Frequently Asked Questions
- Construction Site Operation Guidelines for Coronavirus - Covid-19
At the time of writing there is no specific government advice for operating sites. However, you can find a link to some very useful guidelines relating to Covid-19 and operating sites.
- Can I come and see your products?
By appointment, you are welcome to come along to our headquarters in Suffolk, to meet our knowledgeable team and discuss your accommodation and storage requirements face to face. One of the benefits of dealing with Portable Space is that unlike most companies, we hold large stocks of both hire and sales cabins, containers and flat packs. We are not based at a port, so as long as it’s safe to do so, we can even let you select your own cabins and containers from our stock. If you would like to physically view the containers, please make sure that you wear strong walking-type boots to comply with health and safety requirements.
- What accreditations do you hold?
Please review our all of our accreditations
- Why use Portable Space?
Since we were established in 2002, we have been offering affordable and reliable portable accommodation and storage solutions. Please see about us for further information. We have excellent review ratings and as a family-owned and operated business, we pride ourselves on our high standards of personal customer service. Our track record means you can rely on us to deliver your products on-time and in excellent condition, and in the unlikely event we make a mistake, we will make sure that we put it right.
Ordering & Payment
- How can I pay?
We accept payment by bank transfer or for debit and credit card payments, with the exception of American Express, we will send you a link to Sage Pay. All you need to do is to follow the link and enter all your personal and card details. For security and data protection reasons we do not take payment by credit card over the telephone. Credit accounts must be paid within 30 days and we can accept bank transfer, debit or credit card, Paypal or cheque
- What are your standard payment terms?
As with any online shopping, we require payment in advance for all purchases. For new hire customers and subject to a credit search, we usually require payment in advance for the delivery and collection costs in addition to the first four weeks’ hire. Once we have a satisfactory payment history and credit rating, you can ask us for a 30-day account. If you are a large business, depending on your credit score we may be able to set up an account straightaway. Please discuss payment options with your Sales Advisor or directly with firstname.lastname@example.org
- How do I place an order?
We require a written order for both hire and sales purchases, usually by email and if you have already received a quotation, please use the reference when ordering (it usually normally begins with the letter ‘Q’). The quickest way is to purchase directly is through the website (24/7), where you can add items to your shopping basket in the usual way and check out. We can also take your order verbally as long as you follow this up straightaway with email confirmation. For orders involving detailed conversion work, we will require you to send back a signed copy of the agreed CAD drawing detailing all the planned works.
- How do I enquire about availability and get a quotation?
The best place to browse detailed product information is www.portablespace.co.uk where you can look at different hire and sales products and find lots of useful information. For each product you can create a printable or email PDF to save or send, and also download additional details such as CAD drawings. When you find items that you like, add them to your basket and then order the sale products online. For hire items, you can’t order online but can place an enquiry.
Delivery, Installation & Planning
- Do we need foundations?
Most of our units are designed to be supported on the four corners; hire units do not come with jacklegs as standard (although we can fit these to hire steel cabins for a small weekly charge). We normally level up units on the corners by using pre-cut wooden shims that our drivers keep in stock on the lorry. For individual units hard standing is usually sufficient and our drivers carry enough wood to level up a cabin with a 300mm fall over its whole length for example over a kerbside. We can double stack units on smooth level concrete or tarmac. For units placed on soft surfaces and especially for double stacked units you will need to provide additional purpose-built foundation pads. Requirements vary significantly between sites, products and uses, so please be sure to discuss this with our Business Development team who will arrange a site visit to advise if necessary.
- Do we need planning permission?
If the unit is being used as part of a construction project on a temporary basis then it is not normally necessary to have planning permission. However if you have any doubt, it’s your responsibility to check with the relevant planning authorities (usually your local council) which is responsible for your area. Regional rules vary so please do not assume that because the container is portable, that you do not require planning permission.
- Do we need to apply for building regulations?
All our hire units fall outside building regulations, as they are below the required size. Please see details at MPBA-EPC Building Control Modular and Portable Guidance February 2011. However some of the larger units and most of the modular buildings that we sell require building regulations and although we can provide basic information, you will need to check with your local planning authority as it’s a complex area with rules varying from site to site and what the building is being used for.
