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  • Writer's pictureJim Martin

Beginning on the Level

The trailer is essentially the foundation of a tiny house. As such, it needs to be leveled carefully before the building process can begin. You also want to ensure that the frame of the trailer itself is supported near each of its four corners rather than leaving the trailer to sit on its wheels and suspension.

The simple version of this process is to prop the trailer frame up on four jack stands placed roughly two feet from each corner of the trailer (along the long ends of the rectangle). Often the jack stands are seated atop patio blocks sitting on the ground.

The slope under our trailer made things just a little more complicated.

I didn’t want to level the trailer by just jacking up the low side to the level of the high side—that would leave the entire thing too far off the ground, and I thought the house would seem strange perched up high.

So, I decided I would begin by lowering the high side of the trailer. This required digging a trench under the wheels on the high side—which actually required jacking it up even higher first in order to get some clearance under the wheels for digging.

I have some experience digging. It’s hard work. My sense of it is that it’s as hard mentally as it is physically. Especially when you are trying to work the shovel under some trailer wheels. Each stroke of the shovel takes significant effort and produces such a small result that it seems like you are making no progress at all. But you actually are.

Over the course of a few hours I managed to dig a reasonable trench that would be deep enough to allow the high side wheels to sit somewhat below ground. I filled the bottom of the trench with crushed stone. (I will have to watch to make sure that it doesn’t fill with water during heavy rain as prolonged contact with water and sunlight can cause the tires to age and crack prematurely.) The end of the trench toward the front of the trailer is sloped upward fairly gently. This is because my hope is that when it’s time to pull the tiny house out of the back yard, we’ll be able to attach it to a truck and just haul it out of the hole.

I began the leveling process by lowering the high side down into the hole as far as it would go (allowing for an inch or two of clearance between the tires and the crushed stone). I placed jack stands on patio blocks under each end.

Moving the floor jack back and forth a couple of times, I worked to level the high side from front to back. At this point in the project, I am just using a four-foot level placed directly on the trailer frame. Once the floor joists and subfloor are on the trailer, I’ll check it all again with a water level. (If you don’t know what a water level is, stay tuned. It’s one of my favorite simple tools.)

Here's the finished trench. (You can see one of the low-side jack stands to the right of the wheels.)

Once the high side was reasonably level, I went to work on the low side. Again, moving the floor jack from the front to the back of the trailer, I placed jack stands about two feet from each end. These jack stands had to be placed not just on patio blocks, but also on 6x6 pressure treated post sections to get the jack stands high enough to reach.

Then comes the tedious part. I ended up needing to move the floor jack to all four corners of the trailer several times to adjust each jack stand little by little to ensure the entire trailer was level along both its length and its width.

In the end, it all came together to produce this quite satisfying result:

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