Tiny House RV

RV tiny house

I wanted to show the Tiny House community a recently finished farm worker housing unit. I have always been very much against living in RV type units. Sharon and I lived in a 26ft firth wheel while we built our recent home part time. It took 5 years. Older RVs weren’t sealed very well, were poorly built, and appliances are less efficient, of poorer quality, as compared to conventional homes.

As of this date, we have not offered these units to individuals, and in fact, to keep the price down, they have to be built in production runs of 6 units minimum.

My opinion, however, on living in RVs, is changing. Modern RVs are built much better than in the past. We have enclosed some pictures. Walls and floors are actually Structural Insulated Panels, utilizing aluminum tubing, foam insulation, and the one piece fiberglass shell and interior panels are glued and assembled under pressure.

The result is a one piece wall, in this case our side walls are 42 foot long, one piece. The one piece rubberized roof, is guaranteed for 10 years, and is easily replaced. About the same job as replacing shingles.
The finished units are pressurized, like an airplane cabin, and soap checked for any leaks that need additional sealing.


Appliances are regular house units, not smaller RV units. So they are less expensive and more efficient for the most part. The Hot Water Heater is a regular house unit, as is the entrance panel, washer dryer, refrigerator, and TVs 🙂 The toilet is an RV unit, but a ceramic RV unit, the shower is full size.

They are surprisingly roomy inside, 8ft wide x 42 ft long, but the two large slide outs, make the home feel really spacious. And it boasts approximately 400 square feet. And with a target price of $42,000, the cost per square foot is quite a bit lower than the average commercial built Tiny Home.

two walls up

Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of quality built into the commercially available tiny homes. But we might be looking at Ferraris and Lamborginis, when most of us really would rather drive a Cadillac. And they are more affordable, and more easily financed!!

Anyway, wanted to run this buy your readership, and see what people think. The Tiny House movement spans a lot of ideas, as this blog has covered over the years. So maybe this is another viable option to consider. I would like to hear from you.

Thanks for reading. Bill Kastrinos, Tortoise Shell Home

Bill in front of house

Bill inside house


living area

floor plan


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Walt Barrett - August 23, 2014 Reply

It is a very nice clean looking design and The price per square foot is decent.

    Jay Brooke - August 23, 2014 Reply

    Hi Bill, I’m Jay.

    Excellent job! In my younger days I had a 37Ft. Avion Fifth Wheel. And working construction during the construction boom I had a lot of opportunity to move around and see all parts of the state. Your right, your RV’s are better built hands down. But I would buy one today. But being a home builder and recent Solar Installing student I want to design and build one for myself. You could easily add alternative energy to your homes and be truly Independant if you have water tanks. As extremely insulated as your homes are it would take very little to heat and cool. The newer ductless systems are turning compressors over with as little as 4.0 Amps. It’s crazy how efficient appliances have gotten in such a short time span. Europe has some great modern style appliances that we would consider mini size for your smaller homes, I don’t believe I read about the different sizes your offering.
    But I would like more information and possible talk if you could post a website info. I Googled but didn’t see anything.
    Great Job!
    Look forward to seeing more.
    Jay Brooke

      v - August 24, 2014 Reply

      just click on the link at the end of the story.. http://www.tortoiseshellhome.com/

      william kastrinos - August 24, 2014 Reply

      Jay. If you are going to build one yourself, and for other readers out there, here is an excellent video on a homebuilt rv, guy had no experience. He did an incredible job. As you know, labor and overhead, especially in places like California, so inflate prices it is horrible. With minimum skills you can save a bundle if you carefully shop for the materials and do it yourself.
      Email me at info@tortoiseshellhome.com would really like to discuss that 4amp system, and I can show you some of the off grid homes we have built.

Heapie - August 23, 2014 Reply

My wife and I went to look at a light trailer with sideouts. Thank God it was raining. The side outs were leaking. Personally, I don’t think you can get a tight fit with slide outs. What I would like to see is this trailer made with out slide outs, 8 feet wide. Then I will believe it to be really weather proof.

