Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Do you need a place to live?

A: No I have a home, but many outside influences have got me thinking differently about the value of real estate and questioning my own values. As a personal discovery I hope to end up with a new sense and understanding of the real value of real estate and a little home/trailer for vacations (retreats) and maybe even a home office during the week.

Q: What will it have inside?

A: It will have a bathroom (Toilet, Sink, Shower), kitchen (Refrigerator, Stove, Sink), sleeping space for three people, storage for food, clothes and essentials, a place to sit for each person, a desk, a table, and adequate lighting, electricity, heat, and possibly even an air conditioner. I’ll build it to be like a ‘park model’ trailer with water, sewer, and electric hookups. I think this is the right approach fr ths house because I think the most likely real world use for a tiny free house like this would be in a trailer park community.

Q: What materials will you use?

Wood pallets will be my primary source of wood. They are easy to get for free but will require some milling (cutting, sanding, etc). The 2×4 pieces should make good structural pieces once I bolt them together into posts, studs, beams, headers, joists, etc. The thinner flat boards will also be milled to fit together tightly as the exterior and interior skin.

Insulation will probably be cardboard. It can be fire proofed by painting it with a mixture of borax & boric acid. It will need to be protected from water too. I’m not sure how I’ll do this yet but I’m sure some sort of found plastic sheeting, paint, or spray, will do the trick.

Windows will either be contractor rejects from craigslist.org posts or plate glass cut down. I hope to avoid plate glass and use tempered since it is safer. We’ll see what I find.

The trailer will probably need to be purchased used on craigslist.org. I’ve not seen any free trailers and I’d be a little scared to pull one down the road to be quite honest. I have seen a lot of good stuff that people could sell if they took the time, so I don’t think I’ll have much trouble making the little bit of cash I’ll need to buy the stuff I can’t find.

Plumbing items should be easy to find except for specific pipe connectors. I’m certain I’ll run across an old toilet and sink. The shower will simply be the bathroom so the bathroom walls will need to be water proof.

Can I donate stuff?

Thanks but I’m going to try to do this on my own simply to show how anyone could do this on their own. The challenges I run across and how I work around them will become part of the story and solution. But thanks for asking!

Are you a freegan?

No. I really respect the ideals freegans are living by though. Actually I think that there are a lot of important lessons to be learned by the example they are setting.

24 thoughts on “FAQ

  1. Couple of points. A Gambrel or Steeper roof at least 8X12 or even 12X12 will increase headroom.Don’t skrimp on insulation, recomend going by Bike shops for Styrefoam packing or any other free sources.If you can get some white oak pallets they will work well around shower area as they take 90 years to rot.Fasten them with liquid nails as you will have to drill holes to nail white oake is about the hardest material pallets are made from.

  2. Steeper pitches might mean a taller roof. Overall trailer height should be below 13.5 feet to keep it legal.

    Good thinking about the bike shops and oak. Thanks!

  3. Not sure… any business that gets deliveries of large items usually get them on pallets around here and often leave them by the trash on trash day. Construction sites are also great places to look for pallets. Just keep it ‘legal’ a pallet is not worth a run-in with cops. :-)

  4. I am wondering if pallet woods are treated with any chemicals that might outgas? Since the wood is not expected to be used for building shelter, how would we know it is safe to use?


  5. Nina said: “chemicals that might outgas”

    I did some research on this before and found that pallets used to be regularly treated but that has pretty much ended. I have not seen any hard evidence either way, just rumors and speculation. The pallets I’ve found seem fine although there was one that had been in a barn and smelled too much like pee to use. Yuck!

  6. I find this mission to be quite intriguing! You stress that anyone could do this, and I’m thinking it could be a challenging summer project to attempt, with the overall goal of having an inexpensive and environmentally friendly place to live. I would love to at least attempt this, but honestly find the idea a bit overwhelming. Any advice for those who might want to try something like this on their own? Thanks~

  7. It is a bit overwhelming actually, but worth it. I do have some advice for anyone considering it…

    1. Collect as much stuff as possible first so when you start to build you have most of the things you need. Watch for pallets on craigslist but also keep an eye out at construction sites, auto body shops, roofing contractors, motorcycle dealers, and by dumpsters.
    2. Use the best (strait, flat, double axle, little rust) trailer you can find. Watch craigslist for old free travel trailers, they show up a lot, and be ready to go get it and dismantle it.
    3. Make time to build. Building with pallets it tough on tools and bodies because the wood is so hard to work with. Expect to spend more time than expected.

