Trailers and Tiny Homes for the Chemically Sensitive

The Case for Mobile Homes 

A mobile home is a good Plan B, or even Plan A for someone with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities.

I have divided the topic into Tiny Homes and Trailers (with a note on Campers) for two reasons. While many tiny homes are built on trailers they are not really built to be frequently moved around. They also have the option of being built on a foundation and can be lived in year-round.

Travel trailers are made to be moved around frequently, and cannot be built on a foundation. They are usually not winterized.

Tiny Homes

The Wildflower via tinygreencabins.com
If you fancy a tiny home that is semi-mobile (can be moved around, but ideally not too much), I would go for a small wood or steel structure such as those by Tiny Green Cabins, Swanson Non-Toxic Trailers or Safe Shelter.

Tiny Green Cabins (US) can use steel frames which will hold up better than wood frames. Jim has built many homes for people with MCS and he has a huge amount of knowledge about chemical-free building materials. They provide a warranty and deliver to anywhere in the US (not Canada). (Note the last 3 houese have taken 9 months, 1 year and 1 year+).

Swanson Associates are well-known for building MgO based homes but the last one I saw on the tiny house group on Facebook arrived in terrible shape. I have also seen non-mould safe advice given by this team.

Leaf House via tinyhousing.ca
Jeff Huling of Safe Shelter is another very knowledgeable builder who specialises in building for MCSers. His up-to-date knowledge on chemical attributes of materials is impressive. His houses are made custom to order with the clients sensitivities in mind. With all builders but especially new builders you want to bring in an architect and provide lots of supervision.

A new company building healthy tiny homes is Carpenter Owl.

Prices for conventional tiny homes are around 20-30 K but a chemical-free house will double the price, and I don't know of one for less than 60K. Budget at least 65K. Look into the experience of the builder as well as what kind of warranty they offer. See my post on building a mould-free tiny home before proceeding.

DIY!

Most tiny house companies, including Tiny Green Cabins, Leaf House and Tumbleweed also sell the plans to the houses, so you could go really DIY on this one! That would also give you plenty of time to source and test all the materials. If you use (and can tolerate) salvage materials you could really bring the cost down.

There are workshops and books that will help you learn how to build one yourself. These two books would be essential: The Tumbleweed DIY Book & Tiny House Floor Plans. Check the web for workshops in your area. I would spend years reseaching mould free building techniques and have a qualified architect guide you through the details.

Where to Park Your Tiny Home 

Many tiny homes are off the grid and use propane to power most systems, which is not an option for the MCS patient. Propane may be suitable for hot water heating, refrigeration and heat/AC, but the power for your stove/oven, compost toilet, lights, fans etc will need to be electric. Solar panels on the roof would only cover a small portion of the electrical. The new Tesla battery will open up some more options for solar in tiny homes.

It is not possible to have a tiny house certified as a mobile home where I live, which excludes the possibility of parking at a mobile home park. It may be possible to park at an RV park if your electrical load is 60 amps or less and you have the proper plug for an RV park. You will also need RV sewage hookups. Having a tiny home certified by RVIA can have benefits in allowing you access to mre RV parks. In many rural places you can have a tiny home on your own land, either legally or "just squatting", set up with electricity and water.

A Tiny House (not on wheels)

The Nomad Micro is a 10x10 metal SIPs house. It can be made to be very non-toxic. You order the shell from them for 25K CAD (which is actually quite pricey). You need to add: shipping, platform or slab, installation, wiring, heat, plumbing and hot water heater, flooring, and cabinets. There is an option to complete the inside in a non-toxic way. Contact me if you are interested in this.

My most sensitive friend tested the SIPs and thought they were good.

I have seen the installation instructions but you would still want to ideally visit the factory and see this in person, as well as talk to someone that owns one. They haven't been around that long and there is no warranty. For a 10x10 house this is on the expensive side, but I still think it's really cool, great layout and non-toxic as can be.

They ship from Vancouver BC, and they come in a larger size as well. You can also connect more than one.

