Joshua and Shelley Engberg cover

In their own process for going tiny in 2014, Joshua and Shelley Engberg decided to design a custom trailer for their dream tiny home. Frustrated by how difficult the process was, they went into business as Tiny House Basics and now build over 450 custom tiny house trailers per year. In this interview, we’ll hear Joshua and Shelley’s tiny story, their tips for finding an ideal Parking spot, and we’ll nerd out about trailer features, from tube steel to threaded rods.

In This Episode:

  • How to approach the search for land
  • Why did they need a custom trailer?
  • The one thing you probably haven't thought of – but should
  • How to calculate the weight of a tiny house
  • What to look for in your tiny house trailer
  • Is weight distribution a big deal?
  • Trends in the tiny house movement
  • The best way to attach your tiny home to the trailer

Links and Resources:

Guest Bio:

Joshua and Shelley Engberg

Joshua and Shelley Engberg

Shelley and Joshua Engberg started planning to build a tiny house in June of 2014 in order to simplify their lives and get back to basics and escape the high cost of living in the SF Bay Area. With Joshua having a background in custom trailers and metal fabrication and Shelley in interior design they started downsizing and designing their custom tiny house. The original plan was to build their own tiny house trailer but instead, they designed a custom frame and had it built to their exact specs from a factory. With the help of many of their talented friends they built their own self-designed 374 sq. ft. home in a few short months. Reflecting on the challenges of the build, they realized one of the biggest was the trailer and getting one custom to their needs, so that is how Tiny House Basics was born.





This Week's Sponsor:

Tiny House Decisions Cover

Tiny House Decisions

Tiny House Decisions is the guide that I wish I had when I was building my tiny house. And it comes in three different packages to help you on your unique tiny house journey. If you're struggling to figure out the systems for your tiny house, how you're going to heat it, how you're going to plumb it, what you're going to build it out, then tiny house decisions will take you through the process systematically and help you come up with a design that works for you. Right now I'm offering 20% off any package of Tiny House Decisions for podcast listeners. Head over to and use the coupon code tiny at checkout!


More Photos:

The Engbergs found the perfect location for their tiny home

They share it with two poodles

Great outdoor seating


Living space, the kitchen, and a storage loft

They focused on what they could give to their landlord in return for a parking space

A farmhouse sink makes this tiny kitchen look large!


A tiny teardrop travel trailer

Hidden storage inspired by Japanese tatami mats

Master loft storage revealed


Outdoor movie theater

They look cozy!


Joshua Engberg 0:00

You know, we did get a lot of flack by people saying that was it a tiny house?

Shelley Engberg 0:03

Oh my gosh, 20 feet. That is ridiculous. You know, like, I feel like we could have gone a little bigger, but

Joshua Engberg 0:09

I guess it was almost like, well, you know, you guys do you. This was us living in this space.

Ethan Waldman 0:17

In their own process for going tiny in 2014 my guests, Joshua and Shelley Engberg decided to design a custom trailer for their dream tiny Home. Frustrated by how difficult the process was, they decided to go into business as tiny house basics, and now build over 450 custom tiny house trailers per year. In this interview, we'll hear Joshua and Shelley's tiny story, their tips for finding an ideal parking spot and we'll nerd out about trailer features from tube steel to threaded rods. I hope you stick around.

I want to tell you about something that I think will be super helpful as you plan, design and build your tiny house. Tiny House Decisions is a guide that I wish I had when I was building my tiny house. It comes in three different packages to help you on your unique tiny house journey. And if you're struggling to just figure out the systems for your tiny house, you know like how you're going to heat it, how you're going to plumb it. You know what construction technique Are you going to use like sips or stick framing or steel framing, Tiny House Decisions will take you through all these processes systematically and help you come up with a design that works for you. Right now I'm offering 20% off any package of Tiny House Decisions for listeners of the show. You can head over to to learn more, and use the coupon code tiny at checkout for 20% off any package. Again, that's and use the coupon code tiny for 20% off.

Right. I am here with Shelley and Joshua Ingber, Shelley and Joshua started planning to build a tiny house in June of 2014 in order to simplify their lives and get back to basics and escape the high cost of living in the San Francisco Bay Area. With Joshua having a background in custom trailers and metal fabrication and Shelley in interior design, they started downsizing and designing their custom tiny house. The original plan was to build their own tiny house trailer, but instead they designed a custom frame and had it built to their exact specs from a factory. With the help of many of their talented friends. They built their own self design 374 square foot home in a few short months. One of the biggest challenges was the trailer and getting one custom to their needs. So that is how tiny house basics was born. Shelly and Joshua Engberg Welcome to the tiny house lifestyle podcast. Thank you.

Unknown Speaker 3:00

Thank you excited to be a part of it.

Ethan Waldman 3:01

Yeah, excited to have you on. I, you know, you've been around making tiny house trailers. And so, so many of my kind of email subscribers and people in Tiny House Engage my online community. Many, many of them have bought trailers from you. And but I kind of want to rewind, I love to hear the story about people going tiny. So, you know, can you can you say more about how you got interested in tiny house living and what you know what convinced you to take the plunge.

Joshua Engberg 3:36

We'd love to have the story down. Who wants to lead? So I'm in 2014. We were married for about three years, that time period. And we were renting a house in the San Francisco Bay Area. rent prices at that time. Of course, they've gone up a lot since then. But they were expensive at the time. And we kind of got to a point to where we either needed to either move out of state or drastically change the way we were living. And we didn't really understand what that meant. And we were kind of familiar with tiny houses at that period of time. We really remember kind of a specific dinner with some friends in Berkeley. And they were telling us about tiny houses. They were like, they were like under 100 square feet. And we're like, Oh, that's cool. And all but yeah, not gonna happen for us. Yeah. And so it's just kind of a passing thought. But we were on our third year anniversary, right? We went to our family's longtime cabin in Washington State. And kind of just it was really small cabin built in the early 1900s. And log cabin. And so we kind of were like, kind of like in this small space. And then we came back home. And we were just watching movies at night. And that net very next week, we came across the documentary. I think it's tiny

Shelley Engberg 4:59


Joshua Engberg 5:00

Yeah, story of living small,

Shelley Engberg 5:03

is the first time where it seemed like, there were a bit of a more normal size, like a normal size of a tiny house like not 700 square feet where it was kind of like, hey, like, like we couples do this and you know,

Joshua Engberg 5:16

like, it was just like a single person or in we just totally connected with several other people on there. And it just seems like a practical, realistic thing that we can do. And then from that point on, we're like, that's it. This is the answer. We're staying in California. We're going to do a tiny house. We're gonna figure it out.

