Building a TINY HOUSE on a gooseneck trailer

We made the decision to build our family sized tiny house on a gooseneck trailer. It’s the same type of trailer used for fifth wheel RVs. As a family of five with three kids, we needed a three bedroom tiny house. 

When you start out on a big project, you try and think of every conceivable obstacle that might come your way. I’m lucky enough to have a partner like Tashina who is constantly doing research and really getting to know the facts on every topic that interests her. My brain is always going a million miles a minute putting together what could go right and wrong in any given situation. However, when we began the process of our tiny house journey, there was something we both severely underestimated… the trailer.

I remember very clearly the first time Tashina sort of hinted at the idea that we might not thought through the trailer thing very well. I brushed it off. See, my original plan was to use a trailer that a friend had promised to give us. They had a beat up old RV that was perfect, or so it seemed. I mean, it was the right length, and it was free. The idea was that we would gut and demolish the old structure and then build upon the trailer bed. However, the more Tashina researched it, the more she realized that RV trailers aren’t necessarily the type of thing you want to build a tiny house on.

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So one night she set me down and explained it to me in really small words. Basically, this is what I got out of that conversation: Your typical RV trailer is made to be towed with any regular old truck. The average RV trailer weighs in at about 3000-4000lbs and so your average F150 types can pull it no problem. Heck there are some mini vans that can pull them! But these trailers aren’t really made for families, they are made for your retired grandparents who want to go see the grand canyon. Sure, some families own these types of RVs for the occasional family camping trip, but they aren’t really using them to full time. If you want to full time, that’s when you start talking about a fifth wheel, and those bad boys weight in at 11,000lbs, so a F250 is what you need.

The reality I wasn’t wanting to face is that most of these RVs are built directly to their max weight. Which means that no matter which way you cut it, none of these trailers could handle the weight of anything more than the fiberglass they were originally made out of. Some RVs can’t even handle the weight of the people that live in them! So it was time to admit defeat… there was an aspect of the tiny house I genuinely hadn’t thought through very thoroughly. And I’m going to be really honest, there were totally cheaper things I could have miscalculated and the trailer wasn’t one of them.

And not just because the original trailer was going to be free, but because a good solid brand new trailer is kind of expensive. But this is what you have to look at… you are building a house on this thing! It doesn’t really matter if you are building the tiny house for yourself or as a charity project, the last thing you want is for it to fold in on itself because you put 10,000lbs on a trailer that wasn’t really made to sustain the weight of the 4,000 RV that was put on it.

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I decided to reach out to a guy by the name of Chris who has been selling trailers since he was a baby. He runs a company called Alpha Trailer and Truck Specialties that sells top-of-the-line trailers by Load Trail and his team even makes custom makes trailers. Even though Chris was almost a five hour drive away from Pensacola, I decided it was worth it. Sure there were dealerships right here in my town, but that’s exactly what they were: dealerships. They only sold third party merchandise for a commission. I wanted to meet with someone who actually knew these things inside and out.

We talked over the phone a few times and I finally went out to see the trailers for myself. There was clearly a visible difference between the small frames of an RV and these trailers, made by Load Trail, which are originally made to carry heavy duty equipment like cars and tractors. Whats great is that all of these trailers were designed to be built into car haulers, horse trailers, etc. So they were built for having walls attached.

Another really important option is that they had trailers with the deck between the fenders. This is super important because it cuts down on your total height, which allows your tiny house to have a loft. They also had an option for the deck to be built out over the fenders, if that is what you prefer. So essentially every single aspect of what we needed to build the perfect trailer to put our tiny house on… they had it.

There was a lot I still had trouble understanding, especially when it came to how much weight it could hold. What was explained to me is that each axle could hold 7,000lbs and that the trailer itself weighed in at about 4,000lbs. That gives us just around 10,000lbs to play with for the total weight of the structure itself. However, Chris told me there was a way in which we could stretch some of that weight. Going with this option would change everything about how our tiny house would be design wise. He suggested we go with a gooseneck trailer.

Since gooseneck trailers distribute their weight differently, they have an increased weight capacity. But going with a gooseneck trailer, it would give us an additional 3,000lbs to play with. It also gives us the opportunity to build up on the gooseneck part of the trailer. Think of the gooseneck tiny house the same way you would a 5th wheel trailer.

Chris was beyond helpful and took the time to meet with me more than once to discuss exactly what we needed. He and his team at Alpha Specialties answered all my calls and emails and not one single time did me make me feel like my questions were stupid. It was really amazing to be able to speak with someone who is an expert that didn’t make me feel dumb for not being one. Which is exactly how it should feel when you are going to someone else for advice. I would highly recommend them to anyone who is setting out on a tiny house build. You can contact Chris and his team here. Also, if you want to get to know Chris and his team by watching the video series we will be producing on our custom trailer, be sure to sign up for our newsletter!

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There is still a lot to learn about the mathematics of the whole thing, but what I learned from Chris has really changed just about everything for us going forward with the tiny house. So that is my parting advice to you today, if you don’t know something or completely understand it, reach out to someone. Get online and do your research. There is absolutely no shame in reaching out to a specialist in any particular field. That doesn’t always mean you’ve got to go with their product, even though we did in this case. What it does mean is that you’ll be ahead of the curve. But nothing can beat you doing your own research. Having a little bit of know how before walking into any situation will help you know if you happen to run into someone who is trying to sell you something you don’t need. Which is what happened when we tried to look into trucks!

Stay tuned for that story! Want to stay up to date? Be sure and sign up for our newsletter in the banner  at the top.

Why we built our tiny house on a gooseneck trailer

Author

Nathan Monk is a husband, father, author, and former Orthodox priest who writes about growing up in childhood homelessness, and brings awareness to the social and justice issues related to first world poverty.

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