Tiny House Construction Tip #2 With Curt Lyons: Removing and Re-Using Your Trailer Lumber
One of the biggest differences between a tiny house and a trailer or RV, other than the fact that tiny houses can be beautiful in a way a trailer never will, is that tiny houses aren’t so tiny in the weight category. Before you even start to build, the trailer alone starts out over 2000lbs, which is already more weight than many cars can tow. When I started my building process, I was determined to see where I could cut weight. In typical house construction, when in doubt, you take the caveman approach and overbuild it, but when weight matters, you don’t have that luxury.
Purchasing your trailer is an exciting moment and a big reality check. It’s when the whole process becomes very real feeling. You’re anxious to start to framing the walls, because you want it to start looking like a house, but you need to take a breath and be patient, since there is some not so glamorous prep work that has to go into the trailer first. However this is also a great opportunity to save some weight. I’m talking hundreds of pounds, when everything adds up.
Unless you bought a trailer specifically custom made for a tiny house, one of the first things that needs attention is the decking wood. Most tiny house trailers are actually designed for hauling cars and have a pressure treated deck made of 2”x10” lumber. Pressure treated means this lumber has been infused with chemicals, under pressure, that make the wood highly resistant to being eaten by either insects or micro-organisms, but it also makes it very heavy.
Curt’s Tiny House Building Tip #2: Removing & Re-Using Your Tiny House Trailer Lumber
Images © Curt Lyons
Your trailer has a very strong steel frame, so a lot of the wood is not structurally necessary for what we want to do. The reason you can’t just use it as your floor, and start building walls on it, is because your floor would have no insulation, it would be full of gaps and the existing layout would limit you to building between the wheel wells, significantly narrowing your design, so most people want to cantilever the new floor framing out and over the steel frame of the trailer. You could just leave all the existing decking, and start building right over it, but pressure treated wood is very heavy, so the existing deck is several hundred pounds of wood that you really don’t need, or at least not where it currently sits.
I ended up removing all of my decking (this required purchasing a driver bit I didn’t already own) and ripping it down to 2”X4” widths. This is most easily done with two people and a table saw, but can also be accomplished with a circular saw. Once all the boards where ripped, I spaced them out on the steel trailer frame and reattached them. Then I used the “extra” decking to frame my flooring footprint for the actual house. In the end I ended up re-using most of the removed decking (but not all of it) for this purpose, but it was still a weight, and money savings, since I had already purchased this wood and this framing had to be there. Although I hated using such heavy wood to frame my floor, and even though I went to great lengths to shield the framing from exposure to the elements, with metal flashing, I already owned this wood, and there is peace of mind, knowing that the base of my house is extremely unlikely to suffer from water, insect or rot damage.
Images © Curt Lyons
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