- How do we connect the units to services?
We do not make any electricity, water or waste connections; it is your responsibility to make the necessary arrangements with a suitably qualified person. For sites which do not have access to water we can supply bowsers and booster pumps, where there is no mains sewage or underground septic tank you will need our waste tank and emptying service and for sites without electrics, we can arrange for a generator . If you do not have any services then you probably need a static or towable welfare unit . Please ask us for further details
- We need health and safety information before delivery, what can you offer?
Our drivers carry all health and safety, training and inspection certificates with them in the lorry and they also have a generic risk assessment suitable for most standard delivery operations. Please let our Business Development Advisor know beforehand if you know of any site restrictions or special requirements such as traffic plans, weak or low bridges or obstructions so that we can manage these. Unless otherwise instructed, our drivers will report to the Site Manager on arrival to agree a plan before starting work. Portable Space is ISO 9001:2015 and CHAS and Safe Contractor accredited so you can be confident that you are dealing with a responsible and careful business. For more information please refer to health and safety or discuss this with us to avoid unnecessary delays or costs on arrival.
- Can you drive across a grass paddock with a lorry?
We are not normally able to leave made-up ground, tracks or roads, as our lorries have a very high front axle weight as a result of the heavy crane just behind the cab. Please contact us to discuss your requirements so that we can find a solution.
- How much does delivery cost?
Delivery cost is affected by the size and number of units being delivered to a single location, how quickly you need the units and if you are flexible with the delivery date and time. Basically the more time and notice you give us, the greater the chance that you will receive your delivery exactly when you need it at the best possible delivery rate. We are usually booking transport at least three to five days ahead, but at peak times this can be longer.
- What happens if I am not sure about access to my site?
We offer a survey service, the cost of which will, in most cases, be refunded if you proceed with the quotation.
- How do I check if you are able to access our property or business?
We can obtain a lot of information about access over the telephone and using Google mapping; if we are still not sure, then we will undertake a site visit. The main things that cause us problems are weak or low bridges, overhanging branches and trees, underground services and man holes, overhead cables and electrics and restricted entrances less than 10ft (3m) wide, especially if they are not in a straight-line.
- How do you deliver?
All units are delivered by HIAB lorry, with the exception of chemical toilets and towable welfare units which are towed with a transit-style van. On sites with restricted access, we may need to deliver by alternate means, such as 4WD, forklift, telescopic handler or even man-handling our flat pack range of cabins and storage containers. This will be discussed with the Business Development team when you place your order. See our cabin and container delivery and installation information
- Can I collect an item myself or using my own transport?
When you add the product to the online basket if it’s a stock item designated for Click & Collect you will be given an option to collect rather than pay for delivery. Only items that are fully paid for can be collected and there is usually a small collection fee. We will contact you to agree a collection date and time and you will be given safety information and details so you or your drivers can safely collect your items.
Containers for Sale
- How can I ensure my container is secure?
Our ‘one trip’ containers come complete with a factory-fitted lockbox and we can supply a padlock to fit inside. If you are buying a used container, we can fit lockboxes as an optional extra.
- Are the doors easy to open?
Some people find this more difficult than others, but please ask about our easy-opening doors which are usually available from stock.
- Can I fit doors and windows?
If you would like doors and windows, please speak to our container conversions team or email email@example.com
- I want to get rid of an old container - can you help?
If you are looking to sell a container we do buy back containers of all types and sizes, whether or not it was supplied by us. Please email photos, together with a description of the condition, details of any damage, site postcode, and whether the doors operate correctly. With this information we can normally offer you a price to collect and remove the container over the telephone, although in some circumstances we might need to carry out a site visit as the offer is subject to access, condition and location.
- How much is the delivery charge for a storage container?
The delivery charge depends on the type and size of container you are buying and your location. We will provide a fixed quote for your container including delivery.
- Do shipping containers smell?
‘One trip’ containers normally smell like new, just like walking into a timber yard. Used containers which have carried many different items in their life can have a slight nose. If a smell is likely to cause a problem please let us know when you place your order and we will select a suitable container.
