5 Things to Watch Out For When Buying Used

From cars to houses, making a large purchase comes with big commitment. No matter what two people you ask, you will likely get different responses on the how to’s of making this financial decision.

Buying or building tiny does come with its own caveats that differ from the traditional home buying or building process. While they share some similarities, everything from price to the build itself can vary. So here are five things to watch out for if you plan to buy used and why we recommend building instead.

Trailer

When building a THOW (Tiny House On Wheels) you aren’t just building a trailer to haul wood or even farm animals. You are building a home that will carry for family and that must have the ability to be safely moved from one location to the next.

The quality of the trailer should be taken into consideration every bit as much as the house itself. Buyers should beware of rust, pre-used trailers, the length, the axles, the number of tires, as well as how the home is affixed to the trailer. This shouldn’t be taken lightly and should be thoroughly inspected by a professional.

Appliances

This is maybe the biggest area where THOW builders can cut corners to fit a house into a buyer’s budget. This doesn’t mean they outfit a home unsafely, it just means a buyer may choose to downgrade the brand name or the size of something in order to fit for space or financial restrictions on the build.

For instance, a popular THOW might come standard with an apartment refrigerator and an electric cooktop. An upgrade would be a residential fridge, a propane or electric full-sized stove, or the addition of a dishwasher or washer/dryer. These are easy things to cut out when wedding the list of wants into needs for a budget-friendly build.

Plumbing & Electrical

For these to be installed safely, just as in a traditional house, they must be done correctly and [usually] by a professional. Cutting corners and DIY-ing this step could be disastrous. If you are buying used, you can never be sure of what is behind the walls. While we love to be trusting of our beloved tiny community, there are still dishonest people out there. Please have anything used professionally inspected before buying.

Insulation

Another area of great debate in the tiny house community is how to keep their house warm. Buyers can choose everything from recycled denim to organic wool, spray foam or the traditional pink panther rolls of your average Joe construction supply store. The cost on some of these materials can skyrocket the overall price tag on a new or used tiny. Be sure you are getting what you want and researching the longevity and R-value of your product.

Materials

Consider everything from siding to windows, counter tops to storage. All of these variables will weigh in on the overall hauling rate (weight) of your THOW, the safety when traveling, and the overall durability. If you plan to move a lot with your home, you might consider tempered windows to withstand whatever the highway might throw at them. If you will be in below freezing temps, you need to upgrade to double paned. cedar vs vinyl siding is also a consideration.

Do your research or employ a professional inspector who is familiar with THOWs if you plan on buying used.

So Why Do We Recommend Building New?

Like anything else, you can’t know if you are getting a lemon until you’re stuck with it. You can’t simply return a house because you found things you didn’t like. As any home buyer knows, a month into the purchase, you will still be discovering things you were blind to when you were just excited to make the purchase.

This is a house. For many, this is forever. Building tiny homes can range from $10,000 (DIY, kit build, and basics) to upwards of $140,000 (for top-of-the-line and customized all inclusives). However, if you compare this to just single family, entry level stick-built homes, you are still saving tens of thousands of dollars. So do this the right way so you won’t end up regretting your purchase. Find a reliable builder, and plan for your dream home.

Surviving Winter in a THOW-4 Tips To Keep Things Toasty

Tips for Winter Tiny Living!

Spending our first winter living tiny in Ohio has taught us some hard and fast lessons about surviving the snow and negative temps when your house is on wheels. This winter has had record breaking negative wind chills that were set back in the 1800’s. This is not a drill. We found ourselves in real-life survival mode.

In hopes that others will be better prepared for their wintry life on the road, here are four tips to staying toasty in the winter in a tiny house on wheels [THOW].

Heat Your Hoses

In the first two weeks of winter alone, we suffered frozen pipes, a frozen spigot, and frozen drainage hoses. This resulted in having no water at all for two weeks. Friends, we have two kids and a dog living with us, so this posed an incredible challenge with daily temps hovering around -15.

We carried our water in, kept bottled water and gallon jugs on hand, made bath time fun after heating water on the stove, and learned to save even more water than we had been before. While this was an inconvenience, we did appreciate the lesson in conservation.

Black insulation around copper pipe for keeping tiny home pipes from freezing

The frozen drainage hose resulted in an explosion that was a less than savory situation. This is where investing in quality equipment up front is worth the money. We only use THIS type of hose since then, and they are our number one recommendation.

Before you have the same issues, be sure to keep water on hand and plan ahead. We bought a heated hose which was a total game changer. We tried to avoid the investment, but since making this purchase, we have had beautiful flowing water every day. They are available in 25, 50 and 100-foot lengths and arguably one of the best investments for winter on the road.

Insulate, Insulate, and Then Insulate Again

When building your THOW, you should consider insulation as a valuable expense during the planning stages. You can use everything from spray foam to fiberglass, wool to denim. Be sure to check the R rating on whatever you decide to go with because this will tell you what temperatures your house will be able to handle. You need also to ensure that the undercarriage is insulated or you will suffer from cold feet and freezing floors.

 

After you’ve chosen the right insulation in the walls, or if you are buying used, your pipes should be the next thing you protect. We went with a sturdy foam pipe insulation with a silver R-rated heat tape for our pipes. This allowed our water to flow freely.

The most terrible thing to tackle is underbelly insulation. If you are on the road, the best investment is skirting because it goes on quickly for when you park and comes off when you’re ready to ride again. However, if you are going to stay stationary for the winter months, using a more structured form of insulation is best. Many recommend hay bails or wood, but we were worried about the fire hazard involved. We used 1 1/2″ insulated foam board like THESE and measured around the bottom of our rig. These cut easily and can be affixed to your THOW or simply wedged underneath.Rolls of insulation for the underside of a tiny house

No Matter What, Stay Dry

Many THOW owners find a learning curve involved when it comes to proper ventilation and windows. If your tiny isn’t vented properly, condensation can build up inside single-paned windows or in between panels of double-paned. We ended up having to scrape frost and ice from the inside of our tiny before we learned how to prevent this.

Do not leave anything up against windows because that tends to attract more moisture. Additionally, be sure if your windows are not well-insulated, that you use insulated bubble paper to cover them (we did this on the inside and outside of windows that wouldn’t dramatically reduce our sunlight). This will drastically improve your ability to keep heat inside.

Once your windows are covered, you need to be sure your fridge isn’t working overtime. Whether your THOW runs from propane, electric, or solar, the winter can take its toll. So be sure you pay special attention to set temps correctly and not overfill a small fridge.

We ended up losing a freezer full of food to ours defrosting because of this very thing. We ended up storing our frozen goods in a cooler full of snow (because we’re classy) until it was fixed. This is easily preventable trouble so avoid it if you can.

Optimize Your Heat Sources

When planning your build, consider your heat sources with the larger expenses. A heat/ac split can be costly, but it may make a difference over time. We went with propane as our primary heat source but ended up with a slow leak that could have been very dangerous had we not caught it in time.

We also use small space heaters that are safe and efficient to not overwork our heating system. These heaters, paired with heating blankets (30% off HERE) on our bed and our kids’, have proved to keep us tucked in and toasty throughout the snow-covered nights. Click HERE to get the one we use for over 75% off!

Have A Plan B

Whether your alternative route includes showering at your gym or having an outhouse and a wood stove, you need to consider these things if you plan to live full time in a THOW during winter.

We didn’t have anything lined up, so we had to come up with a plan B on the fly when we had frozen pipes and no heat. We did laundry at my folks’, showered at the gym, and bought extra space heaters while our propane was being fixed.