old mobile homes combined?

topic posted Tue, March 9, 2010 - 7:06 AM by  Briggi
Looking for ideas for combining old mobile homes into housing. 1970s or earlier units can be pretty cheap. Once dragged onto some property, two or more can be arranged paralell, or L-shaped, or four square with a covered courtyard in the middle?... and connected together to form one larger housing unit? Just some ideas that came to me.
Has anybody done this? How can old mobile homes be worked with to create a bigger more usable living space? What are soime of the solutions that would be associated with this?
posted by:
  • B
    offline 123

    Re: old mobile homes combined?

    Tue, March 9, 2010 - 7:13 AM
    Has anyone really looked at the realistic cost comparison of the cost of a couple of old mobile homes and the cost of moving them to build housing compared to just building a cabin? Are we really caught up in the idea and missing the facts here?
    • Re: old mobile homes combined?

      Tue, March 9, 2010 - 10:50 AM
      I live in a small 1955 mobile home and have for 10 years now. Ive seen people try to mesh mobile homes together and it looks like a train wreck. Not to mention the zoning and moving problems. Not worth it in my view. For the hassle I would build a small garage next to the mobile and call it a day.
      • Re: old mobile homes combined?

        Tue, March 9, 2010 - 3:37 PM
        Common in the California Desert on lots that have no zoning restrictions practically. Two MH single or double on an L with a shipping container completing a U courtyard. I think it's cool.
        • Re: old mobile homes combined?

          Wed, March 10, 2010 - 7:46 AM
          Those Riverside and San Bernardino County MH communities look pretty shabby, as Mark pointed out. Many MHs clumped together serving as housing for undocumented mojados.
          But I think that we at this forum can come up with something better than that.
          I agree with you, some very few of them, when done with care and consciousness, can come out looking pretty good. And that's what I'm interested in....... getting a good vision about how this can be done well.

          The MH can be gutted, for example, and the inside space re-made with an entirely new floor plan. Then the ujnits connected.

          I keep getting ideas but I want to hear other creative views.
          • Re: old mobile homes combined?

            Wed, March 10, 2010 - 12:02 PM
            If you go to Barstow and follow the dirt roads (grid) SEast you'll see some nice ones. There's one you can see from Hwy 40 looking left going towards Needles.
            Whatever about "mojados" there's always temporary or old stuff in the desert. I'd point out Sky Valley South of Desert Hot Springs kind of a PWT community, homesteader lots alternate crap and nice abodes.
      • Re: old mobile homes combined?

        Wed, March 10, 2010 - 7:14 AM
        make believe you are an architectural student, intelligent, artistic, original.... and it is your assignment to come up with a creative solution to the problem.
        I mean expressly so that the project Does Not come out looking like some kind of a redneck train wreck, as you would put it.
        For instance, placement of the components in a tight geometric configuration, and then painting all of the disparite elements all one color, would obviate it looking like some kind of poor clueless mess, and maybe make it look neat.
        • B
          offline 123

          Re: old mobile homes combined?

          Wed, March 10, 2010 - 7:21 AM
          <make believe you are an architectural student, intelligent, artistic, original.>

          And one that can do a cost comparison of used mobil homes and building a cabin new from new and used materials.

          Really we get caught up in an idea that may not be the best or even a good solution.

          Oh and let's not forget about toxic mobile homes. Do we want the cheap FEMA ones?
          • Re: old mobile homes combined?

            Wed, March 10, 2010 - 12:39 PM
            I would bet that a log cabin would cost a lot more, unless it was smaller than the trailer house. Where are you going to find the used materials? It would take more time than it's worth scaring up usable material There are used lumber brokers but the lumber is not that much cheaper depending on what you buy.
            He has aesthetic concerns too, you might have to find trailers that match or are similar. Don't want no Bracero Trailer.
    • Re: old mobile homes combined?

      Wed, March 10, 2010 - 7:33 AM
      The beauty of mobile homes is in their mobility. MHs already have wheels under them ready to roll. Any teenager with a big pickup truck will be glad to make $100 for a couple hours work moving a mobile home. A freind or neighbor may do it for the price of a 6-pack. The mobile home itself can be purchased for about $1000 for a good (but OK, old) one.
      Have you looked at the cost of a log cabin kit home? After materials hauling and construction, the log cabin does not compare favorably with the price of a conventional home.

      Do you know what it costs to have just 2 or 3 tree trunks hauled? Can you imagine?
      Lots more than dimensional lumber.

      Maybe if you are really good with an axe, have a team of horses, a private forest in Alaska, and fifteen plus years of spare time, you can come in under budget .

      I mean let me know what kind of alternate fantasy economy you are hooked up to. Let me in on the savings.
      • Re: old mobile homes combined?

        Wed, March 10, 2010 - 12:30 PM
        There are single wide trailers and double wide trailers. I wouldn't be so sure a kid in his pickup could move a 40' single. Doubles are hauled one side per tractor. The metal skinned ones don't paint too well, the one's with T111 siding-plywood paint well. I think most of the new ones are Dbl wides with T111 or some other manufactured siding.

        If you have a plan of how you are going to configure the trailers, the factory could put the pass through or doors that go between the trailers.
        It would not be that difficult to retrofit used mobile homes.
        One way to configure your courtyard trailers would be at the bottom of the U have a Dbl, on the side of the U have a Single.

        I've been a Carpenter since 1970.

