by Abel Zyl Zimmerman
I recently bought and dismantled a 14 ft. RV trailer for tiny house parts. I thought you avaricious do-it-yourselfers might find the story interesting.
It was a pretty moldy RV, with some appliances inside and an undamaged trailer frame. My goals were to get those two things out of it, and when all was done, I was about 80% successful in doing so.
- Purchase price: $300
- Licensing: $23 (it had current tabs)
- Work gloves, dust masks: $10
- Sawzall demolition blade: $7
- Contractor trash bags (for loose debris and fiberglass): $12
- Diesel fuel for the project, towing it home and delivering recyclables: $55
- Local landfill fee (plywood, broken glass, fiberglass) $99
- Towing home: 5 hours
- Teardown, recycling, cleanup: 13 hours
- Total costs/labor: $506 and 18 hours
Here’s what I ended up with:
- RV range/oven
- A small sink
- Hand pump faucet for fresh water
- Polyethylene fresh water tank
- A small 120v refrigerator
- 2 new 5 gal propane tanks
- 5 aluminum frame louver windows (others were broken during demolition)
- 2 leveling jacks
- Recycling of aluminum and copper: a check for $125!
- A 14 ft x 7 ft trailer frame (see notes below)
So, was it worth it?
It was messy work, especially tearing the floor structure off the frame. And the floor structure was the moldiest part. Hauling was hard work. All the recyclable landfill waste fit into my truck, but I have a fairly huge old Ford. The weight of all that wood/glass/etc. was 1660lbs.
Recycling the metals was a little more fun. I had 149lbs of ‘clean’
Aluminum and 41 lbs of ‘dirty’ aluminum (that I couldn’t get the screws/staples out of.)
And 15 lbs of copper pipe and wire. They weighed it all, then printed me a check. If you are going to reclaim metals, check with your local recycler first. Sort everything out before you pull up. If it is mixed, they may not take it OR they may give you the lowest rate possible.
The louver windows are going to my friend, Charlie, to use in his camper restoring project.
RV appliances are sometimes usable for tiny houses — sometimes not.
Many are not built for day-to-day use. The ones I got are OK though, but required a good bit of cleaning. I had to repaint the metal top of the range, because it had rust spots.
I am an electrician, and I chose to dispose of all old electrical outlets, switches, wire, light fixtures, etc. They just didn’t seem to be in great condition. There is definitely a safety concern with using old electrical equipment.
The trailer frame is OK. I realized that I will have to add quite a few things to make it usable for a tiny house: new fenders, more steel cross-members, and a complete rewiring. This won’t cost me much, because I am a welder, and have shop space to do it in. But for some, this may be a deal-killer. If you hired someone to do all the aforementioned improvements, it could cost as much as a new trailer frame. Still, if reclaiming materials is your goal, this might be acceptable.
Well, there you have it. A very moldy RV is getting reborn in various ways, notably as a tiny house foundation!
Abel Zyl Zimmerman