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Tiny Mobile House Expands To 420 Square Feet

At first glance it’s like every other tiny home that you see on a trailer. Then you realize it’s designed to fold out and expand into a full 420 square feet by the owner, designer and builder Nick.


Cai House ™ is a start up company in Fletcher, Vermont. The home is two stories, wood frame, and yes it’s on wheels.

On his blog he describes it as “a super insulated RV disguised as a cabin or cottage.”

I think the builder would be interesting to talk to. 1. What would you ask him? 2. Would you buy or build this house? Let’s talk about it in the comments. He spent about $50,000 building it.

If you want to learn more about Nick Hurt (designer/builder) you can jump over to his blog where he gives you more details about the house.

His son created a great video of how the house works. Like how it folds out and expands into a 420 square foot cabin! You can watch the video at the bottom of this post.

Cai House - Tiny And Mobile But Expands to 420 Square Feet!

Cai House - Tiny And Mobile But Expands to 420 Square Feet!

Cai House - Tiny And Mobile But Expands to 420 Square Feet!


Cai House - Tiny And Mobile But Expands to 420 Square Feet!

Cai House - Tiny And Mobile But Expands to 420 Square Feet!

Nick, builder/designer of the Cai House (tm)

That’s Nick, owner/builder/designer of the Cai House ™. If you want to contact him, his email is cnhconsulting -at- gmail dot com.

All photos thanks to Cai House ™ and owner Nick. Visit his blog by clicking here.

Video of how the house transforms from TINY to ‘small’

Via Cai ™ House – A Portable Tiny House

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Alex

Alex is a contributor and editor for TinyHouseTalk.com and the always free Tiny House Newsletter. He has a passion for exploring and sharing tiny homes (from yurts and RVs to tiny cabins and cottages) and inspiring simple living stories. We invite you to send in your story and tiny home photos too so we can re-share and inspire others towards a simple life too. Thank you!




{ 49 comments… add one }
  • Timaree March 20, 2011, 1:29 pm

    The idea is nice but I’m thinking impractical. The only thing it would be good for is if you had to build in one place and then transport it to a permanent (yes, permanent) location. Once you add a bathroom and a kitchen, some storage like a closet or cupboards and add some furniture you will not be able to collapse it back down to move it again. Fun idea though. He is certainly ingenuitive.

    • Marcy April 20, 2015, 1:48 pm

      Agreed, Timaree. (By the way, neat name.) My first thought was, where to you put the stuff you normally have in a house when it’s all folded up. But it is cool looking.

    • Maria April 13, 2016, 8:21 am

      I agree with you. This would have to be permanent. You would also need help to put this house together,plus what about plumbing,electric,insulation? Very impractical.

  • Alex March 21, 2011, 12:40 am

    I’m with you on that. It doesn’t sound fun if you had to move frequently, I am sure it takes a while to set up.

  • Mark E Tisdale March 21, 2011, 2:54 am

    Conceptually neat, but where do all the extra parts go that come sailing in from the sides? Surprised more of the parts aren’t hinged in. I bet there could be a way to keep some of the key systems (bath/kitchen) in the middle and furniture could be re-arranged to fill the center of the house and moved out when open. Definitely this would be something yo moved rarely not every few weeks!

    Have you seen the Foldable house? Similar but larger scale:

    http://www.foldablehome.com/

    • Lisa December 10, 2013, 1:29 am

      Not too long ago, I saw an apartment design for minimal living. I forget if this was located in Japan or Paris, but it was basically an empty room except for two wood modules in the center of the room. Each module had fold-away sides and each side contained a specific task; so, you could open the kitchen and a table would fold out, a sink with faucet would be revealed and a cupboard full of (plastic?) dishes was then available. On another side of a cube was a clothes closet. On the other cube, open a side and a bed slid out. And so forth. It certainly saved on space and something like this might be placed in the middle of this fold-up house. The idea is very interesting but I don’t see this as something a single person could do by themselves; who holds the facade edge while a triangle is being fitted in place? Even Yurts are best done with two.

  • Alex March 21, 2011, 1:24 pm

    Thanks for that link, Mark. I also talked about that Habitaflex late last year…

    http://www.tinyhousetalk.com/2010/12/23/portable-and-foldable-tiny-house/

    I thought about all of those extra parts too. I don’t see a problem putting them somewhere for the ride but it is work to put this thing together I am sure.

    I wonder how long it takes to set up and how long it takes to get it ready for traveling. There’s something to ask Nick.