Shelley Engberg 5:34

Yeah, we just figured, like, you know, we can try it. Renting we were renting, we thought about buying. But again, it's very expensive, putting down roots. We just weren't sure we were newly married, though. Like, we don't know where we want to live long term. And finally, we don't want to buy like crazy. With the idea of the tiny house being smaller, but not crazy small, we like to visit less maintenance that would allow us time to travel and actually just not mean Yeah, and

Joshua Engberg 6:02

it was like things like the composting toilet or other aspects that are kind of synonymous with tiny house living didn't weren't a big deal for us because we are big.

Shelley Engberg 6:14

That was we both grew up camping. So camping, boating, like we're very familiar with that. But you know, composting, toilet full time was a little more squeemish for one of us, clearly. So with going tiny, there was the rule. Since we were going to have to do a composting toilet. I would do that. But Josh had to change the composting toilet every single time.

Joshua Engberg 6:36

And the rule still in effect is it works.

Shelley Engberg 6:40

Yeah, I have not changed it in one time.

Ethan Waldman 6:43

I think that also that responsibility has also fallen to me pretty much 100% of the time between my wife and I not because she wouldn't do it. But I think I just, you know, the compost pile. It's like, it's almost like another pet. You know, you have to like manage it. And like, give the thermometer in there is it dry? Is it thirsty? Does it need, you know, what does it need? So, yeah, so you're tiny.

Shelley Engberg 7:08

Yeah, exactly. It's like taking out the trash.

Ethan Waldman 7:12

So did you ever, like, think about trying to live in the San Francisco Bay Area in a tiny house? Or did you know that that was kind of a non starter?

Joshua Engberg 7:21

We are in we are still in the San Francisco. Okay. And so that was? Yeah,

Shelley Engberg 7:26

yeah. So so we were like, We are staying here,

Joshua Engberg 7:28

we're staying here.

Shelley Engberg 7:31

But we are not going to pay the Bay Area prices right now.

Joshua Engberg 7:34

About an hour from here to downtown San Francisco. And it was just kind of like we always looked at the aspect of like, you know, finding land is always a challenge. Everybody talks about finding land. But we're not looking to, you know, I guess change the mind of a large group of people, we only needed one person, we only needed one landowner or one situation. That's all we're looking for. Right. And we found it and we've been in the same place. So

Shelley Engberg 8:02

that being said, like at that time, they were so new, that there was definitely an education process. So even when we were looking it was describing to people that like, no, we're not coming in on a shelf on your property like, this is like, Oh, well, living space and explaining to them, you know, the functionality of how it plugs in do it, that we didn't need to do it, you know, all these kind of different factors. So now there's so common that people know what's needed. But at the time, it was definitely a very big education process. Yeah,

Joshua Engberg 8:36

and we definitely win. You know, I know, we're kind of skipping ahead a little bit. But when we were looking for land, we definitely looked at the aspect of like, when we're approaching landowners and stuff like that, what could we bring to the table? What are we offering to you?

Shelley Engberg 8:49

Not looking for a free ride.

Joshua Engberg 8:51

Yeah, no, I want to pay a couple $100 a month, I want this, I want this, we were kind of trying to look at it. And the other point of view,

Shelley Engberg 8:58

we pretty that we had to pay property taxes would we want on our property, you know,

Joshua Engberg 9:04

right. And we're kind of faced with that worked out for us. And that kind of mindset was kind of like a little article that we wrote, and a lot of our customers have found great success, kind of just following those almost simple principles of just kind of like, really putting yourself in other people's shoes, because you're gonna be, you know, interacting with the landowner, maybe you know, sometimes, but maybe not a bunch or maybe a ton. So when you kind of look at as like a relationship where it is a two way street, I think that we definitely benefited from that. And our landowners are like, totally family at this point. Yeah.

Yeah. I mean, they're, yeah, I mean, he's like a really good buddy. So yeah,

Shelley Engberg 9:44

then utility benefit.

Ethan Waldman 9:45

Yeah, that's awesome. Yeah, I've heard I've heard from a lot of guests that even the relationships that they formed just with their landowner, and the people around them, that they value those so much and that they wouldn't have real had that have they just, you know, bought a single family home and moved in like you don't you don't develop the same kind of relationship with the people around you? Absolutely, absolutely.

Shelley Engberg 10:11

I agree. Yeah.

Ethan Waldman 10:13

So how long did the the process the land search process take you and and at what point in your build? were you doing this? Was it was the house like under construction? Was it before you build? Or was it like, was it done and you're like, we need to find a place.

Joshua Engberg 10:31

We definitely focused on the build at the beginning. And we knew that we would we just kind of knew we would find a place. Yeah. So you're kind of like we we know at first, we're like, Okay, I'm gonna build a trailer and in the driveway. Yeah, I built trailers. Before I've been I had a background in aviation mechanics, where I learned how to weld those like, Okay, so we're going to build the trailer in the driveway of our rental, but didn't just once we decided on the size of 28 feet, I just kind of thought I was like, okay, maybe it's gonna be a little bit challenging deal with like, 28 foot beams of, you know, steel. And, you know, maybe my landlords and neighbors aren't going to be super awesome about that, you know,

Shelley Engberg 11:12

very residential suburban area.

Joshua Engberg 11:14

Yeah. So we, at that point, I kind of we sketched out a design, and for the trailer with some kind of fine tuning. And then we kind of started building factor for us to kind of build it. And when I'd say, hey, I want a tiny house trailer, nobody wanted anything to do with. But when I just when I just approached it as in, hey, this is this customized trailer, I want to the specifications, can you build it, then people were more open to talk about it interested? And so we, so we, we had the trailer built, and it was about eight to 10 weeks to build the trailer. And that was kind of like build time.

