Wide Load Tiny Houses: Life Beyond 8’6″
The maximum trailer girth of 8’6″ (102″) has been pummeled into us tiny housers for so long that most of us don’t even consider breaching it when designing our tiny houses. In truth, trailers up to 16′ wide are allowed to be towed down major highways provided all safety measures (permits, flags, pilot cars, etc.) are met. This in no way is to say that I think tiny houses should lose their slim waist size; however, in the right circumstances, pushing beyond 8’6″ may be appropriate.
From the thousands of people that have contacted us with tiny house questions, very very few actually have intentions of pulling their tiny houses more than once or twice in the house’s life. Typically people plan on moving it just from the build site to their parking spot and then perhaps one more time years later. For them, having a bit more square footage for things like a downstairs bedroom, ADA access, etc. would be amazing. A wider tiny would also allow for larger framing members (2×6 rather than 2×4 walls), thus creating a better insulated tiny house.
So what are the legalities of pulling a wide load? Basically any trailer over 102″ (8’6″) is required to get a permit in order to be legally towed (no matter how short or long of a distance you are traveling on a public road). There are two exceptions to this rule: NJ and HI which all have a width limit of 8′ and anything over that requires the wide load permit. Click HERE for that resource. New York state as a limit of 8’6″ in general, 8′ in NYC and on any roads less than 10′ wide. For each state line you cross towing a wide load, you will need a separate permit (these matters are held at the local, not federal level). Applying for permits typically happens over the phone at which time you will be asked a lot of questions about your trailer load including specs about your axles and trailer, travel dates, routes, etc. Your fees will generally be in the $60-70 range per trip, per state. Be aware that most states don’t allow wide loads to be towed after dark or on weekends. Before you consider even moving a wide load, you will need to plan your entire route and make sure that any small roads you want to travel on can support your tiny’s girth. When you add these factors up, you can see that it’s a bit of a hassle to line up all of the details. For this reason, we highly recommend that you hire a hauling company to move your tiny house if you are going to go wide as they will handle all of the permitting, trip planning, and hauling.
But enough from us now, let’s bring in an expert on the matter. In this article, we interview Daniel Ferris for the second time. We ran a story on him and his family a few weeks ago to showcase a beautiful example of a self built tiny house. Daniel shares that, “Building a wide tiny house can seem a little daunting and risky” but also shares that with perspective and information, it’s nothing to be afraid of. He and his wife built a 28′ x 10′ wide tiny. As a hauling broker, Daniel is a pro on all matters towing and road related so we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to ask him our questions.
DANIEL, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR TAKING THE TIME TO ANSWER SOME QUESTIONS ABOUT GOING WIDE. WE WERE CURIOUS WHY YOU GUYS PERSONALLY CHOSE TO GO THIS ROUTE?
Our reason for building wide was to fit a couple extra necessities into our tiny house. My wife and I know that this is going to be a long term home for us so we wanted to add those “extra details” to make our lives comfortable in the house. For those of you who have built or lived in a tiny house, you know that every inch counts. Having those extra inches on the width truly gives our tiny house a very spacious feeling. Our tiny house measures in at 8′ 3/4″ on the interior, 9′ to the exterior walls, and 10’6″ with the gable roof overhangs.
WHAT IS THE COST OF BUILDING WIDE?
The extra cost of building materials is fairly negligible; there won’t be much of a difference. As for the trailer, there are a few things to consider. Building a wider tiny house trailer won’t necessarily be much harder for an experienced manufacturer; however, there are limits. Axle widths are typically standard and if you want to go wider, you will have to pay a lot for custom axles to be made (I’m not certain if this is even a possibility as there may be axle length maximum limits).
