While I waited patiently for my own tiny home to be ready, I thought I would check out natural builder, Pat Hennebery’s teardrop trailer.
Pat, of Cobworks (B.C., Canada) has built over 25 cob houses.
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Lately, Pat has become interested in healthy homes on trailers so we sat down to discuss his lovely teardrop trailer.
The trailer is 16 ft long and weighs in at about 4500 lbs. It is wired with one 15 amp outlet and was originally set up to use solar panels. 15 amps is not a lot, but it is enough to run a space heater or AC unit, making it a seasonal trailer in colder climates. In warmer climates, you could live in it year-round! This trailer was made for Canadian summers and Mexican winters, and has made the round trip twice already.
The trailer is made mostly out of wood with no insulation. The ceiling is tongue & groove wood, the floors are solid wood, and the exterior siding is cedar which has been painted. Cedar, while it may have too strong a scent for people with severe MCS, does really well in wet climates; it’s naturally quite mold-proof.
Some plywood was used in the flooring and walls but Pat mentions it could be replaced with solid wood. This trailer could be made for a chemically sensitive person by using unscented woods, VOC-free glues, and natural finishes and paints.
The roof is stainless steel but Pat suggests that next time he would use aluminum to keep it as light as possible. I am concerned about this exterior vapor barrier used when the trailer is heated which could cause mold where the wood meets the metal. You would have to take a closer look at the roof design and possibly use foam up there to keep condensation from forming or not heat the trailer. You also want to look closely at the design of the floor. Here is a good example of a carefully made floor to eliminate some of the trickiest areas that cause mold.
It doesn’t have plumbing so this kind of trailer is best used when you have an outhouse and outdoor shower. You could use a solar camp shower in a pinch if it’s warm enough! I find those quite difficult to shower with though, I prefer an outdoor portable propane shower like this Colman one.
The back pop-out is designed for an outdoor kitchen. For those very sensitive to propane, this would not work very well, but since it is outdoors it could be tolerable. It’s perfect at the village where Pat lives in the summer which has a communal kitchen.
The materials alone for this trailer came to 10K – though Pat was not on a tight budget and did splurge a bit on the wood for the ceiling, a new trailer, and a stainless roof. Still, it’s good to keep in mind that even a medium-sized trailer, with no plumbing and no kitchen, just isn’t cheap.
The labor costs would add an additional 10K or so. The only way to do it on the cheap would be to spend a lot of time salvaging materials and building it yourself…. problem is, salvage materials can be very problematic for the chemically sensitive.
I think this simple chemical-free trailer would work well as a permanent dwelling somewhere warm, or, as a way to test out the locations effect and start trying chemical and mold avoidance. If you can build it yourself, it’s probably the least expensive chemical-free trailer option. Compare it to your other options: an aluminum trailer, 27K, a chemical-free tiny home, 50-65K, or, a refurbished Airstream 40K+. A used (offgassed) fiberglass trailer could be a good option for around 11K. The cheapest option is hacking a cargo trailer.
Corinne Segura is a Building Biologist with 8 years of experience helping others create healthy homes.
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