- I have heard that shipping containers condensate, is this true?
All shipping containers have baffled vents to let air in and keep water out. Any steel box has a risk of condensation. The air in the container warms up during the day and moisture in the surroundings is released as vapour becomes water droplets when the temperature falls again (normally overnight).
From our experience ‘one trip’ containers are not significantly affected by condensation, but this can depend on their location. If the items you store are likely to be affected by condensation then we suggest you choose a ‘one trip’ container and ask us to quote for a grafotherm coating to the ceiling of the container which will help to eliminate droplets forming on the ceiling. Either way we recommend that you undertake regular inspections to monitor conditions and also to refresh the air inside.
If you experience problems we can either supply container desiccant to absorb the moisture or fit more vents to remove excess moisture. In extreme circumstances our container conversion division can line out and insulate the containers with rockwool and plywood or spray insulate the whole of the inside of the container, but this is only necessary in unusual climatic situations.
- If we buy a container what maintenance do we need to do?
You should periodically grease / oil the moving parts of the door locking gear and door hinges and deal with rust patches at an early stage to protect the life of the container. The roof of the container is very important and usually the most overlooked area. Of course if you choose to hire, we will rectify any problems as soon as possible and if necessary exchange the container.
- What colours of shipping container are available?
Our standard ‘one trip’ containers are usually available in Dark Blue RAL5013 but we also stock some containers in Mid Blue RAL5010 and Dark Green RAL 6007. Used containers are in the colour of the original shipping line and usually have large decals (stickers) on the side. If you have a special paint requirement we can repaint the container in any RAL colour of your choice, or we can repaint in two pack painting systems in order to reduce the paint maintenance required.
- How long will a used container last?
The life expectancy of a container will depend on its condition at the point of sale. A a ‘one trip’ container with careful use and regular maintenance, such as painting and servicing, can provide 20-25 years of service. A used container is sold wind and watertight and would have a much lower life expectancy which is also affected by local climatic conditions.
- What is the difference between a ‘one trip’ and a used container?
Used containers have normally been in service with the shipping lines for a longer period of time rather than just ‘one trip’. Typically Grade A containers will have been used for less than eight years and/ or maintained to a high standard. Standard used or wind and watertight containers have been used by the shipping lines for around 10-15 years. Structurally sound but showing signs of age, they are the most cost-effective form of container storage.
- What is a ‘One Trip’ container?
‘One trip’ containers are manufactured in China and have been used to bring cargo into the country on a single journey from China to Europe, i.e. ‘one trip’. These containers are built to exacting ISO standards but are much cheaper than a container built in Europe. ‘One trip’ containers are the standard ‘new’ container supplied in the UK and Europe.
- What types of containers do you sell?
Shipping containers are designed to an ISO standard for transporting cargo around the world. There are many different types and they are usually plated to carry around 30 tonnes when loaded, with the capacity of the container clearly marked on the doors of the container together with a unique reference number starting with four alpha digits. Shipping containers have vertical bars on each door to pull the door closed onto a watertight seal. The floors are usually 28mm thick marine ply or equivalent and designed to allow loading with a forklift truck. They are made from specialist steel known as Corten steel which prohibits rust. The robust nature of a shipping container makes it ideal for storage purposes, with the only real limitation being when standard 6m lengths of pipe and steel need to be stored as it is too short. Please refer to container shop for more details on types and specifications.
Site storage containers usually have a simple key operated locking mechanism and invisible hinges to make them more secure. Many of the Portable Space site storage containers are compatible for stacking with any Steel Accommodation unit of the same size and are available in lengths of 12ft x 8ft, 20ft x 8ft and 24ft x 9ft. The 20ft site store is actually slightly over 20ft to accommodate 6m lengths. We do not recommend that forklifts are operated inside a site store as this can lead to floor damage.
Cabins & Flat Pack Cabins for Sale
- How will my flat pack be delivered?
In a pack, craned off our lorry as near as possible to the delivery site.
- Can the parts of a flat pack be moved by hand?
The pack can be broken down and each component lifted by hand. The floor and roof sections are the heaviest part and will need at least four to six strong people to lift it.