We personally kept a standard axle width and built the trailer frame around those axles. Because the trailer was wider than our axles, our wheel wells protruded through our floor space awkwardly. For this reason, we built a raised floor on our trailer. An alternative to dealing with the wheel wells on a wide tiny is to order a deck-over flatbed. Another consideration is that if you order a custom-wide trailer and they need to deliver it to you, they will charge more for said delivery because they will need to pull wide load permits and deal with that process. Be sure to connect with your manufacturer ahead of time and see how much your delivery costs will increase.
WHAT IS MOVING A WIDE TINY HOUSE LIKE?
Moving a wide load tiny house is a bit more complicated but all in all, not too bad. Let’s put it in perspective. If you only plan on moving your tiny house on rare occasions, or even just once, then paying for wide permits and hauling it won’t be an issue. Here is what you should know. Cost of permits in some states are higher than in others. In general though, you will pay around $65 per state.
In terms of hauling, I would recommend you contact a freight broker or a driver directly to have them pull it for you. These drivers are pros and know the ins and outs of pulling permits, staying safe, and making sure your tiny house arrives in one piece. The cost to have your tiny house hauled varies based on many circumstances. Here are some of the variables to consider: time of year you are shipping, supply and demand, fuel prices, local shows requiring a lot of drivers, kind of truck needed (power only, pintle hitch, ball and hitch set up, 5th wheel, oversized), distance of the run, and location of the destination. This is why it is important to have a good working relationship with a freight broker you trust, or to use a driver you know will do the job well. Long story short, I can’t tell you an average cost because there isn’t; however, I can share that a typical wide load haul from Medford to Portland, OR (nearly 300 miles), for example, will run around $1,000 plus the permit fee.
IF THERE IS AN INCREASED COST IN MOVING A TINY HOUSE, WHY BUILD ONE?
It all depends on the cost benefit for each individual or family. For us personally, building wide didn’t pose a negative issue at all. We only plan on moving ours one time once we buy land so the extra space out-weighs the cost of permits and hiring a driver. Having the extra width goes a long way for my family.
These are questions I recommend you ask prior to designing your tiny house.
Will extra space add a better quality of life for you and your family?
Will the cost of shipping a wide tiny house be more than you want to spend?
How often do you plan on moving your tiny house?
WHAT DOES BUILDING WIDE DO TO THE OVERALL WEIGHT OF A TINY HOUSE?
Any time you add square footage to a tiny house, the weight is going to increase. What’s important is that you factor in all of this information and get a strong sense of how much your tiny house will weigh before you reach out to a trailer fabricator. A good fabricator will help you design a trailer with a frame and axles strong enough to handle the load. Remember that heavy duty axles cost more and that the price continues to rise as they become more and more heavy duty.
WHAT HAPPENS TO THE WHEELS WHEN YOU BUILD WIDE?
Great question. Personally, we built a platform/raised floor all the way across the middle section where the wheel wells were located. This provided a couple of advantages. One, we had the full interior width of the trailer in what we call the great room with no obstructions. This also provided a little more height to run my stair stringer from. Including the double-riser at the top step and the raised floor, we were able to make our stair risers just a hair under 8”, which is a very comfortable riser height. Putting in a raised floor to conceal the wheel wells does have some advantages.
SO HOW WIDE IS PRACTICAL WHEN IT COMES TO TINY HOUSES?
I guess that just depends on the situation or perspective. If you start to build really wide, you may be better off just buying a single wide manufactured home, especially since they have delivery options set up all over the country. As you can see, there are challenges with fabricated wide load trailer delivery and also when it comes time to tow the completed house. The wider you go, the higher your costs will be so it all comes down to what value you place on a wider footprint. For some people, being able to have a comfortable downstairs bedroom or a space that can accommodate their entire family for years to come, would make those extra charges worth it. For the person that wants to tow their own tiny house and plans on moving quite a bit, the wide load option would not be great. It all comes down to personal needs.
For more images of the Ferris tiny home, please click HERE and go to bottom of article for a slide show.
What about you? Would you consider going wide with your tiny house build? Would it be worth the extra cost and effort? How often do you plan on moving your tiny house?