Tiny Homes are built with the same materials as regular homes, making them heavier than RVs. It is critical to know how much your Tiny House weighs so that you can stay within your limits. Below I explain how to calculate your Tiny House weight so you can tow without fear.
Weight limits should be respected
Every trailer has a weight rating, but it is only as good as the trailer’s weakest link (axles, tires, safety chains, tongue, brakes, frame). For example, if you have a 10,000lb trailer, your axles should be rated for at least 5,200 lbs axles, your tires should be rated for at least 2,600 lbs (preferably labelled ST – Special Trailer radial tires), your safety chains should be rated for at least 10,400 lbs, you should have brakes on the axles (preferably both), and the tongue and jack should be rated for 2,000 lbs. When purchasing a trailer, make sure you check the weight ratings of these elements.
Tongue weight is often overlooked
Tongue weight is “the downward force that the tongue of the trailer applies to the hitch of the tow vehicle.” Ideally your TW should be between 9% and 15% of the Tiny House total weight. So, if your house weighs 10,000 lbs, your TW should be no more than 1,500 lbs. Don’t forget to add a buffer for the weight you will be carrying in the bed of your truck. Overlooking TW is one of the most common mistakes I see with Tiny House owners. Some standard trucks are not designed to carry a lot of weight on their hitch. Many Tiny Housers prefer a dually. If you plan to travel often, I recommend using a weight distribution system no matter which vehicle you choose.
*Our truck was a 2006 6.oL turbo diesel Ford-250. We towed our Tiny House over 25,000 miles with this truck and spent thousands of dollars on maintenance. I do not recommend this particular engine.*
HOW TO CALCULATE TINY HOUSE WEIGHT – During the Build
The easiest way to keep track of weight during your build is to weigh your empty trailer and weigh the materials you use. It’s tedious, but doing this calculation will give you a ball park estimate of your final weight, which is better than nothing. You can also strictly follow the plans you purchase, which will have an estimated final weight. The Tumbleweed plans estimated that my house would weigh 8,800 lbs, without my belongings. I deviated from their materials list and customized the design. In the end, my Tiny House weighs just over 10,000 lbs fully loaded with all my belongings. I’m within the trailer rating of 10,400 lbs, but it was close.
Going over your weight limit is not a good thing.
I’ve heard horror stories of owners having to upgrade their axles due to being over their trailer’s weight rating. This is not a cheap fix! You may also need to gut and redo construction, which doesn’t sound like fun. The best plan of action is to use lightweight materials as much as possible or follow the build plans. If you have access to a tow vehicle, you can take your Tiny House to the scales several times during the build process. See instructions for weighing at the scales below.
HOW TO CALCULATE TINY HOUSE WEIGHT – at the CAT Scales
Tiny Houses are surprisingly easy to weigh once they are mobile. All you have to do it tow your house to a public certified CAT truck scale and follow the instructions below:
- Drive onto the scale making sure that the front axle of your truck (steer axle) is on the very front platform, the rear axle (drive axle) is on the following platform, and the wheels of your house (trailer axles) are on the next platform. Make sure to disconnect your weight distribution system if you have one.
- Hit the button on the intercom alerting the attendant you are ready to weigh
- The attendant will let you know when it is okay to get off the scale. Drive off and pick up your weight certificate at the register. The cost is $8-$12. Let the attendant know you will need a re-weigh (usually another $2-$4)
- Detach your Tiny House and park it safely.
- Do the steps 1-3 with the TRUCK ONLY
*Some scales may allow you to detach your Tiny House directly on the scale, which simplifies the calculation. Most of the time you won’t have this option.
Tiny House Weight Calculations
With both weight certificates you can figure out your tongue weight and total weight using a few easy calculations.
- Weighing Certificate #1: Truck & Tiny House. Steer Axle (A), Drive Axle (B) and Trailer Axles (C)
- Weighing Certificate #2: Truck. Steer axle (D) and Drive Axle (E)
Your tongue weight can be calculated by taking the weight of the truck axles while towing the Tiny House minus the weight of the truck. Tongue weight = (A + B) – (D +E).
Once you’ve found your tongue weight, you can also find your total Tiny House weight by adding your tongue weight to your trailer axle weight. Tiny House weight = Tongue Weight + C
Other methods for determining tongue weight
*This article was written with the help of Guillaume Dutilh