In building our 221 square foot tiny house on a trailer, we were able to incorporate design details that gave us an extra 9″ of head room without even breaking a sweat. In a tiny house built on a trailer, the head height is limited by national road height allowances. Making the most of every last inch of head room on your build is thus vital. When designing and building our own 221 square foot tiny house, I spent a lot of time researching options available to us to give us the most height in our two lofts. In this article we will show you how to gain 9″ of head space with a well designed tiny house trailer.
Typically, most tiny houses are being built on “deck-over trailers”, “utility trailers”, and using “standard axles”. Let’s go over each one. A deck-over trailer is very convenient in that it has a flat deck on which to frame your walls. Another advantage (though also it’s downfall) is that the wheels don’t protrude over the deck, gaining you the full width of your floor space (up to 8’6″ in width without the need for a special “wide load” road permit). The problem of course with a deck-over is that the deck spans over the wheels and guess what? Your head height is significantly lowered.
A utility trailer, although lower to the ground than a deck-over, is limited in width. Most utility trailer decks are placed between the wheels at a width of roughly seven feet. This lowers your usable floor space. So although you can increase your head height, you will pay for it in usable floor space.
Lastly, whether building on a utility trailer or deck-over, almost all of the trailers being used in the tiny house movement utilize a standard axle (or pair of axles). Standard axles limit how close to the ground your deck can lie.
To get around these limitations and gain an extra 9″ of height, I decided to have our trailer custom built. Worried about cost? Don’t let the term “custom” scare you off. The reality is that every trailer you see was at some point fabricated for a buyer. The difference is that the buyer may be an end user (like you and me) or it could be a dealer who later sells it at a profit. The key is to eliminate the middle man (the dealer) and work directly with the fabricator. You can get the perfect trailer for your project made to order at a very reasonable price if you jump directly to the source: the trailer fabricator.
By having your trailer custom built, you can specify all of the details you need to maximize your head height. I’ll give you two examples that will save you at least nine inches:
1. USE DROP AXLES: A drop axle gives you the same weight rating as a standard axle, but it hangs down from the center of the tires by about five inches. This extra drop translates into extra headroom. Extra Headroom = Happy And Less Hunched Over People.
2. CROSS RAILS: Build the trailer so that the cross rails are flush with the top of the side rails. Standard trailers typically include deck boards (2×6 for example) that ride on top of the cross rails and flush with the side rails. These are not needed when building a tiny home and will require that you frame up a floor system on top of the decking to install your floor insulation. This would be a loss of 4+ inches. If you raise the cross members, you can insulate inside the trailer frame and save yourself those inches.
Every inch counts, so take the time to design your house to utilize them all from the start. There’s no sense in spending hours designing your floor plan while ignoring your trailer. After all, the trailer is your home’s foundation, so give it the attention it deserves.