Updated Winter 2020
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Tiny Homes on Wheels
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 metal structure.
I no longer recommend Tiny Green Cabins, Swanson or Tiny Healthy Homes because of the issues I have seen with their production and construction.
There are no specific tiny home companies I can recommend at this time. However, if you would like to set up a consultation we can go over finding a good builder and how to supervise them.
I don’t know of one for less than 60K. Budget at least 65K. Look into the experience of the builder, talk to past clients and look at what kind of warranty they offer.
Trailers for Chemical and Mold Sensitive Folks
There is a lot more that has to offgas in these simple trailers than you might think. They take about a year to off-gas.
They are way trickier to insulate than you think. Common brands have leak problems. More robust brands should be used.
Metal Travel Trailers
ATC is a mix between a cargo trailer and a high-end trailer. They look industrial compared to the Living Vehicle below (made by the same company).
They claim to have no wood whatsoever and similar construction to the old Camplite design.
24″ units had bath, kitchen, eating area, couch that made a queen bed, and extra cabinets. About $55,000 USD
I had a Camplite by LivinLite travel trailer made to my specifications and you can find all the details about that here.
Though the key thing I look for in a trailer is moisture-proof walls and the laminated sandwich insulation.
This laminated metal foam metal was the key to moisture-proof walls.
You may still find a used one with sandwich laminated walls before they changed the wall system. The company is now out of business.
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.”
This sounds like a very moisture-proof design to me.
The only materials used in the Alto are such as aluminum, alufiber, plastic, Formica, and glass. The furniture is mostly made of aluminum and composite materials.
Rigid and light sandwich panels are integrated into the bed cushions, while the entire bed structure is made of aluminum extrusions.
They need a fair amount of time to offgas for most sensitive people, though some less sensitive have used them brand new.
Custom Metal Trailers
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.
The Weroll is similar to a cargo trailer but is more customized and you may be able to reduce the off-gassing with this option as well as streamline the process of converting it. Those who bought the weroll seemed to tolerate them right away. Probably due to high level of customization.
But insulating a cargo trailer is no simple project. My post on vans describes the process.
Another type of non-toxic trailer is porcelain enamel on steel. This is an extremely tolerable material but it is not cheap. It’s very rare to see a porcelain trailer for sale, many of them were made on poor quality RV shells which is a shame.
But the interior, which was porcelain enameled steel, of these trailers are very tolerable. You can make one yourself with that interior.
High-End Metal Trailers
Airstreams with metal walls can become tolerable fairly fast (for a trailer).
The metal airstreams (as they do have fiberglass ones now too) are metal walls and metal ceiling with, obviously, metal exterior skin. The flooring is vinyl.
The offgassing is not too bad, the resale value is good for a trailer/RV.
I like the metal interior walls, they cut down on offgassing and they are way better made than your typical wood-framed crappy RV.
Some showrooms are inside warehouses which may help preserve them.
However this needs to be 100% airtight on the inside walls, and the exterior walls to not have vapor get between those skins where it will be mostly doomed to not come back out. (Some caveats would be that if you never heat or cool this then it’s not really a worry, unless it actually leaks).
If you are looking at this for an option for you, you need to perform a blower door test on this. I would love to see the blower door test results (which will show how airtight it is).
If it’s not 100% airtight, then you need to seal up every seam, every opening, install airtight sockets etc, then test again, making sure it’s totally airtight.
You also want to keep equal pressure so you are not pushing or pulling air into the walls.
You can prolong the life of any trailer by keeping a roof on it when stationary, not driving it in the rain, moving to climates that don’t require heating or cooling (heating is usually the cause of most of the problems in RVs), and showering and cooking outside.
Always keep up with your sealing on the exterior and the interior.
Look for a state where you don’t pay sales tax and look at the resale and trade-in values.
They do retain their value well like fiberglass trailers. And I do find that they are still a really good option. With a high resale, low initial offgassing, and an expected few years for extreme mold reactors it can still work really well.
A newer company making very tolerable trailers is Living Vehicle. They use polyiso foam insulation sealed with tape in the walls. The interior is almost entirely aluminum including the cabinets.
The countertops are Corian Quartz. The flooring is roll down vinyl by Armstrong (may not work for many but they could customize this). The cushions are polyurethane which may or may not need to be removed.
The price is 150K, in 2020 they are going up to 200k.