- What tools will I need to assemble a flat pack cabin or container?
You will need a 13mm and 19mm socket and spanner, as well as a PZ2 screwdriver and minimum five tread stepladder.
- How long will it take to assemble a flat pack cabin or container?
It depends on the size and type of container, but typically one to two hours for a flat pack container and two to three hours for a flat pack cabin with two to four people. Please refer to the assembly instructions for the relevant product.
- Can I use a flat pack to store chemicals and liquids?
Chemicals and liquids can be stored safely in a bunded flat pack container from our bunded range.
- Do you hire as well as sell flat packs?
- Do sales units include furniture?
- What sort of portable cabin do we need?
We supply different types of portable cabin:
Steel anti-vandal units : With steel shutters and locking features, these are tough units and ideal for sites where security is potentially a problem. We have one of the most modern and well-kept fleets of cabins in the South East for hire. Steel cabins also make comfortable office units for sale or hire.
Jackleg cabins : This is predominantly a timber building that is aesthetically more pleasing than a steel unit and also because of the plastisol exterior finish, virtually maintenance-free. Starting with a simple open plan layout we can offer many options to upgrade the specification such as double-glazed windows, three-part dado rail style (electrical / phone/ data cabling), air conditioning, PIR lighting and carpets.
Flat pack : Flat pack cabins and containers which can be man portable are designed for restricted sites and especially suited to city centres and projects such as multi storey car parks and railway applications. They are usually delivered on HIAB as close as possible to the final destination, or with a van and trailer combination. Flat packs also provide attractive storage for private individuals.
Mobile cabins : Available open plan as an office or canteen, towable units are handy for transient sites or where there is restricted access. They can be delivered with 4WD drive and trailer if needed and suitable for off -road accommodation requirements.
Cabin & Container Hire
- What size are shipping containers?
For an overview of sizes see our container dimensions page. For detailed measurements, weights and capacities for specific containers please refer to the specification tab on each of the product pages. If you cannot find a container that meets your needs please have a look at shipping container conversions where we can modify containers to meet your needs.
- Do you supply furniture in hire units?
On the hire quote we will indicate the furniture that is included. As standard we quote for furniture suitable for project management uses to reflect the fact that most hire units are used in building or construction in some way. If you are looking to create more of a more luxurious environment then please let us know – we can also sell or hire top grade furniture.
- We would like to hire your steel cabins for a site office and toilet, what colour will they be?
All standard hire units are normally painted Dark Blue RAL5013 or White RAL9003 and the higher specification ECO units are usually painted Green. If you need hire units painted in corporate colours then we can quote you the cost which will be the cost of painting in your colours and then painting back to standard colours at the end of the hire.
- I only need the container for a short time – how can you help?
Many of our customers choose to hire, especially if they are not sure how long they will need the container. We undertake any maintenance issues and offer competitive hire rates with personal customer service and professional peace of mind invoicing. Our minimum hire period is only four weeks.
- Can you help if we have lost the keys to the cabin (or container)?
We usually keep spares for our hire units and can send additional copies out for a small charge. If you need a same day key delivery service then the best solution is to check first and then pick up the keys from our head office. If you require us to deliver same day, we will do our best to keep the cost to a minimum but if a special trip is needed, deliveries will be charged at our standard hourly rate. For sold units we do not keep any spare keys so if you are locked out, you may need our team to remove and refit the lock.
- What happens if I have a problem with the unit during the hire period?
We cover all basic maintenance, for example if an electrical item breaks we will replace it, or if the unit develops a leak we will repair it. We will repair any requested items but will have to charge for damage caused by: misuse, vandalism, power surges or damage caused to water heaters due to interrupted water supply, overtightening of water heater taps (which are designed to trip as required), or damage to convection heaters caused by clothes or gloves being placed directly onto them. We do not redecorate units on site and on-going inspections are the responsibility of the hirer.
- The cabin or container I am interested in buying or hiring has electrics - how do we know that this is safe to use?
All portable units with electrics are tested by a qualified electrician prior to delivery or when manufactured new. However during the transportation process it is possible that electrical components might become disturbed, so it is you and your connecting electrician’s responsibility to retest the cabin on delivery.
