Wednesday, February 23, 2011

"Deconstructing" a Mobile Home (Part One)

We intended to refurbish our 1972 model single wide mobile home. The county had passed laws that would not allow us to sell it, or rather to move it to anywhere other than the landfill, but it seemed too nice and big a space to simply destroy.
No one had lived in this trailer for years, and it was not in great shape. It was leaking here and there. The presswood floor was mushy in places. It was wired with aluminum instead of copper, which was popular in the day but is said to be prone to vibration and overheating and thus unsafe, and we were thinking we’d have to buy or build a small solar system like the one in our current shed.
I coated the roof and started replacing windows, but had quite a way to go, and the whole thing begin to seem such a daunting task and, more importantly, so expensive and time consuming. So we decided we'd rather spend the time and money on other projects.
It cost too much to have someone pull the mobile home to the landfill. Various websites we visited indicated that "deconstruction" might be our answer. That's "deconstruction" as opposed to "demolition." Naturally, we didn’t document the beginning of the deconstruction process, but here it is in what i guess is mid-stage.
The most fascinating aspect of this trailer is not the multitude of squirrel nests we found in the few inches between the roof and the ceiling nor the dozens of wasp nests and residue from other critters cited throughout the three-inch space between the aluminum siding and the cheesy paneling within, but that, other than the couple that the previous owner had installed while making repairs, there was not a 2x4 in entire structure. Even the rafters were 1x2s held together will scraps of wallboard. There was a 1x4 that ran the 62ft. length of the trailer, tying the flimsy rafters together.
That was the heftiest bit of lumber originally in the thing. (The "studs" in the photos below are not 2x4s but rather...1.5 x 3s(?).
Which makes it a typical product of American ingenuity. Truly. Like the booming economy during the first decade of this century -- all flash (in it's day) and no substance. Of course, we did pull it down the highway, which means it withstood at least 45 or 50 mile an hour winds. And, at 39 years old, it would have been habitable in a pinch, though not particularly safe or comfortable. And it was probably quite affordable in it's day.
So it served it's housing "for the time being."
It's almost a bit of history now.
The most difficult part of deconstruction so far? Detatching the roof.


  1. I would love to know what you do with the materials,if you recycle the aluminum siding how much you get for it, and how much has to go to the landfill. It seems many people are ending up with these old homes on their land and looking at what to do with them. Interesting topic.

  2. The paneling, wallboard, insulation, ceiling tiles, etc. have gone into the landfill. Amazingly, it took only five trips to the solid waste collection station in our little ol' Ford Ranger to haul it away. We'll probably take most of the wall "studs" there as well. We plan to mount the long pieces of aluminum siding on a wooden frame for a privacy fence. Some of the interior wood and the rafters I kept for a future project. The other metal, including the roof, the skirting, the aluminum wiring, the tongue, the axel if there is one, and whatever metal supported the whole thing we plan to cut up and carry to the recycling man. Those are the plans anyway.

  3. I have dismantled a few of these mobile homes over the past years. The aluminum is recycled to pay for some of my labor. The wood is used for fuel to heat my home. The steel frame and axles have made me a good flatbed trailer to haul stuff. I have extra steel frame that I will be using in the construction of a strong bridge over the creek on my land.

  4. When you want work done around your home and you are not ready to do it yourself you most probably need to find a skilled contractor in your area.

    aluminum siding Tennessee