This is a rare find because of the almost fully aluminum interior, no structural wood (no hidden wood in the new models for 2020, and no wood in cabinets, only in the table), 0 VOC countertops and flooring that should be tolerable to many people.
The walls are made of metal framing, metal exterior and interior walls with polyiso foam on the interior side of the metal framing (with the air gap left behind, between the framing members.
The trailer also has a crawl space where the plumbing is very accessible. Even if there was a leak in the all-aluminum “basement”, it would be easy to clean up and easy to fix because of the access.
The company is open to some customization. I have spoken to them about this, if you would like help customizing the insulation, or interior materials like the flooring please get in contact.
The 2019 had wood in the floors.
Fiberglass Travel Trailers
Egg-shaped campers are made of solid fiberglass shells (either single or double hull) that are very mold-resistant and durable.
Many sensitive people say that fiberglass takes a year (or years) to offgas the VOC styrene but some find it offgasses to a satisfactory level 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 customize one without that element. Many have well with Casita, due to the simple design, single hull and mostly visible components. The floor is wood underneath.
I like fiberglass campers with molded fiberglass furniture like Oliver trailers. Oliver uses vinyl flooring but they can make you one without the vinyl or cushions which makes it one the best fiberglass option I have found.
They are double hull so they have a good R-value and can be winterized.
This is the only fiberglass trailer I know of that does not have wood products in the floor, making it my top choice.
Happier Camper is another company to check out as they don’t use carpet or padding on the walls and the floors are fiberglass.
It’s double hull with Thinsulate in between the hulls.
The floors are composed of plastic honeycomb integrated with corrugated cardboard and resin.
I’ve seen some problems with the first model (HC1). With all trailers, I would wait until the kinks in the first model is worked out. This trailer is up there as my first or second choice.
In 2020 they have a new model that is larger, that is the Traveller.
Trillium is willing to build without plywood in floors but it was difficult to convince them to leave the padding off the wall.
Ideally, your fiberglass trailer has no padding or carpet on the walls, has fiberglass molded 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. Contact me if you would like to go into further detail in a consultation.
In Europe the Wigmann is a good fiberglass caravan (as they call trailers there) with the solid fiberglass shell with no seams on the outside, it has polyurethane insulation and a 10-year warranty on water ingress.
Sealander is another European fiberglass caravan that is all fiberglass on the inside, exactly what I’d be looking for.
UK company Freedom Caravans has a fiberglass exterior but is not the same as the molded fiberglass. However, they have a 25-year warranty on water ingress which is very impressive.
Though fiberglass trailers can have problems with the wood subfloor, and if they have carpet on the walls that can go musty or get cross-contaminated.
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 labor would be about an extra 10K. It has basic wiring, no plumbing, and a basic outdoor kitchen.
The main challenges here are you are building with a metal base (build up over top it to solve that). Then the roof will inevitably have an exterior vapor barrier (which won’t work in heating climates), or a double vapor barrier. Take care to build your ceiling/roof airtight with rigid foam or keep it to climates where you don’t heat it.
Vans and Truck Campers
The company Innovative Spaces can build out a cargo van. I don’t have direct experience with them.
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 converting vans into campers in a mold-safe way.
Anything with an exterior metal wall is inherently tricky to insulate for weather where you heat the camper.
Some mold avoiders have been using conventional RVs and trading them in if (when) they go moldy.
Two companies that some people like are:
Bigfoot – Made of fiberglass, EPS and luan, with vinyl flooring. This does have wood in the walls.
Forest River RV Sunseeker Class C. A “Greener” RV company. Sunseeker has 1 piece fiberglass roof, aluminum frame, block foam insulation, no fabric except valances and bedspread, “low VOCs”. I really like the roof on this model.
Other Forest River brands are low VOC and slightly better construction than usual.
Coachman is also low VOC, mold avoiders have liked the Freedom Express and Apex Ultra Lite. Bryan Rosner outlined the strategy of going with Coachman and trading them in as needed. Here is his blog post and youtube video.
Don’t expect a traditional RV to last very long in terms of mold. Be prepared to trade that in, in one or two years.
Many people cannot tolerate the offgassing though this has been improving in the last few years as more models try and go greener.
Also, keep in mind the depreciation.
It’s a good idea to see it in person before purchasing, unlike some of the custom trailers.
Corinne Segura is a Building Biologist with 6 years of experience helping others create healthy homes, including alternative homes, trailers, and shelters.
I have owned and lived in three trailers: my tiny house on wheels, a custom Camplite and a converted cargo trailer.
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