Where are you based?
We have a great indoor workshop that can accommodate large vehicles of up to 12 ft tall. Provision can also be made for taller structures. We are based about 10 minutes drive from Glastonbury in Somerset, South-West England (just opposite the festival site, and yes, we can see the Tor!) We prefer all works to be completed here. We may be able to work away on some projects pending negotiation, and are always looking for exciting new projects particularly internationally.
We do enjoy having visitors but please note this is strictly by appointment only. Please don't turn up unannounced as we wont be able to give you the attention we would like.
Do you have a stock of 'House-Box's for sale? Where can I buy one?
At present all our conversions are commission based. Our conversions are bespoke, and are as individual as the people we make them for. As well as not having had the time to build a stock of vehicles, we genuinely prefer to work in the manner that we do. Building a home from scratch is an extremely immersive and creative process and we invest a lot of time with clients to ensure they get exactly what they dream of. We feel if we just 'bashed out' a bunch of them at once to a generic design, then our work would lose a bit of that soul that makes each of our builds so special.
Can I rent a House-Box for a holiday stay?
Yes! Many of our owners use their House-Box seasonally, or perhaps for travelling work home or abroad. It is not unheard of for one or more of the House-Boxes to be available, whether nestled in a picturesque countryside idyll, or full of fuel and raring to be rolled out for exploring!
Dean and Hannah's original House-Box is available for holiday stays in a stunning location in the Welsh border mountains. You can book your stay here:
What type of space can you convert?
In short, ANY!
Whether you want a custom large vehicle conversion for full time living, an extra special vintage ex ice-cream van for weekend adventures, or a customised garden office come guestroom - with clever design, the right materials, and a bit of creative know-how, anything is possible. As well as vehicles we have been approached to convert sheds, shipping containers, tree-houses and straw bale building among others. We've recently added the capacity to build boxes from scratch, so if you cant find the base structure you want - just come to us with a chassis and some big ideas that we can make into a reality. We do not by any stretch restrict our talents to mobile spaces and are always keen to work with people on all sorts of projects.
Do you source the vehicles you convert?
No. Whilst we are happy to advise on the suitability of a vehicle 'box' for converting, we do not sell vehicles, or offer any mechanical diagnosis. Our specialities lie in converting and creating interesting and functional bespoke spaces to clients specifications. We can be available to come and view prospective vehicles and help advise on the pros and cons relating to the area to convert, and structural suitabilities.
Will I save money if I help you with the conversion?
Its hard to phrase this tactfully but in 99% of cases its a no. Let us explain. Building a home (albeit in a 'small' space) demands a myriad of skills across many disciplines. As a comprehensive build can be a substantial investment, we schedule our labour input very tightly in order to offer maximum efficiency and value for money. In our experience, the more people we have building in one area, the more time we spend guiding them, consequently ending up with less time for building ourselves, and becoming a false economy. We do encourage maximum involvement from clients throughout the process, especially with design, and if people really want to get their hands dirty then there are always as handful of jobs that could use a not-so-skilled hand, but such volunteering wouldn't be a full time job for somebody throughout the build and more often than not it would add to the overall cost of a project.
How long does a full conversion take?
As you may have already guessed, there are a million variables involved in building a bespoke space, so it's really hard to give even a ball park figure on the duration of a build. To try and generalise we'll take a more common example, say a 7.5t wooden horsebox that does NOT need any restoration work doing to it. Around 3-6 months with 2 of our crew working on it will be ample time to make a comprehensive space for full time living; including wet-rooms, sanitation, advanced renewable electrical systems, kitchen, stove, beds etc. If a box needs extensive restoration (ie stripping, restoring, structural welding etc.) then, dependent on how much needs doing, 2 to 4 months on top of the conversion time mentioned above. This would cover things like replacing roofs, adapting boxes, adding ramps, restoring cabs, raising luton areas etc. and is obviously only assessable on a case by case basis. Sometimes it pays to invest extra in a base vehicle as it can save an awful lot on restoration costs, although on the other side of the coin, a full restoration of a cheaper box will inevitably enhance the overall durability and longevity of the box. If a client wants multiple box alterations (raised luton/extra ramps etc.) then a fair deal of stripping back will be required regardless of the quality of the initial structure. We do offer a box building service which can be co-designed with the client, meaning we only need a chassis cab as a base vehicle. Smaller panel vans, or vehicles with much more modest necessities can naturally be completed faster than quoted above, however each space presents it's own unique challenges and smaller doesn't always mean cheaper.
Can my 'off-grid' electrical system run everything it would in a house?
We design and install systems designed around the clients personal needs, to ensure you don't have to compromise on the day to day things you enjoy and are used to at home. Some people may be happy with candlelight, whereas others must have 50" flat screen TVs and Hair Straighteners (and we fall into both of these camps so no matter what you desire - you wont be judged!) All sorts of modern technological luxuries can be used in a House-Box. With the use of a power inverter, you can use nearly any appliance you would in a house. The only limitations within a mobile application are restrictions imposed by weight and space. Because of weight and space limitations it is impractical to carry excessive amounts of solar panels and batteries. This means you cannot generally use anything that requires hard, fast concentrations of heat for extended periods of time (unless you are connected to a powerful mains hook up) This may include electric cookers, powerful hairdryers (see below) and electric heaters (most hair straighteners are fine). In light of this we use liquid petroleum Gas (LPG) to run cookers, water boilers and fridges. All these appliances are very economical on gas and a full-timing user can expect to spend approx. £15 per month on gas as possibly their only utility bill. We recommend woodburning stoves for heating, and these can also be used for cooking if you wish. As a note we have in some circumstances installed generators to allow for the use of powerful hairdryers and power tools.