- Why is the electrical certificate provided only valid for three months?
This is because the portable and transportable nature of the cabins means that they need to be tested more frequently than a fixed building. In any case it is your responsibility to retest the cabin after delivery and then decide a suitable inspection frequency after that depending on how you are using it.
- Do we need to insure the hired equipment?
As soon as the cabin is delivered to site, it is your responsibility to look after it and insure it until we have collected it. Please refer to our terms and conditions for further details.
- Is there a minimum hire period?
There is a four week minimum period for all hire units. If you are organising an event and only need the unit on site for a couple of days this is possible but you will need to pay our special event rates.
- What is a Container Conversion?
A container conversion is a modular building or portable accommodation unit that has been constructed using the ISO 20ft or 40ft shipping container as a building block.
- What is containerisation and how did ISO shipping containers come about?
Follow this link for the history of the ISO shipping container
- How long does it normally take to convert a shipping container?
Depending on complexity, once the final drawings are agreed, typical build time is between two and ten weeks. We cannot agree an exact date until you actually place an order and we raise a proforma invoice which would need to be paid by return to guarantee the agreed date.
- Is the container conversion work carried out in-house?
We have a specialist in-house team of welders, carpenters, floor layers, paint sprayers and electricians which means that our work can be monitored throughout the conversion process to ensure it meets our high quality standards.
- I need detailed CAD drawings – can you help?
We have our own in-house CAD team and can produce drawings for any of our products, including the plan, elevation and site layout as required. For modular and conversions projects we will normally ask for a contribution to the drawing and development work, but this will be credited off your final invoice when you place an order with us.
- What warranty do I get with a converted container?
We offer a full 12 month guarantee.
- Can container conversions be shipped overseas?
There are many rules affecting certification for shipping, as this requires significant structural integrity. The container could be at the bottom of a stack of six containers all with 30 tonnes in and therefore for domestic markets we do not build to this specification. Please tell us at the beginning of the project if you need to ship the container and it is also worth noting that container conversions including openings and apertures are not suitable for rail transport due to the excessive air pressure created by passing trains.
- Can I come and see my container being converted?
By prior appointment, you are welcome to come along to our Suffolk headquarters and see how your container conversion is progressing. You will need to wear protective clothing and time in the workshop will be limited as otherwise it could affect our works programme.
- Do you supply container homes?
We can build container homes to architect drawings or if necessary we can work with you to produce suitable designs. Please remember that homes will need to conform to the relevant building regulations
- What if my container needs repairing?
Portable Space has trained staff to inspect, repair and certify shipping containers. We can also renew the CSC shipping plate for overseas shipping use if required.
- Do you carry out groundworks or foundations for my container?
Any groundworks would need to be completed prior to delivery. For more complicated conversions such as stacked or extremely heavy units, you may even need a ground survey to ensure that the loads would be supported sufficiently. However for most basic conversions, a firm flat hard core base would suffice.
- Can I fit UPVC or aluminium framed double glazed windows or doors?
Any configuration of windows or doors may be fitted, from simple glazed panels to full side opening bi-folding doors.
- Can my container be clad?
We can clad the external walls of the container with either timber or UPVC to suit your needs.
MODULAR BUILDINGS FOR SALE
- Do I need planning permission?
Any building, including modular buildings located in the same position for more than 28 days requires planning permission.
The planning process can be simplified by checking the options that may be available under permitted development rights. The main purpose of this is to grant planning permission for certain classes of development without the requirement for a planning application to be made. The planning permissions granted are subject to some provisions.
It is important that you have planning approval prior to placing your order for the modular building. If planning was refused for any reason you do not want to pay for a modular building that you cannot use.
If your project proceeds without proper approval, you can be served an enforcement notice ordering you to undo all the changes you have made. It’s illegal to ignore an enforcement notice, but you can appeal against it.
Our advice is to ensure your local planning authority has been contacted to discuss your proposal before any work begins. They will be able to inform you of any reason why the work may not be permitted and if you need to apply for planning permission for all or part of the work.
- Does it have to conform to the building regulations?
