TinyHouse43's Building Blog

From Texas-sized 2 Tiny House For Three

Decisions, decisions….

We’ve got a decision to make about the type of trailer we’re going to use to build our tiny house, and that decision will shape several other important ones to follow shortly thereafter.

The original idea was to use the 24ft Tumbleweed trailer that has been designed specifically for tiny houses, namely the exact models that Tumbleweed has created. This makes sense on about a zillion different levels since they are experts in crafting roadworthy, sturdy tiny houses and know precisely what it takes to move them about safely. Also, they’re priced right at $5800 and ready to build on the moment you take possession of it. These are what are called deck-between flatbed trailers, and they are designed to be towed with a bumper pull hitch attached under, you guessed it, the bumper of your vehicle. The 24′ model is the biggest one they make, and since we’re going to delete the porch off of our design to create a little vestibule (instead of lose valuable interior space to the swing of the door) we would build an easily collapsed mini porch and stairs that we could take apart and store when traveling.

The second idea to ponder is whether or not to use a gooseneck trailer. The biggest advantage with this one is that the truck you use to haul it will work far less hard in order to do the towing because the ball mount for a gooseneck is in the center of the truck bed/box and not the bumper. That means your towing capacity nearly doubles all without a drastic change in the engine numbers (torque/horsepower/valve number/etc). The problem with that, however, is that you are then pigeonholed into ONLY using a truck with a gooseneck (or 5th wheel) mount in its bed to tow, whereas practically any vehicle can have a bumper-mounted tow hitch attached (though that doesn’t mean just any old car can tow a tiny house of course). Also, this would have to either be a custom built trailer or one that has been retrofitted to have the great all-thread type mounting rods added that the Tumbleweed trailers come with standard and allow you to secure the frame of your house to the trailer itself. Believe me when I say that my nightmare about driving up a hill and having our house slide right off the trailer onto the street is a nasty one that has left me with palpitations on more than one occasion recently. No bueno. Another upside of this idea, though, is that we could get a 26′ trailer and use the additional two feet to create an attached porch area right on the bed rather than an additional collapsible attachment for the house (though we’d still have separate steps of course). We would also gain a larger potential storage area on the neck of the trailer if need be.

So, with all that in mind comes another matter to consider. After doing more research on the actual estimated weight of the Tumbleweed houses, it is quite clear that my Flex will NOT be able to pull one safely nor, and more importantly, stop one either. I could haul a 4500lb boat + trailer setup, but definitely not a tiny house. C’est la vie. Anyway, my research of the big full-sized 3/4ton and 1ton trucks on the market has lead me to think a Ram 2500 or 3500 with the Cummins diesel engine will be the likely vehicle needed for when we start traveling around the country with our house. They tow around 17,000lbs on the bumper and up to 30,000lbs on a gooseneck setup, which in both cases is more than adequate whether we go with a bumper pull or gooseneck setup. Great! We know what to look for now.

But, not so fast. We aren’t planning that part of the journey for a few more years. In the more immediate future we simply need to move the house from Texas to Colorado for a few years before returning to Texas for a brief stay. Tumbleweed has brilliantly added a towing page to their site recently (I was in the loop on that via e-mail with a great guy named Matt, who has graciously been answering all my random questions about their products for the last couple months), so now I know that when we buy a truck we need to be able to haul a MINIMUM of 15,000lbs in order to safely tow (and again, to safely STOP) a 24′ tiny house since that is the maximum gross weight of the house + trailer + personal possessions. The Dodge Ram trucks are more than sufficient for this without having to go to the huge F-350/3500 model or the dually version unlike what the Ford and Chevy sites list in their tow info sheets.

But that’s not all! Tumbleweed also gives the basic instructions needed to – wait for it – rent a UHaul truck to tow your new tiny house! That means if we built our house on the bumper trailer they sell we wouldn’t have to buy a truck right away at all and could instead tow it to Colorado and back with a rental. That means we would have my Flex or another vehicle for regular transport for the time being and can take our time choosing which truck we want for when we do actually start traveling and have to tow it ourselves. Well, that and all the other benefits of using a trailer designed specifically for tiny houses previously mentioned.

See the quandary?

I like the idea of safe towing that doesn’t tax the engine or frame of the truck that we would get with the gooseneck, not to mention the extra storage areas and potential to have a permanent porch. It does mean we would definitely have to get a truck in the next year or pay someone to tow it to Colorado, which isn’t out of the question either. Another thing to consider on the gooseneck, though, is that we would have to customize certain aspects of the house frame itself to accommodate the differences in where the trailer neck sits in relation to the back windows and whether or not to give the house a 5th wheel RV appearance and add an internally or externally accessible storage area over the neck of the trailer. That’s a whole other kettle of fish though, and I’m not certain we could take on customizing the frame of the house itself and having the trailer retrofitted for attaching it at the same time. That’s a lot of extra work and cost upfront well beyond what we originally thought, and that’s also not including the cost of buying a truck. Granted I’ve found 26′ low profile gooseneck trailers for about $5700 and fully-loaded Ram 2500 and 3500s for well under our absolute maximum of $45k, but do I really want to get out of $1945/mo mortgage payments only to have $850+ (and I’m just guessing there) truck payments? No thank you very much. Ugh.

Yeah, now that I’m seeing all this typed up I’m pretty sure I’ve already answered my own question, but I’m glad I put it all down. It definitely helps to see it all laid bare like that, and I’m certain I’m not the only one who will asks themselves those questions when they’re deciding on the best way to build their home. We’ve decided to take the trip to Austin in April for the workshop Tumbleweed is hosting rather than wait for August to roll around for the Dallas one, so hopefully any lingering doubts we might have will be resolved then. I’ve also been in contact with Abel from Zyl Vardos about contracting him to teach us how to create the beautiful curved roof he built for his Little Bird model, so I’m really starting to think about how we’ll combine two different styles of rooflines (the curved one from Zyl and the more a-frame style from Tumbleweed) so we can have our own funky little moving castle. 🙂

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