How much does a full conversion cost?
This is another area that is really hard to approximate for, as there are so many variables. For instance we've had projects where all the door hinges and handles came to £80, and one where they came to £500. Take into account that 'hinges' are one item on a list of over 1000 things we have to consider when estimating prices and you'll start to see how complicated it is! As with most things in this world, the more you can afford to throw at a project, the more time can be spent on it and the higher the quality of materials that can be used. We try not to cut corners on the quality of the system components. As an example, you could spend £500 on a battery expected to last 4 years. You could spend £1200 on a battery of same capacity but that will last 15 years - not only saving money on the product, but on replacement time and cost. For most pricing purposes we'd rather do what is best in the long term, than do a job on the cheap that will look great at first but then fail prematurely. At House-Box we work tirelessly to ensure you get the highest quality you can no matter what your investment. The off-grid 'systems' (electrics/water/sanitation etc.) used in a comprehensive 'full-timing' conversion are similar in one way; they are expensive. The core components required to have home comforts are the same in a small space as in a large 'eco' home. The only added requirement to extend the systems from your House-box into a large static dwelling, would more wire and pipework which are relatively cheap. In this way, small homes are a bit of a hard sell in a culture that has a 'bigger is better' zeitgeist. Many of our clients see having a House-Box as a stepping stone to building their own off-grid static home one day and a lot of the core expensive system components will be transferable to such a dwelling.
As a real rough ball park figure, from experience, a comprehensive and beautiful bespoke conversion of a large wooden horsebox with good system spec for full-timing can cost from £35-70k. As a note a 'normal' fibreglass off-the-shelf motor-caravan of a similar spec would set you back about 250k, so we're confident we offer excellent value for money.
If the vehicle needs extensive restoration and modifications also, then pricing for this is judged on a case by case basis. Those prices are very very approximate and are gathered from previous builds. Due to client confidentiality we are unable to disclose the exact cost of specific conversions. We're not greedy! and in all honesty we make a very modest income from our craft, and could earn far more by going into a normal trade. However we love what we do, and we work tirelessly to try and keep costs as low as we possibly can so that we can make this dream accessible to as many people as possible.
Can I leave my project at your workshop and just get you to do bits on it as and when I can afford them?
At present our workshop space is limited to 2 large vehicles for conversion at any one time. Consequently we can only accommodate vehicles at our premises whilst we are actually working on them. Occasionally we may be able to take a smaller project alongside for a day or two. Any vehicle bought to us must be roadworthy, legal, insured, and be able to be moved around our workshop safely by any competent member of our team.
Can i rent my House-box out, or use it for other purposes when I'm not using it?
Yes. 'Glamping' is all the rage these days, especially with people holidaying more here in the UK. There are various agencies across the country that offer holidays in converted vehicles, both on-road and at static locations. They can also be used as a guest room in your garden, a special den for the kids to play in, or an outdoor office space (perhaps away from aforementioned kids!) We've heard of film sets renting converted vehicles to house actors on set, another being used as a mobile photo booth and all sorts of other oddities! We have links with 2 of the best agencies in the UK and are happy to help facilitate such things. More recently the return available on embarking on such a venture can more than justify the investment.
What size vehicle should I look for, and what does my licence entitle me to drive?
There is a fair bit of mis-information on this subject flying around online. As a general rule if you got your UK licence on 1/1/1997 onwards, then you will be limited to driving a 3.5t vehicle. If you got it before then, you can drive up to 7.5t (those weights include the vehicle, you and everything in it.) For sound information look at the DVLA website (don't just take what your mate down the pub who's uncle met a drunk traffic officer on a plane says or the dreaded Facebook warriors or unscrupulous Ebay sellers) Be conscious that if you want to live full time in a 3.5t vehicle, you may have to manage your expectations slightly as to what you can include, as there is a very slim weight envelope for adding materials, as well as more limited space. However a smaller vehicle may be ideal if you plan on being fairly nomadic and driving around exploring. If you plan on being a bit more settled, or there are a few of you, a larger vehicle can offer more space and more luxury by having the weight envelope to house more comprehensive system components. With a larger vehicle you can have a great deal of space and extra areas coming off (slide outs/awnings over patios etc) So you can make a real nest of a home, but with the ability to pack down and move to pastures new at your whim.
What is your availability?
House-Box is Dean and Jake, with help more recently from Jakes younger more attractive brother Zack. We also from time to time get a little help from our friends. We are busy boys and whilst we could look to expand, our work is our art, and we wouldn't want to dilute that; for ourselves or our clients.
Consequently we do sometimes have a bit of a waiting list. We try and honour work on a first come first serve basis so don't be shy, see our contact page. The longer a project is in the planning stages, the more tangible it is for everyone by the time we come to building it.