Is a tiny house on wheels considered a mobile home or a travel trailer? I want to build one this coming year and I am just starting to research everything. Looking at codes at the moment. Here's another question. When I'm searching for a trailer to build on, what type of trailer should it be? what are common sizes?
Location: Chattanooga, TN
posted 7 years ago
I am going to buy a small bit of land to built it and live and garden on (maybe 2-4 acres). If I can buy it in the area/town I want, this is what the building code says:
A building permit is not required for the following:
One-story detached accessory structures, provided the floor area does not exceed 200 square feet (18.58 square meters)
Is that what this would be? That sounds good. 200' sounds like a lot seeing as most tiny homes are 100-150 sq ft.
To travel on Tennessee highways it can't be more than 8' wide or 13.5' high, but the length can vary.
So does this mean that I could build an 8' x 16' OR an 8' x 20' depending on the size trailer I can find? 8x20= 160 sq ft.
I have an uncle who is a welder... I could pay him to make me a trailer?!
Does the space in the loft count? Do I need to count that in the square footage?
And that means that I would need a way to transport it when I want to move it after it is built. Would a regular truck be able to pull it? Does it just depend on the weight of the trailer?
You can be road legal with a max height of 13'6" and max width of 102" (provided the road is at least a class III truck route).
Tandem axle trailers with 4 wheels can be be pulled by a normal vehicle, with normal license, etc. and weigh a maximum of 13,000 lbs. There are two configurations to choose from; utility trailers and hay wagons.
Hay wagons have wheels in all four corners, a tongue that pivots, and the deck is raised up above the top of the tires. They are really easy to hitch and un-hitch but not so good for backing.
Utility trailers have all the wheels just aft of center, a fixed tongue, and a deck that sits inside below the top of the tires. The deck of my utility trailer is 83" wide, hub width is 96", and the length is 18'. I believe that width is fairly standard, but they come in all different lengths (12'-24' common). You could probably extend the floor to be 102" with wheel wells inside the house, and still be road legal. Also the back of the trailer could feel like a diving board unless you put blocks under it.
I would choose a utility trailer over a hay wagon principally for the lower floor. I'd look for a trailer that's in really rough shape for a good price and get your uncle to fix it up. If you're not going to move this over the road, then you don't have to worry about limits. And steel wheels will never go flat like rubber tires.
"We have it in our power to begin the world over again." - Thomas Paine
An 'accesory building' is usually considered to have no systems or limited systems
They are talking about a shed, perhaps a small workshop.
A 12x24 garage exceeds this 200 sqft limit.
Can you built a small structure with no systems? Sure
Can you live in it? Sure
Will it be comfortable? maybe
IF you are talking about building a camper kinda thing, it's not part of the land, not subject to building code.
If you put that trailer/camper on the road, you'll need plates/registration.
If you have it parked, you should be fine.
When you go to connect systems to it, thats where the issue begins.
I think what people are looking for is a way to get around all the codes, taxes, and restrictions.
It's out there.
You can throw up a shed, no problem at all, finish the inside nicely.
You can probably run a power cord to it from a power pole or install some PV panels
You can probably run a hose from a well pump.
If structures and systems can be compartmentalized, it looks to be the way around the codes and taxes, but at some point, the code enforcement guys are going to come knocking.
When is it a house?
Keep going down the path you are on. It seems to be the right path. You figure it out, everyone will want to hear about it. The next thing you'll see is the code guys putting together new codes.
Looking at a more traditional arrangement, A house has a bathroom and a kitchen, water in, waste water out, some form of heating, and electricity. Everything else is just a box with some of the systems connected.
A house that is just a kitchen/bath and living room would be small and suffer low taxes. After that, put up a shed, its a bedroom. Put up 10 sheds.
what if you had several of these small structures, each with a different purpose. This one is for food preparation, that one is for sanitary, the one by the tree is for sleeping in. There's another for staring at a TV and sitting in. Running electrical cords all over with get some attention. If you can you handle some of these structures with a propane lamp, there is little need for electric. How about solar heating the structures that need it? Is there a combination of sheds and trailers that offers comfort and convenience and at the same time gets around code requirements and zoning ordinances?
Code enforcement and zoning are in place for a reason. Safety and security are high on the list of reasons. There are considerations in many communities to protect porperty values-gotta keep the lawn mowed for example. Some places take it a step further to enforce consistency. This is way past anywhere I'd want to live in, but there are plenty of people who want normality in their community. What you are trying to do is discontinuous. Code guys hate that. There is no standard manual for nonstandard stuff. They have to go to the misc section and see where you dont fit, and if they have to, they'll shut you down rather than try to work with you.
I suggest you go down and talk to the people at code enforcement. They'll been down this road before with someone. They may have solutions for you.
