Jenine’s Modern Tiny House Project

Jenine Alexander my friend and nearby neighbor in Healdsburg, CA is building her second home with the help of a friend, Amy Hutto. I had the chance to stop by the other day and see the progress and it is coming along really well. They are offering it for sale and it will be ready by mid August and here is what Jenine has to say about the home.

Have you dreamed of living in a small, mobile, eco-friendly home? Our team is currently working on a 8’ x 16’ living space on a dual axle flatbed trailer. For sale, ready in August 2010 for $25K.

We build for maximum energy efficiency with a passive solar design in combination with denim-cotton UltraTouch insulation. A light-filled gem with upper and lower sleeping lofts, Ponderosa pine ceilings, bamboo flooring, and a kitchenette with marble counter-tops. Includes high end doors and windows, featuring a 6’ glass slider and bay window. Full trailer hook-ups for electric, propane, and water. Ready to go off-grid with any solar, wind, or hydro power system. Bathroom not included but available upon request.

We are Forge Ahead Construction, committed to building low-impact structures to help you redefine our shared potential. We are inspired by vernacular architecture and zero energy building.

We need better buildings. Low-impact PERIOD.

You can contacted them with the following information, be sure and tell them you heard about it on the Tiny House Blog.

Visit their website: ForgeAhead.org and contact:

  • Jenine Alexander at 707.535.9109 or email jenine.alexander at gmail.com
  • Amy Hutto or phone 707.479.1051 or email helloamyhutto at gmail.com

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et - July 21, 2010 Reply

Lots of new builders & designs popping up. Not criticizing this design or any other particular design.

But…How do people figure out if their designs are roadworthy and/or insurable? Creativity “on land” is less risky. On the highway, towing a home built rig, I would like to know its not going to deconstruct going 50 mph.

Shearing, sway, stress, weight, materials – how do they work together? It seems to me more than simple framing skills need to be involved once you add movement.

    Eric - July 22, 2010 Reply

    Tiny homes are insured as travel trailers. As long as they 102″ or less in width, no taller than 13′ 6″ in height and stay at or under the maximum weight limit for the trailer they are perfectly legal. I will also point out most are structurally over built. Keep building.

      Spartans_98 - September 16, 2010 Reply

      Not quite accurate. The limit is 13’6″ in some states. It’s 14′ here in CA, NV, and OR, and that extra 6″ makes a BIG difference in the lofts. I’m NOT building a trailer 6″ shorter than it needs to be just so it *could* legally go to some state I’ll never visit.

      In fact in Colorado and Washington D.C. the limit is only 13′ so if you really want your house to go to every state you should be dropping the height even more.

      Think about it.

        Lori - July 19, 2014 Reply

        The road height limit in Colorado is actually 14′ 6″ not 13′, and Maryland (Washington DC) is 13′ 6″. In fact no state in the US has a road height limit below 13′ 6″. Where do you get your information from?

Elizabeth Goertz - July 21, 2010 Reply

I would like to see more pictures, including interior shots. Also, It needs to have a bathroom to be a Home.

    Kent Griswold - July 21, 2010 Reply

    Hi Elizabeth, the interior is just now being worked started and I will post pictures when it is completed. They were also looking at putting in a bathroom as they have an interested buyer who wants one installed. They want to install the type of bathroom the future owner chooses so have made it an option.

Arlos - July 22, 2010 Reply

Not to discourage micro business but… If you call yourself anything with the name Forge Ahead “construction” and offer dwellings, you are subject to the state contractors law and this company is not licensed. As a mechanical engineer and licensed plumbing contractor in California I look carefully at the details of these road units and a lot of them make me cringe a little. I have a few questions and observations about this one in particular. what was the trailer frame originally designed for? Do the builders know the rated tongue weight? Frames have dynamic loads ,not just static. Marine design accounts for the flex of ultiliity under stress and from what I’ve seen in many projects here, I’m a little concerned about not only wind loads affecting the tiny mobile homes but road conditions affecting construction. One area no one wants to consider is their survivability in an accident.
Where the platform frame was welded onto the trailer frame, was the welder certified and certified for this application.
The hold downs were designed for seismic application not over the road which is part of a problem in translating home construction into trailer home construction.
I do admire the effort and wish them success and we all learn as this micro industry grows.
I’m looking at presenting a class on the construction process by teaching others how to build these at an expo in the near future here in Santa Cruz. We’re all looking to break the ugly cycle of slavery in the form of mortgages and the banking industry by taking control of our homes and learning to live much simpler lives…

    alfred - July 22, 2010 Reply

    You make number of a good points, and like ‘et’ above, I have thought about this myself.

