By continuing to use this site, you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more
Forum sponsored by:
Forum sponsored by Allendale Jan 24th

ISO Container for Workshop

Using an ISO container for workshop

All Topics | Latest Posts

Search for:  in Thread Title in  
Andy Carruthers30/06/2020 06:00:09
279 forum posts
23 photos

House move soon has led me to think about how to shift my small workshop. I am thinking to buy an ISO lorry container probably 8ft x 40ft as I expect a second move in a few years time therefore portability is a further consideration. I’m prepared to fit out the container myself as a project and can store my tools in the mean time

Has anyone done this, I expect condensation to be a consideration so I’ll line it, your thoughts please

DC31k30/06/2020 06:41:52
214 forum posts

Immediate thought is 2 x 20 foot might be so much easier. Transportation, equipment for installation, access and space for installation, foundations are all simplified with a smaller unit.

Bo'sun30/06/2020 07:13:26
153 forum posts

Sounds like a relatively simple and secure solution, but as you recognise, condensation WILL be a problem. Forced ventilation and insulation will certainly help. Finances permitting, a pre-insulated fridge/cold box type container might save a lot of work.

Ray Lyons30/06/2020 07:25:56
166 forum posts
1 photos

Sounds Good to me. Seen a few on YouTube which provide a decent workshop. There are a lot of new adhesives which can be used to fix the internal cladding.

Robert Atkinson 230/06/2020 07:29:30
705 forum posts
16 photos

I second Bo'sun's Comments. Plain ISO containers will literally generate their own climate including "rain" from condensation. You need to at least line it with wood and preferably insulation. A 20ft or two will be easier to handle and be moore practical, The extra end wall area means you waste less space for accesses. Fully stuffing a 40ft or 2x20ft gives the same volume, but if you have to alllow access to the contents 2x20ft work a lot better.

Robert G8RPI.

Nicholas Farr30/06/2020 07:57:15
2318 forum posts
1137 photos

Hi, I did have thoughts about this idea, but then I obtained an old disused quarry mess room for free. A workmate and myself had to go and fix a leaking side door that had been fitted to one of these containers in a storage yard, that was all nicely lined from floor to ceiling with wooden panelling, it was quite cosy inside and dry (apart from the leaking door, until we fixed it) if I remember right, they were storing a lot of cardboard goods in there. Of course there were no windows, so all lighting was artificial.

Regards Nick.

JA30/06/2020 08:15:32
937 forum posts
51 photos

The Army use, or used, containers for workshops. They may come up for sale in the military disposal market which now highly specialised.


Journeyman30/06/2020 08:57:19
805 forum posts
141 photos

Containers Direct sell used and converted containers and have an interesting web-site.


XD 35130/06/2020 09:11:09
1430 forum posts
1 photos

If you take a look at Bundy bears YouTube channel you might get a few ideas for setting up in a container , Lance did this recently he seems happy with it . I have been considering moving into something a little bit bigger than a car trailer but this would mean downsizing on a major scale and there are other drawbacks like the trailer has to rego’d then inspected every year as it would have mass of over 750 kg which is the maximum mass before brakes must be fitted - a yearly PIA i could do without !

Ady130/06/2020 09:14:58
3741 forum posts
519 photos

Long time ago now, used to carry zillions of 'em

40 footers really for high volume low weight goods, very bendy at each end if lifted on a forklift

Load it evenly if a forklift is going to be used

40ft best option if you want a portable workshop in a tight long space with one entrance

you can rig up your own environment in a container because they are virtually airtight, a battery operated dehumidifier for instance

20 footers are for the heavy stuff and much stiffer/simpler


Edited By Ady1 on 30/06/2020 09:17:38

Tony Martyr30/06/2020 09:24:56
188 forum posts
37 photos

Look for a second hand Site Cabin which are based on ISO containers. They already have the door, windows a power-cable inlet and security shutters fitted.

Ady130/06/2020 09:26:57
3741 forum posts
519 photos

You can live in them, we used to say hi to a german chap in costa rica who lived in a 20 footer

He got drunk and missed his ship sailing so was spending 9 months doing odd jobs and waiting for it to come back

Spurry30/06/2020 09:39:09
196 forum posts
68 photos

When I moved, I had a few containers from Portable Space in Stowmarket, so may be of use, depending where in the UK you are located. Excellent company to deal with.

Would confirm the condensation problems noted above, and highly recommend a decent concrete footing (one foot cube) where the units would normally bolt down. Without footings it is surprising how much the steel structure will bend...


