Maybe you are planning to travel with your tiny house once in a while (maybe summer time, when the weather is nice), and stay in the same location rest of the year. Basically; you still want to be mobile with your home, and also want to use the benefits of foundations.
I have been asked the same question many times: “Can you put a tiny house on wheels on a foundation?”. I can definitely tell you that;
It is possible to put tiny house on wheels (THOW) on a foundation; and it can be moved to other locations when needed. You can pick one of the four available foundation methods (“Piers Foundation” is the most applicable one for THOWs), and implement for your tiny house.
Maybe listing the foundation benefits, along with some definitions and explanations will help you to understand the topic, and you will make your mind about your future tiny house. I will start with the benefits of foundations.
Table of Contents
What Is A Tiny House Foundation?
In general; a house foundation is the structure that is built under a house to provide some benefits, which include:
- carries the house weight,
- provides a flat and level base,
- separates wood based house material from the ground (dirt). Otherwise this connection will cause rot problem and termite infestation.
If your tiny house will stay at the same location for a long time (or forever), you have to have a foundation to increase the lifespan of your tiny house.
How about your tiny house on wheels (THOW)? In theory, you don’t need a foundation for your THOW. Because it stays on its wheels, and there’s no direct contact between the house base and the ground.
On the other hand; if you are not planning to travel too often with your THOW (according to the statistics; in average tiny houses gets to move to another location 4 times in their lifetime), better to put it on a foundation and get the benefits that I listed above.
There are multiple foundation options to choose from:
1 – Slab Foundation
There are 2 different types of Slab Foundations; Monolithic Slab Foundation and Stem Wall Slab Foundation. Since our main topic is not foundation details, I will just give an overview of these 2 different types.
Monolithic Slab Foundations means “all in one pour”. Because of ‘one pour’ technique, the construction time is quicker and as a result, the cost is cheaper. However, in the long run, especially for the not compacted enough grounds, monolithic slab foundations tend to crack. Which will cost a lot to fix.
Stem-Wall slabs are constructed in a multi-part process where a footer is poured at ground level, then blocks are laid forming a wall up to the finished slab elevation. This type of foundation is much more stable. But since it needs more work, the initial cost will be higher.
|Pros / Advantages||Cons / Disadvantages|
|Monolithic Slab Foundation|
(cost: $5 – $7 per square foot)
– Faster construction
– Pest resistant (from below)
– Low maintenance
|– Not ideal for sloped areas|
– Costly to repair
– No storage area
– Floors may be colder
– It may crack if the ground is not compacted enough
|Stem Wall Slab Foundation|
(costs: $8 – $10 per square foot)
|– Good for varied elevation levels|
– More stable
|– Expensive than Monolithic Slab|
– Takes longer for construction
2 – Crawlspace Foundation
This foundation style raises the tiny house a little and leaves a gap between the ground and the house. This place (crawlspace) can be used as storage. Even though the space won’t be high enough to stand up, it will be enough to store big items, such as bicycles, kayaks, skis etc.
And also this crawl space will be really helpful when some repairs are needed for utilities. Instead of putting holes to your walls, the repair can be done through this crawl space.
The average construction cost for such foundations is around $ 15 per square feet. Depending on the various factors (the ground situation, the crawl space height etc.), this cost may be a little less or higher.
3 – Basement Foundation
Even though this is another foundation option, it is almost impossible to find a tiny house with basement. I’m just listing it here but will not go into details.
Just you can keep in mind that tiny houses also can have basements, but it will definitely complicate the construction process and increase the cost.
4 – Piers Foundation
I saved the last spot for the best option for your tiny house on wheels: Piers Foundation. They have many advantages:
- You are able to move your home when you want
- You can install this into a rented land – of course with the landlord’s approval (you don’t have to purchase the land)
- While the construction [of tiny house] continues, you can use this type of foundation and in the future, you can move it to a permanent location.
- You can access to utility lines, ducts, and electrical easily.
- Less expensive to built and also to repair.
- Can be implemented on slopes (flat ground is not a requirement).
- Even though it provides a good spot for pests, it provides easy access for pest inspection
On the other hand, there are also some disadvantages for such foundations. Here’s a table that you can see both advantages and disadvantages for Pier Foundations:
|Piers Foundation Advantages||Piers Foundation Disadvantages|
|– Cheaper to built and repair|
– Easy pest inspection
– Suitable for slope grounds
– Protects from flooding
|– Less energy efficient (floors feel colder)|
– Mold risk increased
– Rodent danger under the tiny house
– Less suitable for accessibility needs (needs ramps for wheelchairs etc.)
– Not great for hurricane areas
What Is a Tiny House On Wheels?
There’s no single definition for Tiny Houses. According to the 2018 International Residential Code Appendix Q Tiny Houses; a dwelling unit with a max 400 square foot floor area (excluding lofts) are called Tiny Houses. And a Tiny House which was built on top of a trailer is called Tiny House on Wheels (THOW).
Since THOWs are built on top of trailers, they have max dimensions:
- 8 feet 6 inches wide
- 40 feet long. In theory, trailers can be as tall as 40 feet. However, most of the time, the THOWs are max 32 feet long (to make the moving easier)
- 13 feet 6 inches tall
Tiny House On Wheels are usually considered as RVs, and as a result they can be used only for recreational purposes. Meaning; they can be only used as temporarily; and it is unlawful to use them as a dwelling many areas and states
(Tiny House and Tiny House On Wheels rules and regulations are changing all the time. Various states, cities and towns are trying to catch up with the actual situation, so better to check with your own township for the latest rules and regulations).
