The weight of your tiny house might seem like an arbitrary number. Pounds, kilos - these don’t matter as long as the house is built up to code and can withstand four seasons, right?
Wrong. Your tiny house weight is one of the most important things to think about, especially if you’re building a THOW. How heavy your tiny house is will affect how mobile your tiny house is.
How do you build a lightweight tiny house? Start by using lighter materials. Use SIPs or steel framing instead of wood. Skipping the subfloor and building it straight to your trailer is another way of saving weight.
In this article, we share all the tips and tricks to creating a weight-conscious tiny house from scratch.
Why Does Weight Matter
Road limits might be irrelevant to tiny house owners in the US because of practically nonexistent weight limits. Enthusiasts from other countries have to watch out for their tiny house capacity.
In New Zealand, there’s a limit of 7,716 lbs, 9,920 lbs for Australia, and 7,700 lbs for most of Europe. How heavy your tiny house is will decide if you’re allowed on major highways and if you’re required to get a special license to drive your tiny house.
For tiny houses on wheels, your trailer is the foundation of your home. If you miscalculate your trailer requirements, the trailer can fall apart, causing damage to your tiny house, sometimes past the point of repair. We talk about choosing the right trailer size for your tiny house here.
If this is your first time owning a tiny house, you’re probably also getting a truck to tow your property. When we say truck, we mean something like a Ford F-150 with a 3.5L V6 TC engine. This truck has an 11,700 lbs towing capability, perfect for tiny homes under 20 feet long or less.
Meanwhile, if you’re towing a house that’s 20 feet or more, upgrading to a heavy duty truck like the Ford F-350 or Dodge Ram 3500 might be more suitable to your towing needs.
Again, the truck you’re going to buy or rent should be capable of transporting your tiny house. Similarly, if you’re building your house around the truck you already have, make sure it can be towed by your current vehicle.
Overweight Tiny House Nightmares
Tim and Steph from The Creative Animal Foundation recount how difficult it was to maneuver the roads of North Carolina with their 12,260 lbs tiny home. A load like that means it’s nearly impossible to perform smooth turns and twists when driving with a tiny home.
True enough, Tim and Steph recount the hassle of sinking into what they thought was gravel that turned out to be sand. In the end they were able to get out with the help of a local.
This little mishap pales in comparison to Kate Benediktsson’s story, who wrote on Medium about her experiences with a bad tiny house contractor. Their problems began with one crucial problem: their house was overweight. To be more specific, Kate’s $117,000 tiny house was 5,000 lbs overweight and capped at 19,000 lbs in total.
Here were some of Kate’s issues:
- The trailer frame was not sufficient to support the weight of the tiny house. The house should have been built on a 5th wheel frame instead
- The truck they had ordered was incompatible with the trailer weight
- Because of how heavy the house is, the hitch broke, and the bottom of the tiny house began to peel off
- The tiny house remained immobile and had to be sold to someone else
Although Tim and Steph’s house technically isn’t overweight, 12,260 lbs is still a lot to travel with. However, the couple made this decision as part of their mission to educate others about sustainability and impart the tiny house experience with other people; if you want to encourage people to go tiny, you want to show them a house they can actually live in, even if that means hauling a couple thousand extra lbs.
12,260 lbs isn’t really that bad, even for a THOW. Most tiny houses get moved once every three months (Tim and Steph move theirs every couple of days for tours and talks) so the average tiny house owner doesn’t really have to stress over this as much.
What Affects Tiny House Weight?
Tiny House Dimensions
How big a tiny house is dictates how heavy it will be. All the extra square footage you’re adding will ultimately add more weight to your total tiny house weight.
Tiny house on wheels generally have the same 8.6” width and 13.6” height for road clearance. The difference in length will decide how heavy your tiny house will be.
|Tiny House Length||Tiny House Average Weight|
|12 – 14 ft||5700 – 6650 lbs|
|18 – 20 ft||8550 – 9500 lbs|
|24 – 28 ft||11,400 – 13,300 lbs|
|32 – 36 ft||15,200 – 17,100 lbs|
Although tiny houses started small, capping at 14 to 16 feet long, more and more people realized the standard size felt too cramped, and just adding a couple more feet would drastically improve their quality of life.
If you’re set on getting a tiny house plan that’s 20 feet long or more, make sure to weigh every single thing you’re adding to the tiny house to get an idea of the final total weight. As you go through the process, keep your trailer’s capacity and local road limits in mind and build around those.
