Moving a Tiny House off a Remote Mountain Top

How do you move a tiny house on wheels off a remote mountain top in Northern California? It was a big job! And it required a 4×4 truck to go in reverse for a quarter mile down a steep hill, towing my nearly 7000LB house, on a very narrow and curvy dirt road, where one side was mountain, and the other side dropped maybe 100 feet down to the stream below.

And that wasn’t the end of it… from there the truck was able to go forward, but the road was extremely narrow with tree branches everywhere. Then the house went through a stream, and both the house and the 4×4 truck had to be towed out by a waiting tow truck. Next up were several miles on an old gravel logging road that is now a forest service route, and then finally out onto a twisty and narrow highway, where the cars go 55MPH, and a 10’6″ wide house took up the entire lane, with no room to spare.

I was lucky! I hired the best possible people for the job. Daniel and Sarah of Affordable Towing in Crescent City took such good care of my house. Sarah walked for over a mile, guiding him down the mountain, and moving tree branches and rocks. And Daniel took his time, and was extremely precise with every step–which meant the job went a lot faster than it might have otherwise. I don’t think anyone could have done a better job than they did!

It was an extremely stressful day. I had been dreading it for six weeks. But my house arrived safely, and I’m so grateful to be back on flat land!

My house is on one branch of an old logging road, and my car is on the branch below,  and you can see how steep the hill is between them–and that’s how steep the entire mountain side is.

Hooking up the house. The trailer my house is built on is only two years old, but the ball hitch rusted in the last six weeks, and it was a bit tricky to get the house hooked up and ready to go.

Moving a Tiny House

Pulling out of the side road, and onto the main driveway–the angle was so tight the only way out was to back up down the main road.

Backing up the main road… It looks fairly wide here, and that’s why I was able to get a photo of it. Whenever the road was too narrow, and the cliff was too close, I had to turn away, and not watch. I had visions of my house going off the road, and down the mountain, and taking the driver with it. It was terrifying in a way I’d never experienced before.

At the end of the quarter mile of backing up, the road got wider and there was a tiny parking lot, and the house is almost there at this point!

Finally, going forward! You can just make out Sarah on the left side of the house, holding branches out of the way, and guiding the truck.

is there even a road ahead? Much of the route looked like this–so many trees and an extra-wide house taking up the entire road.

The house is just about to head through the stream. If you take the right Y up, you can go over a bridge, but the bridge only holds 7000 lbs and my house weighs nearly that much alone, then add the truck, and you’d be way over the weight limit–so through the stream was the only way out.

Into the stream! Sarah took the bridge over, and was able to guide things while looking down at the house.

And my house in the middle of the stream. It looks fairly shallow, and it is right now, but I imagine it rushes a lot faster once the rains come, and there was rain in the forecast. So I was grateful to be getting it out before the weather got worse.

This view shows better the angle the house was at, while in the stream.

Yeah, that’s a pretty steep hill to go up, to get out of the stream.

Hooking up the tow truck, to the 4×4 to pull the house out. I was so grateful that several people warned me this might be necessary, and that the tow truck was waiting on the other side.

And the house starts to come out…

Moving a Tiny House off a Remote Mountain Top

And we’re back on the road! By the way, when I look at this photo all I see is that my front window isn’t installed yet–the house will look much better when I can get a window in that big blank space beside the front porch. And the triangular stained glass windows in the gables… And it will look even better when I can do the brackets for my eaves, and then do a fancier roof. But for now, my house is livable, and I’m happy to have it exactly as it is!

Then several miles down a forest service route. This part of the road is gravel, and so much easier to navigate, but still not easy.

Back on a paved road, and about to pull onto the highway. The tow truck took over to towing duties at this point, and the 4×4 became a pilot car to warn other motorists what was coming.

And 3.5 hours later, the house is safe and sound at it’s new parking place! If you’ve ever wondered how tall a tiny house is compared to an RV, you can see how short the RVs in the background look in comparison to my tiny house. As tiny as my house is, it looks massive next to an RV!

Those who inspire us to dream bigger…

Back in 2011, while I was sick and not capable of doing much, I started to follow two blogs, both by women building their own tiny houses: Macy Miller and Ella Jenkins. At first it wasn’t as much about them both being women, as it was me just liking their houses, and enjoying the way they wrote about the building process. But over time, I grew more and more inspired by them both. Neither had any building experience, and both were doing most of the work themselves, with a little expert advice, when needed. Their two houses could not have been more different–Macy’s was artistic and modern, and Ella’s was traditional and a little whimsical–and I loved watching it all come together, over the months, on their blogs.

Since then I’ve become friends with Macy. I help her moderate a Facebook group with over 40,000 members, called Tiny House People, and when I was building my own house, I went to her for advice on the structural engineering, since she’s an architectural designer, and extremely knowledgable on the topic of tiny houses! Her house has been featured in Dwell Magazine and TIME Magazine, and may be the most well-known tiny house on the planet.

