Ultralight Tiny Cabin

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Introduction: Ultralight Tiny Cabin

Select a trailer for your project. If you are going used, avoid a bent frame or excessive rust. If the frame is straight and solid, see that the trailer has an operable tongue jack. That will be extremely important as the project gains weight. Also, go ahead and upgrade the wheel hubs to new ones. There is professional help available for this step, at a tire shop, frame and axle specialist, or online forums. Hubs are fairly inexpensive and will offer some peace of mind when towing. It's better to have a dependable undercarriage before you invest much material and labor into the project.

Supplies

Trailer frame. Possibly a new axle, wheel hubs, tires, so forth.

Step 1: Clean the Trailer Frame After Component Inspection. Apply New Paint.

Once you or a competent person has declared your trailer roadworthy, go ahead and clean it in preparation for paint. I used an angle grinder for tough corrosion, and a drill with a wire brush for all other cleaning. Then I bought Rust-Oleum primer and equipment paint and sprayed the frame. I also bought brand-new tires.

Step 2: Frame the Floor.

I apologize for the shortage of photos during this process. I built this two years ago, not intending to publish a tutorial.
Attach your wood flooring frame to the steel frame of the trailer. This is the best time to run your trailer light wires, too, so they will be concealed inside the framing and safe from road and rodent damage. Also consider any other wiring you may want at this point, such as 12 volt DC or 110 AC. Don't skimp on insulation, either. You want your feet to stay warm on chilly nights.

Step 3: Frame the Walls

Decide how thin you want your walls. In consideration of saving space, I didn't want 3 1/2" thick studs. So I bought 2"x6" and ripped them all to 2" for the walls, and 2 11/16" for the roof. Then I screwed and glued all of the framing members together. That is much stronger than nails alone. I used 2 1/2" wood screws, and 3" screws where I wanted a little more hold.

Step 4: Insulate.

I used 2" foil-faced rigid foam insulation between studs. I squeezed Great-Stuf into every gap and crack I could. I was able to get an R13 insulation rating in only 2" walls. That's something fiberglass won't offer. Plus the rigid foam adds structural integrity to the walls. Don't forget to run your wiring throughout the framing process. I also installed my windows at this time.

Step 5: Seal the Exterior.

Make the cabin waterproof. I opted for 30# roofing tar/felt paper. I like the thickness and durability compared to Tyvek or comparable housewraps. I laid this over the OSB roof sheathing and the walls, with aplroximately a 2" overlap. Tape all the seams and around the windows.

Step 6: Begin Siding.

I used rough cedar that I salvaged from shipping crates as siding beneath the back porch and as trim around the windows and perimeter of the cabin. I made my painted siding from 1/8" Masonite that I ripped in 5 1/2" widths. I primed and painted the Masonite before installing. I used reclaimed barn tin for the porch ceiling for character.

Step 7: Add Porch Railing, Exterior Lighting, So On.

I made my porch spindles from pieces of electrical conduit that the electricians throw away on construction sites. I painted them black, then had a fun time making a creative back porch. I installed a small air conditioner up in the sleeping loft above the porch.

Step 8: Finish the Interior.

I lined the inside of my cabin with 1/8" Masonite. It was inexpensive, sturdy, and doesn't weigh a lot. I built a tiny bathroom, a folding sofa/bed, food and camping gear storage, and a tiny staircase leading up to the sleeping loft where I have a queen foam mattress. I also built my own doors - the entry door and the bathroom door. I obtained the screen door from an old camper I had around. I installed a 30 amp breaker box beneath the stairs, as well. The toilet does not empty into a holding tank, but requires an external tank or bucket.

Step 9: Enjoy the Creation!

This tiny cabin is towable with a Ford Ranger. I can even pick up the cabin by the trailer tongue by my own strength and swivel it around if needed. It isn't easy to do that, but I have done it. It is a perfect fixture out on my private wooded acreage, and it is one of my favorite accomplishments. (For some reason a few of the photos loaded upside-down, and I apologize.)