Ethan Waldman 11:52

I'm curious, like, what? So so when I bought a trailer for my tiny house bill that I started in 2012. You know, I was aware that, that like it was possible to design to have a custom trailer built. But like, the whole process was so overwhelming to me. And the you know, the the mindset or the the common wisdom at the time was like, okay, you buy utility trailer, you remove every other like pressure treated deck board from it, you build your frame on top of that. So what I'm curious, like, what your thinking was back then, like, what was it that you were looking for in the trailer that you couldn't just get like stock on a utility trailer?

Joshua Engberg 12:36

Yeah. So we had many trailers always enjoyed telling for some weird reason. But

Shelley Engberg 12:47

you've total total on line in lines of work. A lot of towing.

Joshua Engberg 12:50

So one of the basic things was a standard utility trailer or car hauler is 82 inches wide, that's the deck that is in between the wheel wells, that's the usable surface area. But a trailer could be eight and a half feet wide. So why am I losing, you know, 20 inches of width, to just, you know, to make you with utility trailer,

Shelley Engberg 13:13

and as we know, like, in a tiny house is huge.

Joshua Engberg 13:16

Yeah. So as we map it in the driveway, and you know, by losing that 20 inches of width, that was a huge deal. Yeah. And I was like, Well, you know, then we have the challenge of the wheel wells. But I we try not to look at the wheel wells is like a challenge for say, a negative, just more of like a, something to work with something to work around. So we're like, well, we'll just treat it like a wheel. I mean, sorry, treat it like a window, frame over it. And so that's kind of where that idea is like, well, I'll just design the trailer deck to hold the load at the widest point possible. So 102 inch wide. And then so that's kind of where that came from, is just not binding a tiny house trailer at the time that did a true 102 inch wide deck. And so I was like, well, we are totally going into this full steam. And this is a big deal for us. So I want the maximum space because we felt 28 feet at the time was the biggest tiny house possible. And we you know, we did get a lot of flack by people saying that wasn't a tiny house.

Shelley Engberg 14:20

At the time. It was just like this big negative, like, Oh my gosh, 20 feet that is ridiculous. You know, like, I feel like we could have gone a little bigger, but I guess

Joshua Engberg 14:28

not. But it was almost like well, you know, you guys, do you this was a solution in this space. Yeah, this feels tiny, tiny subjective.

Shelley Engberg 14:38

It's like 1800 square feet do and in total of 375. Like, you know, it's tiny compared.

Joshua Engberg 14:45

Yeah, so that's kind of where it came from of just increasing that with utility trailers and car haulers have a lot of additional steel and unused kind of components that contribute to the weight that are ideal for a car hauler, but not necessarily Functional are useful for tiny house. And that kind of tipped into the usable payload of how much the house.

Ethan Waldman 15:09

Awesome. So how did it so you built? Let's pick the story back up. So you have this custom trailer fabricated. And you built your house on it. At what point did you say like, Hey, I could do this for other people?

Joshua Engberg 15:30

It was during the course of the build. Yeah.

Shelley Engberg 15:32

And I mean, during even just trying to get the trailer because it was I mean, I don't, you probably only said it. But he would go in to other trailer manufacturers and say, Hey, I need this, this and this. And I want it felt to this spec. And once we would say the word tiny house, actually a lot of the big the bigger trailer builders at the time, literally laughed at us and said, No, I don't want any part of that. And it was like this, like total snobbery of like, No, I'm not building a trailer for like those little things. And we were kind of like, wow, this is like, snobby.

Ethan Waldman 16:09

Why do you think that is like, why do you think they were so kind of put off by the idea that it was a tiny house trailer?

Shelley Engberg 16:18

I don't know. I think they were so they were still new. I mean, as you know, like, when you guys did it, it's just they weren't they? Yeah, they hadn't caught on yet. And so people just kind of looked at him. I was like, oh, they're little like these little trailers. I don't know, they just it for whatever reason, you know, and they were some manufacturers that were like Midwest where, you know, homes are much larger, and you can get them for cheaper. And you know, so it almost was like looked down upon a little bit like, oh, you're you're downsizing to this like little box on we'll do I don't know that. At the time. It was it seemed like those manufacturers definitely kind of looked

Joshua Engberg 16:55

down on it from what we got. Yeah. And so I was like, Well, if I and then when we, when I turn the table of just talking in terms and specifications, what I needed, everything changed. I was like, on their level playing field. And so I was like, Well, if we had this kind of a challenge, not that we were anything special anybody else. But if we had this kind of challenge

Shelley Engberg 17:17

with having knowledge of you know exactly how you wanted it to be built, and not saying, Hey, I have a tiny house, tell me what I need, like you went in it was like this is this is the layout. This is exactly how I need to build, you know, yeah. So yeah, we had that challenge, then,

Joshua Engberg 17:30

yeah, then so many other people probably have the same challenge. And so we're going kind of like, okay, let's kind of let's see if this is let's see if there's something there. And then I think we're just the idea of blogging or sharing on Instagram, in our Instagram, in a way came from just us wanting to share photos of photos that we wish we saw when we were planning. Yeah. And before Pinterest had like, tiny house stuff, and Instagram had like, no tiny house stuff back in 2014. And so that's kind of where that came from us trying to share our life in it. And then it kind of just started gaining traction and kind of making sense. And it's been, I mean, it's been our full time, you know, job since 2015. And we build on average, even since then about 450 Custom trailers a year. And so it all just kind of stem from just that idea of us doing ourselves. Yeah. And then we are able to really kind of connect with people, because we still are tiny house dwellers. And just kind of like bridge that gap. So people don't have to worry about stressing about a trailer. We're handling all that stuff and just kind of really helped them focus on their design and stuff. Like cuz

Shelley Engberg 18:38

it's like the trailer really is it's the necessity. It's the necessary part. But it's not the most fun like in designing, it's not like Oh, cool. Let me get a dig into my interior. It's just like, if I need this thing, please. So, you know, it's not like a glamorous part. But if you need it to the foundation to your home, it's the same as building a home. You know, that's the foundation that you're putting it on. It's not exciting.