Bear - August 23, 2014 Reply

“”Older RVs weren’t sealed very well, were poorly built, and appliances are less efficient, of poorer quality, as compared to conventional homes””
This comment was told by a person with no imagination. “I hope this was not you Kent”
What we see here is a white rectangle box on wheels. Built fast and cheap!!

I come here for unique and interesting tiny homes! If I want to see manufactured RV’s I will go to my local RV dealer.

I hope I never see anything like this in my tiny house magazine!!

Airstreams are ok! Why do you ask? Because they are beautiful and are classy. Oh, and the oldest manufacture of travel trailers.

    Hollymaren - August 25, 2014 Reply

    Why do readers keep insisting on putting tiny houses in THEIR preconceived box. Tiny houses can be anything that you can live in. Why not be open to all types of ideas? What is the harm in expanding your thinking?
    This is just an example of a unit made for farm hands and seasonal workers. I am sure there are a lot of tweaks (paint, furniture, appliances) that can be made to it to satisfy all likes.
    Last word-think outside the box.

    Tiny Tim - December 17, 2014 Reply

    Tiny Houses are mostly about freeing people from the wage/tax slave system set up by the imperialist bankers. Any idea that does that are welcome in the culture. Every civilization since the beginning of time has been over indulgent in art and nostalgia and neglected technology and new ideas, in a way that is highly disproportionate for supporting life. Thats why we still can’t feed or house the world.

Leah - August 23, 2014 Reply

Thanks for the info on your design – the improved insulation and extra space via the slide-outs are pretty exciting. I’d be keen to know whether you’ve looked into the air quality at all – whether the materials used are safe and if the unit has an element of ‘breathability.’ Thanks, Leah

gar - August 23, 2014 Reply

You’ve made a good case for this type of RV being preferable to a tiny house. At the rate
of increasing cost of tiny houses based on charging what they think the market will bear, rather than cost to build, this size in a tiny house would cost in the stratosphere.

However, I just don’t see where you buy an RV built like that. All the ones I’ve looked at even recently are nothing like that. They make no attempt to be airtight, well insulated, or long lasting.

Kathy - August 23, 2014 Reply

BORING !! Please make the interior of an RV sleek and modern looking. I am SOOO sick of brown and grey colors used in cupboards and furniture. Why not start with putting sliding glass doors on these units instead of tiny windows and then use high gloss colored cabinets and sleek contempoary couch and instead of a cheap table and chairs put in a bar and bar stools. Make the unit high tech and cool looking. Airstream has some what done some of that with their Sterling and Yacht models. Stop making these old tired looking Grandma models

    Natasha - October 3, 2016 Reply

    This is a farm hand house meant to move to different job sites; not unlike how agricultural workers live. This mobile house would move with the workers, where as now, they move from work cabin to work cabin. This is a much better solution than that I believe. It was not built to be modern, sophisticated, colorful, or flashy. It was built to be practical. If you want to see it done a different way, then by all means do it. But don’t harp on someone’s design because they didn’t build it to your specifications.

Kris - August 23, 2014 Reply

I think it’s fantastic. I love the tiny homes, but as a single woman with no building experience or physical ability to do so, as well as limited income, I need something of quality I can live and work in full time that I don’t have to build myself. I prefer something I can live in half the year in one location and half the year in another. I definitely hope you’ll let us know when they are available for sale to individuals. Thanks so much for sharing.

Earl - August 23, 2014 Reply

Small enough to move. Large enough to inhabit. All the mod cons. What’s not to like?

Ann - August 23, 2014 Reply

I am impressed. If they are affordable, I sure would like to own one! I already have a tow vehicle set up to handle a fifth wheel.

Ann - August 23, 2014 Reply

OH! I just realized it is a bumper hitch, even better, I could tow it with our repurposed ambulance conversion!

Ann - August 23, 2014 Reply

awww, I followed the link but not page with these on it. I wanted to see pricing.

    Hollymaren - August 25, 2014 Reply

    I agree, they need to update their website to include these.

