Rehabs and Conversions

Container Homes: ContainerWerk

Small yellow shipping container house

Small shipping container house using one container.

Container homes, along with school bus homes, became fashionable a few decades ago. Dedicated businesses now provide easy access to discarded container cars— you no longer have to scour shipping docks or junked railroad car lots. If you were picturing a rusted railroad car with “chicken” painted on the side, things have changed.  The cost for the shipping container has risen but it is still a reasonable solution to inexpensive housing. For less than $5,000 you can find a “one-trip” container that provides a solid structure to build on. There are companies that specialize in conversions and a surprising number of DIY and design idea books available. Materials and rehab ideas are similar to the choices you have to make with Tiny Houses.

One requirement is good insulation. The metal, not surprisingly, transfers heat and cold too well. A German company Containerwerk has developed a quick method of manufacturing an insulation designed specifically for shipping containers that is only 3.9 inches thick. From their website (edited for some strange translation choices):

A fully automated, three-dimensional process, which has been patented several times, is used to place the high-performance insulating material polyurethane foam (PU foam) onto the containers in our multi-unit manufacturing plant. Due to constant temperatures in the production halls and mechanical processing, quality fluctuations are eliminated.

PU foam will be the high-performance insulating material of the future. It is easily recyclable, absolutely durable, does not lose its shape, nor can it collapse. It is resistant to heat and cold, highly flexible, and accommodates building movement without cracking. Our insulation is jointless, hermetic, and free of thermal bridges. While this may sound simple, it is the result of years of development work. We combine the outstanding properties of PU foam with industrial manufacturing and we are unrivaled in this! Optionally, we can even process PU foam that is made from 99 percent plant-based raw materials.

By developing and using robots, the system insulates a container completely and automatically in just two hours. The problems other conversions have of fluctuating temperatures, humidity, and rust are eliminated. To ensure that the process stays top-secret, 16 cameras monitor the production in a building without any windows so don’t plan any trips to Germany just yet.

This community in Wertheim, Germany, has twenty-one 279 SF units completely equipped for living. These were built as rentable, short-stay accommodations for travelers as an alternative to a conventional hotel.


These units were manufactured in Containerwerk’s factory and delivered on-site where they are joined together and the exterior finished with locally sourced, untreated wood. The entire process takes ~six weeks.

Amazon has a surprising number of books on shipping container homes.

Container Discounts lists prices for various sizes in a range of conditions.

The Top 20 Shipping Container Home Designs and Their Costs.

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