I mean, somebody's got to do it.

Ethan Waldman 19:06

Yeah. Wow. 450 trailers a year. That's amazing.

Joshua Engberg 19:11

Yeah, yeah. Yeah.

Ethan Waldman 19:13

I had to count how many people are involved in in building all those trailers. I'm guessing it's not just the two of you like out there welding trailers together? Oh, no. So we have

Joshua Engberg 19:26

so we have four factories around the US and these are, you know, smaller custom factories, which are primarily doing our trailer, right. So every single one is purely custom to where somebody could want a 98 inch wide deck. The next person could want 100 inch deck. And you know, and then people are like, Hey, can I add this bump out and they'll send me a sketch it's so it's just like everything is truly tailored to each individual. Because I mean, as you're so familiar, you've been in this even tiny house community for a long time. Every But he has different needs, wants, desires, desires and tastes. Yeah. And so it that's kind of how we did is like we tailor to each person states.

Shelley Engberg 20:09

Yeah, even something as simple as we wheel placement - wheel well placement it seems kind of like oh basic, but I mean really that's like a big part of what people don't think about and placing it and they'll do this whole design, and then completely forget that there's a wheel well that they have to work around. And then sometimes they need it moved. And so, you know, Josh is kind of an expert at that and saying, like, hey, yeah, you can move it so far without it, you know, you still it's total vehicle understand. So it's like, you need to have proper placement. So you're not, you know,

Joshua Engberg 20:43

in like, New Zealand, tiny houses in Australia, tiny houses, there's a lot of great plans out there. But they're road dimensions are different. Like we spend a lot of time converting those when we have a customer that they're designed to what would make the most sense on American made trailer. Right, and kind of fine tuning from there. So yeah, but yeah, we enjoy it. I mean, DIY is are the heart of the movement, and it's so much fun to be able to, like, work with individuals on their dreams and kind of desires and, and kind of just kind of give feedback on things that we've learned, you know, because we're still, we're still figuring it all out. You know, we're six and a half years in, but our house is constantly changing. As you can kind of see, like on an Instagram, we're constantly remote, we just finished a kitchen remodel. Well, you know, so it's like, we're just always kind of tweaking it to our current needs. Yeah. I

Shelley Engberg 21:34

mean, it's been fun along the way, the nice part of that is it is a small space that you're going in to, it's not like you have this 2000 Square, fantastic. You're like, Oh, no, it's gonna cost me how much to redo a kitchen. You know, it's a small kitchen. So it's still gonna be a little pricey, but it's nothing compared to a traditional home.

Joshua Engberg 21:51

Yeah, and I think it goes to show too, is like, just because you design your tiny house a certain way. It doesn't mean you are stuck with it forever. And change. And you could change almost everything about it. Yeah. I mean, we ripped all our siding off in 2017 and went like an aluminum siding. That was a pretty easy project. Yeah.

Ethan Waldman 22:13

Why did you do that?

Joshua Engberg 22:14

We noticed when we did, t 111. The painter that we hired to do it didn't properly seal like around the trim. And he ended up using like a type of stain and there was some water intrusion. Okay. So we started kind of had some rot on some of the T 111. Right, we kind of noticed that a little bit, but we were actually just trying to kind of like, change, it wasn't our favorite choice, but it was the most economical choice at the time. Right, right. And then we removed it all the siding, we weighed it, all the siding for t 111 was 19 180 pounds. And then our new siding was 950 pounds. Wow. So we shed 1000 pounds in just the siding.

Shelley Engberg 23:04

And I think we wanted something just a little bit more lower maintenance, where it's not like we're having to repaint it and refill it. And we found a company that is based out of Australia, but they do a lot of like homes or even deck projects and things like along you know, the water like oceans. Yeah. When I type

Joshua Engberg 23:27

you know, high salinity Yeah,

Shelley Engberg 23:29

and so we partnered with them and they liked the idea of the project because it just shows I mean it's been great like the exterior you know if it gets dirty we literally just like hose it down and give it a clean we barely even have to do that but it's it's just so durable and so yeah, there's a lot of people in Hawaii even that will use it for decking due to the fact of the you know, the harsh salt water and everything so it'll with the end of the environment. Yeah. And I thought cool - put this on a tiny house it's great.

Joshua Engberg 24:02

And I was kind of like coming into like gears, gearing tools. And I think that was just something I discovered. Your other search channel, any corner kind of cool product that could be adapted. Nice.

Ethan Waldman 24:12

So I want to kind of nerd out a little bit for for a minute or two on on trailers. Since I've got a trailer expert for on the call. I see so many different kind of designs and different materials. And I was curious, just starting with like what I guess. I mean, obviously you make trailers. But if you were giving someone advice about what to look for in a tiny house trailer, you know, even if they weren't going to buy a trailer from you. What are you what are some pieces of advice that you would give someone about looking for a tiny house trailer