Trailers

Cargo Trailers

Joey, from HealClick, breaks it down to the essentials and delivers a safer trailer for just 7,000$! You can read his post where he explains how to get a trailer for a minimal price. But keep in mind this is a small cargo trailer with no bathroom, (and small kitchen) with the bare minimum! His version is not totally chemical-free, with foam insulation giving off some flame retardants (see my post on Insulation), as well as propane, and some plastics (in the accessories). Glue was also used in installing the ceiling AC.

Other things to consider are the rustproofing chemicals used on the metal as well the finish on the aluminum, glues, caulking, plastic vents, plastic door, rubber parts, and window material.

For the flooring you want to go with extruded aluminum. And for the walls, aluminum panels would be ideal. For the insulation I recommend flame retardant-free polyiso by Johns Manville.

Someone recently was able to get the company Mirage to build without glue or caulk, she was not able to tolerate the trailer brand new. They do need a fair amount of time to offgas. I will be writing a post on this in more detail as I am building one now.

Aluminum Travel Trailers

For something a little more homey than a cargo trailer, all aluminum trailers are available with kitchen and bath. There are a few companies making them, but LivinLite is one that is very good and can customise your order to avoid most toxic elements.

I had a Camplite by LivinLite travel trailer made to my specifications and you can find all the details about that here. They no longer customise it with metal walls which is a shame. Though the key thing I look for in a trailer is mould-proof walls and the laminated sandwich type is still an important factor in the Camplite.

The Safari Condo is another option to consider. "Roof and walls are made of a sandwich-type material with a plastic honeycomb core laminated with Alufiber on one side and aluminum on the other. Alufiber combines the light weight of aluminum with the durability of fiberglass. The only materials used in building the Alto are those on which water has little effect such as aluminum,
Alufiber, plastic, Formica and glass. Inside, the furniture consists largely of aluminum and composite materials. Rigid and ultra-light sandwich panels are integrated into the bed cushions, while the entire bed structure is made of aluminum extrusions."

Custom Metal Trailer

You could have a small metal trailer custom made in the style of the Camplite or like a tiny home. I have also seen cargo trailer custom made with metal SIPS though that is rare to find. Another type of non-toxic trailer is porcelain enamel which from the ones I have seen have metal backing. This is an extremely tolerable material but it is not cheap. It's very rare to see a porcelain trailer for sale.


Fiberglass Travel Trailers

http://www.eggcamper.com
Egg campers are made of a fiberglass shells that are very mould resistant and durable. Many sensitive people say that fiberglass takes a year to offgas the VOC styrene but some find it offgasses in a few days.

Casitas use a carpet that is glued on to the walls and floor. At the time of writing, they would not customise one without that element.

Look for fibreglass campers with moulded fiberglass furniture like Oliver trailers. Oliver uses vinyl flooring but they can make you one without the vinyl or cushions which makes it the best fiberglass option I have found. They also have a good r-value and can be winterised.

Happier Camper is another company to check out as they don't use carpet or padding on the walls and the floors are fiberglass. Though all companies use wood in the floors some with customise it without that element.

Ideally your fiberglass trailer has no padding or carpet on the walls, fiberglass moulded furniture, no plywood in the subfloors and no vinyl or carpet flooring. I've looked at all the brands of fiberglass trailers currently in production in North America, so contact me if you would like to go into further detail in a consultation.

In terms of used trailers, moulded fiberglass trailers and aluminum trailers like Camplite are the best bets since the walls will not become mouldy with time. Though fiberglass trailers do tend to have problems with the wood subfloor and if they have carpet on the walls that can go musty as well.

Custom Wooden Teardrop Trailers

A small teardrop can be made of all wood like this trailer (pictured) that I showcased in this post. The trailer came to 10K in materials, the labour would be about an extra 10K. It has basic wiring, no plumbing and a basic outdoor kitchen.










Not quite a Trailer....Van and Truck Campers Should Also be Considered

http://mcscamper.blogspot.ca

BioCampers are a non-toxic camper van available in Europe. The interiors are made of all metal, or metal and wood. They are all custom made to the specifications of the sensitive person. (Unfortunately as of 2016 they are out of business).

It is possible to buy a van of this type, strip it out and custom build the interior in the same fashion. Here is my post on the topic.

Livinlite makes truck campers that can be  customised as well. The same guidelines will need to be followed as with their travel trailers as outlined here.

