My Trailer Is Ordered!

My excitement, however, is dampened by the extra $800 I’ll be paying.

Here’s my trailer ordering story:

After finally finding a trailer company nearby that has made tiny houses , I contacted them (last May) to see if they could do everything I wanted and at what cost. The owner, Randy, estimated $5400 plus tax, plus a little more if the cost of materials went up. I budgeted for about $6200 and crossed my fingers that materials wouldn’t go up.

Then, this January, I went into the RMV to ask some questions about trailers. I wanted everything to be as legal as possible. Since tiny houses aren’t something they deal with everyday, they told me that it wasn’t their department and gave me a phone number. After getting transferred several times and given a bunch of different phone numbers, I ended up talking to Nova Scotia’s structural consultant, David, who is an engineer in New Brunswick. He was familiar with tiny houses and suggested two main things: that my trailer be made with tubing instead of channel, and that I build with 2×4’s or even 2×3’s to keep the weight down. He also knows Randy and has worked with him before, so David told me to have Randy contact him when I was ordering my trailer. I was reluctant to involve a third person who could potentially talk to Randy and change my design without my knowledge.

Fast forward to this month. A couple of weeks ago I emailed Randy with my trailer specs and mentioned that David had said to contact him. I received a forwarded email back with some questions. I replied, answering the questions as best I could. That all happened within two days. Then, after a week with no response, I sent another email asking if my previous email had been received. I got an immediate response from Randy requesting my phone number. He called and told me that he had been waiting to hear from David about his consulting, which costs $175 per hour. I had (naively) assumed that David would just have a quick chat with Randy to say, hey, I’ve seen this type of project before, it’s best to use tubing, buhbye. I told Randy firmly that I was not going to pay David for consulting; David had never discussed any costs with me and I had not been in touch with him in months. Randy was to go ahead with the trailer.

The next day, Friday, the phone rang minutes before I was about to leave for work. I recognized the number as Randy and answered; he was supposed to contact me with a quote. Materials had gone up, he told me, and gave me a price. He told me that he had been in contact with David that morning, and that the consulting fee was included in the price of the trailer. I asked exactly how much David’s part was: $300-$400. I asked Randy to send me the payment details in an email because I had to go. Randy asked if the trailer was a go, and since I still wanted it and there’s no where else for me to get the trailer I need, I told him to go ahead with it.

I raced out the door to drive to work, and on the way berated myself for okaying the price with David’s consulting. I didn’t want David’s consulting, I had said that very clearly. I was angry and stressed until it was time to go home and fix my mistake. I was hopeful to get out of the consulting that I had not wanted but had technically agreed to in my rush to get off the phone. I wanted to save myself the week’s pay for two hours of the engineer’s time who had tricked me into paying for his services. I had told Randy that I didn’t want to pay for consulting and the very next morning he spoke to David and arranged for consulting!

When I called Randy, he told me that it was too late. As soon as he got off the phone with me he sent his sketches to David, who sent them back with a few minor changes and a bill. Since David knew about my trailer and what I planned to put on top of it, Randy told me he couldn’t make the trailer without his okay. Oh, and by the way, my trailer will be channel, not tubing as David suggested, because tubing, especially in the Maritimes, rusts from the inside out. Randy has made at least 20 other trailers for tiny houses, but because I went and tried to do the right thing, because I tried to ask permission, I had to pay for someone else to okay my trailer.

In the long run, I’m sure it will be worth it to be able to say to anyone who comes asking, “My trailer has been approved, for the purpose of putting a house on top of it, by an engineer,” but for right now, it sucks. The material price increase cost me another $400, so in total, with the 15% tax, my trailer will cost about $7000. Not only is it the most expensive purchase of my life so far, it’s also the most expensive 23 foot tiny house trailer I’ve ever heard of.

My next big challenge: when and how I’m picking up this trailer.


WHC: Week 18

I didn’t go to wood hobby last week. We had three snow storms last week, so I decided to stay curled up inside.

I’m glad I went this week though; it was funny joking with the guys.

