Last weekend, I moved my tiny house for the first time. It was a very emotional experience to say the least. Highs, lows, laughter, tears, frustration, learning opportunities, success. I hope to capture most of that in this post and in more photos on my flickr.
Day 1: Friday, October 31st
For Halloween, I was a tiny house mover. Dressed in a t-shirt, fleece, Carhartts and Danner work boots, I started the day by helping Eric (who I am renting my space from) pick up a beefy 3/4 ton diesel truck and move a travel trailer from Forest Grove to his place in inner NE Portland. I was happy to help provide moral support and also benefited in getting a feel for what it would be like towing my little house.
Once we dropped off the travel trailer at site, we drove up to Green Anchors in St. Johns where I have been building. My build buddy, Lina, met us on site to help pack up and take photos from the follow car. Once there, we got the house ready by loading the extra materials I had stored underneath and my stairs into the back of the truck. We checked the tightness of the lug nuts and swept the ground with a magnet to pick up stray nails, screws, staples, etc. The last thing I needed was a flat tire. Eric backed up the truck to line up the trailer's 2 5/16" ball hitch once we had jacked it up. We lowered the trailer onto the ball, then connected the chains and lights.
Everything went smoothly except the part when the front door was left open over the stairs and we started lowering the trailer onto the wheels. Part way down, someone noticed that the door looked like it was at a kind of funny angle. It had caught on the stairs and was starting to pull itself off the hinges. After a bit of a meltdown on my part (softened by a pumpkin shake Lina brought me), we decided to try to fix it and reinstall. We unscrewed the door from the hinges, set it on some stickers and chiseled the rough edges smooth. Lina went to ACE to pick up some new screws that were double the length of the old ones so they would be able to tie into the door and frame. Eric and Lina were rockstars and soon had the door securely back in it's place. I guess I'm lucky it didn't fall completely and shatter the glass.
Then, we were ready to go after checking the light and brake signals. I decided that I wanted to drive the truck at least part of the way so I jumped into the driver's seat. Of course this was an important photo op so Lina took lots of photos of me laughing at the absurdity of what I was doing (with the St. John's bridge in the background of course). Then Eric jumped in the truck with me to help guide the turns on the way to the bridge.
Once on the bridge, I took it slow to take in the beauty of the Gothic arches, the Willamette River, and so Lina could take photos. I'm sure other people trying to drive across the bridge were not appreciative of my slowness but I wasn't ready to drive fast quite yet anyway. Once across the bridge, we took Hwy 30 to the Fremont bridge which I did manage to cross going 50 mph. Once off our exit, we drove the short rest of the way to the new space. Towing my little house was actually not that difficult.
Getting it into the space was another story. Since we are in rainy season now and the land was last used as a garden, the soil was very soft and slick once compacted. I let Eric back the house in since I didn't feel confident taking on that challenge. As he carefully maneuvered the house up the slope through the gate, Lina and I helped guide. After a few attempts of getting the house and truck up the hill, the truck lost traction and started slipping sideways which was kind of terrifying considering it was attached to my house and because we had to be near to give directions. We tried adding pieces of wood and 1 1/4" thick plywood that we borrowed to gain more traction but were unsuccessful after hours of attempting. I decided to call one of the founders of Green Anchors to see if he had any ideas of what would possibly work to get the house in place. He suggested a come-along with chains and straps connecting the trailer to a tree behind to take some of the weight off the truck. It was dark by then but we decided to drive to get the tools, bring them back to site, set everything up and go for it.
We tried using this system with the truck several times but were unsuccessful. We thought about unhooking the truck and trying to just use the come-along to move the house but then realized that wouldn't work since the tongue wouldn't be supported. At that point in the evening, we decided to stop and pick it up again the next morning.
Day 2: Saturday
On Saturday morning, Eric took the truck to go pick up some 3/4 minus gravel for the driveway since we had decided it would be our best option for traction. While he did this, I packed up one of his vans with my futon frame, mattress, extra door and propane stove and then met him to help unload.
Once that was complete, we reconnected the truck and trailer and Eric backed in without much resistance from the tires. The gravel did its job in getting us to flatter ground. We laid down some of the thick pieces of plywood for the truck to drive over and not get stuck in mud. That worked pretty well though we had to keep rearranging the pieces of plywood as the truck backed in. We decided to un-hitch and re-hitch once to get a better angle so the house would be close to parallel with the adjacent building.
With my house finally in its new place, we quickly backed in Eric's travel trailer so we could get the truck back to the rental place. They weren't happy that we returned it late but there wasn't much else we could have done due to the mud issues. Back at site, I started to level the house with my scissor jacks setting on top of the thick pieces of plywood on top of the ground. I used a car jack to jack up one corner at a time. The problem with soft ground and the scissor jacks is that they are meant to stabilize but don't do well on ground that had not been compacted. When I would try to lower the house onto the jacks, the compensation for the vertical compression and lateral sliding was too great so they started deforming.
After a few unsuccessful hours of trying to get the jacks in place, I decided to call Lina so see what she thought might work. She mentioned that hers is on some beefy timbers. I didn't have timbers easily available but I did have access to some CMU blocks left behind by a former gardener. So we decided that it might work to dig out the ground a little bit, put a couple of blocks in, a layer of plywood and then jacks on top of that. It seemed to be working for the first three jacks but then the whole back end shifted again with the last one which might be broken at this point. It was getting late at that time and I decided that 7 hours spent trying to jack up the house was enough for the day so I went home.
Stay tuned for Part 2...