GBA Logo horizontal Facebook LinkedIn Email Pinterest Twitter Instagram YouTube Icon Navigation Search Icon Main Search Icon Video Play Icon Audio Play Icon Headphones Icon Plus Icon Minus Icon Check Icon Print Icon Picture icon Single Arrow Icon Double Arrow Icon Hamburger Icon TV Icon Close Icon Sorted Hamburger/Search Icon

Community and Q&A

Warren Thatcher “Build a container home” guide worthwhile?

Hal Ferguson | Posted in General Questions on

I can find no decent review of this guy’s downloadable content, though his marketing scheme is amazing. Does anyone have any first hand information about the contents of his guide?

GBA Prime

Join the leading community of building science experts

Become a GBA Prime member and get instant access to the latest developments in green building, research, and reports from the field.


  1. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #1

    It's hard to tell whether you are actually interested in information on Warren Thatcher's book, or are just part of Warren Thatcher's promotional campaign.

    Container homes don't make much sense, because steel is an excellent conductor, and because these containers can't be insulated on the interior unless you want to live with a very low ceiling height. When you insulate a container on the exterior, the cost is greater than it would be if you started from scratch and built a wood-framed home without a container in the way.

  2. Expert Member
    Malcolm Taylor | | #2

    "Container homes don't make much sense,"

    A Martin- not true! We bought two for our fire department, stacked them and cut openings in the sides. Most Thursday nights we fill them with fuel and zealously attack them. They make very good proxy homes.

    1. Ethan Foley | | #10

      Thanks for the laugh!

  3. Hal Ferguson | | #3

    Thanks for the replies. I absolutely don't like the W. Thatcher sales methods, and wouldn't chose to purchase his guide were it only up to me. I offered to seek out a review of his guide, so here I am. I did see your posts discussing the cons of container homes, Martin, and appreciate your summary above. We're in Northern California, in a fire- and earthquake-prone rural area with a mostly temperate climate, with the potential of having to move our dwelling in the future, and a push to move out of (to my mind) perfectly comfortable albeit temporary travel trailer.

    I would like to enter a discussion about Hi-Cubes and an interior framing and insulation scheme for a combined container dwelling that supports a phased interior finishing approach. I suspect appending an existing thread or starting another would allow this one to hopefully lead to an actual unbiased review of the W. Thatcher guide.

  4. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #4

    The interior dimension of a shipping container is 7' 9.5" high.

    If you attempt to insulate this shipping container on the interior with minimal (R-24) insulation, you'll need 4 inches of polyiso on the floor and ceiling, plus 3/4 inch of finish materials for each surface. That brings your ceiling height down to 7'0". And you'll still have a building with insulation that is less than code minimum requirements.

    Is it possible to live in a home with a 7 ft. ceiling? Yes. Would I want to? No.

    1. methodian | | #5

      Hate to drudge up an old topic but I would love to hear from anyone who has purchased his book to know if it's worth it..

      @martin Holladay They have high cube containers which are a foot higher, more then enough to have a tall ceiling.

      1. GBA Editor
        Martin Holladay | | #6

        I advise you to read this GBA article: "What’s Wrong With Shipping Container Housing? Everything."

  5. Expert Member
    Zephyr7 | | #7

    I’ll add another downside to these containers and that is that people who like wireless services like cellphones are not going to be happy in a container. A steel shipping container makes a pretty good faraday cage, and you’re likely to completely lose cellular service as soon as you close the door.

    I’ve used containers occasionally as temporary storage buildings and I’ve heard of them being used as equipment shelters by utility companies. They are more than just ugly, in my opinion. I hate the things. Just use them for shipping and send them to the scrapyard for the steel to be reprocessed. Homes are better built from more conventional materials.


  6. Aaron Beckworth | | #8

    I recently came across a few modified containers in a small town in the White Mountains of Arizona. I’m not sure if their intention is to ship them to different locations as turn-key cabins or rent them right were I found them. But it did cross my mind that they could make great remote hunting cabins, being that they are inherently insect and rodent proof.


    1. Expert Member
      Zephyr7 | | #9

      They might be intended as portable/temporary offices. I’ve seen containers modified like this used as office at very large multi-year construction projects (some automotive assembly plants). They’re basically setup like the usual trailers. They look almost exactly like those in your pics — a simple door (usually not with glass though), and one or two very basic windows.

      The windows are just for the GC to be able to see when he needs to leave his air conditioned office to yell at someone, so they don’t have to be fancy :-)


Log in or create an account to post an answer.


Recent Questions and Replies

  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |