How to Build a Gypsy Caravan from Recycled Materials

Rachel Ross
Wednesday, 29th August 2012

Dreamt of a small sanctuary in the woods? Rachel Ross explains how to build an inexpensive Gypsy caravan from recycled materials.

The first thing you notice about this gypsy wagon is the surrounding smell of cedar forest and the sound of crashing waves from the lake, which is just a stone's throw over the hill. In the winter, woodsmoke spirals up from the chimney jutting out of the curved wagon roof. There is a little lane leading up to the green glade, but it's nicest to arrive on foot. 

The 8' wide x 20' long caravan, or vardo, has been parked in this particularly beautiful forest for a few years, but is completely moveable by truck or tractor because it has wheels. It is built on a salvaged 5 ton truck chassis that cost $100, purchased from the local wrecking yard.

The floor joists for the house are nailed to fir beams and bolted to the metal frame. The regular 2 x 4 framed walls sit on top of the floor joists and the structure is crowned with curved roof rafters. The 8' x 20' size was determined by the width legally allowed on public roads without the need for a "WIDE LOAD" escort car.

A Combination of Traditional and Modern Materials

The construction methods used to create this wagon are a combination of tradition and ingenuity, and the building materials are both new and recycled. The floor is local B.C. hemlock T & G and even the windows are second-hand, scoured from the local classifieds. The unique round window at one end is a recycled 1970's picnic table top. The 1 1/2" nautical rope surrounding the window has been placed inside and out, forming the perfect flexible draft excluder

To accommodate the curve in the roof and the eyebrow entrance, the roofing material consists of flexible metal sheeting. There is a raised ridge vent and two 3' x 4' raised curved skylights. The exterior shingles cost nothing but elbow grease and an artistic eye — they are sourced from spruce guitar top 'seconds', halved and split with a hatchet. The interior curves are covered with stretched canvas, firmly stapled in place and painted with white wash.

Bringing a Touch of Permaculture Luxury Outdoors!

The wagon is fully wired and has an RV plug outside making it possible to connect to a power source. Finally, the small 3 burner propane stove/oven was taken from an old camper van. Aficionados of the ever-growing microhome movement, such as Kent Griswold from The Tiny House Blog, are well versed in sourcing such home components.

So, what do you do when nature calls? The nearby composting toilet is situated in an A-frame outhouse, a cast iron clawfoot bathtub placed over a firepit provides a hot soak for the hardy and an outdoor tap is connected to fresh spring water.






Creating Small-Scale Storage

The heart of the home is the dwarf sized cast iron wood heater, capable of creating a cozy space in under 20 minutes, even on the coldest of winter days. Firewood storage is under the wagon, a chopping block sits near the steps and there is a sweet-smelling cedar kindling basket just inside the door.

Storage isn't an issue either. Dry storage is located under the lounge/bed area in the form of three 6’ long drawers on heavy duty slides, there’s a built-in closet and an array of standard sized kitchen cupboards/drawers.

A labor of love, this project took a couple of years to build and cost around $8,000. Countless hours were also needed to hunt down components and rework materials. It’s a sweet place to call home — open the windows and hear the lake loons call, and know that with a truck and a day's work, this magical home-on-wheels can be moved to any place you desire.




Further resources

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Watch: Building a Low Impact Roundhouse

For more great 'Tiny Home' and Woodland inspiration, take a look at some of our books on Great places to start are Shelter, Home Work and Builders of the Pacific Coast by Lloyd Khan or try Ben Law's The Woodland House and Roundwood Timber Framing.

Also try Tony Wrench's Building a Low Impact Roundhouse which is also available as an eBook.

For the original article and more pictures, click here!

Sharon Savage |
Sun, 02/09/2012 - 20:25
This is one of the most brilliant projects that I have ever seen! Just lovely!
greenbuilding |
Tue, 04/09/2012 - 03:52
Great reuse of materials. And it looks like there's a lot of space in there too!
JamesH81 |
Mon, 24/12/2012 - 03:44
I would like to do this in my local wood .... :-)))) Advice please ....
thien |
Tue, 07/08/2018 - 05:43
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thien |
Tue, 07/08/2018 - 05:44
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Tue, 07/08/2018 - 05:46
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