Joshua Engberg 24:55

when you're specking out a couple of design characteristics though, I'll tap into you but When you're specking out, I think one of the first things is kind of calculating what you think the house is gonna weigh. It's really hard to like, narrow that down, you know, based off ideas or sketches. But I kind of say a couple numbers that have kind of been consistently a good estimation when people were kind of planning their line is, so say the trailers like 28 feet long, it's good to estimate the house is going to weigh anywhere from like 500 to 550 pounds per linear foot of trailer deck link to the buildable surface area of the trailer. So it's always good to get a trailer that is, you know, can handle that capacity, at least. Now, design and materials really plays into a part of that. A lot of like, even our tiny house and even models we build just like it a 28 foot tiny house, we estimated it probably was going to, you know, weigh like around 15-15 - 16,000 pounds, ended up weighing 12,200 pounds with wood production, and T 111 siding. So you can definitely go under that. So that's always the one thing is that I and then also, if you're getting a bigger trailer, because 10 foot wide trailers are super popular, they've been you know, we've been doing them since 2016. When you're doing a 10 foot wide trailer, we say to go with a estimation of 59 pounds per square foot of livable space for the first floor, that and then getting a capacity to handle that. There's a couple different characteristics of the trailer that make you know, usability for building. One of our most popular options is called like blush crossmembers which is like your I guess this kind of calls back to like car haulers. So like when you're getting a say you're getting utility trailer car hauler, you have that wood decking, and you remove it, you're having this void that you got to fill between the top of the trailer frame and those crossmembers that were holding the lumber. So if you get flushed crossmembers they're flush with the top of the deck, you know, so you don't have any wood decking. But you're using that trailer as the sub floor. You're laying your plywood subfloor directly to the deck, you're kind of saving all that time to have to build this wooden sub floor, drop it in the trailer and build up from there, especially with like lumber being so expensive anytime you could save lumber, and not really lose anything. That's a huge, you know, huge benefit. Another kind of big, you know, so if that's an option that you can get on the trailer you're looking for, definitely go for it because you're gonna save a lot of time and effort on that. Another question we get is, you know about axles as to like, yep, triple versus double. Yeah, I would say kind of the teetering point we're going for a length of trailer. 24 foot trailers are usually perfect at tandem 7k. 26 foot you're kinda in that middle ground. You're usually pretty good by doing 14k tandem axle when you go to 28 definitely, you know, it's kind of like cheap insurance. Just get a triple axle, you're not gonna have to worry about it. Not gonna have to spend that time stressing about especially when you're up in that height.

Shelley Engberg 28:15

That's something that that we did not totally know in the beginning.

Joshua Engberg 28:21

So, yeah, cuz we have a 2011 point

Shelley Engberg 28:25

to touch on because we've had to calculate, literally.

Joshua Engberg 28:29

Yeah, so we have a 20 trailer tandem axle. But so that's why I always convinced people is 20 feet is still one of the most popular sizes. I say, trust me just go with the triple axel, you can get it under the weight capacity when if you're doing a Tanda but take it from us. Everything we do, you know, is weight conscious. That was a big part of the sighting to shave off 1000 pounds. You know, our kitchen when we did a remodel? It's like what is the weight of everything you know, it's like even when jellies passing along ideas, it's like it's almost like

Shelley Engberg 29:06

I want to tile everything.

Joshua Engberg 29:09

You know, it's like I'm concerned about the weight.

Ethan Waldman 29:11

Yeah, maybe not the tile...

Joshua Engberg 29:14

And we built like a model exactly like ours with wood and everything and it came in well under that 14,000 pounds for a tandem axle.

Shelley Engberg 29:23

Apparently that's before they put any furniture yet.

Ethan Waldman 29:26

I'd like to tell you a little bit more about Tiny House Decisions, my signature guide and the resource that I wish I had when I was building my tiny house. It starts with the big decisions which is you know, should you build a tiny house yourself or with help is a is a prebuilt shell a good idea? is a house on wheels better than on the ground and what works better for you deciding on the overall size, deciding on whether you should use custom plans or pre made plans, different types of trailers and more then in the in part too, we get into the system so heat, water showers, hot water toilets, electrical refrigeration ventilation. And we're only two thirds of the way through the book at this point. From systems we go into construction decisions talking about nails versus screws, sips versus stick framed versus advanced framing versus metal framing. We talked about how to construct a sub floor sheathing, roofing materials, insulation, windows flooring kitchen, I know I'm just reading off the table of contents. But I just want to give you a sense of how comprehensive Tiny House Decisions is. It's a total of 170 pages. It contains tons of full color drawings, diagrams and resources. And it really is the guide that I wish I had when I was building my tiny house. Right now I'm offering 20% off any package of tiny house decisions using the coupon code tiny, when you head over to that's THD for Tiny House Decisions. Again, that's coupon code tiny when you check out at

So with the tandem versus the triple, you know, whether it's 270 5000 pound axles or three 5000 pound axles, my understanding was that you end up you know, the triple is harder to maneuver. But it but it sounds like you still recommend that as a trade off because of because why?

Joshua Engberg 31:37

triple axel i think is actually

Shelley Engberg 31:39

for our triple axel is 21,000 pound capacity. Yeah.

Ethan Waldman 31:42


Shelley Engberg 31:42

It's definitely a huge jump from the 14,000.

Joshua Engberg 31:45

Yeah, triple axel. The challenge, I think when you're telling is the center tire is the pivot point. So you will have tire wear more with the three tires, because when you hit that pivot point, one tire is going to screw up, well, both tires are going to scrub outside the pivot point. Okay? When it practical towing, like around town and stuff like that. The only thing is just a slightly wider turn. But I feel like that's more representative of the length of the trailer you're driving. But in practice, like I don't think it's actually more challenging to tow a triple axle. But you actually do get more peace of mind that your weight is distributed over a larger surface area, right? I think that kind of wears. Yeah,

Shelley Engberg 32:29

and I think too far, you know, when we're talking to customers, if they're going to be traveling often versus if you're just traveling, or moving your home from, you know, place to place once a year or once every couple of years, I would think the trade off is not worth sacrificing the extra weight capacity just for something that is, you know, for something like that, because having that extra weight capacity is a huge bonus.

Joshua Engberg 32:56

Big peace of mind. Yeah, cheap insurance. And

Shelley Engberg 32:59

then it's true. If you do change something out and you know, on yours, you want to add tile or crazy hardwood floors, and you're not you're like well, I didn't by the way capacity or

Joshua Engberg 33:09

stone fireplace because we have, we have built a trailer for a customer that wanted to stone fireplace, so we're like, we're gonna have to move those axles back. Yeah,

Ethan Waldman 33:19

that's actually a good segue into another thing. I was wondering which, you know, I get this question from time to time from readers around, like, how concerned they need to be and how obsessed they need to be about distributing the weight on that trailer. Like, you know, should it be heavier at the tongue? Should it be heavier at the other end? How balanced? Should it be? Or is it kind of like, well, if you put a house on it going to be fairly balanced? Because the house is going to be on the whole trailer? What do you What's your advice for that?

Joshua Engberg 33:53

I would say ideally, it's good to have things kind of, in the front part of the fenders towards the front, kind of like Intel towards the tongue. That's kind of the ideal area for very heavy thing. But the reality is, like, I don't think people need to hyper focus or stress out about it, because

Shelley Engberg 34:13

they have a proper weight capacity.