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    38 Comments

    0
    n0klu
    n0klu

    6 months ago

    What width and length is it on the trailer

    3
    Kittish
    Kittish

    1 year ago

    I wonder how much this weighs. You can find out, if there's a truck stop anywhere near you; they have scales for weighing vehicles. Generally costs around ten bucks. Weigh the truck and trailer combo, then weigh just the truck. Subtract the second weight from the first one, and you've got the weight of the trailer. This way, you can see if you're actually within the towing limits of your little truck (would hate to see you blow the engine).
    It's a beautiful build, very well done.

    0
    adillbeck
    adillbeck

    Reply 1 year ago

    Our local landfill has a vehicle scale for weighing vehicles and their loads.
    We don't have truck weight stations anywhere near by, so that's where I'd have to go if I was going to find out how heavy it was.

    0
    Kittish
    Kittish

    Reply 1 year ago

    That should work just fine, it's the same type of scale.

    0
    Zika2020
    Zika2020

    Reply 1 year ago

    Take no offense but I'm another one worried about the total weight too and towing it more than the 15 miles it's been towed so far. Tires, axles, and suspension like that (new or not) are meant for less than 1000 pounds I'd guess and nothing that top heavy. Reminds me of my 16 foot aluminum open bow boat trailer.....except less heavy duty. Not sure who'd you even consult rating something like that other than an engineer at a 5th wheel maker like Winnebago or something...

    4
    arfisher1983
    arfisher1983

    Reply 1 year ago

    I do intend to weigh my cabin. I also intend to upgrade my towing vehicle in the future before I do any substantial traveling. I have only towed this cabin 15 total miles in the two years I've had it, between my acreage and my house in town. The rear suspension is about shot on the Ranger, given it is now 20 years old. It has the powerhouse 4.0 V6, at least. A half-ton truck would greatly enhance the towing, I'm sure.

    1
    tytower
    tytower

    1 year ago

    Read up on axle bearings maintenance. It usually would not be necessary to replace the hubs just make sure they are right . They don't get damaged rather they get neglected. The springs also should be looked at if left on.

    0
    arfisher1983
    arfisher1983

    Reply 1 year ago

    I had two lug nuts work their way loose. I caught it before I had a catastrophe. But some damage was done to the wheel and the hub, so as a precaution, I'm replacing everything.

    1
    arfisher1983
    arfisher1983

    Reply 1 year ago

    Yes, I have gained great knowledge of the workings of wheel hubs and trailer suspension by reading Q & A on etrailer.com.

    1
    tbonebanjo
    tbonebanjo

    1 year ago on Step 9

    Caution: Polyisocyanurate insulation emits cyanide gas when exposed to fire. Interior application of this product requires a thermal barrier. Be sure to check your wall finish materials to see if they qualify as an appropriate thermal barrier.

    1
    arfisher1983
    arfisher1983

    Reply 1 year ago

    I appreciate the concern, however lining the interior of my cabin with drywall was not something I considered, due to the excess weight it would create. Fire risk is something I simply recognize, accept, and take measures to avoid.

    1
    gtabbut1
    gtabbut1

    Question 1 year ago on Step 9

    How much does it weight?

    0
    arfisher1983
    arfisher1983

    Answer 1 year ago

    I don't know yet.

    2
    Unfinished freedom
    Unfinished freedom

    1 year ago

    Thanks for the fine details. Well done.

    0
    arfisher1983
    arfisher1983

    Reply 1 year ago

    Thank you.

    0
    watahyahknow
    watahyahknow

    1 year ago

    dont think i wouldve made the porch like that but just put gardenchairs outside , the extra indoors room could be used for a small kitchen

    1
    arfisher1983
    arfisher1983

    Reply 1 year ago

    Yeah, I often consider the additional things I could have incorporated into the cabin without the back porch. But when it's raining and I can sit outside and remain dry, it's completely worth it.

    0
    earthstoneland
    earthstoneland

    Question 1 year ago

    Very nice job you did on this tiny house and great work using reclaimed materials where possible. I have been wanting to build one for a while now. Approximately how much did the materials cost to build (excluding labour) and how many man hours did it take to complete?