        I can't remember the name of the company, Cedar Home? something, this was 20 years ago. We were going to build a house in Cambria, near Hearst's Castle. When we we did the costing the Cedar Home (prefab) was about the same as conventional construction.

        I have a very rich friend who had a log home built by a firm from British Columbia in Montana. It cost more than conventional construction, it was all doug fir logs. There's the tinker toy kind where the turn the logs perfectly round, I heard they were cheap but I would think they would be cold if you're in the snow so you'd have to keep your stove or fire place going continuously.
      • B
        offline 123

        Re: old mobile homes combined?

        Wed, March 10, 2010 - 5:09 PM
        <Do you know what it costs to have just 2 or 3 tree trunks hauled? Can you imagine? >

        I don't have to imagine I'll leave that to you. I've done it. Not a big deal with a truck and trailer.

        I do know how much it costs to build even with new materials. I can build much better than a log cabin for under $10k and have even done it for $5K. As for time under 20 days and you have shelter and some pretty nice shelter at that. That includes the inside. It does require work though.

        I've seen the $5K trailers around San Diego and the term fixer upper is a joke. More like toxic waste on wheels.

        It's fun to let your imagination run wild. But when it comes time to get in out of the sun (unless your a mad dog or Englishman) or the rain or the wind it's better to have some facts and figures in you hand.

        And yes the problem is you have to be able to build from scratch. That includes some basic engineering.
        • Re: old mobile homes combined?

          Wed, March 10, 2010 - 7:44 PM
          5K for what, how much sq footage? Usually if you are quoting a rough cost for a house you figure the cost per sq, ft., A nice house in CA costs $250/sq. ft. (more I think), you can do it for way cheaper but you won't have cabinets you'll have a concrete floor, you get the gist. What you have to do is work within a budget so you can put money in the stuff you want in your trailer cabin or log cabin or whatever. I think you could pull it off, the trailer courtyard house, but you need to make a spread sheet with your budget.
          I think the first thing he needs is a budget and go from there
    • Re: old mobile homes combined?

      Wed, March 10, 2010 - 12:41 PM
      Cabin would cost more per sq. ft. I'd be willing to bet.
      • Re: old mobile homes combined?

        Thu, March 11, 2010 - 2:33 PM
        Older moble homes are cheap to buy and easy to maintain. I didnt want to come across like a drag........but the mobile home concept is not about having alot of space......its about small space with the mobile ability. When the demand for larger and larger mobile homes took my opinion it destroyed the advantage of having a home on wheels. But....older mobile homes are overlooked. I have had no problems with mine in 10 years of use.
        • B
          offline 123

          Re: old mobile homes combined?

          Thu, March 11, 2010 - 6:09 PM
          I would like to get an old airstream. Like a 19 or 22 footer. Now that is not a lot of space but it can be pulled easily. If you want space I say build. The quality will be much better than some of the cheap single and double wides out there. And much better insulated as well. You can easily go passive solar. So many options.
        • Re: old mobile homes combined?

          Fri, March 12, 2010 - 7:41 AM
          Sure...sailboats too are some tight for space. Pretend you are in training for a big luxury cruise.

          But seriously, ...
          a house trailer is built with virtually no bearing walls inside. That means, you can strip out all the interior partitions and get gown to the four walls without loss of structure. And when you are looking at a 12' x 40' space, that is reasonable elbow room. Two or three such spaces hooked up will give generous size living quarters. Do the arithmetic.

          If you are shy for sweating, the mojado braceros will lend a hand, and maybe not so pricey as union.
          • Re: old mobile homes combined?

            Fri, March 12, 2010 - 12:20 PM
            I used to be pro-mobile home, for the same reasons Briggi mentions- I fantasized about getting a cheap acre somewhere and hauling two trailers onto it and coupling them together.

            Then I became a carpenter, and worked on a few.

            It's a really bad idea unless you plan on making them temporary. The materials they're made from and the construction (mostly the lack of roof overhang and the weatherizing of the windows) makes them fall apart within about 10 years of construction in most climates, and they're so poorly insulated, with so little space for insulation in the roof, that they make a crappy environment to live in. You can construct a cabin of the same square footage and get more insulation, a small attic for insulation purposes, and better airflow fairly easily.

            I've worked on a bunch of mobile homes, and the construction is generally such crap that it's almost not worth trying to maintain one.

            Just as examples:

            flooring tends to be this uniquely crappy particleboard- sort of like MDF but shittier- that swells, goes soft, and falls apart with the slightest amount of water leakage (this seems to be the most common issue- the plumbing under a sink or behind a wall springs a leak, previous owners don't pay attention to waht's happening under their vinyl flooring, and you suddenly have to replace three rooms' worth of moldy particleboard, flooring or carpet to replace.

            Of course this happens in kitchens and bathrooms, and the cabinets are stapled into place- theyr'e not really cabinets, and you can't remove the cabinets without destroying them- they're really flimsy luan installed with manufacturing staples that are impossible to remove carefully, so if you have to deal with 3 rooms worth of floor replacement, you have to also count in the cost of replacing all of your original "cabinets". Of course the interior walls are built on top of the now-rotten particleboard flooring, and water damage will be under the studs as well. Vinyl flooring ran us several hundred dollars just for a very small kitchen. Carpet is expensive.

            Pre-1995 mobile home plumbing is often a crappy inferior form of PEX (I think it's polybutalene- the grey crap in this picture: that had a tendency to fail spontaneously.