My goal tonight was to router everything I wanted routered. I wanted to do three edges (not the back) of my top panel, the edges of my door, the edges of my drawer front, and possibly do a design in the center of my drawer front. I wasn’t sure if I was going to use the router or the router table, but the router table is easier (I finally figured out how to move the fence by myself) so I went with that.

It turns out, it’s pretty difficult to router a square design into the middle of a piece; the three guys at the club tonight were all scratching their heads. I was originally going to only round the edges on all my pieces. Since I skipped the middle design on my drawer front though, I went with a fancier design on the edge. With help, I set up the bit, did a test piece, and routered the edges of my drawer front. The last corner chipped! I just made a new drawer front last time I was in; I didn’t want to make another! So, I fixed it:

Rounded corners! I bet you haven't seen that before. It's a little weird, but it's special and I like it. Besides, it's my first project. It had to be a little funny looking.

Rounded corners! I bet you haven’t seen that before. It’s a little weird, but it’s special and I like it. Besides, it’s my first project. It has to be a little funny looking.

I used a belt sander, I think it’s called, to round the corners (after tracing curved lines on the back to follow). Then I used the router table again to correct the design.

I did the same design on my raised panel door:

However, I didn’t risk screwing up the corners. With the drawer front, if I messed up the rounded corners, it didn’t matter because I would’ve had to make a new one anyway because of the chip. The raised panel door is a lot more work than cutting a board to size. Besides, since the inner design has sharp corners, I think it works to have the outside corners sharp as well, even if it doesn’t match the drawer front.

My raised panel door looks good from far away, but close up it has several problems (not including my imperfect rails that need some wood filler):

One rail.

One rail.

Notice how there’s a bit of a lip on the top of the designed edge? For one, it’s not as high as the lip on the drawer front because the center panel is – surprise – raised.

The other rail.

The other rail.

I don’t really mind that the lip isn’t very high. The problem is that it’s not even. The other rail only has a lip in the center.

Both the stiles look like this.

Both the stiles look like this.

And the stiles have no lip at all.

Have I mentioned I'm bad at sanding?

Have I mentioned I’m bad at sanding?

The way I sand has left me with skinny edges. I don’t hold the sander properly I guess, so I end up with panels that aren’t flat right to the edges! I’m a perfectionist. I suppose these are all minor problems that no one will notice when the project is done. But I haven’t decided yet if I want to completely sand the lip off the rails or just try and make them look the same. Or maybe I’ll just put the nicer one at the top and nobody will see the bottom rail 😛

Finally, for my top panel, I kept it simple:

My nice top panel :)

I just rounded the edges slightly.

I just rounded the edges slightly.

Next up, I need to start attaching things!

March Update

Big News:

I finally got around to ordering my trailer!!! It’s not completely ordered yet; I’m still working with the trailer company to make sure the trailer will be exactly as I need, but I sent the first email. That counts! I had planned to order my trailer in February, based on wanting to pick it up at the end of April/beginning of May and it taking 6-8 weeks. However, the estimate the company gave me several months ago was 4 weeks and I’d been putting it off. It’s SUCH a big purchase, and I’m worried about getting every little detail right. Everything’s been a little hectic recently and I have a lot of things on the go, so I’m trying to shorten the list of the things I have going on and take the time to focus on tiny house things. I keep shying away from all these things I’ve never done before, like shopping for windows (window shopping? 😛 ), but I need to jump in! And I did! But the real big step will come when the money leaves my account.

Small News:

I got a hold of someone who makes decisions about things like septic systems. I wanted to ask about connecting my house to one, as suggested to me at my meeting with the county. I was told that I need to contact the company that maintains the septic system on the land and ask them. The company would get approval from the woman I talked to, and she gave me the impression that I shouldn’t have a problem. But you never know. It wasn’t a very informative phone call.

