Jenine’s Tiny House on a Trailer

Jenine’s Tiny House on a Trailer


I always enjoy finding someone new building a house and especially locally where I can go an observe. I was talking with my neighbor a few houses down who is planning on constructing one himself and he told me that he was helping Jenine Alexander build one in downtown Healdsburg and invited me to come meet her. Jenine has had quite the experiences in her life and I would encourage you to explore her blog and find out more about her travels. Right now though I want her to share her story about the house she is building.


I’m building this enormous tiny house, more accurately, it’s building me. I began with wood from a barn a friend and I took down in Cotati and a 7′ x 16′ utility/ flatbed/ car hauler/ trailer. With each decision, my approach has been to imagine a million other people making the same choice I’m considering. If it seems like that choice supports the kind of future I want to see, I go for it. If it seems like the choice is a “necessary evil,” I do the best I can to find an alternative. Please excuse/enjoy the following manifesto.


Living in northern California is a privilege. Here especially, luxurious self-indulgence creates waste of all sorts. Now, vernacular architecture* consists of the abundant building materials locally available from incessant remodels across Marin and Sonoma Counties. Though the practice of replacing a perfectly functioning kitchen has certainly lessened with this economic downturn, the Recycle Town located in Petaluma at the Regional Central Disposal Site continues to provide a pile of wonderful reusable materials otherwise headed to the landfill. So does Craigslist.


With this building project, I want to add what I can to the creative commons and to all of you doing fantastic work to beef up open source architecture. This is an international issue. I agree, there is a housing crisis, and I’ve learned from creative builders who address this issue. I especially want to empower and encourage other women builders.


I have yet to see a house on a trailer built without the use of plywood for sheer strength. Plywood is not something I find often in salvage yards nor on Craigslist. So, stubbornly, this has been my goal: to build a solid, long-lasting home on wheels out of salvaged materials, with no plywood, as inexpensively as possible. I’ve used diagonal bracing for sheer strength. I had been planning on welding 2″x2″ angle iron to the base of the trailer coming up each corner and bolted into the rafters, but after taking it on the road, I’ve decided it’s probably unnecessary. I keep track of each find/expense in order to share a detailed budget once I finish.



If I do it again, I wouldn’t use rigid foam. I’m only using this toxic product because of the truckload I found for free in Sebastopol from someone’s remodel. I thought I had enough to insulate the whole structure, but I’m coming up short and questioning how to complete the insulation. Though rigid foam is lightweight and has an undeniably high R-value, the particulates that go to the wind as I work aren’t something I want my family, garden, neighbors, or anyone to really have to live with. There are things about this project I’m not satisfied with, hence the posting on my blog: ALL THE BAD CHOICES I’VE CHOSEN: Killing the Planet, Killing Myself: Why I’d rather be building with straw and mud, period (8 Oct 09).

Please look all through my blog if you are curious to learn more or post comments. I have a wishlist at the top. If you’re a local and have any of those items laying around, please let me know!

Jenine Alexander
Blog: Forge Ahead Puppet {Building} Productions

Photo Credit: Jenine Alexander

*Vernacular Architecture: methods of construction which use locally available resources and traditions to address local needs.









  1. Looking good Jenine. A few suggestions. Wrap the framing in a breathable moisture barrier. Tar paper is cheap and works great. Housewrap (Tyvek et al) is good but not so cheap. Builders tend to have both lying around.
    As to Shear strength. Some diagonal bracing and board siding will provide ample shear for a small structure.
    I used Ice & Water for the roof on my Shed-Tow. As a roofing product I used roll steel from a metal recycler in Gilroy. It has a orange rust/oxidation and looks great. Cost about 200.00.
    In the old days they would put a small window or vent near the gable inside to prevent condensation. Years in tents and vans has led me to believe that an open window or vent is better than trying to get the vapor through the walls. Also you can get free pain at many landfills. If you prime your framing before closing the walls & ceiling you can keep mold away. Add an anti fungal to your primer/paint if it doesn’t have it. Good Luck and keep dry.

  2. …you can learn the skills as you go! start with screws and a .battery-driven screwdriver and some 2’x4’s! it is looking so nifty, jenine, esp. the night pix and the one where you have it hooked to the truck to see if it’s road worthy

  3. I hope your a good have to make a good penetrating weld.nice and hot to the point your about to blow through at the end of a bead.

  4. I have 3 tiny house projects going but love seeing your trailer-based work. Very good….I am going to visit healdburg next week and will call you. 2 of my projects are under existing houses, basement apartments, though hillside houses have above-grade basements.

    I learned my trades building self-help houseing projects (Jimmy Carter-ish projects). I also have a beautiful tiny detached garage I am going to convert to a tiny house too….love small efficient spaces…spent today at a used trailer place in Stockton CA but none have the charm of a tiny stick-built house.

  5. You go, Jenine! I too want to build a tiny house on wheels, connect with other tiny housers, and form a tiny house village for writers/artists in Northern California. 🙂

  6. […] Jenine’s Tiny Houses.  Jenine Alexander has built 2 or 3 houses now, and I like her houses because they are built of largely salvaged materials and I like her thinking about how she chooses to use what she does—one of her houses uses denim cotton insulation.  She is a woman and a traveling puppeteer/clown (which I have also been at another point in my life).  She is definitely an out of the box thinker. […]