            A couple of years ago, I did some maintenance or consulting for a nonprofit organization that used a bunch of trailers as rental income or intern housing. On three different era mobile homes and one farmhouse that was plumbed like one, there were failures in this same exact plastic plumbing, leading to the same exact identical expensive floor destruction in the mobile home and lots of mold and water damage in the farmhouse.

            Windows are often single-pane aluminum-frame, with universally bad waterproofing detailing that essentially funnels water into the sill from whence it disappears into the wall, there to grow a nice crop of poisonous black mold. In many cases, there's no easy way to rebuild the window area to take in modern windows, or to deal with the weatherproofing issues.

            If you end up re-roofing the entire structure AND build a longer overhang, that may help the window water infiltration issues, but I'd suggest framing a new roof and not using the 1x 'joists' that make up the roof. Yes, 1x. There's a photo in the earlier parts of my photo album of me on a mobile home roof on an Indian reservation, where the roof was blown off by a storm, and you can see the insanely awful construction and how little insulation the roof construction provides. Here's the photo- try and imagine how you're going to extend the roof on that structure:

            1/4" thick sheetrock (if you're lucky enough to have sheetrock) and 2 x 3 interior walls, anyone? Yeah, I'm talking about sound issues. It's enormous fun having kids and roommates in a mobile home. They're so great for privacy. Yeah, that's sarcasm.

            Older ones tend to have paneling instead of sheetrock. It's hard to do minor repairs (say, to a hole in the wall where someone kicked it, or to electrical outlets where you have to replace an entire box (see next problem) without pulling down a whole panel. Have fun matching the pattern on your paneling. Paneling that's been painted over the years by previous occupants using interior house paint looks really good. Also sarcasm.

            electrical is often assembled with these nonstandard mobile home one-piece 'boxes/outlets', where, at the factory, they basically pinch an uninterrupted run of Romex with sharp metal spades on the box/outlet combo. Sometimes that process misses and the outlets fry. When that happens, you have almost no Romex in the wall to work with because of course they do this before paneling goes on, so there's no slack needed- you can get the original crap box out of there but it doesn't leave you a few inches of Romex to work with in a normal box- it's basically an outlet box clipped into a straight run of Romex. Sometimes the rest of the electrical is substandard as far as modern code goes- they got away with a lot of mobile-home-grade stuff in the past that would probably be a headache code-wise if you're adding a non-mobile addition.

            Another strange issue I've found is that for double-wides, they seemed to stick non-load-bearing walls in the middle in a way that blocks air flow perfectly (I was so amazed by this that I took photos of the one we renovated two Septembers ago- there were walls in the way of both natural light and airflow. Mold loved the lack of airflow. I think the light issue was mostly about not creating glare that upsets people's TV watching)

            . The way the rooms are laid out, other than the master bedroom, there's usually a really bad airflow problem elsewhere in the house, too-rooms tend to be tiny and have only one window as most of these are designed to be a master bedroom and two or three kids' rooms sort of layout- they can sell more of them if they advertise them as 'three bedroom' than if they used smaller numb.ers of bedrooms and advertised them as being quality design. In a "normal" small single-family house, you might stick a bedroom upstairs into a converted attic, etc- but with a mobile home there's a lot of design limitation that's inherent in the width issue. Obviously Briggi's suggesting just tearing out all the interior and re-designing it how you'd like- but I think the effort involved coupled with the crappy exterior framing is rarely worth it.

            Many of these places come with a redneck paradise master bathroom full of mirrors and a large jacuzzi type bathtub. The tub we took out in one renovation turned out to be polystyrene!

            Incidentally, the renovation that I saw our "organization' do two years ago, which was just three bad rooms damaged by the water infiltration- ended up costing some $5k, mostly because of incompetence of the management overseeing the inexperienced carpenter doing most of the work- but still, that's not completely unusual for a beginner homeowner. We didn't re-do the electrical service (though we had to redo lots of dead outlets), all we did was move one wall to make a bigger kitchen, replace all the flooring, deal with oodles of black mold, replace the plumbing just in that end of the house, replace cabinets, remove paneling so the electrical could be redone completely in a couple of those rooms, replace it with sheetrock, and fix up some bathroom fixtures. Sheesh.

            During that time, another person in our organization who was not experienced at carpentry bought one of the organization's houses- it was 3 acres of land and a trailer for $6k- and I think they spent something like $5-8k dealing with the same 'water infiltration/dead floor/all the walls are fucked' cascade that we saw. And in the end they still have a trailer with shitty thin walls and therefore poor insulation, whereas they could have built something for 8-10K with the amount of community labor we had available.

            For one of the renovations two years ago, we had a big volunteer crew of experienced contractors standing around one day staring at the amazingly bad window weatherizing detailing, all of us shaking our heads about the buying decisions that the original owner had made by getting that double-wide. The thing was less than 20 years old and it was falling apart only due to manufacturing quality. One of the contractors shook his head and pointed out that the original owner could have invested the same money into building a house- and they would actually have 'had something worth something' by now.
            • Re: old mobile homes can be combined

              Fri, March 12, 2010 - 7:14 PM
              I like to recycle. I mean get old shit and fix it up until good....then just for fun, see how long I can keep it going.
              Common wisdom holds that trailers are rubbish and trailer dwellers are trash. I'm here to tell you that's wrong.

              I've had these two trailers now for 32 years. They were made in 1951 and 1958. I am now sitting writing this in the bigger one.

