When you see Shawn McClellan’s prototype model that launched his business, Slim House RVs, you might ask: “Is that a tiny house or a recreational vehicle?”
The answer: “It’s basically both,” said McClellan. It’s a tiny house built on a towable trailer, so it is certified as an RV, he explained.
His model has gotten plenty of attention when he’s displayed it at outdoor living and RV shows and even the Kansas State Fair since he started Slim House RVs in November 2015 in Haysville.
Although it’s certified as an RV, there are some differences to consider with a tiny house on wheels, McClellan said. Weighing in at 10,000 pounds, or 5 tons, his model, like other tiny houses on wheels, is significantly heavier than a traditional travel trailer. That can make it more difficult and more expensive to tow than a travel trailer, which is generally made of lighter-weight materials and less insulation. It takes at least a 3/4-ton pickup to haul his tiny house on wheels, McClellan said.
The fact that it’s built, insulated and designed more like a house, however, is what gives a tiny house on wheels a more home-like feeling than a traditional travel trailer, proponents say. McClellan’s model, for example, has a standard-sized door that you would find in a regular home. He used 2x4s and plywood to construct it, and it’s got residential grade insulation.
A tiny house on wheels is also easier to customize, said McClellan. He’s able to work with a buyer, much like the buyer of a traditional new home, and install specific flooring and tile styles, enlarge a bathroom to include a tub or even add a washer and dryer. He also can build the furniture for his tiny house RVs.
“The thing you have to keep in mind is that everything has multiple purposes,” McClellan said. In his model, for example, the stairs leading to the loft, which can accommodate a king-sized mattress, also serve as storage and seating.
Since it’s certified as a towable RV, his tiny house on wheels doesn’t require a special permit or license to be on the road. It is, however, limited in size: a maximum of 8.5 feet wide and 13.5 feet high to be on the road without wide-load signage and to pass under most bridges. His 210-square-foot model sits on a custom 20-foot trailer with upgraded axles, but he can build models that are longer or shorter.
Tiny houses – usually 600 square feet or smaller – have been trending since the early 2000s. They’ve been slower to materialize in Kansas, however, because of varying building codes and regulations, McClellan said. Some communities have minimum requirements for new construction, and tiny houses are often too small to be considered legal in many communities. One could live at a year-round RV park, however, McClellan said.
McClellan thinks those limitations may be what’s holding consumers back. While his model is always a novelty when displayed, he has yet to receive an order for one.