From my friends and readers I have heard the same question many many times. Basically; initially they are planning to have a THOW (Tiny House On Wheels). And in the future (when they find a good spot to start living, or when they have enough funds to buy a peace of land), they are planning to start living on that place.
This is the question that I pretty often hear: Is it possible to take a tiny house off the trailer onto a foundation?
It is possible to take a tiny house off the trailer and put it on a foundation if the tiny house was built on its own frame initially. If this is not the case; the other option is to remove wheels, axels and springs and set the trailer on foundation.
It may be good to start with a little background; why people prefer to start living tiny with a THOW? Because, the people usually get around building requirements easily with THOW.
My experience, and my knowledge (by talking to THOW owner friends) say that moving a THOW to another location is not that easy. Once the owner finds a good spot for her/his THOW, the last thing s/he want is to move to another location. Basically this means, Tiny House On Wheels are popular because having a tiny house on a trailer enables you to get around building requirements and local zoning laws. THOWs are not bound to local building codes.
If your tiny house is not on wheels then you have to follow local zoning laws for houses; which usually give you a minimum square feet requirement. This requirement, unfortunately, often larger than what people want for their tiny houses.
On the other hand, having a THOW has one main downside; it is illegal to live in your THOW long term, because it’s not a permanent structure. Once you have a THOW, it’s not a house to follow local zoning laws, but a recreational vehicle and now you have to abide by “camping” regulations in the city or county (maximum width/height etc). which often means you can’t camp in one spot for more than 14 days or possibly only so many days a year on one property depending on the city/county you live.
Both options have their advantages and disadvantages. You will need to decide base on your unique circumstances.
Let me go through some details about building a tiny house on a trailer and then moving it to a foundation.
How To Design THOW If You Want To Move To A Foundation In The Future?
If you are considering to have a THOW now and planning to move your house to a foundation later on; you have 2 options:
1 – Do not take any specific action for this purpose at the beginning, and build your THOW according to normal practices. When the time comes to start living on a foundation, don’t transfer your tiny house off the trailer, rather set the trailer on the foundation.
When you set the trailer on the foundation, you can remove the wheels, axles and springs. Even you can sell them for some cash.
I personally prefer this approach, and make the trailer frame itself an integral part of the floor. I believe this makes the THOW more secure and I gain a couple inches with this approach.
I have 3 friends that I know personally who has done this, and they are happy with their decision. They didn’t have any problems while they were living in a THOW; and now they have simply set the trailer on a foundation. No problems, no issues.
2 – If you insist on transferring off the trailer, make sure the THOW is built accordingly and secure the tiny house to trailer properly.
The design compromises you would have to make to so that it could be removed from the trailer aren’t worth the trouble (at least for me). I know some people design tiny houses that sit on top of the trailer, but you lose several precious inches that way.
If you still want to go through this route, I found an example youtube guide for you to follow. The video start at the place they show how they are attaching the tiny house to trailers (Unfortunately this company is not in US):
Definitely this approach gives the owner some flexibility; but still I would prefer to have secured the house “permanently” from the start, so I would not have the nightmares of an empty trailer because the house fell off.
How To Pick The Right Trailer For A THOW?
You have decided to build a THOW and the first step is selecting a trailer to build your tiny house on.
I encourage everyone who is planning about buying or building a tiny house on a trailer to get informed about what makes a strong a safe trailer design. Once you have the knowledge, I am sure you will pick the right one for you and stay away from dangerous trailer for your tiny house.
I have listed all important points to help you with the trailer selection.
1. Trailer Size: The first decision point should be the size. There are different size and different weight limit trailers available on the market. I have gathered a table with trailer width – length – capacity, to help you in your search:
|Trailer Length||Trailer Width||Load Capacity||Notes|
|14 – 20 ft||101 inch||4,500 – 6,000 lbs||Good for travelling most of the time. |
Space is limited, barely enough for 2 people.
|16 – 22 ft||83 inch||5,000 – 7,000 lbs|
|16 – 22 ft||102 inch||7,500 – 10,000 lbs|
|14 – 24 ft||101 inch||7,000 – 10,000 lbs||Good balance between travelling and space.|
Still comfortable to tow.
|18 – 24 ft||102 inch||11,000 – 16,000 lbs|
|20 – 40 ft||102 inch||12,000 – 24,000 lbs||Especially bigger than 30 ft, good size for families.|
Harder to tow; mostly staying at the same location.
There is one more variable in the equation: For most of the cases, the total length (trailer AND tow truck length together) cannot be more than 53 feet. If your truck is 20 feet long, then the trailer cannot be longer than 33 feet.
