Why a Tiny House and not a travel trailer?

by andrewodom on October 13, 2010 · 4 comments


During this early process we have been asked several times why we would voluntarily go through the uneasiness, uncertainty, challenge, and trials of building a Tiny House when it is little more than a travel trailer. I wouldn’t say I have come to a total, cut and dry, answer but I thought I would take a stab in regards to how we feel now.

First of all, almost anything built on a small scale that can provide shelter can technically be a Tiny House. But I also think that Tiny Houses (especially those built on trailers) are quickly coming into their own and becoming a very unique and sensible class of affordable housing.

Coupled with my recent reading of a fantastic post – The Hard Questions – I began to think about the challenges surrounding where a Tiny House fits into our society; physically and theoretically. As of today tiny houses fit neatly into a grey area between houses and travel trailers.

Some differences though:

  • They are portable, but are built like houses.
  • They are heavy like houses, and don’t typically make great traveling companions.
  • They are a bit more than the weekend camper would want to contend with.
  • They are not known to be examined by building inspectors because they are not attached to the ground by a foundation.
  • They feel more solid than a travel trailer, more like a house.
  • They are often better insulated than travel trailers so more comfortable for year-round living.
  • They are often owner-built.
  • They have a totally different aesthetic.

So while many people (including us at one point) make a fine home in their travel trailers, vans, house trucks, RVs, and bus conversions, those tiny homes are not what I would consider tiny houses.

Let me clarify. I have nothing against anyone living in a motor vehicle of any sort. I also don’t have any bias against alternative housing. But tiny houses on wheels are quickly emerging as a new class of housing because they are 75% house and 25% travel trailer.

Pandora’s Box

To make matters worse, I can see how this trend could help and hurt those of us who either own tiny houses or are in some stage of building one. In order to find a community in which to park your tiny house could require some modifications (including fender skirting or even foundation posts) that would allow acceptance from the politicos. But as I said, this kind of mainstream acceptance would probably come at a cost including building codes, zoning laws, etc. Now this can be a good thing if they help build safer homes. But that is a trade-off we just aren’t being faced with yet.

A Place of Our Own

Another avenue that may help tiny house owners approach a true definition of the movement might be to form a co-op trade association or something similar. The non-profit group would bring together the community of tiny house owners in which to define some best-practices and construction protocols.

Such an organization would more than likely bring a needed legitimacy to tiny houses and help us gain more acceptance from the powers-that-be (as well as society, at large) by setting safety standards and even some aesthetic standards. It might work even better if owner-builders could point to the standards they followed to build their home and some kind of independent inspection record.

In short, we are building Tiny House because it allows us freedom while still giving us the stability of a foundation house. If we have to move we need only find land. Our house will just go with us (albeit at slower speeds on less populated roads). Our Tiny House will give us reason not to clutter our lives again. We simply won’t have the room to. And our Tiny House will look, feel, smell, and maybe even taste like a more grounded structure.

  • http://twitter.com/whetzelmomma rachel whetzel

    AND… for the amount of room you’ll have, you will be paying MUCH less even than a used Trailer. Those things cost some BIG money.

    • http://www.anotherkindofdrew.com/ anotherkindofdrew

      You are so right. For a couple of months now we have been pricing even travel trailers and RVs before finally deciding to build. A lot of folks think their RV is built of gold or something. Bizarre market, in my opinion.

  • Tom Clarke

    I’ll have to disagree with you both.
    http://www.rvtraderonline.com/find/listing/2005-BELAIR-TRAVEL-BY-DESIGN-33–97830550
    As much as I love the tiny house movement and the aesthetic look of the stick built homes you can’t argue turn-key, with appliances, hot water, heat, AC, plumbing fixtures and storage tanks for $6000. Not as well insulated, but you don’t live in Maine. :)
    With the extra money you could add hardwood floors, tile, a deck, a large solar array. etc, etc

    • anotherkindofdrew

      You are absolutely welcome to disagree Tom. You are right, I don’t live in Maine. But I will also not live in an RV at this time. I know how they are built as my brother-in-law builds the living quarters for an RV company. Just not my thing at this time.

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