  • jim dorey April 14, 2011, 5:46 pm

    i spent a lot of time designing a fold down trailer house, but… i was thinking that tyvek fold down sides would be better, lots easier to set up.

  • Tena Northern January 20, 2012, 4:37 pm

    I am looking to reconstruct a 1972 24ft travel trailer into a mobile Barbershop, if anyone has any ideas or input?? that would be greatly appreciated. Also if you have any floor plan ideas??? Thanks much!!

  • Alex January 20, 2012, 5:12 pm

    Mobile barbershop.. that’s a neat idea. 24 feet sounds large enough. The barber shop I go to is in a room no bigger than a bedroom.. probably 12×12 at most.

    • Tena Northern January 20, 2012, 5:27 pm

      Thanks, I hope to be able to serve the central Oregon area, since I have 25 + acres at Summer Lake, I figured I would help out the locals with haircuts etc. I currently live in the Salem, OR area though, so a mobile barbershop seemed like the most logical thing to do:-)

      • Alex January 21, 2012, 8:28 am

        That’s great, if you go for it I hope you can keep us updated on your progress/finished product.

        • Tena Northern January 21, 2012, 11:34 am

          I will! Thanks:-)

  • GG February 19, 2012, 2:42 am

    Interesting, although as mentioned elsewhere in the comments it doesn’t seem designed for regular transformation.

    I wouldn’t mind seeing a version where all the parts were attached and hinged together, and the interior layouts and plumbing were included. Something where an owner could go from the fully deployed house to a travel-ready configuration in half an hour or so.

  • Tena Northern February 20, 2012, 9:04 pm

    I guess I am on the “KISS” system… KEEP IT SIMPLE SILLY! It is a neat idea, but too much for me.

  • Lucy March 27, 2012, 3:47 pm

    I, would like to see the inside, perhaps you can to hgtv and have it as one of the challenge, on Design Star
    program as they did with the tiny house. A number designers will design the inside (there given a budget). I have seen your Cai House before and have show it to my husband. We have been DYI for year,but now I want it easy. In our mid 50’s now, I just want to get a mid size lot on lake, and a small cottage on it. Maybe you should change the name to the cottage house. I would like to convince my husband this is the way to go.

  • Bob November 10, 2012, 1:06 pm

    This is fantastic!

  • LaMar Alexander LaMar December 4, 2013, 1:40 pm

    If you are going to go to that trouble for more space why not build two houses on trailers with shed roofs and just park them next to each other with a connecting door ?

    Two 8×24 homes on wheels side by side is 384 sqft and no pieces to put together.

  • Ruth Vallejos December 4, 2013, 6:36 pm

    I could imagine the trailer’s (and trucks to haul) are a big expense. This is trying to be an all-in-one origami solution… and it’s pretty cool!

    I was unable to get the videos to work both here and on the blog. Probably an issue on my end.

    I like the form of the basic house in the center with the shed roofs below. It has a very nice cabin form. I think, were it my house, I’d want to live with something a little more solid than jacks below the expansion bits…

  • Ralph Sly December 6, 2013, 7:12 pm

    That just isn’t a fast fold operation. There is a lot of work putting it together and then there is a ton of things to do with the bathroom, kitchen and furnishing. Cute but no horseshoes from me, he has one build, too bad he didn’t video the actual process with real people setting it up.

  • Jim February 13, 2014, 11:24 am

    I’ll never knock out of the box thinking. This may not work for everyone but still is pretty cool and it seems to work well for this person.
    My wife and I are in the early design planning stages and it would be nice to have one section added in the middle for a little extra room. I wonder if it would be better to have it fold/slide out or just attach after the fact? How would that affect resale value? We will not be moving it and it will be our permanent home.

    • jamesskaar February 15, 2014, 10:58 am

      most building codes allow for buildings to be non-permanently attached to the house, meaning, separate foundation, no weight on the rest of the house, like a self supported deck. lamar’s idea *points up* would work quite well, just put a trailer next to an exterior door, stick a non load bearing vestibule and gangplank on, a secondary external door, so it exits between the house and addition down some steps.
      if the addition and vestibule are attached with removable fasteners and if the trailer can be slid sideways into position, there would be no effect on resale, not negative at least. if a potential purchaser likes it, add the trailer to the sale price.