Tim - August 23, 2014 Reply

Craftsmanship makes a huge difference in a living space. These are very nice looking.

I was always confused by the fact that airplanes and boats could have more livable space than trailers, but I think this comes back craftsmanship.

gareth wales - August 23, 2014 Reply

I like the face that there is a real sofa and real sized appliances. i often wonder when you see build in benches in tiny homes caravans how people get comfy on them.

this is something i would happily live in

Carol Stahl - August 23, 2014 Reply

Looks good! Especially like the one-piece roof for less water damage.
(not crazy about the typical RV window treatments but an owner can always change those.)

Nancy @ Little Homestead in Boise - August 23, 2014 Reply

So is there any particle board in it, as far as off-gassing? Looks nice!

Patricia Rose - August 23, 2014 Reply

Do you ship to Hawaii?

Mimi Matthews Passionista At Large - August 23, 2014 Reply

I think this is a GREAT idea! I particularly like the sealed walls and roof. I live in Michigan and water gets in everywhere! This would be a viable option for people here that have lost their homes and need to find another, less costly home. I’m not sure of the financing options available for people, but I would like to consider putting this on my property for a friend to live in. Thank you for working on this idea. The inside is lovely. I’d like to see pictures of the bathroom and bedroom too.
Would you consider the option of selling without the furniture? That would most likely only lower the price a couple of thousand, though. I went to the web page, and these are not listed that I could see. Is there another way to keep track of your progress with these?

Michael - August 23, 2014 Reply

If you could provide these as tight, well-built shells (with plumbing/electrical stubs) that tiny house folks could then buy and build/customize their interior themselves (flooring, cabinets, appliance chopices, layout, etc.), I think you could sell dozens and dozens of them. 🙂

    Hollymaren - August 25, 2014 Reply

    I agree. The owner could customize them as you would if you bought a traditional home. They usually don’t come with all of the decorating done for you- why should these?

Mike W - August 23, 2014 Reply

you mentioned that your rig was 42′ long.. I don’t know the max length for people to tow (read: without a special permit or commercial towing service) in all states but in California, the max is 40′. May want to rethink total length for next production run… I suppose if its one move, from factory to living location and thats it, might work with commercial towing service but too long for ‘RVing’ regularly.

Wendy - August 23, 2014 Reply

I’m not sure why some people are so offended by these. It’s a matter of individual taste, requirements, affordability, and so forth. If this is what someone needs to live in- then good for them! After all, we have seen airstreams, boats, barges, and so forth. What’s wrong with this? Plus- from the heading it seems this is for farm workers who move from job to job. Have you ever seen typical farm worker housing? This is far preferable, and could be customized so it actually feels like a home, not temporary housing. I would think especially if you have a family that would be a real plus- having a sense of your own home. Although I do agree about the furniture- I think probably most people would prefer to furnish it themselves.

Jay Olstead - August 23, 2014 Reply

Its a bird, no, its a plane, no, it’s an RV, no, its a tiny house on wheels, no, it a Tiny Wheeled Estate, now available from Ragsdale Homes. Four new designs to choose from.



    Skooj - August 25, 2014 Reply

    When you say “now available from Ragsdale Homes,” have you actually began production. I can’t find a web page for your company, but when I look at your facebook page, I can’t find any photos of a finished tiny home. Please clarify.

      Dominic - August 25, 2014 Reply

      Want to see a finished house? http://www.LibertyCabins.com

      Jay Olstead - August 30, 2014 Reply

      We officially launched two weeks ago after 3 years of R&D. We’re building our own trailer which is called the Fast Track trailer, opening up the possibility for building with wood, Sips, Mips, or metal studs. All of this made possible with our adjustable, convertible, building platform. Our first home is being built at Houston Makerspace. We’ll be introducing our new Mip panels which have an incredible insulation “R” factor of 9.5 per inch. We will be making these panels available to the tiny home industry soon. We now have four designs and the most square footage in the entire industry, made possible with our patent pending ” Room Roll Outs”.

