Kitchen and Bathroom Wagon - Off Grid Portable Home

Here is a cabin which I have built on a flat bed, twin axle trailer. It serves as both a transport method and as facilites for a yurt. It has a fully equipped kitchen with oven, hob grill, fridge, sink, as well as a bathroom and a compost toilet, all with hot and cold running water. It is completely Off Grid with a solar array and bottled propane for water heating and cooking along with a wood burning stove for heat.



Here's a video tour of the wagon:

 

You can click on any photograph to enlarge it.

It's been a magic process of creation with a mixture of new and recycled materials resulting in a completely unique home that is truly part of me. The total cost has been about £3,000 - A functional substitute could be achieved for a lot less no doubt, I have done many previous builds and camper conversions on a shoe string budget but this latest creation is in a league of it's own. 
I am so happy with the result.

This article will show a photo documented step by step guide of the process.
Firstly, here's a few shots of the finished cabin:


The vegetables and the
490watt Solar Array:




The interior:

 


The vision was to create a modern, comfortable and yet rustic set of facilities for life in a yurt. The end product would also have to be portable and able to transport the yurt itself. The concept is not a lightweight touring caravan, it's heavy and solid and not intended to be moved regularly. In it's entire life it may be moved only a handful of times. It most likely weighs multiple tons and would need a 4x4 to pull it. The base is a very strong twin axle trailer that is braked, I bought from a chap locally for £500

A set up like this means that on any suitable site within a few days a very comfortable home can be made. A perfect home from home, or an accommodation solution in a rural environment, working with nature or building/ renovating a property.

Here's some pictures of the trailer on the day I bought it, it's bed is 14' x 6' a modest 84 square feet:



I quickly stripped it down to see how best to fit my frame onto it, as you can see the solid iron vertical supports were ideal to support timbers. You can see this easily in the next few photos.


 I boarded the whole bed with structural ply wood to create the floor and then created the timber frame using long coach screws holding all the joins and triangulation struts together. I made it up as I went along, I was not working from any plans but a creative vision which I just let flow through me.

My favourite and relevant building quote is: 
"I just get the bullet out of the gun and then I run after it to get it to hit the right spot"
Lloyd House - A builder featured in Lloyd Kahn's book - Builders of the Pacific Coast.
(A series of books which I highly recommend and have been a massive influence and inspiration.)

The roof was a priority because it was April and wet, I needed a dry space to continue the project and limit the amount of water my floor was soaking up. So up went the frame and the roof. I even worked into the night that week with flood lights pointing out the upstairs windows of the house.


The roof was made by bending thin ply sheets over a frame and screwing them down. I left them out in the rain all morning before bending them to help soften them up a bit.
This was then covered with heavy duty roofing felt.

Below you can see the first window frames going in. They were all recycled windows. The beauty of building on wheels is that there are no building regulations to follow.


The whole cabin is sided with tongue and groove cladding. Whilst very strong and attractive it is expensive. I think in the future I would use feather edged boards instead.



Within a couple of weeks the cabin was enclosed, dry and sheltered... Phew! That was the only time critical bit in our wet April climate.


Looking lovely with it's chocolate coloured wood stain helping preserve that expensive tongue and groove cladding!


At last came the day to move the cabin to it's "final" location. We pushed, pulled and shunted, moving it by hand with five chaps. The final adjustments (sideways) were done with steel cable hand winches pulling against a tree. Once in place I jacked up the trailer, removed the wheels and lowered her onto old railway sleepers, using a spirit level and different sized blocks to level her perfectly. This was a momentous day.


Below you can see how the insulation was done in a relatively short time using polystyrene sheeting. Lightweight, cheap, easy to work with and very efficient at keeping the space warm, just not so ecological. However, intended use for years is not so bad compared to the disposable nature of polystyrene packaging:

 

I bult the decking that allows easy access as well as covering the towing arm. The decking steps are removable and then the main deck hinges up against the door.
Note the front roof trim still needs to be completed.




You can see here how I glued offcuts of tongue and groove panels and braced them temporarily with supports to enable me to life them into place and mark the curve of the roof for cutting. Once cut the trimming was fitted and the support battons removed. 
The whole thing was then shaped in place and oiled.


With the exterior of the cabin completed I could turn my attention to building the interior. The first thing I did was to start cladding over the insulation with more tongue and groove that I got from for free from freecycle.com At that point I could start building the frames for the counter tops and appliances.


Everything was being offered up for size. Again, all this building was freestyle with little planning, just one step at a time. Below you can see the stone surround for the wood burning stove, I cut and shaped this using a cutting disc in a grinder and then a small hammer to chip away at the edges to make them look more natural, a slow but satisfying process.


To insulate the curved shape of the roof I used rock wool loft insulation which is very cheap (it's subsidised by the government... thank you very much.) I held the insulation in place using a staple gun and weed retention fabric that I had lying around in the shed.


