Welcome to post #3 How To Build A Tiny House On A Budget! Each post I will try my best to explain how we completed each step of our tiny house build, on a tight budget. This week I am focusing on how to frame a tiny house on wheels.
Before we dive in, this “how to” post is a walk you through on how to do this the way my husband and I did it. I’m not a professional tiny house builder (is that a thing?). Also, I dont go into detail on how to use tools, or how to do some of the basic construction (like how to make a header). Basic framing skills are needed for this job, or research online if you don’t know how to do it.
What we used:
Here is a list of what we used to frame our tiny house;
- 2×4 for our exterior walls
- 2×6 headers above doors and windows
- Modified 2×12 boards for the roof rafters (more on that later)
- Spruce plywood for the outer sheeting
Warning, this is going to cost you
Now to be fair, there are ways you can work around the high cost of lumber and frame up your tiny house for cheaper. Such as;
- Buying logs and milling the lumber yourself
- Salvaging lumber and stockpiling it
- Buying lumber from re stores and online websites
For us, we needed to be budget friendly AND time efficient. We had some pieces of salvaged lumber but nowhere near enough. We could have bought a load of logs and milled them ourselves because my family owns a sawmill but that would’ve taken time. Not only to cut the lumber up but also for the drying time.
So in the end we decided to spend the money and buy lumber from our local hardware store. It cost more, but saved time.
Be conscious of the amount of weight your about to add
If you’re like us and your building the biggest tiny house you can on the trailer you have than you need to always make sure your being conscious of the weight your adding with every step. It’s easy to rack up the weight load without even realizing it!
For me, my two biggest goals for this entire build was to do it the cheapest AND lightest I could.
This is why I spent so much time figuring out window and door placement, how to bolt the lofts, siding options, lumber sizes etc.
A huge way we could’ve saved weight is by using metal framing. It’s much lighter than wood and is structurally sound. The reason we chose not to use it is because my husband (who is a builder by trade) has never used it to frame anything and we would rather work with materials we were familiar with.
Just remember, EVERY POUND MATTERS.
(I will explain in more detail below the cool way we are going to use the first layer of sheeting and turn it into our siding!)
Before you begin
Make sure your tiny house floor and leveled and as secure as you can make it. This will make framing much easier! Level it the same way I suggested in post two.
We began framing when there was still a good twelve inches of snow and ice covering the driveway where our house sits. Which means the ground shifts, ice melts, snow piles up. We had to re-level everything with the transit every time we worked on it since we didn’t do the framing in one day.
Plan everything before you start!
So much planning goes into every step of building a tiny house, especially for framing.
Make sure your floor plan is drawn out so that you know where to place your doors and windows. Also make sure you plan for the legal height and width restrictions- 13.5 feet tall and 8.5 feet wide. You probably already figured out the width when you built your floor so now is the time to focus on height.
Further down I will talk about how we got the most space inside our tiny house and stayed under the legal limit with our roof design.
Planning for a loft
If your framing high enough to accomodate a loft or two, you will need to make sure the loft floor has something strong to bolt onto.
An easy way I did this without having to add extra materials or construction time was that I planned for my door and window headers on my first floor to be the exact height I needed for my loft floor to bolt onto. I decided on 6ft 4in for the first floor ceiling height, that gives us lots of room since we aren’t super tall people.
So all of my first floor windows and doors are at the perfect height for my lofts. There is a small gap between the header and the loft framing but not enough to be an issue.
Lets get started!
As I said earlier, this post is how WE DID IT. I’m sure there are so many ways you could frame a tiny house and so many things that you could do differently.
Since we aren’t laying our subfloor until we get the house spray foamed, we had to frame either in the shop or on the ground. Make sure you have a somewhat level surface to frame on, as this saves a lot of headache.
We framed pretty conventionally. 16in centres with a bottom and top plate, headers above load bearing windows and doors.
Looking back I think I could’ve achieved the same structural integrity with spacing the framing out from 16in centres to 2ft instead, especially because we have so many windows so extra framing is always needed around them. It would’ve saved on weight and material cost.
Whichever spacing you choose, make sure it mathematically makes sense for construction. If your going to be sheeting your interior walls with standard 4x8ft pieces of plywood or drywall then you will need something to screw into at each end. Even if your choosing something like tongue and groove or shiplap, it’s still easier to have consistency with framing so installation goes smoothly.
Framing around wheel wells
I really didn’t know how to frame in the wheels wells and I couldn’t find anything online about the process. So we just winged it when we got to them!
We decided to frame in a header over the wheel wells. We also made sure that the window above it (seen in the above picture) wasn’t being supported by any framing over the wheel well.
How To Frame A Tiny House On Wheels
A fast and easy way on how to frame a tiny house on wheels is this;
- frame up a section on the ground, starting at one corner
- stand it up and lift it into place
- nail it down to the subfloor framing
- brace it by nailing down a sheet of plywood on the outside and a long piece of wood on the inside
- square up the building
- nail your top plate all along the top, staggering the joints
- attach roof joists
Sometimes our pieces had to interconnect to other pieces because of windows or doors being so close to each other, so we just stood each piece up and nailed it wherever we could to secure it as we went along.
Square it up
Once all of the framing is done (except the top plate) square up the building. I mention how you can do this in post two. We were so happy that ours was only 3/4 of an inch off centre, goals!
After squaring it up you can add the top plate, make sure to stagger the joints.
Designing the roof
There are several things to consider when planning a tiny house roof;
- snow load (if your tiny house will ever have snow on it)
- roofing material
When I was sketching out the plans for the roof, I was trying to figure out a way we could get the most headspace inside the house without going over the legal height limit of a travel trailer. As well as make sure the roof could hold the snow load. Then my dad and Curtis came up with the idea.
We would use 2×12 rafters and do a shed style roof. But instead of framing our walls at two different heights, (to accommodate the slope we would need for the roof) we would instead cut the 2×12’s on an angle to create the slope so that the exterior had slope but the interior stayed square.
We ripped each rafter down to the angle we wanted; 12″ on one side to 6″ on the other. This was very easy to do and didn’t take much time at all.
This design gives the interior more headspace and keeps us within the legal height limit. It will also be able to carry a heavy amount of snow.
The roof was very easy for us to do, and if you decide to do the same design, it should be easy for you as well.
Clever idea for siding
We closed in the tiny house with spruce plywood instead of chipboard. Normally when building a house, you close it in with plywood and then eventually install the siding you want on top of it. But our plan, once we are a few more steps ahead, is to create faux board and baton siding. All we have to do is put up the baton over this plywood and it will look just like authentic board and baton siding!
This will save us so much money and a ton of weight! Now I just to decide if I should paint it or stain it. hmmm….
Stay tuned for part 4 in our series How To Build A Tiny House On A Budget. Don’t forget to like us on social media and sign up to our mailing list so your always in the loop!
*For those really focusing on the framing in the pictures, they were all taken in progression. Things were changed, fixed, and altered along the way. In the “finished” photo below, there are some 2x4s missing. That was for a reason and they were added later!
How To Frame A Tiny House On Wheels – A Lovely Place Called Home