  8. Love the idea & everything makes sense except:what did you use to attach the pallets to the trailer frame? What did you use when attaching wood to metal? Pictures of what you used & how it’s attached would be helpful. Thanks & good luck.

  9. Hi Maria,

    There are a few ways to do it but it depends a lot on the trailer. The best way is to bolt the wood framing of the house floor to the metal frame and then build the house. Using metal like hurricane straps can also help increase the strength. I’ll be adding some kind of strapping to the free house.

    On this older trailer I had no great places to bolt the house down so I’m using u-bolts. I’ll photograph how I’m doing all this in detail before I close in the walls.


  10. I am in Hammond, LA! I need extra room at home for family to evacuate to. How big is the Tiny House? How big can you make one these? We are already planning to make a deck with pallets but like your idea of a house. Thanks for the idea. Look forward to seeing your finished work of art.

  11. Hey. If you go by the local newspaper printing, they usually have free pallets. We get the end rolls for school art projects, covers for tables at holidays (the kids can actually write on the paper), etc. Could this be used as insulation, too?

  12. Re: “It will need to be protected from water too. I’m not sure how I’ll do this yet but I’m sure some sort of found plastic sheeting, paint, or spray, will do the trick.”

    Large units of lumber are often shipped with a plastic/paper wrapping that is often thrown away. I would imagine that you could find some of this at any lumber yard in their rubbish. Some of these sheets can be quite large and are pretty thick. I think it might work well as a house wrap/vapor barrier, etc.


  13. You can get billboard tarps from the sign companies that are much heavier than a standard tarp and some of them will give them away.These tarps are made to last 5 to 7 years and are 14” by 48”.They would be great for the roof or even used for siding.Most are white on one side and would help keep it cool.I would suggest 2 layers on the roof.

  14. Pingback: Art of Upcycling: 18 DIY Wood Pallet Reuse Project Ideas | WebEcoist

  15. I have been inspired by your work and am hoping to use many of your ideas on a tiny house my self. I have begun collecting pallets but instead of using them whole, I have chosen to disassemble them and use the components for building. So far I have been able to find some very nice quality oak pallets with long stringers that reach 8 to 10 feet. I will begin storing them pieces while I accumulate an inventory for construction. Disassembly is quite difficult because these things were built to stay together but I am using a generous portion of patience combined with all the time required to carefully remove the nails. I am very excited by this project.

  16. Having built the boy’s “fort” in mostly salvaged materials I can attest, those spiral nails are buggers. Building a small house looks really cool tough. We’ll need a place to retire to eventually…….

  17. You list categories, but I don’t see an archive – would you link to the first post in a FAQ for folks like me who join late and would like to read through?

    Thanks in advance!


  18. Mattresses are shipped in heavy millimeter, heat-sealed plastic. Contact a local mattress store to see if you can get their delivery men to save some of the bags for you if you can convince them to just cut the plastic at one end and slide the mattress out. A single king-size mattress bag when cut open properly will give you a heavy piece of plastic that should measure about 8′x 14′plus. It wouldn’t take that many bags to provide the moisture barrier you need.

  19. I find pallets at local printers (used for shipping paper), hardware stores, and lumber yards. Most pallets are made from nonfurniture grade hardwoods like oak and maple, so they need no treatment for their expected lifespan. Just avoid the ones with cardboard or laminated blocks.
    I also find tempered windows and sliding doors at a window company, which are obtained from remodeling jobs and just a disposal expense for them.

  20. some really good sources of wooden pallets are truck drivers! my son-in-law, and nephew are both truck drivers and pallets are theirs for the asking (and sometimes when they DON’T want them too!).

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