Then tonight I came across a comment from Ella on a post on Facebook, and seeing her name sparked all these happy memories of reading her blog, all those years ago. So I clicked on her name and the first post on her timeline was a video for a song she just recorded. She plays the harp, and actually included a tiny room for her harp, in her tiny house. I remember hearing an earlier version of this song, “It Ain’t Workin,” several years ago. But this version is more polished, and her voice is amazing!

So I’m sharing that video from Ella, and while I’m at it I also want to share my favorite of all the videos that feature Macy–it was made by the Google SketchUp Team, and it’s pretty great!

I think it takes a certain kind of personality type to want to build your own house, and it takes real guts to actually make it happen, so kudos to anyone who has ever built their own dream house! And special appreciation to the people who inspire us to dream bigger, and do more–and both of these women fit that description for me, and for so many others. Both of them are incredibly inspiring, for so many reasons!

And perhaps it’s even more inspiring to see what they’ve done after they built their houses.  Both have continued to dream big, and are accomplishing big things. Macy has been on the road for a year, with her family, in a tiny camper they built–so a second tiny home for the road–and she’s documenting it all. And Ella has released an album, and now a video.

Macy always says “it’s not about the house, it’s about the lifestyle the house provides,” and I agree. I also think that doing something really big, like building a house, even a tiny one, can change your life forever. Make your life bigger and better, and more fulfilling. Give you the courage to go after new challenges… Because honestly? If you’ve built a house, you can do anything!


My Tiny House: Framing the Foundation

Tiny House Trailer // Photo: Cheryl SpeltsWhat is the first step when building a tiny house on wheels, after research and buying the actual trailer? Building the foundation!

The first task was to remove half of the deck boards. They’re 2x6s, so heavy, and a solid deck wasn’t necessary, so to make the load lighter, I planned to remove every other one–and of course they were bolted on with hardware that required a lot of strength to remove!

Because I wanted my house to be 10’6″ wide, instead of the traditional 8’6″ wide, I needed to build over the wheel wells, so my foundation framing is done with 2×10 Douglas Fir–which makes the foundation tall enough to clear my wheels wells.

Each 2×10 was 10’6″ or 12′ in length, and so over 100 pounds. I definitely needed to hire someone strong to help get the foundation done.

The foundation framing with 2x10s is 24″OC, which is normally just fine–but I wanted to make sure my floor didn’t flex too much, so I decided to insert a 2×4 joist in between each of the 2×10 joists, so my floor would be supported every 12″ instead of every 24″. Why a 2×4? Because they’re much lighter than a 2×10 or even a 2×6, and since it was only to keep the floor from flexing too much, even a 2×4 was sufficient. You can see the blocking on the far left, for the porch, and the blocking in the far center, for the toilet, and blocking around each wheel well.

Wide Tiny House | Clearing the Wheel Wells // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Framing the Foundation // Photo: Cheryl Spelts
Close up of the way the blocking for the porch butts up against a floor joist.

Framing the Foundation of a Wide Tiny House // Photo: Cheryl Spelts
Matthew, the guy I hired to put the foundation together, felt that we needed more bulk at the front end of the trailer, so he used one 10’6″ 2×10, and then glued and screwed two pieces of 2×10 to it, to make it double in width, and then used Simpson Strong Ties at the join. The join is on the inside, and the full size 2×10 is on the outside, so it’s plenty strong.

Framing the foundation of a Tiny House // Photo: Cheryl Spelts
Right before the first layer of 1/2″ plywood sheathing got dropped on top… I wanted to document the Simpson Strong Ties that were used in the foundation. Each 2×10 joist had a 2×10 joist hanger on both ends, and the 2×4 joists, had 2×4 joist hangers on both ends. And where we needed blocking, for the porch, corner Gusset Angles were used.

Simpson Strong Tie Corner Ties // Photo: Cheryl Spelts
Simpson Strong Tie Corner Ties were used on the four corners, where the 2x10s met.

Framing the Foundation of a Wide Tiny House // Photo: Cheryl Spelts
A shot of both a 2×10 and the 2×4 joist hangers, along with a corner tie, all by Simpson Strong Ties. You can also see how the foundation hangs off the edge of the trailer, by about a 12″ on each side.

Foundation for a Wide Tiny House // Photo: Cheryl Spelts
The foundation with two layers of 1/2 plywood, glued and screwed down. Why two layers of 1/2″ instead of one layer of 3/4″? Two reasons! First, I could lift a 1/2″ piece of plywood, and I wasn’t sure how much help I would need to build the foundation, so I whenever I could make a choice that meant I could do the work if needed, I did. And second, by gluing and screwing down one layer of plywood first, and then gluing and screwing down the second layer, with overlapping seams, I ended up with a floor that is one big glued piece of plywood, rather than a floor made up of individual pieces that might shift or move on their own. It was just one more way to make my foundation and floor as stable and strong as possible.