Joshua Engberg 34:14

Yeah, if you have the proper weight capacity, but also like say you're towing in the house does feel a little weird, or, you know, if you have too much weight in the back, it tends to want to like lift up on the tongue. You know, if you have too much weight in the back, those things you can change like as in like, you can add a ballast or like say, hey, you can move the washer towards the time to kind of add a little bit more weight. But I kind of file found that in practical sense of moving the moving the tiny houses, little nuances of kind of having both sides evenly balanced. Isn't that too much of a deal? Unless of course you know with reason, say you're going to have like all your appliances washer, dryer stairs on the left hand side and nothing on the right, you know, then you're definitely going to know There's some kind of you're probably going to have a sway when you're actually telling them. But I would say just in general, you probably don't have to hyper focus on it too much. Because there is things you can't change.

Ethan Waldman 35:13

What about different kinds of steel like tubes do versus C channel versus, I guess I beams? It seems like just looking at your site, it looks like you're pretty much all tube from what I can see. But what's your advice there?

Joshua Engberg 35:32

We're all box to brain on all our trailers. We used to build sea channel as an option in California. What I found that it really kind of came down to preference. There are both dimensions of framing we use were both equally strong. It just kind of came down to preference on what people wanted to use. I beams are generally used on much larger trailer brains, like mobile homes use IBM's. Or some of our very big use next, because we've built our biggest gooseneck the deck to date is 44 foot lower deck. Plus a 10 foot upper deck. Wow. By 12 feet wide.

Ethan Waldman 36:19

Oh my gosh.

Joshua Engberg 36:21

Four axle.

Shelley Engberg 36:22

It's a beast!

Joshua Engberg 36:23

So the main frame, we're using IBM's, especially for a 10 foot long span of a gooseneck hitch. We definitely like overkill on things like that.

Ethan Waldman 36:34

What would be the weight capacity of that? of that house? What's the what was the estimate on that one?

Joshua Engberg 36:41

That one was 20. We built it to handle 28,000 pounds, and kind of based off the customer's design. Yeah. That that is I would never want to tow that.

Ethan Waldman 36:54

Or something like that. There aren't that many vehicles that can tow something like that. Do you need like a semi, like a tractor trailer to tow that? tractor?

Joshua Engberg 37:05

Yeah, we had a customer that we built a custom tiny house for 36 by 12. And yeah, it was a tractor that moved it. Yeah, a tractor makes it like no, you know, it's not hard at all. Yeah. But it's also very costly to move something that's 12 feet wide. And

Shelley Engberg 37:22

yeah, then you start to get pilot cars for wing towing and all that, though, right. It's like that great, happy medium. If somebody doesn't want to deal with that moving process, I feel like 10 feet if they want to do wider than the norm is a very comfortable. Tiny House. Sure.

Joshua Engberg 37:40

Yeah, I would say eight and a half feet wide is great. 10 feet is amazing. Don't go bigger.

Shelley Engberg 37:45

No, I mean, you can't. Like 12 feet is great, too. Just generally most the time people don't want to bend the fence because you do need pilot cards and literally your your tone expenses become triple so how far you're going through going you know, an hour maybe not a big deal once you start going over that, like, you know open up your checkbook because

Joshua Engberg 38:07

I was gonna say we have about 12 1512 foot wide trailers in production now. And from a lot of these, these are, they're usually very large, they're kind of like destination tiny houses, as in, they always clarify, it's, it gets to its location, it's not going to move, and it is going to be set up on piers and you know, it's totally like a fixture.

Ethan Waldman 38:35

That makes a lot of sense. Yeah, cuz I have no tiny house shaming for me like I still think a 48 foot gooseneck is a tiny house. But I think that you start to it, you kind of get to the question of why is it on a trailer at that point? Because you know, that's gonna be a really expensive trailer you're getting into the like, you could you could build a found you could pour a foundation for that much. So why are you doing it on the trailer? And if the question if you have a good answer for it great, but like, if it's just because you want a tiny house on a trailer?

Joshua Engberg 39:16

Yeah. Yeah, I totally agree with you. And I do feel truly that tiny is subjective. It's It's different to everybody because we all have different family sizes. We all have different needs. The answer I've been able to kind of deduce from why 12 feet wide is a lot of our customers that are in that size range, are really calculating all the cost of what it costs to pour foundation or to build the utilities on their property. Now Montana, Idaho, Washington are very popular for those wide, really big ones. Yeah, they have property of the space really. Yeah. And they have done their homework on a trailer even though as large as it is, is still the best engine Almost all decision in the long run as a foundation for a house, yeah,

Shelley Engberg 40:04

when maybe a foundation would cost the same amount or a traditional home as an entire tiny house at that site. Even, you know, wow.

Joshua Engberg 40:11

Because Because our customers definitely do their homework. I mean, we had the longest I think span was six years of talking to somebody from the first email to when we build the trailer for them

Shelley Engberg 40:23

if some of these are real long play, like are we ever want. And understandably so because, you know, saving up, depending on everyone's circumstances, I mean, you know, they're they're not, they're not as cheap as people would like them to be. Or maybe as we think they are, you know, tiny houses are still expensive, lumber costs are going up, fuel costs are going up. There's a lot of price factors even so saving up for it is always great. loans are extremely limited for tiny houses getting alone. There's still not a lot of options, though.

Joshua Engberg 40:54

Yeah, and many are doing for the long haul. I mean, that was us, it was like we didn't really have this idea of how long we would be in a tiny house,

Shelley Engberg 41:01

we still don't worry, we don't roll with it. So far, so good.

Joshua Engberg 41:05

So we're happy, we're content. And I think a lot of people are going to that, like I'm making this decision. You know, you can't you don't know what the future holds. We all didn't know what last year was going to hold for us, you know. So. Yeah,

Ethan Waldman 41:18

I want to ask you, because you've been making trailers for quite a few years. And so I feel like you've got a unique kind of view of the tiny house movement, because ultimately, everybody's got to come to you or to a trailer manufacturer, whether you're a professional builder, or a DIY, or who's gonna put it together. So I want to kind of ask you about like, what, what trends are you seeing over over these years that you've been building trailers? Have you seen a shift away from DIY towards contractor builds? Or, you know, yeah, what are some trends that have jumped out at you? You?

