locations anyway so you will not see them. I will just lose a little bit of storage space inside the bottoms of my cupboards. I have decided that this is a small price to pay for added head room when I get out of bed in the middle of the night! Especially since i’m a tall guy at 6’2″.
Our Flat Deck with wheel arches model is pictured below.
The third option would be to use a utility trailer. A utility trailer is essentially a trailer that may have been built to carry all sorts of machinery or equipment that you then adapt to suit a Tiny House. This is not the ideal scenario as these trailers typically have the wheels on the outside of the deck area. Whilst this isn’t a problem at all and can definitely be done it just means you will lose around 600mm, 60cm or 24 inches in total width. If you come across one of these trailers at a great price then it may be worth the sacrifice.
Once you have decided on the type of trailer you wish to build with the next step is deciding on size, weight and features you wish to incorporate into your Tiny House Trailer.
Tiny Houses are typically anywhere from about 5 metres in length up to 12.5 metres. Based on the Australian Design Rules they can be anywhere up to 12.5 metres in length and a maximum width of 2.5 metres. The only issue is the larger you go the harder it is to tow as it adds more weight! Adding length to your Tiny House will also add significantly to the overall cost to so keep that in mind. My wife and I initially thought we would build a 6m x 2.4m Tiny House but after a bit more research, drawing the house up on Google Sketchup (I did a blog post about this! I Want To Build A Tiny House! Where Do I Start?) and measuring out the space we decided to increase the size to 7.2 metres to give us a little more room and comfort. This is definitely at the limits for towing using a standard 4×4. We are projecting that it will weigh in at about 4 tonne when complete so to tow it legally we will have to hire a light truck as most large 4 wheel drives in Australia have 3.5 tonne towing capacities. In saying that though there are plenty of people around with 4 tonne plus boats that they tow regularly so it’s no major stress unless you plan on driving around Australia in it. In which case I would definitely recommend going for a 6 metre long design and building as light weight as possible.
As for Tiny House trailer features we kept things as simple as possible to keep costs down and weight at a minimum. Some of the key features of our trailer include:
- 7.2 metres x 2.4 metres overall
- 4.5 tonne maximum weight (GVM)
- Dual axles
- 4 wheel Electric brakes with electric breakaway
- 4 x caravan leveling jacks in each corner
- jockey wheel
- low deck height to enable maximum building height
- 8 x M12 mounting studs welded to the frame to bolt down the walls
- 1.2 mm galvanized sheeting to underside of trailer to seal it and enable easy installation of insulation
Another area of consideration when designing your Tiny House trailer is where the house will mount to. As you are building on a trailer and at some point the house will be towed and subject to the forces of wind and bumps whilst driving so the house needs to be securely fastened to the trailer. There are many ways in which this can be achieved. Here are a couple to think about:
- Bolts through the bottoms of the walls and into the trailer frame (can be tricky to do and time consuming but still a good option)
- Threaded studs that are welded to the trailer that stick through the bottoms of the walls and are then fitted with large washers and nuts and tightened
- Metal strapping that is fixed to the trailer frame using self tapping screws
When designing our tiny house we considered these different areas of fixing and after much consideration and consultation with structural Engineers we decided to go with M16 studs that are welded to the frame of the trailer in 8 locations around the trailer. In my opinion this gives you the strongest mounting to the trailer and is also relatively easy to work with as you only have to drill your wall frames and slide them into position. All of our custom tiny house trailers now come with this as standard!
There are two main options for finishes on your Tiny House trailer. These are:
- hot dip galvanizing, or
“Hot–dip galvanization is a form of galvanization. It is the process of coating iron and steel with a layer of zinc by immersing the metal in a bath of molten zinc at a temperature of around 840 °F (449 °C).”(Source: Wikipedia). For a list of benefits of hot dip galvanizing check out the Galvanizers Association of Australia.
We are all familiar with paint and in the case of finishing a Tiny House trailer it would be sprayed from a paint gun onto the metal and left to dry. Paint is generally a cheaper option than hot dip galvanizing but does not generally last as long as the protection is not as good. One of the up sides to paint however is the ability to choose whatever colour you may like.
In my experience Tiny House trailers can vary a lot in cost depending on where you live, the size of the trailer and the features you wish to incorporate into the trailer.
I have seen many examples of trailers in America that have been built for less than $5,000 but unfortunately that is just not the case in Australia. Everything in Australia is a lot more expensive including Tiny House trailers. Materials cost manufacturers more, labour costs are higher and as a result we just have to pay more for the end product.
I have had quotes anywhere from around $13,000 all the way up to $18,000 for a 7.2 x 2.4 metre hot dip galvanized trailer rated to 4.5 tonne. After lots of research, much frustration and dealing with people who didn’t understand our vision we now offer Australia’s highest quality Tiny House trailers that are delivered to your door, Australia wide. They are designed by our team of designers in conjunction with our structural engineer for a result which is by far the best quality product on the market. If you are in search of a trailer and want to avoid the headaches we went through and also receive a trailer specifically designed for a Tiny House then get in contact for a free quote. Get your free Tiny House Trailer Quote here!
Designing and deciding on the different aspects of your Tiny House trailer is an exciting part of the process. It is where it all begins and it enables you to imagine exactly what you would like your new home to look and feel like. With some careful planning and some help from the right people it is a much simpler process than what most people make it out to be. Don’t be afraid and don’t delay. Get started today by brainstorming and writing down what you want and be sure to get in contact with us if you need any help!
To find out more about our custom tiny house trailers check out our Trailers page! What this article helpful? What has been your experience with tiny house trailers? Let us know in the comments section below!