              Have a look at these pictures of my trailers >>


              • Re: old mobile homes can be combined

                Fri, March 12, 2010 - 7:39 PM
                For shits and giggles:
       < I think these have double pained windows
       <specs in Michigan
       <spec sheet from a SW mobile home manuf.
       <consumers union
                • Re: old mobile homes can be combined

                  Fri, March 12, 2010 - 7:42 PM
                  All this time I thought you were talking about "trailer park" style MHs. I think those are pretty cool trailers, not much R value tho.
                  • This is the maximum depth. Additional responses will not be threaded.

                    Re: old mobile homes can be combined

                    Fri, March 12, 2010 - 8:27 PM
                    Those links of yours are what we here call "manufactured homes".... as opposed to mobile homes, or trailers, which are meant to be moved.... easily.

                    With the woodstove banked and roaring with pinion, you can run around naked inside even with it being a -10 below blizzard out-of-doors. RH? that's something you think about if you have to pay for fuel. We chop it.
                    • Re: old mobile homes can be combined

                      Fri, March 12, 2010 - 11:11 PM
                      Whoop dee doo Yosemite Sam!!
                      • Re: old mobile homes can be combined

                        Fri, March 12, 2010 - 11:36 PM
                        Yeah, go ahead and chop down the Juniper Pinon woodland. I though the whole point of this tribe was some kind of ecological save energy and build homes and building out of cob or mud bricks.
                        I liked the idea of using old trailers but from the energy and building correct crowd they either gas you with poly-phenols or formaldehyde and have the R value of a paper bag. But I guess if you get your national or state forest permit to cut all the fire wood you want you can burn 9 cords of pinon!!
                        Listen you old f%k, you better stack some hay bales around your trailers and put some kinda insulation on top or one of these post hippy hippies are gonna be on your case.
                        Me, I don't care except don't dose off and let a spark light your rug and burn you out.
                        Oh! the links, I know there is some manufactured housing there but the line from trailer to Manufactured housing is thin and if you hit all the links some of them are mobile home sites and how to under pin a mobile home. I also prefaced it with "shits and giggles" because I knew it was outside the scope of what you were thinking of and Carpenter Woman posted a long diatribe on how f%ked up trailers are.
                        Good luck and best wishes!!
                    • Re: old mobile homes can be combined

                      Fri, March 12, 2010 - 11:26 PM
                      from those links, here are some quotes that back up my experience with old mobile homes:


                      "Plumbing problems are the most common complaints among manufactured homeowners. In our survey, more than one out of every three reported such problems.

                      Many mobile homes are equipped with low-quality sinks, tubs, showers, and faucets made of thin molded plastic, which may lead to cracks and leaks. We recommend that you upgrade to fixtures made of heavy reinforced plastic or porcelain-covered steel.

                      Many toilets do not have a shutoff valve, which can be an inconvenience or cause additional problems during a repair or an emergency. Request a shutoff valve at each plumbing fixture, and know where to find the main water shutoff valve for your home."

                      check, check, and check...

                      "Avoid particleboard subfloors. When it gets wet, particleboard is more susceptible than plywood to problems such as swelling, warping and loss of strength. Larger joists, smaller joist-spacing, and thicker subflooring can reduce floor flexing and sagging. "
                      • Re: old mobile homes can be combined

                        Fri, March 12, 2010 - 11:39 PM
                        Girl, you are so right I'm putting up a gold star on my bulletin board.
                        • Re: old mobile home trailers can be combined

                          Sat, March 13, 2010 - 1:25 AM
                          Some points that need focus before yall waste any more ammo on non-targets..>>

                          + We harvest only deadwood for fuel. On private land, no permit is required...especially for dead dried wood.... removal of which has no negative ecological impact. USFS/DeptAg rules apply around my place by personal choice. Got a problem with that?
                          In other parts of the state people clear pinyon-juniper forest with chain-linked bulldozers to make cattle pasture. Go activate against that.

                          + Yes trailer home walls are comparatively thinner and less insulated than a conventional home.....and yet so much more snug and comfortable compared to a teepee or yurt. Have you ever spent winter in a primitive shelter? I have.(see my photo gallery) Once on the Sioux rez. We did alot of sweats.
                          And it can be a joy to sit around an open fire on a cold winter night with only a strip of canvas between you and the howling wind. There are some lifestyles that have values other than a warm crib near the mall, a bunch of DVDs, and a full refrigerator.
                          Know that a trailer home is altogether luxurious compared to a teepee.
                          I was hoping folks would have some notions about improving R-factors for trailers.
                          I guess compared to your suburban standards, a trailer might be thought of as "non-traditional housing". I know I am unconventional, but don't hate me for it.

                          + As to those manufactured homes, I totally agree, they are 3rd rate substitues for handmade normal every way. BUT, (again) I am not talking about those 2-part manufactured homes, but about house trailers.
                          House trailers like the one that Lucy & Desi pulled around with their Mercury convertible in the 1954 movie The Long Long Trailer. Long oblong boxes with futuristic 1950s fins and overhangs and fantastic style details. Fun stuff.

                          + I said old house trailer. I don't think they even make them any more. If you can get one it will be by searching around farm & ranch community yards, or by asking around at town-outskirts going-out-of-business trailer parks that need to move out of the way of developers. The old house trailers made before 1970 have 1/2" plywood flooring, not particle board. The pre-1970s trailers were made before formaldehyde and before phenols and before cheap poison materials. The old house trailers have hardwood framing. The old house trailers have copper tube plumbing. The old house trailers have minimal toxic synthetics because they are made before all the bad stuff was even invented & available.