  • Stephanie Ellison September 17, 2014, 12:06 am

    “This video is not available in your country.” Please post it in the US youtube division…

  • Lisa E. April 20, 2015, 4:48 pm

    I too see this as sitting on a permanent foundation and not a road warrior THOW. I think it would be best to leave it off the trailer bed and market it as a home that you can buy from him (built on his site) and then transferred to the buyer’s TH site for permanent installation, maybe on skids if you are going totally off-grid, or put on a cement slab and have the kitchen and bath plumbed in together with all of the electrical hook-ups. To me, in order for something to be called a “tiny home” it has to meet all of a person’s needs; this includes baths, cooking and handling elimination materials (black water and solid wastes.) Otherwise, for me it’s just camping or glamping.

    • Chris May 17, 2015, 3:59 am

      It’s not meant for frequent relocations. I’ve messed about with designs that do the same thing. Not as ambitious as his, tho. As long as I can have it set up in 8 hours, the design would be a success, so long as I was getting 400-600 sq feet and a 7 foot tall loft (I hate crouching and crawling).

      Not everyone moves a lot. If you moved it once a year (let’s say you were in a line of work that required that sort of thing), I think 8 hours set up is worth the extra space. Especially when you compare that to actually packing up your crap into boxes and moving every year or two. This sort of thing would be much less of a pain in the butt than standard packing and moving.

      Some people want a small house, but don’t want their house to be 7 1/2 feet wide and about 11 feet tall inside. I like the concept. I like that he actually built it. I like the wideness of it. I think the wide is probably the easy part, lots of designs have folding porches, not so different from a fold-out extension. It’s the height going over 13’6″ in place while traveling at the legal height that’s the biggie. That must have taken a lot of trial and error.

      No, it doesn’t need to be permanent, but it’s just not meant to be an RV. I like it.

      • Lisa E. May 17, 2015, 3:11 pm

        Okay. I gave you my take on this according to my personal needs and zeitgeist, and now you’ve given yours, proving that the THM has something for everyone! Yyaaaaaaayyyy! 😀

        Reminds me of a Dylan tune:
        “You’re right from your side,
        I am right from mine.
        We’re both just one too
        many mornings, and
        a thousand miles behind.”

    • Sandi B April 12, 2016, 8:35 pm

      Lisa E. — I truly understand where you are coming from, however, I think you are sort of missing the point on THOW’s in general. First they were never concepted to be “Road Warriors” as you mention. You have to remember they are being built conventionally with conventional building materials and not the 2×2’s that RV’s use. They were and are intended to get around building codes and not so much to be used like an RV. Further with the weight they are dangerous for most people to tow. Most people do not even know how to tow or drive conventional RV’s let alone a THOW. Thow’s are heavy and on the road you have a tip over problem. So using your train of thought, no THOW should be on wheels all should be on foundations instead.

      The idea here is for those who do occasionally find a need to move their home — think Park Models etc. — This would be a great proposition once all the kinks were worked out such as instead of making it a fold out and down etc, perhaps work it with the slide concept — you would have a little less room but same basic concept — you could get the height by using hydraulics for raising the roof once you have it parked. You would probably need to hurricane strap it to the ground with a higher roof as the wind would then be more of a problem.

      I do not know if this gentleman is working on ideas to make it easier to “unfold” and for it handling things like a kitchen, etc., the bathroom could be put in the middle you would have plenty of room for a small one and still move around. This would be ideal for people who want to have a more moveable rig that they might be able to move themselves and not pay the high prices of professionals. I know a design is being worked on by one TH company that would have a hinged roof so you could drop it down and not be over-height for towing on the road. But, bottom line, any of these concepts are going to forfeit usable inside space and convenience. I would think this design would take several people to set up, but maybe not if he used hydraulics. &50,000 plus labor would be a lot to pay for this — especially when there are perfectly good park models with more usable space for much less money.

      • Lisa E. April 13, 2016, 12:30 am

        RV Classifications:

        Class A:
        30-40 feet long
        13,000 – 30,000 lbs

        Class C:
        20-25 feet long
        10,000 – 12,000 lbs

        Class B
        17-19 feet long
        6,000 – 8,000 lbs

        “I truly understand where you are coming from, however, I think you are sort of missing the point on THOW’s in general. First they were never concepted to be “Road Warriors” as you mention.”