    I always saw these ‘little houses on wheels’ as a way of getting around zoning requirements (they’re trailers, after all). I don’t think the builders plan for them to be really moved around much (like, say a travel trailer is) – but then again, who knows.

    Question: If the only purpose of the wheeled trailer frame is to get the tiny house to its destination, would that mitigate or change your concerns (or for that matter, add new ones)?

    Thanks!

    Eric - July 22, 2010 Reply

    There are a few tiny home builders that have worked hard at making sure they meet the legal and engineering issues you brought up. Many are linked to this web site. I’m not going to point them out, but you can find them here. One that comes to my mind actually describes their efforts going through the engineering and legal process. The tiny homes we are seeing are as strong or stronger than many of the campers and trailer homes we see on the road. I’m sure there are individuals that aren’t the craftsman they should be. However, There are a lot more serious loads on the roads to be concerned with.

    ET - July 23, 2010 Reply

    A tiny house , a highway accident, major injuries and a lawyer.

    In this situation I would like to know that everything was done right.

      Eric - July 24, 2010 Reply

      ET I agree everything should be done right with anything. If you or anyone is unsure at all about building one of these on their own, I recommend they buy from one of the excellent sources linked to this site. They have the engineering and legal issues worked out. Your travel trailer and car insurance will act just like any other vehicle accident. Yes, as with ANY vehicle accident there is a chance of injury and the the possibility of attorneys being involved. If anyone is truly afraid of these issues they should stay away. Heck, I stay away from motorcycles and bungee jumping because I don’t want to get hurt.

Alex - July 22, 2010 Reply

Big windows, funky design, and it’s on wheels… I like!

deborah - July 22, 2010 Reply

$25,000.00 for basically a shed? I don’t think so!

    Eric - July 22, 2010 Reply

    You can cut the cost in half or less if you do it yourself.

      Hexx - June 7, 2012 Reply

      I think Deborah is looking at it strictly from a cost perspective. If she is looking for a “shed” to store stuff then $25k may be a bit high. But this is not a storage shed. A lot of people are also missing the point of tiny homes… like a smaller carbon footprint, using recycled materials and generally a better feeling about how we affect our planet.

corbyjames - July 22, 2010 Reply

The summer after high school graduation I built a two story shed on my parents’ property that ended up costing a bit more than expected. I won construction approval from my dad after telling him I’d build it out of scrap lumber from our workshop and that I’d pay for whatever other little items were needed with my lawn cutting earnings. In the end, I had a really cool shed (in the realm of a “Little House on the Prairie” look) with a loft that served our family for 25 years. But, my cost overruns made for some light-hearted ribbing from my dad for years. I had to cut a lot of lawns to come up with the $1,000 it cost me to finish the project.

Anyone who has ever built anything well knows that quality does not come cheaply. $25K for a space like this is not bad at all. Small dwellings in particular are always experimental in some sense. We dream, plan, build, assess, and learn. Looking to this blog helps me in figuring out how I’d like to build my perfect little home, whether I really love the ideas on here on not.

All the best, Jenine! I’m very impressed with your little home here and I look forward to reading more about your ventures…

Tim - July 22, 2010 Reply

I can understand the concern of Arlos, and others have voiced this at different times here as well. I guess if I was towing one of these, which I hope to one day, I would be concerned about being in an accident…is everything going to come flying forward into the vehicles? I have zero construction experience other then home owner around the house type of stuff, but the main concern seems to be where the house meets the trailer right? Maybe builders should be consulting with a cert. engineer to come up with a viable solution to these concerns. If someone did purchase the above home, and was involved in an accident and the house flys apart and injurys someone, who is liable? Is the owners insurance going to pay? Or will they be able to go back on the builder and sue for damages? If I was a builder I would have the person purchasing the home sign a disclaimer saying they accepted full responsiblity for moving the Tiny home, and any damage or injury resulting from moving said home.