                          + The old house trailers, although made light and cheap, can last a long time when cared for. They do not self-destruct. If they go bad that will be as a result of abuse, misuse and neglect. Even then, they can be repaired.( If you can't or won't, then get a life.)
                          My 52 year old trailer and my 59 year old trailer are living proof of that.

                          + Old house trailers, like old vehicles, can be bought very cheaply.And like some old vehicles they are a real value. For example you can buy a low miles good condition mid 90s Cadillac for a couple thousand dollars. That's market forces at work. Because consumer demands change with time.( Let's not go off on lead-sled fuel economy right now.Let's just say you are getting alot of product for the money). And old pre-1970s trailers are the same.
                          Many (most?) old tralers will come with kitchen appliances, bathroom fixtures, and furniture. Plenty stuff to play with. Mix & match. Use it or toss it.
                          For $1000 you own a home. Some people will GIVE you an old house trailer if you agree to remove it off their place. I have 2 old schoolbuses, and I got one of them like that simply by dragging the inconvenient old beast away. One man's treasure......

                          + Old house trailers are cheap and fun to fix up and a good starter home learning tool for folks who want to learn plumbing, roofing, electric etc. and not have to worry too hard about messing up a serious investment still owned by the bank.

                          + When you recycle an old house trailer, and fix it and live in it, you are recycling something that would otherwise be landfill. By re-using, you are helping conserve materials, resources, and energy that it takes to make and build a new conventional house. You are reducing industrial overproduction. You are reducing over-consumption. You are being green. You are kicken it with the hip and the stylin.

                          + I don't think there is a cheaper form of practical unconventional housing available than an old pre-1970s house trailer. (Please don't require a spreadsheet . Take my word.) Around these woods, old house trailers are the new log cabin.
                          Maybe in Idaho or Montana folks prefer $250K Hollywood Western style log homes with a cute stylish little Airstream parked out back.
                          So this is life on The Rez in Utah. Hope you don't mind.

                          + I am still very open to constructive ideas.
                          If all yall want to do is take shots at this topic, then please abstain and start your own string elsewhere.
                          The floor is open for ideas and visions for creative improvement.
                          • B
                            offline 123

                            Re: old mobile home trailers can be combined

                            Sat, March 13, 2010 - 4:51 AM
                            With a little carpentry knowledge and smart buying you can build energy efficient and take advantae of passive solar and still be in the cost ballpark of a used trailer with moving it.

                            I built a smaller passive solar cabin, R30 floor, R25 walls, R20 roof for under $5000. In the dead of a -20F winter outside if the sun shines it's 70 inside with no other heating. A small wood stove would keep the place toasty for a day on one or two loads of wood. And you can build in quality, and avoid all the typical water damage issues of trailers. I've ween them in every trailer with the exception of the airstreams.

                            Problem is not a lot of people are able to build things anymore.
                            • Re: old mobile home trailers can be combined

                              Sat, March 13, 2010 - 5:18 AM
                              My Landola rocks ! its a 8wide 1955. I would not want anything wider than 10 foot for all the reasons mentioned... My original floor is 3/4 inch plywood . The roof is 55 years old and is like will go 55 more years if someone will allow it. I insulated the entire trailer with reflectix and it does not heat up in the summer at all. My utility bills in the summer are 25.00 bucks and my taxes are 32.00 a year. Ive had the trailer in 70 mile an hour winds and the roof does not flap. This trailer is not junk or poorly built. Also....its small enough to build a deck enclosure up over the top and around the rear for protection and outdoor living space. I paid 450.00 for it and put about 5,000 into it. including new plumbing and electric. Take a look at some 1950's Spartan Trailers. ........
                              • Re: old mobile home trailers can be combined

                                Sat, March 13, 2010 - 8:47 AM
                                good point.

                                In this jurisdiction, trailers are regarded as vehicles. When they grow to be more than about 20 years old, trailers are considered to have zero value by the county assessor's market standard. So your annual property taxes get to be for the ground only. I have two house trailers and two schoolbuses on 15 acres. I pay about $250 per year property tax. That's it.

                                Arranging the trailers into a square with covered central atrium, all decked over and all plus-insulated, with offgrid solar energy? Is this not a plan?
                            • Re: old mobile home trailers can be combined

                              Sat, March 13, 2010 - 8:34 AM
                              Now take your cost analysis breakdown and also factor in a) labor-intensive requirement for handbuilt home, say at the rate of $15/hr (very conservative ballpark) per man hour, b) cost, energy,effort,time of sourcing, acquiring, transporting building materials, c) Thought, time, energy involved in planning an effective building. This versus a) finding a good old trailer, and b) dragging it onto your lot, ready to move in! OK, add in that you'll a) need to do some repairs. And b) (this is the topic we're talking about here) executing some energy-efficient and practical modifications to the trailer(s).
                              As to time/energy/expense, I think there is no contest between the two options.... if you want to look at it fairly.

                              That said, I agree that an intentional handmade home is better in every way than living in a trailer. My original plan, when I got out of the Army 32 years ago, was to have the trailers as temporary housing while I designed and built my earth-sheltered, passive-solar adobe house. But it never got to that, what with jobs, travel, Life, etc, and the trailers have been like an old pair of jeans you won't throw away -- way comfortable and adequate.