For more information you can check out my posts on Insulation, FlooringFurniture/Mattresses, Kitchens, Bathrooms, Wood and Paint Finishes, as many of the same materials will be used in a mobile home, and the information will be useful for someone wanting to go this route.
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19 comments:

  1. I have a LivinLite toyhauler but it does have the styrofoam insulation, and it bothers me if I don't keep the windows open. Ours is a 2010, bought used. We had to rip out the floor insulation because it was held in place by a netting that allowed moisture in. In the past I checked with two trailer companies who were willing to customize cargo vans to Erik's specs, using no caulking. Take a look at my post here:
    http://cfsmethylation.blogspot.com/2012_06_01_archive.html

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    1. I'm not getting the floor insulation but the wall insulation is totally sealed off by the aluminum walls. If there are any spaces, aluminum tape can be used - aluminium fully blocks VOCs. I am wondering if yours doesn't have all alum wall panels or if it the treatment used to colour the walls, or something else that's bothering you. I would love to hear more feedback about it! Thanks!

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    2. Hi Janice, are you selling your trailer?

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  2. Oh my gosh! Is there a way to contact you? I am wanting to do the same as you in Canada :)

    Great blog!!

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    1. Hi, Yes, you can email me at corinne_segura[at]hotmail[dot]com

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  3. look into cork insulation. .. small planet workshop imports it from Europe. Also, cork is gas impermeable. Been thinking if I get a trailer I could use afm glue n just slap it on as many surfaces as seem offensive.

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    1. Hey thanks for the tip! Do you know the link or the brand name of this insulation?
      The problem with cork is that a glue is needed...

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  4. Wow! Incredible and this is a nice blog with all good pics of the mobile home. I like to move one place to another place for visiting different places. I think it is perfect for me. Is this safe for me? This portable house reflects the talent of the house maker. Can you share the process through which you have made this so that I can make one for me. Thank you for sharing this beautiful and inspirational blog with us.

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    1. Hi, yes upcoming posts will focus on the build of my tiny house/mobile home!

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  5. I love that first trailer you have photographed! It is so darling. It would be so fun to have something like that, that would be easy to pack up and go whenever we wanted to. It's the perfect size for just my husband and I!

    http://www.bettertrailers.com.au

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  6. Great article. Hope I had a good read. Waiting to read more blogs.

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  7. My husband and I are converting an old school bus to be a completely green home for our family of five. We have replaced the fiberglass insulation with alpaca wool, painted metal walls and ceiling with beautiful tongue and groove pine, red oak floors finished with 100% tongue oil, marmoleum (which is a laminate made from flax and other natural materials) for the bathroom, organic cotton hammocks for sleeping, copper kitchen sink, and a wood stove for heat. Www are taking our bus up to the upper peninsula of Michigan to grow our food and live life where the chemically sensitive are free to live, ha ha. If anyone wants any info about chemically safe adhesives and caulks that I've found out to talk chemical free living feel free to email me at dbrfbaker@live.com

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    1. What kind of tongues are used in the manufacture of "tongue" oil.

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  8. My husband is really sensitive to chemicals and we are trying to find a good trailer. Thanks for the advice about aluminum travel trailers and how you can customize them to avoid most toxic elements. We'll have to see about getting an aluminum trailer to either sleep in or to help us haul or camping supplies.

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    1. For the beach, we got a car hauler instead of a trailer so we could customize it: removed the walls, which were aluminum covered plywood for dimension strength, replaced with cherry tongue and groove (make sure he is ok with the wood first! Some woods are quite bothersome), replaced the floor with the same, and replaced the luan on the ceiling with stainless steel sheet. We chose not to insulate so we only use it nine months a year - it stays warm with a heater if it's 35f outside. Use a composting toilet.

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  9. My friend is also planning on purchasing a mobile home since she saw how cool my modular house is. Actually it was pretty small and neat. I guess it's not vacuuming for hours that convinced her to transfer from a bigger house. One of the things that the guys who build my house advised me is to make sure I have a piece of land that allows these modular homes to be build. I guess in terms of budget, these homes are cheaper than traditional onsite houses. See this resource site if you need to learn more: http://modularhomeblog.com/modular/building-a-modular-home.html

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  10. This is called modern living. A new pollution free era has begun for our teenagers.

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