Want to know the average weight of a tiny house? We wrote all about it here.
Tips On Building a Lightweight Tiny House
The weight of your tiny house is primarily determined by the building materials you use, especially during the framing process. All the efforts you make picking out the lightest appliance won’t make a difference if your tiny house’s dry weight stands at 10,000 lbs.
The first step to constructing a travel-friendly structure is to use durable but lightweight materials including:
Wood framing using 2 x 4 studs is the most common frame used for most tiny homes. As a material, it’s accessible, durable, and pretty easy to work with.
Unless you’re using advanced framing techniques, wood isn’t exactly the lightest material in the world.
The average small wooden tiny house weighs about 3,100 lbs from the framing alone. For those living outside the US, road limits will definitely limit your choice of framing. You either have to pick a smaller floor plan or use an alternative to wood framing:
Comparing Steel, SIPS, and Wood For Tiny House Framing
|Steel||Structural Insulated Panel (SIPS)||Wood|
|Weight||Steel framing can weigh 60 - 70% less than a wooden tiny house.||Weight depends on manufacturer. Compared to advanced framing methods using wood, SIPs can be 5% heavier||Generally the heaviest out of the three, but can be improved by using advanced framing techniques|
|Costs||Pre-ordering steel frames can cost anywhere from $5,000 to upwards of $15,000 depending on the manufacturer. Usually no or lower labor costs||Costs vary depending on panel type (aluminum V steel), insulation material, and sheathing. Usually no or lower labor costs||The cheapest out of the three options but has high labor costs. Doesn’t require special orders, and materials can be bought from any construction supplier|
|Assembly||Comes either pre-cut or assembled. Can be assembled with minimal labor required||Typically comes fully assembled and can be installed in 1-2 days||Takes a couple of days to weeks to assemble from having to cut and build every single piece|
|Durability||Can withstand hurricanes||Can withstand hurricanes||Can withstand hurricanes|
|Can be DIY?||Yes, but steel frames are usually custom-made||Yes, but SIPs panels are usually custom-made||Yes, can be done without a contractor|
|Insulation / Thermal Bridging||High potential for thermal bridging because of steel material but can be fixed with good insulation||Comes with built-in insulation. Highest insulation R-value; can also be potentially low if manufacturer used cheap insulation materials||Addressable with good insulation options|
|Flexibility||Mistakes are harder to correct, sometimes impossible if you order uncut pieces||Adjustments are almost impossible because everything has been pre-fitted and made according to original plans||Very flexible; can always make room for improvements on the fly|
Traditional homes use asphalt shingles to line their roofs. While this roofing material can lend your tiny house some old timey charm, it's not always the best option if you’re planning to travel around in it.
Other roofing alternatives for your tiny house are:
|Roof Material||Weight (lbs) per square foot||Cost (USD) per square foot|
|Asphalt shingles||230||$3.50 to $5.50 per square foot|
|Wood shingles||199 to 426 depending on the type of wood||$4.50 to $9.00 per square foot|
|Corrugated steel panels||113||$3.50 to $7.50 per square foot|
|Copper roofing||100 to 150 depending on thickness||$14 to $25 per square foot|
|Membrane roofing using PVC, Rubber, TPO||29 to 47, depending on the material being used||$5 to $8.50 per square foot|
|Concrete tiles||600 - 1,100||$8.50 to $17.50 per square foot|
Copper roofs, while low in weight and resistant to strong winds, can look distinctive and doesn’t always go with the modern look most tiny houses have. On the other hand, it develops a beautiful patina over time that would really bolster your tiny house’s appeal.
Another obvious option is corrugated steel panels. This roofing material is being currently used in a lot of tiny house on wheels, precisely because it’s sleek, simple, and durable.
All the gorgeous tiny houses you see in shows are always clad in wood siding. It’s really incomparable to anything in terms of aesthetic appeal. The downside is that, like framing, wood isn’t the ideal material for bigger tiny houses.
If your house is stationary or is smaller than 25 to 30 feet in length, wood siding shouldn’t be a problem at all. Otherwise, you’re better off looking at lighter siding options.
If you’re keen on giving your home that wooden look, vinyl siding can give your house the same appeal as wood. It’s much lighter and a lot easier to apply. Vinyl siding is also difficult to ignite because it’s mostly made of PVC.
Galvanized iron is also another great option for tiny houses. Not only is it light, it has the structural integrity to withstand harsh conditions from travel and the environment. Metal siding options are also low maintenance and fire-resistant.