                              Although this particular topic string is not the place for it, I still could be incidentaly way interested in seeing some pictures and details of your place, just for good information.
                              • Re: old mobile home trailers can be combined

                                Sat, March 13, 2010 - 12:27 PM
                                Well as I said before making a courtyard with trailers sounds great to me.
                                It sounds as if you have a lot in common with the Barstow desert rats than the Riverside-Berdoo wet backs ;^P (term used for it's shock value) tho most of them are those poison newer trailer homes. They also use RR freight cars and ship containers for storage I suppose.
                                I think your on the right track. I like the post about fixing up the old trailer, sounds nice.
                                • Re: old mobile home trailers can be combined

                                  Sat, March 13, 2010 - 12:37 PM
                                  the retrorestoration gallery shows some cadillac-type renovations of travel trailers, but it gives you some ideas about how to work on them if they're moldy etc, even if you don't re-skin the entire thing for cosmetic appearance or whatever they're doing in there.
                                  • B
                                    offline 123

                                    Re: old mobile home trailers can be combined

                                    Sun, March 14, 2010 - 6:31 AM
                                    "abor-intensive requirement for handbuilt home, say at the rate of $15/hr (very conservative ballpark) "

                                    Like I said people don't build anything themselves anymore. I compare building a place myself with the cost of moving and renovating a trailer myself. Pretty equal. I would not want to live in a stock trailer unless it was an airstream. I would gut and renovate just about anything else. But I've seen old airstreams go for $4K in places. Easy to tow, easy to set up. Easy to use while I build a solarium, cabins community your mini IC. :)

                                    DIY. That's the cost comparison I like to use. The biggest costs start getting to be the taxes to final any housing. That's why you I like to look at smaller cabins and the micro houses. Some of them can even qualify to avoid the taxes for the final.
                                    • Re: old mobile home trailers can be combined

                                      Sun, March 14, 2010 - 8:02 AM
                                      Ya......the airstream is the only unit I would not gut out. Perhaps a Spartan as well. The airstream will hold its value also. We have a guy here in Indiana who deals is vintage airstreams and spartans. An airstream starts at about 4,000. I have heard of folks buying Spartan trailers from Europe and having them shipped over there.
                                      • Re: old mobile home trailers can be combined

                                        Sun, March 14, 2010 - 4:22 PM
                                        Briggi's trailers are old and have some character, He's described what shape they are in. I think he's looking for someone with the tools and intelligence to help him achieve his vision. I don't think it's a bad vision. I personally think it beats pouring a slab and framing something on it- for what he wants. He likes the style too.
                                        I asked before what's a $5000 home look like? How much sq footage? What do you 'skin' it with; siding, stucco, mud?? Do you have indoor plumbing like a toilet, shower-bath, bathroom sink, then the kitchen sink and drain, I know this is bourgois, a washer dryer???? Sheet rock, cardboard, plaster?? Doors, door frames, case and base, windows- single pain dbl. pain?? Oh and electrical, heating??
                                        Even if your building the simplest of structures of remodeling a trailer it's really helpful to have a budget- doesn't need to be right on, it's a guide to tell you where your money's going (to go).
                                        • B
                                          offline 123

                                          Re: old mobile home trailers can be combined

                                          Sun, March 14, 2010 - 7:38 PM
                                          The $5K was a micro house. A few hundred sq ft. Skinned with ply I would use board next time if I could get it cheap enough. A 2x4 construction called super insulation basically a double 2x4 wall on a wider plate to allow double insulation and a dead aair space. Hence the R25 walls and still easily put up into place by one person. I would have wanted a poured slab for thermal mass but the person I built it for wanted it off the ground Hence a more standard wood floor and R30 insulation. All dry walled and finished with home made trim. All wood stained. Doors were home made as well with foam insulation inside and two doors an outside and inside. Wired for power but not outlets for box. Just wires going to a common point and blank plates. Four outlets and four overhead lights. Right now no plumbing. Wasn't requested. And outside of permit requirements. A real cost saver. Flooring was from a Habitate ReStore. Lots of wood from sales. new stuff was insulation, shingles, dry wall and paint.
                                          • Re: old mobile home trailers can be combined

                                            Sun, March 14, 2010 - 10:17 PM
                                            Sounds interesting, couldn't do it here in Cally for the most part. I've done houses with 2x8 plate and staggered 2x4 studs inside and out and it was for noise. The house is in Carpinteria or the sand spit btwn the ocean and the salt marsh and RR tracks run along the back of the marsh and then Hwy 101 on the other side of that. The exterior walls facing the noise were all as I described. I'm not sure how well it worked, there were some windows in the wall.
                                            It sounds like a cool little house. I've thought of building a Christopher Alexander style hut, semi dwelling to see how that would work. That's how I sort of see unconventional housing go, not Pattern Language but a bunch of different styles and methods, sort of "nothings wrong if it works".
                                            • B
                                              offline 123

                                              Re: old mobile home trailers can be combined

                                              Mon, March 15, 2010 - 7:08 AM
                                              I've seen some really nice mini homes built in northern California in the Redwood forests. For about that

                                              Then again I've seen San Diego country destroy any hope of doing that with new sets of restrictions and a $30 plus per sq ft building fee to get a final. And they won't even look at a micro house. They want big houses.

                                              Now I look for counties with no building codes (good luck) or intelligent building codes.
                                          • Speaking of extreme miniaturization.....

                                            Mon, March 15, 2010 - 7:15 AM
                                            BD >
                                            or is that BD as in "B&D"? Don't worry, I'm getting your waterbed ready.