Clive Foster30/06/2020 09:46:49
2254 forum posts
76 photos

Worst thing when working in a container is the ceiling height which I find oppressively low. If you are uncomfortable in it you won't use it.

I wonder if lightweight add on roof and side cladding suitably spaced from the sides with the space ventilated might make a useful difference to the internal condensation issue. Tent fabric ought to do for a short term job. As I understand it the proper office / workshop conversions are a bit more sophisticated than simple linings. I have seen a similar conversion, lorry body in this case, with simple plywood lining that had rotted out after only a couple or four years. Basically a pond between lining and wall.

The ex army workshop breed will be very expensive and well used. Generally they don't get sold off until the interior needs stripping out and re-doing. Despite decent windows I still wouldn't care to do standing up jobs in them. Sitting at a bench for electronics work was OK (ish) except for the pressure of getting failed trials equipment up and running without wasting expensive range time!

Time for a lot of Googling for ideas on how / what to do and pitfalls / "I wish I'd" posts.

If you aren't careful this could easily turn into an expensive cheap option where starting with something that looks as if it's going to be less costly ends up being both more expensive and not as good as doing it right. This was certainly the case with the two or three similar conversions, albeit lorry bodies not containers, that I have personal knowledge of. In both cases the costs and effort of all the detail bits that didn't get thought through exploded.

I wonder how expensive and how practical it would be to make a timber shop built the way mine is easy to take apart and re-assemble. Mine is 2 x 4 framing with OSB panelling inside and out. Insulation between the panels and shiplap cladding outside. Insulation above the ceiling, floored loft - store and insulated steel sheet roof. In principle it ought to be possible to come up with a way to join the panels together without needing to get inside them. Perhaps something as simple as (stainless) steel strips and angle screwed on at the joints would work. Major Issue would seem to be pulling things up tight and square before fitting the strips.


Samsaranda30/06/2020 10:22:20
940 forum posts
5 photos

We operated out of converted steel ISO containers and portakabins at RAF Stanley in the Falklands. The ISO containers were wood lined and had windows, they made good workshops, power was supplied by generating sets. The weather in the Falklands could be pretty severe and the containers withstood everything thrown at them, not aware of any problems with condensation but the wood lining prevented the moist air contacting the cold steel. I would have no reservations in using one for a home workshop although senior management would probably have serious objections on aesthetic grounds.
Dave W

jann west30/06/2020 11:07:24
62 forum posts

Interestingly ex UK MOD container workshops are available to purchase - perhaps the photo's might provide some inspiration:


Bo'sun30/06/2020 11:09:31
153 forum posts

A good point raised. Check with your local authority about planning consent. We have several on our Scout Campsite and require planning consent. We're checked every few years to make sure we haven't sprouted any more.

Bob Worsley30/06/2020 11:21:53
32 forum posts

Try looking regularly on

in their auction. Often have the ex-military workshops, toilet blocks etc which have 2" foam insulation around them. Most are only 15' or so long, check. There are a few of the curved top type, but inside heght less than 6', don't buy unless you are shorter.

I bought one of these years ago, got logburner in it and really comfy.

I have used Worcestercontainers to move several of my lumpy bits, nice helpful people.

Samsaranda30/06/2020 11:55:33
940 forum posts
5 photos

The workshops shown in Jann West’s link are far more sophisticated than those we had at RAF Stanley, I would certainly have one of those in my garden..

Dave W

Alan Waddington 230/06/2020 11:57:05
503 forum posts
87 photos

Look for an insulated fridge container. No need to mess about lining it then.

You can get a 40 footer with a roller door for around a grand plus vat and delivery.

All Topics | Latest Posts

Please login to post a reply.

Magazine Locator

Want the latest issue of Model Engineer or Model Engineers' Workshop? Use our magazine locator links to find your nearest stockist!

Find Model Engineer & Model Engineers' Workshop

Latest Forum Posts
Support Our Partners
Allendale Electronics
Eccentric July 5 2018
Eccentric Engineering
Subscription Offer

Latest "For Sale" Ads
Latest "Wanted" Ads
Get In Touch!

Do you want to contact the Model Engineer and Model Engineers' Workshop team?

You can contact us by phone, mail or email about the magazines including becoming a contributor, submitting reader's letters or making queries about articles. You can also get in touch about this website, advertising or other general issues.

Click THIS LINK for full contact details.

For subscription issues please see THIS LINK.

Digital Back Issues

Social Media online

'Like' us on Facebook
Follow us on Facebook

Follow us on Twitter
 Twitter Logo

Pin us on Pinterest