When it comes to tiny house insulation, less weight doesn’t always mean the best. In our article Best Insulation For A Tiny House, we wanted to share the top insulation options for tiny house living, as well as the pros and cons of each popular option.
Fiberglass batts is one of the thinnest insulation options out there, weighing at barely a pound per square foot. The downside is that fiberglass batts isn’t entirely travel-friendly. Hitting a bump in the road could produce vibrations that could dislodge your insulation work. It doesn’t stay in place like rigid rockwool insulation, which has an average weight of 1.7 lbs per square foot.
Of course this can easily be mitigated by ensuring proper installation and buying high quality fiberglass batts.
Other light insulation options include:
|Insulation Material||R-value per square foot||Weight per square foot|
|SIPs||Varies but is R3.8 per square foot on average||3-4 lbs per square foot|
|Polyiso||R6 to R7||1.5 to 1.8|
|XPS||R4.7||1.3 to 1.9|
|EPS||R3.8 to R4||0.46 to 1.16|
Trailer As Subfloor
Most tiny house plans we see include building a subfloor on top of the trailer since some trailers are designed with that as your only option. What if we told you that you could save some vertical space by building directly onto your trailer?
Of course this involves getting the right trailer right off the bat. With a custom tiny house trailer, you can buy one that has evenly spaced cross members for easy flooring. Doing this method will spare you some more time, money, and weight.
Inside the Tiny House: Tips For Saving Weight
Do Appliances Matter?
Kitchen appliances tend to weigh more than any other furnishing in your tiny home. If you’re pressed to save some weight, keep an eye out for individual appliance weight. Although a 104 lbs Avanti gas range might seem negligible at first, these appliances can quickly add up to an extra 5,000 to 6,000 lbs if you’re not watchful.
Weight Saving Tips Around the Tiny House
- Use lightweight wood material for kitchen cabinets, shelves, and other storage units
- Instead of getting a stove outfitted with an oven, consider getting a countertop or medium-sized range and a separate convection oven for your baking needs
- Shop for multipurpose furniture whenever you can. Instead of having two different beds, you can just get a convertible couch that magically transforms into another guest bed
Looking for DIY inspiration for multipurpose furniture? Check out our article on multipurpose furniture for tiny houses.
- If you’re planning a tub to your tiny bathroom, factor its empty and filled weight. Even the smallest tubs add another 100 lbs when filled with water
- Swap out wood with canvas. Instead of slide-out doors, consider using curtains for extra privacy
- Set up a projector system instead of a TV system
- Beware of bathroom tiles. While cute, they can get pretty heavy and could break while you’re in transit
- Kitchen countertops are another part of your home that could eat up a lot of space. Those granite and marble countertops can set you back another 500 lbs. Look into companies that produce beautiful but lightweight alternative to countertops like Polystone Creations and PaperStone
- Explore light drywall alternatives like plywood and plastic panels
Towable Tiny House Plans
These tiny house designs should give you some ideas of what to watch out for when building a travel-friendly home. These floor plans include the building materials they used to achieve a completely towable design.
- The Amsterdam 24
Thi tiny house has 292 sq ft of floor space and comes down to just 8,340 lbs. Its main weight saving feature is the fiberglass composite walls instead of regular wood frame. The walls have been tested and are guaranteed to withstand a Category 5 hurricane. Read more about it here.
- SIP Tiny House
This unit is a standard 24 x 8 feet model that falls below the average weight for this tiny house size. This tiny house, supported by SIPs using fiberglass and resin sheathed panels, caps at a measly 6,800 lbs. Its impressive design allows for modern comforts such as a full-size fridge freezer combo and lots of extra storage.
- Anchor Bay 16
A tiny house plan that takes tiny to a whole new level. This towable tiny house on wheels features interesting modern silhouette with plenty of natural light. This layout is perfect for builders who are looking for a weekend beach cabin that’s both towable and livable. The design is estimated to weigh 7,200 lbs.
Keeping Your Tiny House Tiny
Remember to take a step back during the drafting process and try to figure out the numbers as early as possible. When you have the figures in mind, it’s easier to go through the design and confidently build the rest of your traveling abode.
We hope these tips help you build your dream home on wheels!
Hey, there! We're Ivan and Manuela from Croatia, and we're crazy about tiny houses. We don't own one (yet).
This website is a result of our passion to share all the knowledge, photos, tips and tricks that we were able to learn while studying everything possible about the tiny house movement.