What started out as a backyard building experiment is growing into a booming family business for Kenneth Wheeler. His company, CargoHome, hand-builds tiny houses using shipping containers, and customers seem to love them. Each model features a rooftop deck and broad glass doors that spill out onto the landscape, with leftover industrial fittings and the ubiquitous box shape barely hinting at its underlying steel shell.
Founded in 2017, CargoHome has built nearly three dozen units to-date, with several of its models currently available as short-term rentals on Airbnb. Wheeler and his team utilize their backgrounds in residential construction to transform the shells into comfortable and surprisingly airy dwellings. In fact, the company's two-story container house was recently named as the fifth most 'wish-listed' tiny home on Airbnb.
From its construction base near Waco, Texas—the town popularized by Chip and Joanna Gaines of HGTV's reality show Fixer Upper—CargoHome currently builds four different models using two standard shipping container sizes. The finished units range in size from 160 to 480 square feet and take approximately two months to complete.
Prices start in the $40-50K range for the smallest models, with the largest two starting at $75,000 and $95,000, respectively. Customers can price different options on the company's website. Keep scrolling to learn more about each model and how Wheeler describes the fabrication process.
"We typically use what are called 'one-trippers' for our CargoHomes," says Wheeler. "It's basically a new container that was shipped from China with a single initial load in it. We used older, decommissioned containers a couple of times, but they can be difficult to work with since they are often quite beat up. Also, it’s a little difficult to find out what was shipped inside of the older ones, so there is some risk of chemical exposure. That's why we’ve opted to stick with one-trippers."
The Crow's Nest
Wheeler goes on to describe the fabrication process: "First, we cut out sections in the steel for windows and doors, and then weld in steel tube frames to strengthen the openings. We frame the interior walls enough that we can fit all of our electric, plumbing, and spray foam insulation. We try to keep our walls as thin as possible to maximize interior space. Finally, we finish the interior using pine paneling or shiplap and clad the exterior with cedar or old barn wood."
Shop the Look
"Container home construction is actually quite different than standard home construction," Wheeler adds. "When framing a standard house, more thought goes in to the structural aspects. Yet, these containers are built to carry up to 40 tons of cargo and be stacked up to nine high, so they are incredibly sturdy already. Inside, you are basically just building a shell inside of a shell, concerned mostly with hiding the utility elements and providing a structure over which to apply the wall finishing."
Related Reading: These Luxe New Prefab Homes Are Designed for Off-Grid Living
Architecture & Construction: CargoHome / @cargo_home
Get the Dwell Newsletter
Be the first to see our latest home tours, design news, and more.