This is the first build post. I actually started building in late November, but wanted to make some sustained progress before sharing what I’ve learned. I knew I wanted to use metal stud framing, but how much more difficult could this be than traditional stick framing?

Back wall up

Well, it took 2 months and a few false starts to get the steel frame together and finalized.

My first design used 25-gauge metal studs found in any Home Depot. It didn’t take into account any sort of industry-standard structural building techniques, but it was fairly easy to assemble:

Initial framing attempt
This flimsy subfloor wouldn't last through a single screeching stop.

The subfloor could be strapped to the trailer frame with wood hurricane straps! I thought I was really clever for coming up with this “foundation”:

Initial foundation attempt
18-gauge galvanized steel straps holding down the subfloor and eventually 12,000 lbs of house. Haha.

Then I found out about the Prescriptive Method for Residential Cold-Formed Steel Framing. Apparently, if you’re framing anything with steel, this is the reference to rule them all. After reading that, I realized I had to trash the subfloor I already built and order some real metal studs. This meant I needed the precise lengths of all the tracks and studs I would need in advance. And so I came up with this:

Framing model
12" OC steel frame design. I decided in the end to go with 24" OC spacing.

Once my order of 12-gauge studs and tracks arrived, it was time to start building! I decided to build my walls on the ground first, then raise them into place. What could go wrong?

Build floor wall
Backhoe lift
Seemed easy enough, right?

Well, it turns out steel bends and flexes pretty easily under its own weight. Furthermore, the 12-gauge studs I was using required a lot of banging to get them to slide into the tracks, and they kept popping out. When I finally screwed them together, this tension added up. When I got the first three walls up, I noticed things weren’t quite right:

wall warp
Notice the whole frame skewing to the left.

Sigh. I’d have to be more careful with the final wall – making sure it was nice and square before hoisting it into place.

last wall accuracy
Off by a 1/2" over a 16' span. Not too shabby.

That made a big difference. With the final wall built, I could prepare the other three so the corners would line up. I goaded the frame back to its planned shape using a series of ratchet straps:

wall skew
four walls
All four walls up (for now).

I then lifted the last wall into place. But just before I was able to screw it to the others, it came crashing down, nearly flattening me into a tiny human.

wall fall
2 days of build time gone.

After getting the fourth wall back up, I decided to add some cross-structural bracing and weld all the joints to provide much more rigidity.

skew brace
Preventing side-to-side shearing.
lateral brace
And another steel plate welded diagonally across the double-studded wall. That will eliminate any shearing during sudden acceleration and deceleration maneuvers.
corner detail
Commanding the power of Zeus to make my tiny house indestructable.

Once the frame was done and welded, I still needed to punch 1/2” holes through the studs to run the electrical wiring and plumbing. I also needed to drill through the trailer flange to attach my foundation anchors. This took about a week and 7 cobalt drill bits.

After all that hard work, was it worth using metal studs? Absolutely. Just maybe not 12-gauge ones. 18-gauge would probably be more suitable and can still be welded. On to electrical and plumbing!

Here are all the pics:

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