        — It’s irrelevant how they were originally conceived, THOWs are on the road. Yes, some are parked for long periods of time, but others are in service such as:
        1) Zack Griffin: “Zack is a professional skier and contractor who is co-host of Tiny House Nation. He has so much love for tiny homes that he built a mobile tiny ski house for himself, and has lived in it full-time for years. Each winter Zack moves his tiny home to powdery slopes across the country. He has traveled more than 20 thousand miles with his tiny home and has introduced thousands of people along the way to the wonders of this lifestyle.”
        2) Guillaume Dutilh and Jenna Spesard: “They quit their jobs two years ago, they decided to go big by going tiny. The two built a 125-square-foot “tiny house” (185 square feet if you count the loft) on a 20-foot-long trailer, latched it onto a pickup truck, and turned North America into their playground with a massive (and ongoing) road trip. In the past five months, Business Insider reports the two have put 10,290 miles on their odometer while touring 25 states and parts of eastern Canada along with their dog, Salies. They have plans to visit at least 11 more states — and that includes a trip to Alaska and back.
        3) All the people involved in the Tiny House Movement who are traveling around with their houses giving shows and demonstrations.

        “You have to remember they are being built conventionally with conventional building materials and not the 2×2’s that RV’s use. They were and are intended to get around building codes and not so much to be used like an RV.”

        — Not all THOWs are built as stick frames; there are builders now who specialize in metal frames which reduce the weight significantly while also eliminating the problem of nails working themselves out due to road agitation. Steel frame THOWs are 66% lighter, according to Chicago based Titan Home Builders.

        “Further with the weight they are dangerous for most people to tow.”

        — Then, obviously, these folks need a professional mover.

        “Most people do not even know how to tow or drive conventional RV’s let alone a THOW.”

        — This is a false equivalency. RV’s are not trailers; THOW’s are.

        “Thow’s are heavy and on the road you have a tip over problem.”

        — Not necessarily. Good planning and a set of stabilizer bars plus a truck appropriate to the size and weight of your THOW should keep things on an even keel.

        — In the RV information above, a Class C is 20-25 feet long and weighs approximately 10,000-12,000 pounds.
        The house that Guillaume and Jenna are traveling around in spec out as:
        Our house is 125 square foot with a 60 square foot loft. We modified a Tumbleweed Cypress-20 Overlook. Here are the stats/dimensions:
        • Exterior dimensions: 20′ long, 13’5″ high, 8’6″ wide at the wheels, 7’4″ wide at the walls
        • Interior dimensions: 6’8″ wide and 10’6″ high inside
        • Weight: 10,100lbs with all of our belongings including water and propane, 1,500lbs on the tongue.
        The RV weight of 10,000 – 12,000 pounds is stock on the lot; that is, without the weight of personal belongings (which can add up.) However, Guillaume and Jenna are clocking in with all belongings plus propane at 10,100 pounds. So THOWs are no more heavy than any RV; in fact, the THOW can come in underweight.

        “So using your train of thought, no THOW should be on wheels all should be on foundations instead.”

        — I never said that; you are assuming facts not in evidence.
        ***

        • Sandi B April 14, 2016, 4:35 am

          Your RV classifications are for motor coaches and not for travel trailers or 5th wheels, both of which ARE trailers and are towed not driven. My statement was more to trailers and not so much to motor coaches so is not a false equivalency.

          If what you say about stabilizer bars etc. were true then big rigs would never tip over, but they do all the time. Very few people use metal infra structure and most THOW’s are weighty and expensive to hook behind a truck an tow and most people do not have the experience needed to tow and maneuver anything. I stand by what I said and you are basically incorrect in what you have replied. Also most people living with their families in THOW’s have more than a t-shirt and a pair of jeans. While a few people do use smaller THOW’s and move them more regularly most people do not, nor do they plan on doing so. Get real — you looked at the rig shared in an overly narrow manner.

  • Rico Muscatel April 20, 2015, 5:35 pm

    I remember seeing this before. It is an intriguing concept, but certainly has it’s shortcomings. I’m anxious to see some RV manufacturers incorporate some Tiny Home designs into their park model or smaller designs with reliable slide outs. Probably beyond the capabilities of DIYers to do cost effectively.

    I’ve also thought of a concept similar to what Wausau homes does, where there is a kitchen module, a bath module and panelized construction where all components can be easily transported and assembled on site. The key is being able to disassemble the unit when the owner wants to relocate it. It would require quick connects for plumbing and electrical and vents. Heating can be radiant flooring powered by solar. Working on designs for something along these lines.

  • Karen R April 21, 2015, 12:43 am

    I don’t see pulling this down the road for reasons already mentioned, but what a neat house for more or less permanent placement! How tightly do the puzzle pieces fit together (slides in RVs are great for adding space but less insulated than the rest of the units).