Shelley Engberg 41:58

Well, the trend I've noticed is they have been getting larger. That's that's been like the biggest trends I think for for contractors with DIY, it's, I think it's still totally, it's totally, there are more contractors, for sure. But there's plenty of DIY errs that just, you know, there's no doubt that doing it yourself saves a lot of money. But I think the trend has definitely been slowly progressively getting larger.

Joshua Engberg 42:23

And I do think that DIY is do take the bulk, whether they are specking out their own trailer than having working with a contractor. But di wires that are doing it with their own home are definitely the majority still. And we have sizes that I that I still think are like the most popular like 28, 30, 32. And then we do 10 foot wide versions of those those have been like I say, kind of the king on the hill for a very long time. Those are most approachable, very approachable, very practical for design, a lot of flexibility for full time living. So those are the I think those trends on those sizes have still been very popular for the past like four or five years. And then but yes, as Shelley said, there's definitely a trend for people wanting bigger and wider. Or even like I kind of I mean, I love him, like we ship a lot of trailers to Hawaii, because we're pretty close to the port. So we've shipped hundreds of trailers to Hawaii. And they have definitely gone for like bigger 40 foot by 10 goosenecks. And I like these I love the idea of two little tiny houses, you know, and like a deck connecting them like that's super popular in Hawaii,

Shelley Engberg 43:36

almost like they have like a nice, or even a room in between one on the

Ethan Waldman 43:40

deck. And then another little house on the gooseneck. Two separate little structures.

Shelley Engberg 43:46

On the other side, like basically two tiny house your tiny house jack in between.

Ethan Waldman 43:49


Shelley Engberg 43:50


Ethan Waldman 43:51

Have you seen a show like that towards goosenecks?

Joshua Engberg 43:55

Yeah, there's been I would say it's a very small, there's always been a popularity review stance. But it definitely gets a little bit more increased every year. What would you say?

Shelley Engberg 44:04

I think so too. I mean, it's kind of hard because it is just preference. But goosenecks are, they're great for the fact that you can have a bedroom that you can stand in but then some people just don't care about that. And the only thing I would say about a gooseneck is it can be a little deceiving because you can have a 40 foot gooseneck but it takes eight feet of your actual length of livability away because it is dedicated to a bedroom most of the times versus having a loft where you have the entire floor and a loft above it. So for those who maybe have like, um, you know, bad knees and or they just are they're very tall. They want to gooseneck so they have a bedroom that they can usually stand stand in.

Joshua Engberg 44:48

But yeah, there has been an increase but it's a big bonus for customizing a gooseneck is because we build each trailer custom. We can design the deck of the gooseneck to be Very low that only a flatbed truck would tow. But most people on these goosenecks aren't telling them often. So with shippers, you can, you know, call in and say, hey, I want you to move my tiny house, but I needs a flatbed, which is not a big deal. But the bonus is they're getting much more usable space where they're only having a couple steps into that gooseneck bedroom. Yeah. So that's been really popular for people doing goosenecks of having that deck lower. And being able to stand and have upper cabinets and stuff like that. So but goosenecks could be Yeah, can be super highly customized, because there's so much more detail with Yeah,

Shelley Engberg 45:36

it's just, it's just completely preference

Joshua Engberg 45:38

for each individual. And you could have a garage underneath which I would be all about. Yeah. We are lacking in garage space.

Shelley Engberg 45:48

man who has a lot of tools.

Ethan Waldman 45:51

Toys, I think my dream setup is a tiny house in a big workshop or big garage to store all the gear. Absolutely.

Joshua Engberg 46:00

I absolutely agree with you.

Shelley Engberg 46:02

He would have like a 5000 square foot garage, and then we would probably downsize a tiny house.

Joshua Engberg 46:08

living space. Yeah.

Shelley Engberg 46:11

A small little workshop. Yeah.

Ethan Waldman 46:13

So have you considered potentially, you know, trying to find your own land and, you know, building out that dream garage?

Shelley Engberg 46:21

We we had we always kind of casually like we have an incredible situation where we're at the width and was hard too hard to leave? Yeah, I mean, we have a like a really beautiful setting that for where we're at. There's just no way we could or would want to afford the land out where we're at. So but we do always kind of casually Look, I mean, we do want to stay in California, or our family is here. family friends were established and like it, but we keep an eye out. But it's just, again, it's the same, how much we want to spend on

Joshua Engberg 46:57

time, I think. Yeah. And it's like, you know, time is very short, just in general. And it's like, is this going to be another complicated thing of prepping land when we're very comfortable. And just another thing to take away from the limited time we have. And I think we're very worried. I mean, I don't think we are very content. And we do have a very good situation. It's very pretty here, especially when the grass is green. It's currently golden California right now. But, but we also don't to dwell too much on about like, I guess what ifs are Yeah, we played around with the idea, but we don't to concern. I think

Shelley Engberg 47:36

if this circumstance would fit and fit the the amount we would want to spend on it. because it'd be one of those things, we don't want to have to work extra hard just for a property that we then need to fix up and then literally have no time to do anything. The benefit right now is that we have a low cost of living. And if we're feeling like we just need to get away during the week, we can pop up and go and take our work with us. And that's a nice luxury to have. And I think if we were to currently be kind of like married to a property, we would feel like we constantly have this responsibility to like get this project done and get the you know, get this, this and that net. So for now we're we're happy but if you know, anything can change, but currently, we don't foresee us doing that anytime soon. But yeah, you know, I always my eyes open.

Joshua Engberg 48:24

Yeah. Nice.

