A retired couple spent 5 years and $180,000 converting a dilapidated semitrailer into a 'monster' mobile home with a library, spiral staircase, and hot tub. Take a look inside.
Clayton Balabanov spent $180,000 converting a dilapidated truck and used trailer into a spacious RV.
It took five years to transform the semitruck, which he and his wife now live in full time.
The "Nomad Monster" includes a reading room, a hot tub, and a spiral staircase. Take a look inside.
Clayton Balabanov and his wife, Theresa, wanted to hit the road when they retired but couldn't find a mobile home to buy that would fit their requirements.
Clayton Balabanov was approaching retirement age and knew that he wanted to live out his dream of hitting the road. He envisaged spending his golden years with his wife, Theresa, cruising up and down the scenic highways of the US and Canada.
But first, he needed to buy a mobile home.
Balabanov said he couldn't find anything on the market that was a good fit.
"I was not happy with the manufacturers' units," he said. "They just didn't seem like they would stand up to the year-round use, rather than just vacation use."
So the couple decided to build their own. Their plan was to convert a used semitruck into a spacious and sustainable home on wheels.
Balabanov wanted to transform a semitruck into a home that would be as comfortable as their house on Vancouver Island, British Columbia.
But there was another key requirement: It needed to be sustainable.
"We needed solar, recycling water, and things like that, which would leave a smaller carbon footprint, making up for the amount of fuel that the truck uses," he said.
Five years ago, Balabanov bought a "real mess" of a truck and started work on it. He also bought a trailer on eBay.
Balabanov said he couldn't afford to buy a brand-new truck.
"So I bought an older one and then spent the next year rebuilding it," he said, "brakes and engine, and all that sort of stuff."
He also bought a used trailer on eBay, which was pretty much a blank canvas for his vision.
"It was empty, and I just decided to go at it," Balabanov said. "I planned things out on a whiteboard and kept making changes. As I built, things changed as well."
It took a great deal of time and effort to transform the semitrailer into a livable space, not least because the couple did most of the work themselves.
Balabanov spent hours working on the conversion nearly every day for five years.
"Most of it I did myself," he said.
He even sewed the curtains himself.
Balabanov said that given it was a unique build, it would have been too much work to find someone who understood his vision.
"It would take longer to explain it than to actually do it," he added.
Meanwhile, Theresa was responsible for procuring the materials, he said, which was especially challenging earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic.
It also didn't come cheap. Balabanov estimated that it cost about $180,000.
Balabanov said he didn't have an exact number for how much it cost to build, as he's yet to do a calculation and go through his many boxes of receipts.
But he gave a rough estimate — 250,000 Canadian dollars, or about $181,100.
The couple started making the truck homier by adding a seating area and kitchenette.
The kitchenette has a microwave oven and a fridge. Above the seating area is a loft bed.
They then began work on the trailer, which involved building a space-saving spiral staircase.
The trailer has several rooms, including an office, kitchen, garage, living room, bedroom, library, and bathroom.
It also has a grand-looking spiral staircase, which leads up to the second floor.
"It looks awesome, and it takes up less space than if I put regular stairs in," Balabanov said.
The couple built a full kitchen because they're too old to survive on beans on toast, Balabanov joked.
The modern kitchen has all standard domestic appliances, including induction stoves that run on solar power.
It's "a full kitchen, bigger than you'd find in most apartments, because we want to spend the rest of our life in here and we want to be comfortable," Balabanov said.
"At 75, I'm not going to cram myself into a little, tiny kitchen trying to make beans on toast," he added.
Balabanov also built a "movie theater" inside the trailer. The couple use Starlink to access streaming services.
The snug space has a 75-inch 4K TV and a surround-sound system.
Starlink, the satellite-internet service launched by Elon Musk's SpaceX, allows the couple to watch Netflix and Amazon Prime Video content even in out-of-the-way areas.
"It's so we can relax in the evening and have a nice movie for entertainment," Balabanov said.
Theresa Balabanov spends a lot of time reading in the library room.
The onboard reading room consists of a chair and bookshelf near the top of the staircase, which Theresa has already made good use of: She's read 42 books since they moved into their semitrailer home in September.
"Theresa likes books. She decided that that's going to be her main entertainment," Balabanov said.
The semitrailer also has a hot tub installed.
In a sunken section of the bathroom sits a jetted tub.
"For the tub, it made sense to buy one with jets. It's not that big a difference, so we might as well put it in," Balabanov said, referring to the price.
The couple have cooked for friends and hosted them in their dining room.
The dining room isn't spacious, but it does the job, Balabanov said.
"We had people over for tea," he said, adding: "I think three people were sitting there, and I normally just sit on the stairs, which is right next to the dining-room table, so I'm in the conversation," he said.
Hosting people for dinner is a "nice community thing" and a great way to meet other nomads, Balabanov added.
But it's not all been smooth sailing, with many things going wrong on their maiden voyage.
The couple have experienced leaks in the roof, problems with the solar battery, and melting wires.
In a YouTube video from October, the couple documented how an upper radiator hose burst while they were in Nebraska.
"This is our maiden voyage, where everything breaks," Balabanov said. "So we'll change things that didn't work and enhance things that did work and polish up.
"And then we're off to go across Canada."
Balabanov said he maybe regretted spending so much time working on the truck.
Reflecting on the process, Balabanov said he maybe regretted spending so much time building it.
"That was five years out of my life that I could have just gone out and bought something smaller and less able and then gone out and spent that five years on the road," he said. "But on the other hand, I really enjoyed doing it."
He would advise anyone thinking of doing the same to be less ambitious than he was.
Balabanov's main advice to those hoping to transform a semitruck into a home: "Start small and grow."
He said he'd advise only those who are "exceptionally skilled" and in possession of a lot of equipment to build their own.
"It just takes a lot of time out of your life," he said.
But the couple say they're thrilled to be traveling the continent in their "Nomad Monster" home.
The Balabanovs have sold their family home and taxi business, meaning they have long-term plans to stay in their semitruck home.
They plan to make the most of their golden years living in it and driving across the US and Canada, while taking their motorcycles out for rides in scenic spots.
"You only live so long," Balabanov said. "It's absolutely guaranteed you're going to die, so make the most of living between now and then. That's what we're doing."
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