Does anyone know how to convert a Refrigerated Lorry Body into a habitable space? I am not talking about interior layout, but how to insert window and door spaces without weakening the walls, how to insulate and ventilate the interior, what would be suitable interior wall materials, and if it would be advisable to put on an external cladding? I am not technically qualified, I have a friend who can do basic building and carpentry. Please do not use very technical language! Thanks folks!
Yes, I do realise that its a 'tin can', that's why I asked about insulation and ventilation. Obviously, windows and doors will have to be put in. But what about ventilation shafts? if so, where and how? I live in Ireland, we have very wet winters, sometimes a week of almost nonstop rain, followed by several more like that....and it can get to minus 5 C to 10 C on rare occasions, but average winter temperatures minus 3 C to plus 7 C, with strong winds making temperatures feel lower, so good heating is very important in winter. Summers can peak 25C to 28C during day times, but would average about 15C to 20C, with colder nights, and still a fair bit of rain....Can you explain about suggested heat exchange/air circulation unit?
I did live in a small caravan for 3 years, and had a tiny wood burning stove which kept the place very snug, and didn't have bad condensation at all
Do you already have a refrigerated truck body? If not, why are you choosing that particular structure?
Is this for a home that needs to last a long time (eg the rest of your life), or is it more something you need for a specific period of time? How long?
There are issues with metal bodies, but plenty of people do housetruck conversions this way. You don't need insulation (it's already in the structure). I'd go for a full size woodburner (depending on how long your deck is), and easily opening windows that are designed for good cross ventilation (and in a rainy climate you want windows that open horizontally not vertically). I have friends who built a housetruck on a refrig body, and that's all they did. They lined the inside and outside with plywood and timber, and had a woodburner and windows. It was very comfortable to live in (no big condensation issues in the actual home), but it's not as wet here as where you are. The issues in that kind of build are what is going on within the walls that you can't see.
You can do some research on shipping container conversions that use refrigerated containers. Condensation happens where you have warm moist air moving through the lining and hitting the cooler metal. What's going to happen to that moisture and any materials it comes into contact with.
Off the top of my head, you probably need to create a space between your inner and outer linings and any metal. There is a bitumen tape that you can put between any timber and any steel/metal that will limit the timber rotting from condensation. All these things are design issues that need to be worked through, and will be resolvable to varying extents, but IMO are complicated and possibly costly if you want to build something that will last as long as a house. This is why one reason why I chose to build my housetruck from scratch rather than using a refrig body (I also didn't want to live inside metal).
In terms of permaculture design, I think there are a couple of issues here. One is whether such a body is suited to your climate, and if it's not then you are going to spend a lot of time overcoming that both in the design and build, but also in the living in it (eg I would choose woodburner/windows over a higher tech heat/air system, because I like resiliency and simplicity, but it would commit you into having a steady supply of firewood). The other is working with what you have (if you already have the truck). It really depends on what you are intending to do with the building once done.
That you have lived in a metal caravan for 3 years is a great resource, you will already have a good feel for what works in your climate and how to manage a woodstove in that situation.
Assumedly, a refrigerated lorry/trailer/container is already insulated. If so, you ought not to have any condensation issues -- until you put in windows and/or skylights. Maintaining structural integrity when cutting holes in the walls or roof will depend on how it is put together. Generally, you would reinforce the opening with wood or metal, then tie it into the support structure, whether it is studs or stress skin. then you would need to seal the opening and make sure you install flashing on the outside to keep water from infiltrating behind the exterior covering, then caulk and seal like crazy. Skylights are very effective at bringing in the most light with the least heat loss, but they can be difficult to seal, especially with a flat roof. Windows and skylights, and the reinforcement around their openings, will be areas of condensation, so keep an eye on them. Some form of air to air heat exchanger may be a good idea to keep interior humidity levels down, or at least a bathroom and kitchen fan for showers, baths and boiling. Ventilation holes, small skylights and portholes ought not to have structural issues, but you do need to make sure they are properly flashed and sealed.
Any part of the body where the metal from the inside is continuous with the outside will be a cold bridge, and that cold bridge will have condensation issues on the inside. I agree it's not as big an issue as an uninsulated metal wall, and if the inside of the truck is kept warm and aired then it might not be much of an issue at all. But there is also the fact that the walls are not going to breathe.
Location: Salt Lake Valley, Utah, hardiness zone 6b/7a
Thank you all for your considered replies. No I do not have the Lorry body yet. I am researching it! Where I am living at present has several sheds, all in a state of dereliction, or at least with leaking roofs. I need a place to safely store their contents while the sheds are being renovated. And I thought that a ready made 'shed' that could be driven or towed onto site would be a quick fix....and then if it could be converted into a usable living space afterwards, it would be a labour saving plan. I had at first wanted to build a wooden hut/house....but as this will take longer, and I need immediate access to dry storage, I started looking at lorry bodies and shipping containers...I thought they would be longer lasting than a porta cabin, and the refrigerated unit would already have insulation...it was the issues of ventilation, heating and condensation I was most concerned about....and I also thought of eventually putting a larger A frame roof above the lorry....with overhanging eaves to keep rain off the metal structure and from the immediate surroundings, maybe with a greenhouse lean to on the south side, for passive heat, and no windows at all on North side, this roof would facilitate rain harvesting.......definitely would like a wooden inside lining.....just not sure how to incorporate this with the window openings. I understand about having to reinforce the window/door openings on top to keep the integrity of the wall, just not sure what materials would be best? I would prefer to use salvaged wooden windows rather than metal windows.....thought about having sliding french doors taking up the whole of the end of the truck where the cargo is normally loaded, keeping the metal doors as 'shutters' that could be closed in bad storms, otherwise folded back and tied into the sides. Any further ideas or comments welcome!
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