                                            You will enjoy this link to the latest designs out of China.... a shopping cart to Camper conversion for the homeless >


                                            Your carpenter skills could come in useful if you will come up with a design of how to connect the individual trailer units using decking, passageways, and a large roof with skylight up on posts, to tie the whole design together and add weather shelter factor.
                                        • Take Nevada as an example

                                          Mon, March 15, 2010 - 6:30 AM
                                          Lowfiron >

                                          The whole appeal of my Palace-of-Trailers idea is that it is as easy as Leggos to assemble, and way cheap. Plus practical because the individual rooms are already built with floor, roof, walls, windows, wired for electric, and plumbed.

                                          Maybe you've been over the borderline to Nevada? Why most of the whore ranches in Nevada started out as a bare patch of desert one week, and then the next week there would be a rollicking bordello of interconnected trailers, a bar, music & for business & ready to jam. They'd add the jacuzzi later.

                                          Why trailers? for the same reasons. It's just cheap and practical. You can't argue with success. But you CAN do it up with more style and class as a private residence.
                                      • Mark,
                                        I would like to know how you insulated your landola. Attaching slabs to the outside? or how? And the decking appears to double as a storm roof as well. How are the support posts set into earth?

                                        As to Airstream. This is a cult classic sure to attract notice wherever. Airstream is ideal for an on-location moviestar dressing room. It's a little too claustrophobic for fulltime dwelling, but if you dont mind the tight quarters of the Airstream floorplan, then you will probably like a cabover campershell better. These pickup-portable campers usually have a double bed, small stove, tiny refrigerator, dinette, storage, and even some with a little closet that acts as a shower & head. Around Utah, the 60s campers are currently running in the $50 to $200 range. I don't think they make them anymore.

                                        And a Camper would work as one component of my Palace-of-Trailers scheme.... maybe when stripped of kitchenette and then as a bedroom unit.
                                        • I replaced all the screws on the outside of the trailer including the top screws for the roof. If screws are loose at all they will wick water into the frame of the trailer and you are gone. Anyway I slipped the thin insulation under the skin while doing this. The sky deck is a future plan. To protect the trailer and provide useable space. I rent a lot so doing this is not an option right now.
                                  • Re: old mobile home trailers can be combined

                                    Mon, March 15, 2010 - 6:04 AM
                                    Ms. Mark >

                                    Your link is instructive, showing some of the defects that could be lurking under the perfectly pretty skin of a 50s mobile travel trailer home. When you've located a groovy specimen with a price you can't refuse, make sure to check it for seam seperation and whatnot. Unless you are prepared & equipped to execute a total makeover, move on. Or else get ready to shoot some serious caulk.
                                    But many of the old goodies found in the American Southwest are free of issues such as mold & water damage, due the dry climate.
                                    • Re: old mobile home trailers can be combined

                                      Mon, March 15, 2010 - 10:06 AM
                                      what I think is cooler about that link is that it shows how (relatively) easy it is to rebuild some of these. I know they spent gazillions of dollars on the restorations, but I'm quite inspired to do this myself at some point, just with better insulation than the originals came with.
                                      • B
                                        offline 123

                                        Re: old mobile home trailers can be combined

                                        Mon, March 15, 2010 - 3:59 PM
                                        I'm wondering if it isn't easier to start with a flat trailer some aluminum square tubing and build one from scratch the right war.

                                        Oh and I avoid all materials from China. One for the poor quality two for the jobs they take away here.
                                        • Re: old mobile home trailers can be combined

                                          Mon, March 15, 2010 - 6:41 PM
                                          I'm asking all these same questions because I have access to an aluminum workshop (not sure if welding aluminum would actually be useful, but I've considered building an aluminum framed RV on top of a regular steel trailer, so as to use thicker walls without adding weight). I think metals prices are going up now, which is unfortunate for my projects.

                                          I'm considering two different things : 1) building a teardrop trailer from scratch (other than the trailer, which is cheap enough to find on it's own), which would be towed by a car and in which I'd want super low weight materials and yet retain insulation for winter camping and 2) getting a 14 or 16' trailer to actually live in (and tow with a bigger vehicle)- the same scenario Briggi's talking about , since I know I'm going to move crosscountry a couple of times in the next two years. I've been looking at options for, again, maximizing insulation, and assuming that I'll want to re-do the interior of whatever I get.
                                          • Re: old mobile home trailers can be combined

                                            Mon, March 15, 2010 - 7:02 PM
                                            I have a friend that restored an Airstream 14' er, it was pretty damaged. He had to buy aluminum sheets of two thickness's (bottoms heavier.) He had to replace some frames and stringers. Rebuild the door. Add trailer breaks (or replace the existing).
                                            Looking at his trailers, they don't look bad. I'm not sure what has to be done to make them livable but building a new trailer has got to be a lot more than it's worth. When I was 19 I worked at Shasta Trailers in Simi Valley, not for too long. They were pretty crappy aluminum skinned over wooden frame. I routed out the window openings and installed them. They did not use particle board on the floors. They were still crappy but way crappier than trailers done in the 50''s and early 60's.
                                            I say move those trailers into position and hire a local yokel to fix them and do the pass throughs, stop dithering and do it.
                                          • Re: old mobile home trailers can be combined

                                            Mon, March 15, 2010 - 7:34 PM
                                            As far as car towable......a nice station wagon or van would give you some additional storeage and stability. Light weight and towable .....sounds like airstream to me. My Landola is a 43 ft. teardrop and I thought about making it shorter and more towable. I would have 12ft. of trailer rail to build a deck on the back.
                                            • Re: old mobile home trailers can be combined