Why To Choose Tiny House On Wheels?
You have decided to start to live a tiny life; but not sure about the type; On Foundation or On Wheels. Neither is the clearly better options because they each have lots of pros and cons attached. All that really matters is what’s right for you.
The first step should be to document your needs and how you are planning to use this new tiny house. Some basic questions would help you to list your needs:
- How are you planning to use it (As primary home, as guest house, as an art studio, as recreational vehicle, etc.)?
- What are your local laws regarding to tiny houses on foundation and tiny houses on wheels?
- What are your local laws regarding to foundations (what kinds are permitted, characteristics, etc.)
- Do you have land to build the tiny house on? Or planning to rent?
- What is your purpose for tiny house? To downsize? To live more environmental friendly? To save some money?
Once you answer these questions on a peace of paper, you will have better picture in front of you to decide.
The second step involves learning advantages and disadvantages of both options. I’m sure you keep visiting various websites and learning more about them.
I have good news for you; I have gathered all the benefits and disadvantages of Tiny House On Wheels; so you won’t need to spend more time on the subject.
Here’s a detailed table for THOWs’ advantages and disadvantages:
|– Mobility||– Strict size dimensions (since it’ll be driven to another location). Max size: 8 feet 6 inch wide * 40 feet long * 13 feet 6 inches tall.|
|– Not bound to local building codes (usually, check with your local jurisdiction)||– Grey area from the legal point of view (some may see this as an advantage 😉 ).|
|– No min size (usually tiny houses on foundation has a min siz limit)||– The strict dimensions dictate some limitations on the house design.|
|– No property tax||– Depending on the place you park, you may need to pay rent|
|– More savings possibilities (no land to purchase, no ongoing tax, etc.)||– Tiny Houses on Foundation tends to appreciate value more.|
|– In case of expected bed weather (hurricane etc.) or wildfire, you can relocate the tiny house on wheels||– For financing you need higher credit score and higher down payment|
|– Can be used as guest house, or art studio, or even man cave||– Comparing to tiny house on foundation, THOWs are less safer in case of hurricanes, or other natural disasters.|
|– Usually THOW prices are cheaper than tiny house on foundation prices.||– Comparing to tiny house on foundation, THOWs have higher total cost of ownership|
|– Needs a heavy-duty truck to move around (own, or rent)|
|– You may need a sperate insurance for your THOW (since they are mostly considered as RVs).|
|– Not easy to find a parking spot|
|– Theft concern (even though there are some easy solutions to prevent or to find the house after theft, this is still a concern)|
The Solution: THOW On A Foundation!
Maybe you prefer the idea of a Tiny Homes On Wheels, but still want the ability to put it on a foundation and get the foundation benefits.
I have great news for you; you can have a tiny house on wheels and put it on a foundation! Especially Piers Foundation is great solution for such cases.
The estimated cost for tiny house piers foundations is around $11,000. Depending on some factors; the ground, tiny house size, material costs, etc; the cost may be a little higher or lower.
I have talked other THOW owners, who are keeping their tiny houses on pier foundation and they have some tips for you:
- You can keep the tires on the trailer axels (Juli)
- Keep the tires off the ground (Lynne)
- Cover the tires with reflective tire covers (Lynne)
Once you put your tiny house on wheels (THOW) on top of a piers foundation, you can install skirtings around the tiny house.
Skirting for THOWs have multiple benefits:
- Skirts make a neat appearance for your tiny house
- They add insulation to your tiny house
- Skirts keep wind going underneath (and they prevent overturns)
- They prevent water pipes freezing
Tie-Downs For Tiny Houses and THOWs
Some weather conditions, including high winds and hurricanes, may create danger for tiny houses. If your tiny house is on wheels, you can easily drive a more safer location until the weather gets better.
However, sometimes we cannot change our tiny house on wheels location with various reasons. For such situations; to prevent any serious accidents during bed weather conditions, tie-downs are suggested.
Tie-downs are combination of steel straps and anchors designed to keep the tiny home firmly in place.
Even though the general suggestion is to check tie-downs once a year, I prefer to be safe than sorry and suggest a detailed control twice a year.
There are 3 components for tie-downs:
- The foundation piers (that the tiny house sits on)
- The anchors or steel rods (only couple inches will be above ground and the rest -several feet- will be under ground for holding tight)
- Steel straps (to fasten around the tiny house frame or trailer frame and attached to anchors with adjustable bolts)
Most mobile home manufacturers suggest; a trailer up to 40ft. should have 2 diagonal ties per side and 3 vertical ties per side.
There are multiple different types of anchors that you can select for tie-downs; based on the material they will attach to (concrete, soil type, etc.). To be able to pick the right anchors, you should know the soil type (rock/hard pan, heavy, sandy gravel, heavy sand, silty gravel, clayey gravel, clay, silty clay, clayey silt, uncommitted fill or peat/organic clay, etc.).
Here is a great video about the tiny house tie-downs on YouTube. It explains the logic and shows the basics of how to implement tie-downs. Take a look:
Now you know that it is possible to put tiny house on wheels on top of foundation, advantages and disadvantages of various foundation types. Also I’ve talked a little bit about the pros and cons of THOWs.
I hope you liked my post and you will check out my other Tiny House related content.