    By the way, RVs in the USA must be less than 400 square feet except in Florida and Texas where park model RVs must be less than 500 square feet but require a HUD sticker.

  • Jeannette April 21, 2015, 7:57 am

    I love the design. No wheels on mine please. Just build it on a beautiful spot ! Floor space about double the size of my TH now 🙂

  • Dawn May 4, 2015, 11:26 pm

    Interesting little house and I really loved the Moby song in the video!

  • Sheila McChesney July 13, 2015, 7:16 pm

    Love the music and love the concept… I live in an area where they have beautiful river lots and the houses/cabins must be moved to higher ground yearly and this would be perfect and look a whole lot better than what gets put up now. Great innovation and KUDOS on the building! Thanks for sharing!!

  • shawn March 30, 2016, 1:40 am

    I have been working on my design and I found that it is betther to push up than fold out I managed to get 2 stories and a loft out of mine
    With lots of head space it comes out to a whopping 23 feet high and can collapse to under 13 feet when driving

    • rhonda lee April 12, 2016, 9:01 am

      Hello Shawn

      I am struggling to figure out a way to add some height to a tiny home (so loft area not cramped and can at least stand without crouching), keeping it within the 13.6 feet. Can you share how to do that in a way I can communicate it to someone who says it can’t be done without having insulation problems in a northern winter climate? Would greatly appreciate your know-how. rhondalees4 at gmail dot com

  • Rob N April 12, 2016, 11:17 am

    This th is reminiscent of the Family Circle Bolt Together Cabin. Hopefully Alex has a link to this interesting article.

  • Deborah thomas April 12, 2016, 11:24 am

    Nice concept but impractical for regular travel. You would be almost “camping” because there is no place to put furniture or anything else with the walls folded in. Then I watched the video – got to store the roof and loft parts somewhere in the move! Not to mention where is the loft floor and supports? I think this constant “build” (which basically what it is each time you want to stop and rest, eat) will get tired real fast. Even if used as a vacation type setting for a week or so. I would also be concerned about weather.

  • Candide33 April 12, 2016, 12:14 pm

    Ok, this was originally put up 5 years ago and as far as I can tell, he never finished the house or just gave up on his website.

  • kristina nadreau April 12, 2016, 5:01 pm

    I like the concept for a prefab small or tiny house that is placed on a foundation after being built elsewhere. those that want the flexibility of an RV will not want this house.

  • Brandi April 12, 2016, 9:35 pm

    I would sure love the person that spoke of a push up TH that made it 23feet tall would get in touch with me…..please. Thank you in advance.

    Brandi 541-472-oh-five-six-five If you don’t get me on the first try please leave me a message and a number where you can be reached.
    (in Oregon on PST)

  • Lisa E. April 14, 2016, 12:51 pm

    Big rigs tip because they are being driven improperly.
    The motto is, “Drive slow and swing wide.”

  • Richard H Chapple Sr July 24, 2016, 10:11 am

    Perhaps most of you are too young to remember the expandable park model trailer homes from the 50’s and 60’s that were very easy to set up by one person, were fully furnished, complete, easy to pull, many had 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, etc.
    I owned an exceptionally well thought out Budger Crescendo Expando model built new in 1967. It was 40′ x 8′ and expanded to 40′ by 22′. The floors and roofs of the two expanding sides were accordion folded. A simple hand pump on the trailer tongue pushed the outer walls out on tracks that opened out from the main trailer. The end walls swung out being attached by giant piano hinges. This could all be done in less than an hour.
    The interior was all done in real birch paneling, not cardboard or paper pressed paneling. The trailer was fully furnished and stowed easily in the trailer. Towed with a 1 ton pickup.

    For Rhonda Lee: There a few very clever ways to do what you want to do without going over permissible travel height. I also owned a trailer, two story that was at 12′ 6″ height at 45′ long by 8′ wide, a 1957 Stewart. These are exciting old concepts waiting to be rediscovered in todays tiny homes.
    Take a look at some pictures, plans, etc whatever you can find regarding all of the older two story trailers. Look at the old lighthouse duplex trailers, so cool on the inside. 28′ long, two bedroom separate kitchen and living room areas.
    These old trailers will get your mind a going. What fun.
    The Stewart I owned was so very well thought out.

  • BevinTN August 2, 2017, 2:19 pm

    My first impression is….Not a solid house I’d want to be in permanently during a good thunderstorm or “forever”. But if I wanted to keep a pack-away cottage to go camping or fishing or for road trips….it’d be great.

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