                                              Mon, March 15, 2010 - 9:09 PM
                                              43 ft is a big trailer for a "vacation trailer", that's a mobile home for sure. I've never seen one of that species that big. In California I think you would need a class A driving license to tow that thing.
                                              • Re: old mobile home trailers can be combined

                                                Mon, March 15, 2010 - 9:20 PM
                                                I'm talking about a sub1000-pound teardrop for weekend or weeklong trips (like work trips where I need to get there in a car but want to camp in someone's yard, also situations where I want to be able to move the trailer into someone's yard by hand or with a helper, and don't have enough clearance to make turns around obstacles with a tow vehicle. I've been in this situation a lot in city 'camping'):


                                                no 43 foot anything there. Sorry to hijack the thread with this, too. some of the teardrop building websites discuss construction and skinning and some of that is relevant to building small houses on wheels.

                                                I have a van for moving a larger camper cross-country and into position for longer-term living, but don't want to live in my van itself full-time.
                                          • scratchbuild RV on trailerbed....

                                            Wed, March 17, 2010 - 12:11 PM
                                            Ms. Mark>
                                            I have a friend who has done just that. For the price of scrap he's bought wrecked house trailers... When you strip off the housing part, you get a 2 to 4-wheel undercarriage with strong steel beams on top of it. With this carriage, you can floor it over to make flatbed trailers, like one neighbor used to do, and he'd sell them at farm auctions. Or you can make custom RVs like my friend did. He would put a wood floor down, then some steel tube framing, then using recycled Lexan from bus shelters, he'd skin over the frame. There would be a home-made woodstove for heat and cooking, some solar panels for indepenent power, some water for culinary & hygiene. It was an open floorplan - everything in one big room. And literally transparent from the outside. He made and sold about four of them.

                                            Square-section steel tubing is way cheaper and way easier to work with than is aluminum. The weight difference is worth it in view of increased sturdiness.
  • Re: old mobile homes combined?

    Fri, April 9, 2010 - 8:51 PM
    This is a fun thought I have visited many a time myself -in fact, I recall a story I read in my youth of a family in London who made a home of a bus, collecting tiles and cobalt blue cookie/ginger jars (sold cookies from a roadside hut for income in their new circumstance)...

    Any how, in this case, you've rejuvenated the idea -tho on a grander (as one matures) scale... In my 3d architect proggie, I started with a single assumptions/what-if: a pair of matching mobile homes, 14x63, married with a wooden room that formed (all) into an H... A bit of passive solar, 2-3 bed, 3 bath, and large rooms -even a cold cellar/tornado escape room.

    If you're still interested, as soon as I write the description to explain that which is not visually obvious, I could post the result at another site. (allowing for more pictures, and images alongside the text to follow more easily) One shout-out will be sufficeint and I will set to work on the text and get back to y'all with a link to it.
    • Re: old mobile homes combined?

      Fri, April 9, 2010 - 9:58 PM
      I can picture your plan from the description,... and it sounds feasible. I've even been in similar setups, like a small library in a small desert town in Nevada made in that H-way out of 2 connected house trailers with central framed connector room.

      I wouldn't want to put you to the trouble of drafting lots of blueprints, but if you decide to do so, then let us see them.

      While you're at it, what do you think of the foursquare setup with central, covered courtyard?
      • Re: old mobile homes combined?

        Fri, April 9, 2010 - 10:05 PM
        Blueprints already done, found the idea too exciting to ignore... Now the hard part: explaining'em... In a couple days (just had a proposed marriage fall apart and it will give me focus) -soons I find my way there, I will list the link. TY for your interest!
        • Re: old mobile homes combined?

          Tue, April 13, 2010 - 11:33 AM
          I've posted the first series (before the ideas from commentary) here in Photos - afraid that I'd use up all my Blogger storage if I did it over there...

          There are 7... the descriptions will flow better to read them from #1, natch
          • Re: old mobile homes combined?

            Tue, April 13, 2010 - 4:22 PM
            thanks for taking the trouble to post the plans Dadd...

            You have to look twice to notice that the house is made of mobile homes, especially with the row of windows up near the roof of the central room. Stone foundations is another good feature giving permanence & stability to the design.

            I will suggest two changes. In the floorplan the kitchen serves as passageway from living to dining, from entry to BR... visitors have to pass through the kitchen. To eliminate that, move the small BR & library to the lefthand side, and have the righthand side as an open floorplan living-dining area with one 1/2 bath.
            The other thing is to roof over the open space between the two elements to serve as an open & shaded patio.
            • Re: old mobile homes combined?

              Tue, April 13, 2010 - 11:05 PM
              [So you cut through the top trailer. Looks good to me. So they are dual wide Mobile homes, 12' wide+-.
              I think he has old 8' wide trailers and not more recent mobile homes.
              I like your design.]
              Other uninvited comments would be; the courtyard is too narrow in my view and that's a subjective call, maybe. My argument would be if the court is at grade and the floors are 2.5'+- off of grade the roof will be 10.5 feet over the court. The court is 16' wide so the wall is roughly 2/3rds ht to court width. Depending on the orientation of the building the court would be a hole in the winter. The higher the subfloor..... You need a deck at floor height or the court needs to be wider. Or the trailers need to be lower. If you roof the court over then it will be a dark uninviting hole.You need sun in a courtyard, if it's too intense you put up a trellis-shade, or pergola.

              Perhaps use two trailers end to end at the top and widen the court?? Ha ha, the fourth cook!

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