Building control approval will almost every time need to be conformed to if planning is required. There could also be other occasions where building regulations is required depending upon industry sectors. Please refer to the Local Authority Building Control advice link for further information or Guidance. Building regulations do not always apply when a building is being used as part of a construction project in a short or medium term project. This is a complex area and initial advice can be found from following this link to view Building Control Guidance (PDF) and following the flowchart.
Portable Space modular buildings can be specified to fully comply with the latest building regulations and standards. Please let us know this is necessary when you discuss the project with us.
With our pre-owned refurbished units however changes to the building regulations in October 2011 have made it easier for portable buildings to be refurbished and re-used. Older buildings do have to meet the latest regulations but a correction factor is built into the SBEM calculations, dependent on the age of the building, giving some leeway to older units with fabric that does not quite meet current standards in terms of u values. This correction factor, together with care given to the choice of mechanical and electrical installations means than no building need be deemed obsolete.
Our advice is to ensure your local authorities have been contacted before any work begins.
- What type of footings/foundations can be used?
This depends on the type of building and the type of ground the building sits on. Smaller modular buildings located on a hard-standing can use metal shims or adjustable stands but for larger loads (or softer ground conditions) – suitable concrete pad foundations will be required.
Portable Space will be more than happy to assist or advise on a design to suit your required building.
- What external cladding can be used?
Various types of external cladding can be chosen, from the standard plastisol coated steel bonded to plywood sheeting to a more traditional looking timber cladding option. The steel modular has a flat sided finish and can be painted in any RAL colour of your choice. Please contact the Modular Project team to discuss which options are available for the building best suited to your project and budget. Cladding can also be in the form of Fire Rated products.
- What is the average lead time for a modular order?
The lead time is dependent on the size and type of units ordered. A small modular building (up to 150m²) will have a typical lead time of 5-6 weeks from point of order. A mid-sized modular building (150-300m²) will be up to 12 weeks. Footprints in excess of 300m² to be confirmed depending on complexity.
- What are the advantages of using modular construction?
There are numerous benefits to off-site manufacture. These include speed of delivery, factory controlled quality and checking, improved health and safety, reduced waste and minimised on-site disruption, among others.
Civils works can be undertaken at the same time as the Building structure is being manufactured reducing works programmes.
Our Euro range also offers the ability to position buildings into restricted access areas, for example rural based schools. It is also extremely useful for emergency and disaster requirements – the wall, door and window panels can be positioned and moved on-site and the 6m modules are often available on short delivery times.
- Do they come with a warranty?
Yes, all new build modular units have a 12 month product warranty. In some situations for certain building types we can offer a much longer warranty package. Please ask us for further details and a full explanation can be issued upon request.
- Are there different types of modular building?
We offer four different types of modular building:
Compliant Modular which is a high specification building usually designed to meet building regulations and designed for long-term use in sectors such as education, community facilities and corporate office use. The Compliant Modular is comparable in many ways to a permanent building with the added benefit that it can be moved at a later date.
Euro Modular is a slightly lower specification flat pack version of the Compliant Modular with a shorter build process. With this unit being built from flat pack modules usually available from stock, it can be deployed quickly whilst positions of the door, window or side panels decided during the erection process.
Steel Modular is the tough modular, normally used in defence, project management and recycling sectors. Fully built from steel, it does not normally conform to building regulation standards.
Pre-owned Modular can be previously used versions of any of the main three types of modular that we sell new.
- What is a modular building?
In essence, modular construction is where a building is constructed off-site under controlled factory conditions. The building is designed and produced in transportable modules – with the same focus on using environmentally friendly, high quality materials and meeting the same relevant Building Regulation and performance standards as traditional construction when required.
Once completed off-site, including any internal fit-out, the modules are delivered to site, where they are installed, checked, tested and signed over.
More than ever off-site construction is playing a vital role in the development of more efficient and sustainable methods of construction.
Whether you’re expanding an existing site, or require a brand new standalone building created according to your specific requirements, Portable Space can offer a high quality and cost-effective modular structure that’s entirely fit-for-purpose. Choose from a range that includes Compliant, Euro, Steel and Pre-owned modular.