Bottom line, what is the answer to making the connection between the home and the trailer safe?

    Eric - July 22, 2010 Reply

    Tim, I replied to a couple of comments above. I think as long as we all do the research we will find everything will be fine. Build on a trailer that can handle the weight. Be sure it has brakes. Most of these tiny homes are less than 5500lbs. Campers can weigh as much or more and are built on a light weight frame. The utility and car trailers these things are built on are tough. Think about a full size truck being hauled on a car trailer. Another thing, if you are building a tiny home, How often are you going to move it? Take it slow if you’re nervous. A few of the companies that are building these have been doing it for 10+ years. Now they are growing in popularity so now we have skeptics.

      Tim - July 22, 2010 Reply

      Yea thats kind of what I thought Eric, when I get mine done someday, I will most likely move it to the spot I want it, and rarely if ever moce it again. I dont think anyone towing one would be doing an outrageous speed on the highway. But as I said, I understand those that are concerned, thoughtful building and careful planning should hopefully make sure most issues are taken care of.

      What about welding tabs on the trailer where each stud is, each tab could be 6 inches tall, and then bolting each tab to the stud? Would this secure the house well enough to the trailer to withstand most stresses well moving at highway speeds? Anyway, good luck to all of the builders, you are all an inspiration, and are doing great work! T

        Eric - July 24, 2010 Reply

        I definitely agree we need to be careful. Yes, I recommend welding bolts to the frame. I live in wind country where mid summer and mid winter gusts reach 70mph. All houses are required to be bolted to the foundation and we have no problems unless a tornado comes along. I would think most of the country would have this requirement, but I don’t know. Take care.

alice - July 23, 2010 Reply

Take a look at a regular travel trailer or motorhome after a major collision and you’ll see how flimsy those things can be. Friends once had a moose run out of the bush and smack into their aluminum sided trailer, totally demolishing one side of it, while the moose just shook itself and staggered off (moose was OK, the parks people checked it out). A lot of the issues with tiny houses on trailers have to do with aerodynamics rather than strength but if you plan to do a lot of driving with one it has to have a bit more flexibility than a ‘rooted’ house yet still retain integrity. Constant movement puts a lot of wear and tear stress on things and can work fastenings loose, even good strong bolts. Glue is your friend! A lot of boat building techniques work well for trailers too. My dad built both for many years and he always said that flexibility was as important as strength.

    et - July 23, 2010 Reply

    I think the difference is that commercial trailers are backed up by companies/builders.

    Kind of like houses built with/with out inspections and building codes. One is not necessarily better or safer than the other. Methods used by owner/builders may be good and perfectly safe, indeed maybe even better than those used in commercial RVs. But with regards to liability there is a world of difference.

      Eric - July 24, 2010 Reply

      I agree there could be concern when it comes to accidents(liability). It is very important to get insurance as with any vehicle or major investment. Take care.

Deek - July 24, 2010 Reply

One of the cooler-looking house-trailers I’ve seen….very nice work….
And yes, MANY of the bank-backed, company created trailers/campers are absolutely flimsy-junk (in some cases- not all) so don’t be fooled into thinking that assembly-line stamped-out housing is necessarily superior. They’re using the lowest common-denominator/cheapest parts allowed, so as to maximize profit. Yes, some smaller companies will do this too.
Usually, the best bet is to build it yourself…you’ll know what went into it. Although, in fairness, some of these pre-builts, when on the road, are no more dangerous that if you were to tow a street-legal, factory-built, insured, trailer full of home depot lumber. If you crash with one of those, chances are you’re going to do a heck of alot more damage to yourself and others than tipping a cohesive trailer.
-Deek
Relaxshacks.com

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Chance Brown - March 16, 2015 Reply

I will live in a tiny house, small house, what ever you want to call them. The reason I like them and I seen the one I want is that it has everything a regular house has (the one I looked at). The one I saw was built like a regular house and it had beautiful wood floors, nice cabinets, space every where the builder could think, plasma air and heat, washing machine dryer combo, it was just everything I wanted. As far as the trailer part it will be pulled to where it will stay until i move I will not be pulling it around the country on vacation. It will be pulled to the site as light as can be and the finishing punch out will be done at the site. Most people I talk to don’t pull these houses on vacation.

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