      Jay Olstead - August 31, 2014 Reply

      We are now building our first home in Houston, Texas at Houston Makespace, located in the arts district of the city.

Ericc815 - August 23, 2014 Reply

When I saw this I was amazed!
It is not only totally off-topic but you have to purchase 6 units to obtain one.
Please, can you stick to your subject?

    william kastrinos - August 23, 2014 Reply

    Eric, they aren’t for sale at this point except commercial, to ranchers for farm worker situations. Just looking for feedback. Appreciate your comments. I don’t think RVs should be taken off the list as Tiny Dwellings. I used to believe that, but I am reconsidering that position. Not sure at this point. Thanks again.

Karen - August 23, 2014 Reply

This is a really great idea! However, I would have liked pictures of the bathroom as well as the bedroom. The kitchen is wonderful and I think my hubs and I would be happy living in one as we travel a great deal in a 25 ft trailer and love the simplicity and organization of trailer living.

drjoyce - August 23, 2014 Reply

I like the clean lines and waterproof part. Needs a little more “cutsie” look like the rest of the line, or, more modern sleekness. Also, I need a much smaller unit, maybe 18-22 unit. Good luck with your creativity.

Constance - August 23, 2014 Reply

Fantastic! The one piece roof is SO important as long as it wraps over the edge. I too would like to see more pics of the bedroom and bath. We have had 2 class A’s and a 5th wheel. We are looking for a quality unit to live in full time / most of the time, and that requires more than 84 sq. feet for us. Get this on your website please.

Waldo N. Pond - August 23, 2014 Reply

This is an extremely unattractive, oversize industrial-looking box that would be a blight in any setting or landscape. The interior seems designed straight from the home depot/lazyboy school of modern american consumerist, unimaginative design. I appreciate the idea of using modern manufacturing and industrial design for housing (Buckminster Fuller anyone?) and avoiding cloying tiny house cutesyness but overall this seems a step back, not a step forward. You can build a shell, now think harder about it.

gmh - August 23, 2014 Reply

I like that this blog has a variety of options for tiny living, please keep showing us whatever is out there!
If you have followed this blog for awhile, you know that Bill Kastrinos does quality work. I think the price on this unit is great compared to some of the tiny houses that look like conventional homes. And, there’s no loft in here so there’s no stair climbing for a midnight potty trip…
What I would like to see is a floor plan. Maybe there’s one on his website, but putting one on here would be great. I can really get a sense of things better with a floor plan.

Becca - August 23, 2014 Reply

I’m digging this… might need to get me an RV 🙂

jimscraft - August 23, 2014 Reply

I really like the interior- great looking and clean. I would like to see a version with more of a look of a home on the outside- with siding and a pitched roof (especially for Michigan winters. Great idea, and I hope to see more ideas like this!!!

CathyAnn - August 23, 2014 Reply

I like this trailer very much. I’ve lived in a Spartan travel trailer, and I’ve lived in a single wide mobile home, and liked both a lot. I would certainly like living in one of these.

It would be very easy to customize by changing window treatments, the color of the walls, and put one’s own choice of furniture in there, not to mention throw rugs, etc. The way it is, it’s like a blank canvas that would be easy so personalize to one’s own tastes.

That couch wouldn’t be my choice, but I suspect it was put in there to give a sense of perspective – the same with the table and chairs.

Well done!

Ann M - August 23, 2014 Reply

I think using SIP’s is a really good idea. I also like the slide outs. I have to wonder how these would stand up to lots of road travel vs being on a ranch/farm where they aren’t moved around all the time. I’m sure the SIP’s would be fine. It’s the slide outs I’m wondering about.

TCG - August 23, 2014 Reply

It’s so ugly. No character or design value, cheap looking finishes, doesn’t appeal to my sense of living more lightly on the earth, part of what attracts me to tiny homes.