Seed the Mind, Harvest Ideas.
from what I have encountered in my endeavors with the legality of these things... at least in N.C. ... you have to have a license plate on it. That means working with the DMV inspector. You will have a MUCH easier time with them than with the building code guys, and that is where I would start. Search out the laws for building your own camper trailer, they are there. Most of those DMV inspectors are folks who come out to inspect people's hot rods and such, they're usually pretty cool and are impressed by neat things, this is rarely the case with building code inspectors. After you find out the laws from the DMV about building your own camper trailer, contact the inspector personally and ask them. Law or not law, they have the final say so you're going to want to adhere to their suggestions, you may be able to coax them to allow certain things, but other things are definitely not going to fly. One issue, is how to keep the roof on while trucking down the road at 70 mph? how about keeping it from rattling apart while going down poor roads? The inspector is going to want to know these things, if you're very lucky they will have suggestions for you. Using screws and liberal amounts of serious adhesive (subfloor adhesive is the best I've ever found) will keep it together as best as possible. As far as trailer selection goes, I would stay well clear of any light duty trailers and go straight for heavy duty equipment trailers, I have a very nice 20 ft. medium duty trailer, but it flexes so much that it would literally tear a tiny house apart, you need something very rigid and unyielding, but that means it's heavier (unless you engineer it yourself). Regarding the weight issue, all states are different. Here in N.C. you can put 24,000 pounds on the road without a special license. That means 24,000 pounds ON THE ROAD, doesn't matter how much the vehicle weighs or how much the trailer weighs, as long as the vehicle has the appropriate road taxes paid (and obviously can handle the weight) then you're ok.
I would NOT let on that this is going to be something for you to LIVE in, but a cool fun project that you want to build, they'll be much more open to that... If your state won't allow you to do this, fine, get a friend in a state that does and build it there, get it licensed there. Just KEEP A TAG ON IT... then all you have to do is with the tiny house NO WHERE TO BE SEEN, go and get the proper permits for an RV site on your land. Then, move the tiny house on and KEEP THOSE TAGS CURRENT...
as far as I know, that is the only way to keep out of the mess of trying to get a building code department to allow this, that is by circumventing them... Most places have a minimum allowable square footage for a home. Almost everywhere will want you to have real concrete footers around the home (that adds alot of cost).
If you have a license plate on it, you'll have to pay taxes for an RV, but that's it. After you have a legit RV pad on your land, and a home-made RV with tags, there isn't much that can be done aside from ordinances that do not allow RVs...
the next step is to not flaunt it! hide your cool little house behind something, you do not want to draw attention as that will always end badly for folks who are going against the "normal" way of things.
Good luck! As you can tell, I am starting this process myself. I respect folks who fight for change, but right now I'm taking the best route I can and working within the loopholes of the law, the trick is not to let anyone know that's what you're doing! As far as anyone should know, you're just building a cool little project for yourself to take camping from time to time...
Oh, and regarding old mobile homes, most states do NOT allow people to use these as a base for building a trailer of any type... At least not legally and openly.
The agency you're going to have issues with will most likely NOT be the code enforcement (unless a bad neighbor calls them on you), but would be the county tax assessors... They send folks out every couple of years to check up on EVERYONE, and they are the ones that are most likely to catch you. All the municipalities these days are cash strapped (or just greedy, hard to tell the difference) and they want their money! That's why KEEPING THOSE TAGS CURRENT is of utmost importance, by keeping tags current, you are paying taxes on it and they will most likely be appeased by that.
lastly, one thing that I haven't found any laws regarding YET and may end up experimenting with (at my own peril possibly) is with our WWOOF shack, we have a factory built camper trailer as our WWOOFer apartment, but I really hate how it looks here, so I'm going to slap some siding and a slightly conventional roof on it. True, you still have a very poorly built RV under the skin, but it will look nice I have no idea how this is going to work out for me, but best thing to do is keep my mouth shut and not ask permission!
after all that... check your local building codes, find out if they DO have a minimum square footage... If you CAN work with their rules then by far, that is the absolute best way, I have only shared the way that I have chosen to go as the local code guys here are ridiculous to deal with and they have the right to "interpret" the code as they see fit, works great if they're in a good mood and are nice guys, but they aren't, i've had nothing but grief out of them. also, all of our plans for "tiny houses" are not going to be for us to live in, but will be for farm volunteers and guests to stay in, so our needs would not match the needs of someone who is building something for longer term living... The best solution I've found was not to go in there with some plans I drew up, but to go in there and ask "what can I do, how small can I build", get some answers and then think about your best course of action. I hope that you have a better experience than I did!
Ajila Ama Farm Western North Carolina
This might be of interest to you? Building a Gypsy Wagon - step-by-step instructions. This one has 9000 miles on it!
Subtropical desert (Köppen: BWh)
Elevation: 1090 ft Annual rainfall: 7"
Location: western n.c.
posted 6 years ago
that's awesome, one of my friends had one of those before she moved to australia with her husband to do permaculture consulting. They took it everywhere with them! I had completely forgotten about it until you posted that haha, something like that might be just perfect for our needs of hosting wwoofers and other guests.
Ajila Ama Farm Western North Carolina
Location: Phoenix, AZ (9b)
posted 6 years ago
M Foti wrote:that's awesome ... something like that might be just perfect for our needs of hosting wwoofers and other guests.
Wouldn't that be fun!!! They'd love it, I'm sure!
Subtropical desert (Köppen: BWh)
Elevation: 1090 ft Annual rainfall: 7"
I'm considering purchasing a 27 foot long "office trailer" for my land in colorado. The Land Use Code definition, however, says a mobile home is a 36' structure. Does this mean there will be a problem with any inspector if I get this more affordable trailer which is 27 feet? Thanks for any insight in advance.