Ethan Waldman 48:28

I wanted to I had to actually one more question about about trailers. And that is what, you know, since they are all custom, what is the most common kind of system or advice that you give to people on how to best and safely attach their house to the trailer? Like has the we kind of as a tiny house community kind of centered around an agreed upon like a common way of doing that? Or is it still kind of each

Joshua Engberg 49:02

case by case? Yeah, great question the best, there's kind of two options. We always recommend using Simpson strong ties, like HTTP four, or htt. Five to tie in, like the king studs to the trailer. But how do you tie those to the trailer. So that option is either welding on threaded rods or bolting them through the outer frame of the trailer and attaching that to the frame of the house to you know, connect them. So yeah, so we offer that at the factory of welding on the threaded rods as an option. So they have those tie down points. And we always kind of like our default location is like 10 inches before and after the fenders, 10 inches from the corners and then four feet in the field. That gives you way more than you need tie down points to have that structure really tightly tied and attached to the trailer. So that's kind of like really the best method bid on tying that wall framing to the trailer to make it one little piece. So whether you want us to do it for you, or you do it yourself by bolting or welding, that's really the best way.

Ethan Waldman 50:13

Got it? Okay, so it sounds like the threaded rod is a good way to go. Yeah, one, one thing that I've heard, and I don't know if this is kind of a myth, or whether this is something that you would you would agree with is just not to drill into the tube. Because once you, if you were to try to put a rod through the tube, you basically create a point where water could get inside of the tube.

Joshua Engberg 50:42

That is true. Yeah, you could in you know, water can intrude into it, if you are drilling, you know, and then also, if you're drilling into it, it is always better to weld I think, because if you do drill into it, you would have to have a nut at the bottom of the box to and then a nut inside the wall framing, making sure those are both nice and tight. So it's an extra step. I do feel like welding is a better solution. Right? But yeah, in the you can easily seal that intrusion with caulking, you know, if you do drill through, but most people generally it's not expensive at all to have them welded on even if you're doing it at the factory or having a local welder do it. Very simple process. But I think welding is the best way to do because you can just you only have one nut to worry about inside the wall.

Shelley Engberg 51:30

And that's something that when customers are ordering that we offer is to have them welded on for them so that they have like a plan or a down or there's kind of a What is it like a standard placement that you can work around when ordering a trailer to so

Joshua Engberg 51:43

the standard placement of that 10 inches and four feet and field works out perfect, because it's more than enough. And say they want to put a doorway in certain locations easy just to cut one off if it's in the way. But that's a good point about the water.

Ethan Waldman 51:57

Where do you see the tiny house movement in in five years?

Shelley Engberg 52:02

booming? I mean, every year is increased? For sure. Yeah.

Joshua Engberg 52:10

I think it's it's every year, it's getting busier and busier and more people are embracing it. And and counties, it's just paving the way to make it easier for people that are apprehensive. And I've been we've had people that didn't, we're a little apprehensive about going forward, and counties are paving the way for more, you know, laws and regulations to allow it. Also, especially with COVID. In March, like we're like, okay, we can kind of like tackle some projects, but the reality what we

Shelley Engberg 52:37

thought we're gonna have a little bit of a slowdown. Yeah,

Joshua Engberg 52:39

we didn't have any solutions. Everybody kind of said, like, Oh, my gosh, this is like, even more so of a reason for us to downsize, you know, kind of jump on this tiny house, you know, dream that we've been planning and thinking of. So I really think about this with COVID. And just kind of how the economy is and just the higher cost of living. I think that it's going to just continue to steadily grow as it has been the past, you know, 677 years that we've been involved in it is it's been a steady uptick. People are, you know, really seeing the beauty of simplifying and downsizing. And and you don't have to be a minimalist to be a tiny house or we absolutely are not minimalist. So I think when Yeah. And I think when people see when people see people that are successfully living in tiny houses that they can relate to, it just makes it more approachable and practical for them in their life.

Ethan Waldman 53:38

Yeah, yeah,

Joshua Engberg 53:38

that was what it was for us. We related to, you know, couples that we saw. And we're like, yeah, we could do this. Awesome.

Ethan Waldman 53:46

Well, one, one last question that I like to ask my guests is what are two or three resources that, you know, helped you out along the way that you'd like to share with with our listeners, that could be books, or YouTube channels, or movies or really anything?

Joshua Engberg 54:03

I would like to one would be a shameless plug to our book that we wrote a tiny house basics, living the good life in small spaces. That's our book kind of helped to simplify people. So that's why

Shelley Engberg 54:17

we did it in the sense of because, because of kind of, like, what do I look to, you know?

Joshua Engberg 54:24

I really I remember when I think about planning, I really enjoyed Derek Dietrich syns YouTube channel. Yeah. You know, I love his like, you know, bright designs. His architecture, even though a lot of is not necessarily tiny house on wheels. But that was a big resource. Kent and tiny house blog has been awesome. Your website has been a great resource and continues to be to this day. And you know, there's just a lot of like, I think the, you know, like veterans in the tiny house world that are still here that have contributed so much and archives, you know on those websites have really helped a lot to one of my first contacts to was Andrew Odom a tiny revolution. Yeah. And tiny house blog. He was a huge resource too. So, you know, I always think, say dig down in those like older articles because they're still useful to this day.

Shelley Engberg 55:18

I mean, thankfully for a lot of people now there's like such an abundance of information that it's almost overwhelming. I feel like you can pretty much Google anything and or look on Instagram and YouTube. And there's so much information and I almost kind of feel sorry for people right now, because there's so much information. Whereas when we were looking at it really Alright, we've got like two options. What do we do? So

Joshua Engberg 55:41

there's two YouTube channels, though. Yeah. Well, it's

Ethan Waldman 55:45

been so great. Chatting with both of you, Joshua and Shelly Engberg. Thank you so much for being guests on the show.

Shelley Engberg 55:52

Yeah. Thanks for having us.

Ethan Waldman 55:54

Thank you so much to Joshua and Shelly Engberg for being guests on the show today, you can find the show notes including a full transcript from this episode, links to Tiny House Basics, and photos of the amazing entertaining abode that's Joshua and Shelley's tiny house at Again, that's Also, don't forget to check out Tiny House Decisions and get 20% off your order when use the coupon code tiny at checkout. That website is Again, Well, that's it for this week. I'm your host, Ethan Waldman, and I'll be back next week with another episode of the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast.

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