The day that I had been dreading since the beginning of the build had arrived, it was time to move the tiny house.
Even to ‘normal people’, moving house is a big deal, it’s a huge life changing event that involves packing up a ton of belongings collected over the years and carting them miles down the road to a new location.
The ‘normal’ move, comes with many challenges and tasks, including the fine art of packing up boxes in a way that enables you to find everything again, deciding on what to throw away or keep, and a deep clean of the house you are leaving behind.
Moving a Tiny House
Moving a tiny house however, comes with a whole different set of circumstances and challenges. These challenges may differ based on where you live in the world and how big you built your house.
As a general rule, tiny house dwellers have less stuff. The bonus here is that if you’re living in a tiny house you’ve already executed your downsizing and minimizing plan. This may well mean that the packing part of the trip is a whole lot easier.
This was definitely true for us, however, we own a 10 x 10 tent that contains 3 bikes and all the tools I used to build the house. So there were a few extra things that in some way I wish I didn’t have. But hey, there’s always room for improvement.
It’s very hard to pick the most important factor when it comes to moving a tiny house, but for me, I’d have to say that the size of your house plays a huge factor in how challenging your move will be.
Building oversized was not initially in the plans, but due to certain overlooked factors our house ended up being 13′ 11″ high and 104″ wide (4.24m x 2.64m) With the eaves taking it up to 9′ wide (2.76m). I’ll come back to these sizes later on.
The overlooked factors, in the size of this house, were influenced by a couple of things. Firstly I ordered a trailer that was 100″ wide, designed by another tiny house builder to maximize the space inside the home.
Based on these measurements I calculated that once I had built on the trailer; adding 1/2″ plywood, 3/8″ rain-screen (required by building code in coastal areas) and 1″ thick cedar, the home would be 1 3/4″ too wide. The trailer distributer suggested that I’d be able to simply get an oversized permit, so I took his word for it and ordered it anyway. In hindsight I would have changed the trailer order to make sure I was under this limit. (This isn’t easy in heavy rain areas however, as factoring in any overhang for eaves and guttering quickly increases the width of any tiny house.)
The second oversight was asking a ‘professional’ framer to help me with the ridge-beam. In short, the roof ended up a little higher than it should’ve. In hindsight I would have been a little more strict in influencing my helper and monitor what they were doing more closely.
What is Oversized?
Now, as this article is titled, ‘Moving a Tiny House in BC Canada‘, I’m going to focus on the specifics that I came up against here in BC.
In BC, if you want to move something without the need for an oversized permit you’ll need to keep your tiny house within the following measurements:
2.6m (8′ 6 4/10″) wide x 4.15m (13′ 7 4/10″) high x 12.5m (41′ 1/10″) in length
Applying for an oversized permit
Applying for an oversized permit is usually a fairly straight forward process and posses no problems, however, if you apply to move something that you call a “Tiny House“, in BC, you will be notified that you are not allowed to move a ‘tiny house’ on it’s own axles if it is over the sizes above, and that you must either remove it from it’s trailer and place it on a low boy trailer OR drag the entire tiny house onto a lowboy trailer and move it as one unit.
Doing the latter, will cause any tiny house to be too high to move.
Removing the house from it’s wheels would involve a very expensive operation involving cranes, large transportation vehicles and the need to mess around with anything that protrudes under the house, including plumbing.
Upon discovering this information our entire world temporarily fell apart. We were now stuck, and the last 2 years of our life seemed to be completely wasted. We were on a time schedule and needed to move the house within a week. This amazing journey suddenly turned into a very traumatic experience, one that placed a huge level of stress on us.
Time to call on the Tiny House community
In my panic, I emailed as many people in the Tiny House community that I knew and thought would be able to assist.
As we all know, the tiny house community is full of amazing people who are willing to help one another out. After a number of emails and phone calls, I was encouraged that moving this house was possible.
I tried another tow company, who applied to move a shed, but we ended up with the same answer. We must place it on a lowboy. The panic grew worse, but I persevered, and through speaking to various people our perspective was changed to hopeful possibility.
It’s all about perspective
As far as I am aware, the government has not yet defined in law, a Tiny House. The law works on definitions, so let’s get technical:
If we remove a ‘tiny house‘ from it’s wheels and place it on the ground, it’s a cabin. With that cabin now on the ground, it’s approximately 2′ shorter than it was on the trailer, depending on the height of your trailer.
So now, we have a 12’ high cabin that needs to be moved. So let’s apply to move that load and let’s use a flatbed trailer. As it happens, I already own a flatbed trailer, I’ve been storing it under my tiny house for a while 😉
So the tow company applied to move our cabin and we applied for a temporary use permit on our flat bed trailer.
Both permits were issued, no questions, no challenges!
What a Journey
Despite being issued the permits, we were still very nervous about moving the tiny house…. errrr, cabin.
The house had some of the craziest mountain roads to navigate and we had not yet been able to weigh the house. I had calculated the weight of the house roughly, using standard wood weights based on liner foot. The calculations seemed to put the house under 8000 lbs. The trailer was 2500 lbs and was rated for a 14000 lbs load, so we just had to hope that the calculations were right.
On the day of the tow, we watched in excitement, bewilderment and anxiety, as the tow company came and picked up the house. Everything went smoothly, yet we were somewhat apprehensive as we watched it disappear into the distance.
The house was going to a depot overnight, so the tow company could make an early start. We went down to our new place that day so that we were there to receive the house in the morning.
After a restless sleep we were relieved to see the house arrive.
The house had travelled 270 kms and survived!
Some say that if it can survive it’s journey on the road, then it can survive an 8.5 earthquake. This is somewhat comforting to know and a testament to how well the house was built.
The tow company visited the scales, resulting in a satisfying weight of 9700 lbs, which is way under the rated 14000 lbs that the trailer is permitted to carry.
Firstly, living tiny is not easy. It comes with many challenges, one of which is facing the bureaucracy of being on the leading edge of social change. But it is comforting to know that there are so many people supporting this movement, even if there are some out there trying to make things difficult.
Whilst we can do as much as we can in our path to do things according to existing policies and rules, these rules can change at the drop of a hat. At the time I built the house, there were no policies in place for towing tiny houses here in BC. Between building it and wanting to tow it, policies had been introduced, which made things a little more tricky. This is something that all tiny house builders need to accept as one of the dangers of going tiny. It’s a fast paced movement that is constantly changing and you’re likely to come up against some unseen hurdles.
If you want a smoother experience, don’t build oversized.
Pay attention to the weight of your home.
Stop calling your tiny house a tiny house. It’s a cabin!
And finally, the tiny house community is amazing.
As a side note: My trailer was purchased brand new and is fitted with brakes and lights. The house is bolted down to the trailer in 22 different points, (including 6 Simpson hold downs). And I used hurricane ties on all rafters. You can read more about these bolt locations here.
It makes sense to me to secure the house down to the trailer for safety reasons, however this maybe the point at which the house becomes “on it’s own axles”.
The ministry of transport did not want an ‘oversized tiny house’ (whatever that is?) travelling on it’s own axles. I’m not sure how the ministry of transportation defines “on it’s own axles”, but I found it very hard to differentiate between my house on it’s trailer (with the bolts removed) and it being sat on a different trailer. Governments are in place to serve it’s people and as such we need to work more closely with them in order to create a solution that works for everyone. We need to feel that a solution can be found in talking to these representatives, instead of feeling victimized and punished for operating outside the norms of society.
I want to emphasize that safety is paramount, and under no circumstances, should anyone circumvent reasonable rules that are in place for safety reasons. I write this article to highlight the challenges and to emphasize the importance of working together with others to create a better life for all.