Towing a house to Arizona is not wise


#1

Just one word for the crazy couple who want to build a wooden house in Vermont and tow it to Arizona: termites.



Both subterranean and drywood termites are a huge issue down here in AZ, while apparently not so much in Vermont.



Framing, trim, furniture and even cardboard boxes will all be damaged or destroyed unless properly protected, which is hard to do. They only need a passage of 1/16th of an inch to get into the house and will do major damage.



If you really want to live green, drive out here and rent a trailer or a house and then build either an adobe, or better yet, a rammed-earth home. Both are much better materials for this area, not only because of termite protection, but they’re also much better for heating and cooling.


#2

Have you kids given any thought to the SouthWest weather, temperatures, the type and amount of insulation you would need in the dessert extreme climate ?

Maybe what you need is an exploratory trip first, gather lots of data, talk to lots of So. West residents and then plan your move a little better.

It’s very hard to say a Hollly Mary, jump in and learn the hard way.

Good luck, stay optimist and healthy.


#3

Or is it? Nah, probably not.

Actually, I like the general concept and yesterday did a tour of a house in Sebastapol, CA that measures about 8’x12’, has a loft and a little front porch, and is incredibly cute. The owner has driven it down to Mexico and other places around the West.

If you are traveling a long distance each year, you need light weight and low wind resistance to be really green. If you are traveling a short distance per year then you might as well build in a bit more height for a loft etc. The calcs area fairly simple.

Really, what you are talking about is an RV trailer that you build yourself on a frame. As long as you have electric brakes you should be OK on downhills, but you’ll need power for going up or must be willing to drive very slowly up the nastier hills so that your engine can provide the needed power and so that the transmission does not cook.

So, how is your wiring and plumbing experience? Have you tried living in a trailer or other RV or boat to get an idea of living in tight spaces and other issues? Have you considered buying a used RV and living in that until you have created the perfect design, then selling it for something close to the purchase price? You could even drive out, buy one in AZ (I’m sure there are many for sale), and save the fuel those things suck down on a long trip from New England. We currently have a camper that I’ve improved with an extra battery and 150watts of solar panels and am looking at something like your idea…

Good luck and have fun!


#4

Well the absurdity of the idea not withstanding, if you are going to test your green bona fides why not put the cart before the horse? Why not buy an old diesel bus or RV, convert that to run on bio-diesel or straight veg oil (there are hundreds of conversion kits out there) and tow the truck/car/motorcycle/spaceship/etc. Besides the termites, dimensional lumber (2x4s etc) is not ideal for a traveling house. The weight to strength ratio isn’t great, plus, siding, roofing, etc. is not designed to be driven at 60 mph. Whereas used RV parts on Ebay or the like are designed for the task and can make your bus just like home… until you realize you are more Ben and Jerry than Edward Abbey.


#5

The advice to check the manufacturer’s recommendations as to what an F150 is capable of is very sound. A friend pulled a relatively modest 8x20 enclosed trailer with a V6 F150 and was miserable for all 200 miles.

If their F150 is not suitable then they discussed buying a diesel truck and converting to biodiesel. If one is seriously considering such then buy an older truck rather than one subject to the 2007+ EPA regs. The newer fuel systems are more sensitive to running on exactly ULSD and nothing else, including biodiesel. Get an older truck such as a 2003 or older Ford 7.3L which will run on almost anything. Will probably blow so much black smoke to negate any imagined benefit of biodiesel, but you will be legal.


#6

Hey, this is like being twelve again. Building some tree house out of junk. Buy a used trailer ( house or RV ) and gut it, remodel it to need specs. But the frame, plumbing, wiring, specially the electric trailer brakes, windows and doors are their and legal to tow. Save the world and recycle an old trailer, please.


#7

Earth Ships! Perhaps the greenest way to build a house in the southwest or elsewhere. There is a community of people in Taos, NM that have built these amazing dwellings. They have tours, workshops, and chances for you to get your hands dirty. Why bother towing lumber when you could have walls of used tires packed with dirt and covered with adobe?


#8

I’m with you. There are dozens of building material choices in AZ for AZ, that are greener start-to-finish than carting 5-10 tons of stuff from 2500 miles away. Pack light, move to AZ, then get your materials and your advice locally. You won’t burn 300 gal of fuel bringing the wrong stuff across the country.


#9

I don’t think you need to do any conversion to run a diesel engine on bio-diesel. For veggie oil, yes, you would need to do a conversion, but true bio-diesel (that you dispense from the pump at a truck stop or gas station), will run in a normal diesel engine.


#10

I too had an interest in the small house movement. Some things that may help you: take a tour of a mobile home FACTORY. Tricks they found necessary are countertop tile and fireplace face stones get put down with silicone caulk! Grouting is not done until delivery because the (<100mi) travel shakes things up. roof eves often fold up to accomodate road width restrictions. you should lookup dot max height limits too. If you decide to tow, make sure you read up on proper trailering. there was a latimes tragedy story of a vet student trailering a uhaul. My physics interpretation of the event is when the trailer is too heavily back loaded and does not put adequate pressure on the tow vehicle’s rear tires AND when there are faulty brakes on the trailer going down hill, you set the tow vehicle up for what the police use as the “pit maneuver”. that is to say, the tow arm actually works to unseat the rear tires and the trailer momentum actually drives the vehicle into a spin or tumble.
A tip - I even ran across a double axle horse trailer - free for the taking - a cheap way to get your frame.
My personal interest evolved in other directions, one of which caused me to sign on today. in scanning (dreaming) los angeles craigslist I’ll point out the “Converted Small City Bus w/Wheelchair Lift + 14 Pass OR RV - Diesel - $5000”. have you perused skoolie(dot)net? - have a look at one done by “reprobate”. or google “von slatt” steampunk converted bus.
other things to consider, here in CA they just started implementing YEARLY diesel inspections. it’not a full dyno smog test, but a visual black smoke and see what’s under the hood inspection. I think they may not like wvo preheater/aux tank setups. so know what’s in store in the state of your destination. Dream, do it, and be safe - john.


#11

I think 8 foot+ WIDE would be classified as a “WIDE LOAD” in many states and might require special permits.


#12

I’m replying again because I might have not been clear enough. In the article, one of the recommended fix’s is to require the tow vehicle to be 2x the weight of the trailer. But more specifically, it is important that much of the weight land on the rear tires of the tow vehicle. One can’t just get a bigger F450 truck and still tow it with an empty bed. Specifically for the caller, it is simply not a matter of if the truck has enough power to pull the trailer but if it is also massive enough in comparison to the trailer load for safe towing. This topic can also be helpful to the upcoming end of season vacationers.

It looks like there is no objection to url posting so here’s the relevant links:
latimes article "Driving with rented risks"
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-haul24jun24,0,2743640.htmlstory
von slatt’s bus:
http://www.vonslatt.com/bus-main.shtml
http://steampunkworkshop.com/bus1.shtml
reprobate’s bus:
http://www.skoolie.net/gallery/v/Skoolies/reprobate/
cl’s bus listing (dropped $250!):
Converted Small City Bus w/Wheelchair Lift + 14 Pass OR RV - Diesel - $4750

re: the horse trailer - it came up when I searched for “double axle trailer”. you need not start with a car trailer frame. speaking of which, von slatt took an old double axle mobile home and turned it into a car trailer for towing by his bus!