2. Trailer Type: There are mainly 3 different types of trailers on the market for tiny house building purposes:
|Deck Over Trailers|
When building a tiny house on a trailer, every inch is important. Since the height is limited to 13.5 ft by Department of Transportation, there is no way to build a tiny house taller than 13.5 feet.
That’s why, I suggest to use Utility Trailer to build the tiny house. With that type of trailer, you save about 12 inches of height, which is really important for such a tiny structure.
3. Where to Buy The Trailer: There are many trailer companies out there, but I suggest you to work with a company, which has experience on tiny houses. Working with a knowledgeable person will help you in this journey.
I have good personal experience working with PJ Trailers company. You can check their website for more information: https://pjtrailers.com/uses/tiny-house-trailers (I do NOT have any affiliate with them)
4. Weight Capacity: The other important point is the weight capacity of the trailer. Just to give you an idea, I am listing 3 different size of tiny houses and their average weights.
|Tiny House Size||Tiny House Length||Tiny House Wight|
|Small tiny houses||10 – 18 ft.||2,500 – 7,500 lbs|
|Medium tiny houses||19 – 25 ft||8,000 – 11,000 lbs|
|Large tiny houses||25 – 40 ft||11,000 – 15,000 lbs|
You will need to pick a trailer which can handle the tiny house weight.
5. Trailer Jack Places: When the THOW is parked, to be able secure it properly, the trailer should have at least 4 jack places. Just to make sure they are in a good shape.
6. Trailer Finish: This may seem not that important but believe me. If you don’t want to deal with rusting, check the trailer finish. What has done against rusting, if anything. You will thank me in the future.
I had a friend who has bought a second hand trailer a coupe years ago. The trailer looked great. However, after just 1 winter, rusting started. No coating was applied against rusting, and he had to deal with it. So; better to check it at the beginning.
Other Things to Check When Buying A Tiny House Trailer
- Has the trailer been wired with extra cabling (for legally required outline marker lights)?
- Does the trailer design provide usable space on the draw bar?
- Does the trailer design help (or create problems) for installing the underfloor insulation?
- Is there any underfloor storage capacity on the trailer design?
- Is there any additional (storage?) space between the axles?
- Is the trailer built for caravan? Or for a tiny house? Caravan trailers are not enough to support tiny house weight structurally.
- Check what kind of suspension the trailer has. Make sure the trailer has “rocker roller suspension”. This kind of suspension, shares the load between the axles. Stay away from non-sharing suspensions.
How To Move Tiny House Off The Trailer?
Once you have the land and the foundation is ready, you can move your tiny house off the trailer.
Maybe you are asking to yourself; how would you go about securing the tiny house to a foundation? Maybe this is where you are confused.
The proper way to attach your tiny house to a foundation is by drilling through the sills of your walls into the concrete foundation. You can use a wood bit for the first part, then switch to a masonry bit to drill the cement.
There are special fasteners (and adhesive if you want to use it) that are inserted in this hole. You whack the fastener with a hammer. That sort of wedges it in the hole you drilled. Then you put on a washer and nut and tighten.
Any Considerations After Putting The Tiny House On A Foundation?
There is one clear issue we all forget – legal documentation adjustements after the change.
If your tiny house is on wheels, then it should be licensed and insured as an RV.
Once you move the tiny house off the trailer to a foundation; it is no longer an RV. It becomes a permanent structure, and it needs to be properly registered by the local authorities.
Tiny house rules and regulations are different in all states, counties and towns. So; I suggest you to check with your own local authorities and building departments about the registration of your tiny house on foundation.
The other very important point is to secure the tiny house to ground properly. I have found a great video on youtube to show how to secure the tiny house to ground. Take a look:
Tiny House On Foundation Pros and Cons
I would like to close today’s article by listing tiny house on foundation pros and cons. (If you want to see Tiny House On Wheels pros and cons, please check my other article: Can You Put A Tiny House On Wheels (THOW) On A Foundation? )
|Better chance of being approved for residential usage||Not mobile. You cannot move with your tiny house to another location|
|Better protection against natural disasters||Building a foundation may be expensive (depending on the ground type, excavation and masonry work requirements)|
|Usually have longer lifespans||You will need to buy the land (additional cost)|
|More long term savings (no rent payments for THOW parking etc.)||More initial cost (property taxes, utility hookups etc.)|
|Don’t need to look for utility connections all the time||Subject to building codes and zoning ordinances|
|Easier financing options|
|Total cost of ownership is higher (less maintenance is required and they appreciate [because of land])|
Do you have any suggestions or ideas on the subject?