Cindy - August 24, 2014 Reply

After viewing many tiny house floor plans, I just love this. I don’t want to climb a ladder to go to bed, I am in my 50’s with a very bad back so climbing is not an option. I also have NO building skills to create my own home. I like that this has full sized appliances. I spend alot of time baking. It looks like the are normal doorways to you don’t have to squeeze through. I could even get by with just one bed room, its a really a good fit for me. Would love to have it!

    Kari - August 25, 2014 Reply

    I agree with you Cindy. I never liked getting out of bed and hitting my head or crawling around to make a bed up each morning. I have been looking at 5th wheels since I need a bit more room then a tiny house on a trailer. I did see one tiny house on a trailer on this site while back that had slide outs, solar panels, etc.. I would love to get one.

Bob Ratcliff - August 24, 2014 Reply

This makes sense! Having lived in multiple including park model RV’s for years, I know firsthand how enjoyable it is. I love your front room/do anything layout approach along with the higher than average quality you’re insisting upon. You’re a resource I’m going to hang on too. The one modification I’d want is more storage & closet space. Additional goodies such as a built in desk and hidden TV’s might also enrich your solid home on wheels. Other than that – you’ve got a winner!

Donna - August 24, 2014 Reply

Very nice and open with plenty of space, like the layout. Could have used an electric stove so everything could be run off of solar panels but nice work on this one

alice h - August 24, 2014 Reply

Not very homey looking on the outside but well built for all that. My 10 year old granddaughter suggested you could make a “cosy” for it, like a tent that goes over top with just about anything you like for a design screened on it. You could have a tree or garden design, make the whole thing disappear, look like a classical Roman temple or make it look like a submarine or space ship, more like “deco” than “camo”. She’s very into house design and has some pretty wild ideas.

Michelle - August 24, 2014 Reply

I like the idea of being able to use the slide outs and the kitchen space/real appliances. Obviously the outside could use a little character but that would be easily remedied. My question is would something like this have the R-value to stay warm and comfortable as well as water functioning in a cold climate like northern Minnesota or Montana in the winter?

wyndwalkr - August 25, 2014 Reply

First let me say, to each his own, of course.

$42K apiece for farm workers? Well, I suppose the government subsidizes…

IF I ever get a tiny house here on my property as a granny cabin for myself with a son and family occupying the “main house” I now live in (900 sq. ft. with 900 sq. ft. insulated and heated basement) it will be had for less than ONE FOURTH this price, will be insulated for Wisconsin winters, and be of much more organic (call it earthy-funky!) design. ‘Course I will save 2 or 3 grand right at the start because it will have NO WHEELS under it.

I will keep my eyes open here for tiny homes, not small housing units. Thanks.

    william kastrinos - August 25, 2014 Reply

    Ranchers will be buying them for workers that I’m told are sometimes living under highway overpasses because rent is so expensive in Northern California. I don’t know if they get subsidies, would doubt it. I was recently at a show where truck campers were selling for $50,000, so I didn’t think we were doing too bad. We operate on pretty tight mark ups. But thanks for taking time to comment. Bill

M - August 27, 2014 Reply

I like it. But, would not want the black appliances. They are just awful to keep clean.

Erica - August 28, 2014 Reply

I’d appreciate it if this site still features RVs and RV living. That’s how I found this website in the first place!

william kastrinos - August 28, 2014 Reply

Thanks to everyone who posted comments. For those I missed responding to, or others, please email me at info@tortoiseshellhome.com. Will try to answer any other questions. Still have not decided if we will be willing or able to offer these to the tiny house community, but you have all helped us ponder this option. Thanks. Bill Kastrinos

Ginger - August 29, 2014 Reply

Overall I like the unit but why do you trailer manufacturers continue putting carpet on slides? Ditch the carpets. I don’t know how you solve the flooring problem but there has got to be a better way than this tacky carpet. Looks stupid just on the slides, and cheap.

Bernice - September 3, 2014 Reply

Took a trip to Indiana a few weeks ago just to visit travel trailer manufacturers. Very interesting.Believe I could live every easily in a 21 to 24 inch travel trailer. And I could live without a slide out. Would love to mention the one we were really impressed with but now have 2 preferences.

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