I went to Home Depot, which is a half hour away so I don’t go very often. I’ve been planning on ordering my windows from there; they sell Jeld-Wen, which is the brand that Tumbleweed recommends. I’ve also been hoping that I’ll be able to put all of my windows on their consumer card, which has no interest as long as I make payments and pay it all back within 6 months. I applied for one there, but the system was unable to make a decision. I had asked what the minimum age was and the employee thought it was 18, but it might be 19. I also just might not be eligible for other reasons. I want to have the windows as soon as possible so I can dry-fit them just to make sure, before I put my walls up, but everything depends on money.

Home Depot does not sell any brands that have open-able octagon windows. I want to have octagon windows at both ends of the house, and I’d really like them to open for ventilation, especially in the summer when all the heat will rise to my bedroom. I also got some estimates for a couple of windows. My budget allows $300 per window. An 18″x18″ octagon that doesn’t open is $280, and the 18″w by 54″h casement window I want for my entrance would be closer to $340. My mum suggested I check the two local hardware stores for windows, so I think I’ll do that as well.

I found gloves! While at Home Depot I found grippy gloves that actually fit me for only $8.

I bought a fancy Dewalt screwdriver bit set with a case. It was on sale 😛 My dad did say I could use his, but I wanted my own full set to bring into wood hobby.

My friend Jade was with me for the Home Depot trip, and seeing the prices of table saws, she offered to ask her dad and grandfathers to borrow one. I’d love to have my own, but my hours dropped this winter and my cat needed a life-saving surgery, so my savings are lower than I’d planned.

A Change:

I’ve decided to go with spray foam insulation. There’s an eco-friendly kind, that’s purple (my favourite colour), with an installer not too far from here. Spray foam will give me really good r-value (although I haven’t found exact numbers anywhere), structural support because it’s so rigid, and it will allow me to have a thinner shell. Thinner walls means more interior space and a thinner roof means more head space! As long as it’s not astronomically expensive when I call for a quote, it seems like the best option. The main reason I didn’t choose spray foam in the first place was that I can’t do it myself, but that’s a small reason compared to the benefits. Going with spray foam raises a new question though: what do I do about the floor? The floor has to be insulated first, before the frame even exists, so if I get someone to come out and do the spray foam, they wouldn’t be able to do it all at once. So I either need to pay for them to come out twice (I still have to call for an estimate) or use another type of insulation in the floor. Several builds I’ve seen have used rigid foam boards, but I’m not sure about getting the r-value I want from those. Roxul, my original choice, isn’t ideal either because I’d need very thick batts to get the r-value.

This build is going to go slowly. It’s recommended that you save up all the money before you start your build, and I would love to do that, but it’s slow going and I don’t want to delay the start of the build. I will build as I have the money and that’s just how it will be. I’ll look into credit options after my 19th, but I don’t want to pay hundreds, possibly thousands in interest down the road.

WHC: Week 17

This week at wood hobby, I sanded my new door. I’m actually very bad at sanding things flat. My door wasn’t flat in the first place, and getting it to lay flat on the front of my nightstand/end table took a while. And it will need some wood filler, but here it is:

It’s so thin! All of the pieces of the project are supposed to be 3/4″ thick, but the door is closer to 1/2″. I don’t mind. For my next project I’ll probably make more pieces this thin, because my drawer is so heavy.

After I finished sanding, I gathered up all the pieces I have so far. When I lined up my new door and my drawer front, I realized that my drawer front was too short! The guy running the club had some extra pine (everything I have left is cut up into tiny pieces, unfortunately) that he was kind enough to give to me, so I made a new drawer front. It’s now the same width as the door, and it’s the proper height of 6″ instead of 5.5″. It was good that I had to make a new drawer front, because my old one was quite thick compared to the door. However, I still forgot to plane the big board before cutting, so I planed my short pieces and sanded out the snipes.

The difference between my old and new drawer fronts.

The difference between my old and new drawer fronts.

I did some sanding on my drawer as well, to make everything flush. Here are all my pieces thus far:

Obviously, I still need to attach everything, but first I want to router the edges of my door, drawer front, and top to make them rounded. I also want to router a design into my drawer front so it’s not so plain. Hopefully I can find someone to help me with the router. 😛

WHC: Week 16

Guess what? I made a door!

