Weight Limits

Avalanche has a towing capacity of 8,300 pounds.  Deasler indicates trailer weight is 2,500 pounds.  Weight can be trimmed by eliminating every other bed board.  20′ 2×6″ boards weigh around 45 pounds.  Boards can be recycled in tiny house structure.

Assuming trailer weighs 2,300 pounds after board removal, that leaves no more than 6,000 pounds for structure.  Fat trimming ideas for structure include:

  • Shrink floor height to 4″.
  • Use cedar siding on exterior.
  • Make weight a priority in selecting windows and doors.
  • Use flooring material with less wood density.
  • Use deck flooring material with less wood density – cedar decking?
  • Use 2x4s when feasible for rafters, deck joists, and cross ties.
  • Use steel roofing.
  • Use 1/4″ pine as an interior wall material.
  • Design cabinets to minimize weight.
  • Cut electrical capacity to minimize battery weight.
  • Avoid use of ceramic tile and granite in bath and on countertop.
  • Avoid heavy appliances.

Height Limits

Wisconsin Law sets a maximum heitht of a trailer of 13’6″ without a special permit.  We want TinyHouse to live within that limit.  This is a diagram of the vertical components of FarinHaus.

In this drawing, height is limited to 160″ allowing 2″ for roof sheating, roof, and roof seam.

Beginning at the bottom:

  • Deck is 24″ off the ground – Current assumption is floor will be built on top of the deck.
  • 2×6 joist floor sandwich is 6″ high.  Assumes aluminum flashing is used to seal the bottom of the sandwich.  Provides 5 1/2 inches of insulation.  Deflection of cantalevered load bearing wall is less of an issue.  Assuming stake pocket assembly can be adapted to provide deflection support, the joists in the floor sandwich could be reduced to 2×4″  Picks up 2″ of height, saves weight, costs 2″ of insulation.
  • Wall comes out to 81″ or 6’9″ under loft rafters and cross tie beams.  Could be 2″ higher if floor height is shrunk.
  • Rafters are 2×4″ with 2×4″ loft rafters and cross ties.  Vertical from top of wall is 51″.  Could be a bit less with bird beak cuts.  Might be able to use 6″ rafters with birds beak cuts and stay within 51″.  Note that loft is only 46″ high at peak, less if ties are used.  Question – how does ladder fit in with design?

This height limit can be dealt with as long as:

  • Trailer height estimate is correct.
  • Ladder can be worked out.
  • We don’t need to significantly oversize framing material.

Tom’s Initial Recreational Property Goals

  • Not more than 90 minutes from Verona.
  • On or near a river (5-10 minute drive) that is suitable for kayaking.
  • At least one very esthetically pleasing feature – stream, river, lake, distant view, interesting rock outcropping, etc.
  • At least 4 acres.
  • Access off paved highway.
  • Mixture of open land and woods.  The woods shade FarinHaus.  The open area allows collection of solar energy and planting of orchard.
  • No grass to cut.
  • A certain amount of seclusion.  Quiet and relaxing.  Wildlife.
  • A suitable level place to park FarinHaus.
  • Room to construct storage shed if desired.
  • Not opposed to electrical, well, and septic but not necessary either.

Tom’s Initial FarinHaus Goals

Here are my FarinHaus goals:

  • Enjoy the process of building a tiny house.  Set a deadline of having it usable by fall 2013.  Don’t turn construction into a ‘death march’.
  • Share what we’ve learned with others through this blog.
  • Purchase a piece of recreational property that is close to a river suitable for kayaking that is no more than a 90 mile ride from our home.
  • Place FarinHaus on the piece of land as a semi-permanent structure.  Move it back home in the fall/winter.
  • Design it so it can be used for off-grid dry camping, with a minimal carbon footprint.
  • Minimize electrical draw so solar and battery storage can be used to meet all electrical needs.
  • Use propane for cook top, refrigerator, water heater and furnace.
  • Make it available to the kids and grandkids when they are inclined to use it.
  • Incorporate an esthetically pleasing design based on the arts and crafts movement.
  • Design it so water collection systems can be used to collect water.  Grey water output can be used in watering plants.  Eliminate black water output with a composting toilet.
  • Plants should be those requiring minimal maintenance – fruit trees, berry bearing bushes, etc.
  • Design it so the total package is within the towing capacity of the Avalanche so a specialized towing vehicle does not need to be purchased.
  • Design it so it makes extremely efficient use of space.
  • KISS – Avoid complexity so construction is well within our capabilities.
  • Use recycled or surplus materials when it makes sense to do so.  Possibilities are exterior siding, roof cover, finish flooring, surplus materials at the Farin house, cabinets, interior siding, etc.
  • Incorporate at least one unique architectural feature in the design.
  • Minimize weight while maintaining a structurally sound design, capable of handling the Wisconsin environment including snow loads, hot humid summer days, etc.

Snow Load

When you live in areas of the country where there is likely to be snowfall, tiny house design needs to consider the snow load for that area of the country.  Snow loads are figured in pounds per square foot.  I found the information on this page by Googling “Wisconsin Snow Loads.”  The following map is from the State of Wisconsin Structural Design Code.  The URL is:


I am located in Dane County Wisconsin which is the county second from the bottom in the center of the state.  As you can see, the snow load that needs to be considered in structural design is 35 psf.

Of course this structure is on wheels.  Just to the northwest of Dane County is an area where the snow load requirement is 40 psf.  Travel beyond about 75 miles north of madison and the snow load requirement is 60 psf.  At this point we aren’t sure where our trailer is likely to be parked during the winter.  It makes sense to design the structural components to carry a 60 psf load.

As the show load requirement goes up, the structural timbers necessary to support the load go up with the requirement.  This will affect the floor joists, the size of headers over openings like windows, doors, long horizontal windows in dormers, tire fenders, and the size and spacing of rafters and cross ties.

Increasing snow load capacity has tradeoffs in the areas of cost, weight, head clearance in the loft areas of the first floor, and the loft itself.

Now that I know snow load capacity requirements, I need to do additional research into the effects on sizing of structural components.