A hundred year old farm house with no heat and no insulation is not a great place to live in the winter in Canada.
Easy solution, buy a travel trailer to live in while renovating the old house.
Easy solution…. HA!
About 6 weeks before closing I started searching for a trailer that would be sensibly affordable, large enough to be comfortable as a 6 month home and in good working condition so I could move right in without having to do any repairs. After a few hours of Craigslist and Kijiji it seemed that a a budget of about $8000 would get us a 27-30 foot trailer that would fit the bill. I had already planned to get a pick up truck with a 8000 pound towing capacity, most trailers are less than that dry. Since I would really only be moving it once I could tow it empty no problem.
After a false start with what at first looked like a sweet, sweet Airstream for $5k, I had to look for other options when it turned out the condition of the Airstream was slightly misrepresented with the omission of the fact that absolutely nothing worked, and it smelled like pee.
After spending an almost obsessive amount of time scouring the interwebs, my lovely wife handed me her tablet with a casual “how about this one”. She had found what looked to be a perfect specimen. And while I had been looking mostly in the lower mainland in hopes of playing the numbers of availability, Kristie had found a trailer just 10 minutes from Nelson.
Easy peasy…. HA!
- First contact
- 2 email messages went unanswered, I had to send the “please tell me if this is stilll available because I really want to buy it” message before I finally got a response.
- Checking it out
- Since it was in Nelson, viewing the trailer had to wait until we went to the house for the building inspections
- The family had the trailer at a property up a fairly steep hill, dirt road, sharp corners and everything.
- The viewing went fairly smoothly, although we did find out that the sellers had never used the water heater so they couldn’t let us know if it was operational or not.
- Despite the water heater, we agreed to buy the trailer for their $5000 asking price.
- The Logistics
- As it turns out, the sellers had bought the trailer from relatives in the USA. When they brought it across the border they paid the duty, but they never processed the paperwork to register the trailer in Canada. They just moved to to their property on the temporary permit and parked it.
- They promised us that it wouldn’t be a problem to get the paperwork sorted out, and when the trailer went for it’s registration inspection, they would have it moved to our storage unit, just 5 minutes from the new house. Probably within a few days. LOL
- While moving the trailer from it’s resting place, one of the blocks the wheels were resting on flipped up just as the trailer rolled off them, severing the sewage pipe cleanly in half at the release valve.
- Getting to town
- With two weeks between viewing and arriving in town, I was promised that paperwork and repairs would be complete by the time I got to town.
- I booked a hotel room for the first couple of nights to give me time to set up the trailer.
- When I call to make arrangements for pick up I was not particularly surprised to hear that neither the paperwork or the repairs were ready.
- Getting it done
- the day I was supposed to move into the trailer, the Canadian registration paperwork finally came through.
- I called the RV service place to take repair matters into my own hands
- I stopped by the bank to get a draft (20 people in front of me in line, an not a soul came in behind me).
- Met the seller at a restaurant and paid her, minus $500. I will subtract the repairs and send her the balance.
- Finally we own the trailer!
- Getting it home
- The only thing left to do was tow the trailer (via the repair place 30 min in the wrong direction) to the new property. The problem was that since it turns out the trailer did not need an inspection for registration, it never got towed to town and was still up that steep dirt road.
- A unseasonal cold snap after an early snow had rendered the step dirt road a skating rink.
- I waited an extra day for the sellers contact at the city to arrange for the road to be extra heavily sanded, thank you city!
- I hooked up, put the truck in 4 wheel low, and took about 15 min to move the trailer down the 500m of bobsled track to the dry main road below
- Off to the repair place. They were great, and had it ready early the next day.
- I deftly maneuvered the monstrosity back up the highway, through downtown Nelson and out to the Harrop Ferry
- After gently coaxing the beast onto the little ferry and only scraping the bottom of the skid guards a tiny bit, I was finally able to back my new home into it’s resting place.
- Since then, to make it livable I have:
- Levelled the trailer
- built a warming box over the well pressure tank so it doesn’t freeze so I can fill the fresh water tank
- shoveled the snow off the roof, including about a dozen grapefruit sized rocks that thankfully didn’t come off on the highway! The must have been holding a tarp, but God only knows why they would have left them up there.
- Build a skirt around the trailer with plywood I pulled off the walls in one of the farmhouse bedrooms
- Taped up all of the skirting seams to make my crawlspace airtight
- Crawled around on the snow under there for about 2 hours adding insulation
- Added a small space heater on a thermostat to keep the underside above freezing
- Leveled the trailer again after the temperature came above freezing and the ground softened up.
- Siliconed a piece of clear over the cracked shower skylight to keep the rain out
- reset the breaker in the house about 50 times while trying to figure out which appliances I can run concurrently
- simultaneously run out of propane for the furnace, and tripped the breaker with space heaters during the night when it was -15° outside
- Added a 40w light bulb in teh water heater compartment to prevent freezing pipes
- Cleaned, cleaned, and cleaned many mouse poops and dead bugs from every nook an cranny
Sheesh! What a frikin debacle.
Now however, I am finally settling into trailer living quite nicely, I’ve got the heating and cooking an bathrooming and showering figured out. Now, as I sit on the technicoloured couch and type this, Mikka and I are now comfortable. It took considerable effort to get here.