 The insulation and fabric were then covered with straw screening that is commonly used in and around the garden. This was a cheap, effective and easy covering for a curved ceiling.


It was time to start with plumbing and facilities, after all, that was the whole point of this project.
Below, you can see that I've made a box for the composting toilet inspired by the Humanure Handbook written by Joseph Jenkins: www.humanurehandbook.com which I highly recommend.
The tiling for the shower cubicle was also well underway by this point.


 The crazy plumbing required for the instantaneous boiler to supply hot water to both the shower and the kitchen sink was a good brain exercise. This runs off bottled propane gas and is remarkably efficient.


Having built the frames for the kitchen units  and cut the recycled oak slabs for the work surfaces I wanted to trim them with un processed natural wood, so I dug out the tipi pole off cuts from a project earlier in the year and miraculously milled them pretty straight by hand and eye with my chainsaw.


These trimming pieces were then bevelled and cut to fit the units and frame the oak tops. The results speak for themselves. The stool in the photo below was handmade to fit the breakfast bar. I have written a separate article on my site about that process if you're interested.




The flower design in the pine door has a mahogany center with a spiral Shiva's eye shell 
collected in India, it's central on these cupboard doors:



The lighting for the cabin is supplied by twelve volt power straight from our battery bank wich is charged by solar panels. The lighting is in the form of LED tape. Strips of LED's on a long five meter tape which can be cut and re-soldered to create some really stunning lighting effects as you can see below. I have chosen "warm white" light to complement the rustic glow of the wood in the cabin.

Here are some crystals sitting on the rafters illuminated from below.



 Welcome


To recap and view pictures of the finished the cabin you may return the top of the article.

 There are many more behind the scenes processes that have been involved. It would probably be possible to write a whole book about this cabin, so if you have any specific enquiries or if you want any more information please contact me

Home Sweet Home








18 comments:

  1. Wonderful blog & good post.Its really helpful for me, awaiting for more new post. Keep Blogging!

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  2. Thanks Steve. I'm having lots of fun and I think it shows!

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  3. Gorgeous bit of work you've done on that trailer, really impressed. I am gathering ideas for a live-on board boat I am planning for me and my wife and I've picked up lots of ideas that can be adapted so thank you!

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  4. No worries, thanks for reading Joel! Send me a link when you're done, I'd love to see it.

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  5. Fantastic work! Really inspiration. I'm concidering my options for non bricks n' mortar living that i will be embarking on in the near future. This is an interesting new concept. Insurance for a live-in van (as a new driver) seems prohibitively expensive, but I like the idea of a trailer workshop/kitchen/bathroom in conjection with a bender/bell tent. The tricky part is finding somewhere to put them...

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  6. Thanks Pedaller!
    It sounds like you have your finger on the pulse. I wish you all the best for your low impact lifestyle. Let me know if you have an specific questions. Locating your "rig" is the biggest challenge. Relax and put the intention out there and something will come up I'm sure.
    All the best.

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  7. Your work is inspiring. I, too live in a yurt in Vermont. A little extra insulation to get through our winters. I also use a humanure toilet and love it. Cant imagine wasting water to flush~
    I love what you did with the countertops, lighting and overall design.
    I have my kitchen and bath in the yurt-- but so far no running water or power. I like the idea of a separate space to deal with the moisture issues that come from a shower and cooking.
    I have "real" windows in my yurt which I love~letting in the light and the views of the mountains in the distance.
    All the best to you! And thanks again for the inspiration!
    Corina
    I am looking into solar.

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  8. Hi Corina. It sounds lovely where you live. Views of mountains is one thing we are missing! How are your windows fitted in the yurt? Are there any photo's in general online? If not I'd love to see some at info@handmadematt.com
    Enjoy and prosper!

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  9. Wonderful post you have here by approaching viewers through your best content with great knowledge. thanks for sharing and do keep up posting more.

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  10. Hi,

    I thought you might be interested in the Tiny House Fair in Vermont, June 14-16
    http://tinyhousecommunity.com/fair.htm

    Regards,
    Elaine

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  11. Hi Elaine. That sounds so good. I'd love to be there! I live in England though. (One day maybe.)

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  12. Very nice products. I've also seen some interesting products at........
    Ceramic vases, handmade pitchers, ceramic plates, handmade clocks

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  13. This is truly the cutest tiny house I have ever seen. I love it. The workmanship is sensational. Well done

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  14. Ahoy awesome site I swear i have seen the pick up camper at a few festivals this summer. Your blog rocks got some ideas from you and built my own one take a look let me know what you think =)
    lutonmotorhome.blogspot.co.uk

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  15. Wow! I am really smitten! x

    Well done :)

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  16. Thanks for sharing this great content......... .. solar panels

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