The stiles (the vertical pieces) are slightly too long, but I’m going to trim them next time. I also need to sand everything flat; this door is far from perfect, but it’s not bad for the first one I ever made!

I went into the shop on Tuesday and had a bit of a panic because, since the course is technically over, neither of the usual instructors were there. I needed help with the router table. Whoever’s running the club usually knows how to use all of the tools, so I asked for help and we found the bits. There are three bits: one to make the grooves around the edges of the rails (the horizontal pieces) and stiles that the panel fits into, one to make the grooves on the ends of the rails that the stiles fit into, and one big one to do the edges of the panel. I wasn’t sure if it mattered which of the first two I started with, so I picked the one that the panel fits into. My stiles were quite dry and had started to crack a little, so I wanted to make sure those wouldn’t crack when I routered them. I did one of them, and while it didn’t crack, I decided I should really just make new ones rather than have my door crack later. I ended up making all new rails and stiles. Advice (from experience): make sure all the wood you’re working with is the same thickness! Planing a big board through the machine one more time isn’t difficult, but sanding down an eighth of an inch or more does not sound fun to me. That’s why I made new rails, because the ones I had were considerably thicker than my new stiles.

I sanded my new pieces, then I routered all the edges to fit the panel into. It was really easy! Then I remembered that with the router table, you’re supposed to do your ends first so if they chip, when you do the length of them it will get rid of any chipping. But my rails were already done lengthwise so it was too late. With help, I set up the next bit to do the ends of my rails. I did a test piece with a jig (the jig was a piece of metal that fit into the table parallel to the fence, with a perpendicular stopper to hold my piece against. The stopper could be adjusted to different angles). I had no problems and it fit into my stiles. Then, my next piece was crooked and fit into the stile at an angle. That wouldn’t do. I realized that my two rails were from the end of a board and I hadn’t noticed, so the end wasn’t exactly straight. I trimmed both rails slightly and tried again. It came out even more crooked! Turns out the jig I was using to keep my fingers away from the router bit was moving slightly with each piece. I tried the other jig with a test piece and it moved a ton, ruining the piece. At that point I was getting pretty frustrated. With help, I made the first jig as tight and straight as possible and finished off my pieces. Two out of four ends chipped a bit, so hopefully they can be sanded so you don’t notice them.

I fit all my pieces together and they made a lovely (although slightly not flat) frame! Again with help, I set up the table with the router bit for my panel. The router table is the most annoying tool I’ve used so far. The crank that moves the bit up and down requires dozens of turns every time you need to change the bit because you also use it to slightly adjust the bit for your wood, so it has to make small movements. I suck at using wrenches apparently, making loosening or tightening the bit almost impossible for me. The fence is actually two different pieces that need to be lined up separately, and the mechanisms to move them are so far from intuitive I still don’t know how to use them; I needed help every time. The person helping me did a small test piece with the panel bit, and it turned out well. Then when I started using the bit with my bigger panel, I noticed that the fences weren’t quite lined up, making a curve in the design on my panel. After getting help to line up the fences, the panel was so easy. You router the panel incrementally so you don’t take off too much, so it’s repetitive: end, end, side, side, raise the bit, repeat. When I got close to the thickness I needed, I kept checking it with one of my pieces and continued until it was thin enough.

Then when I tried to put all five pieces together, they wouldn’t fit! Somehow, both my rails were a little thick on one end, stopping my stiles from being able to slide in. I still have no idea how that happened because I swear I held them down evenly on the router table. The person helping me set up the router table with the right bit at a slightly different level, and we trimmed off the extra thickness. It didn’t make my door loose though. Since there are so many pieces, they all hold each other together. However, the rails aren’t flat with the door, and there’s the tiniest of gaps on one side – you can tell in the picture where there’s a dark line on the left stile. I glued it all together and clamped it right before the shop was closing, so hopefully with some creative sanding, my door will end up flat and pretty. Fingers crossed!


"It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan." - Eleanor Roosevelt

"It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare. It is because we do not dare that they are difficult." - Seneca

"Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful." - William Morris