Perhaps you haven't given it much thought... but how many trucks are necessary to ship a full-sized prefab wooden house?
If you think it is just one, you are way wrong.

Make your bet on the number of trucks and keep reading... 


One of the first questions we get when we say we work with prefabricated houses is:

"what do you mean prefabricated... how do you ship an entire house?"

If you are like most people, you also have been wondering how they fit an entire house into a truck.

Well, the truth is that you need way more than one truck to ship a full-sized custom-made prefab house.
How many exactly depends on a bunch of factors and in this article I'm going to shed some light one everything you should know about this shipping thing.

Video version of this article - watch it on YouTube

It used to be that prefab houses were ugly and small and they were shipped onto one truck, already mounted and ready for use.

Today this is not the case anymore.

Today prefabricated wooden buildings can be built either in modules or in elements. This way we can build up larger houses and we have the possibility to create complex and beautiful architectural solutions.

Modules are assembled in the factory and they are quite large (3 to 5 m wide) so they need a special transport and they have several limitations on routes they can travel on. 
This makes transport of modules quite complicated and I will not cover it into this article.

Elements can be instead transported using regular trucks and this makes things easier while cutting down quite much the cost of shipping.

Let's see in detail all the ins and outs of shipping elements to the construction site.

Truck Size

Before production, any house to be built with prefab wooden elements is divided into panels (elements). Right after that, each element is designed carefully.


One house can count over one hundred elements.
It is like a huge 3d puzzle.

The maximum dimension of one element depends on the size of the truck that will be used to transport the element to the construction site.

The standard measures of the truck used for this purpose are:

  • 13.0 meters long
  • 2.5 meters wide
  • 3.0 meters high

These are the exterior measures of the truck.
Obviously, the loading capacity of the truck is a little smaller than that.

The gross loading capacity of a truck is around 80-85 cubic meters.
Tucks are rarely loaded for more than 60 cubic meters.

The most obvious restriction on measures is the height.
As you can see, your elements cannot be too tall otherwise they won't fit in the truck.

The recommended floor height for a prefabricated wooden house made with elements is about 2.8 meters.

Practically, most of the projects are designed with floor height between 2.5m and 2.7m.
This allows designing elements which are full-floor-heigh and up to 8-10 meters wide, thus minimizing the overall number of elements in the house and minimizing the number of "lifts" to move the elements on-site with the crane (keep in mind that crane-time is generally very expensive).

On the other hand, the design should be also optimized to minimize the number of trucks necessary to deliver the house kit.
An optimized design will effectively minimize the cost of shipping.

How Many Trucks 

This depends of course on the size of the house... but not only.
It also depends on the thickness of the elements.

The thicker the element, the more energy-efficient the house will be.
This is due to the amount of insulation fitted inside the wall (and roof) elements.

Thicker elements allow for more insulation.

Ironically, the more energy-efficient your house will be, the more trucks you'll need to ship it... hence the more CO2 you'll generate in transport.

Generally, this side effect is not so drastic and you might need just one more truck to ship a house with thicker walls.

For a regular low-energy house, the thickness of external wall elements is generally 330-340 millimeters and the thickness of roof elements is about 400-500 millimeters.

With these sizes, you'll need about one truck for every 30 square meters of floor area.

For example, if your house is 200 square meters, then you are going to need 7 trucks.

Of course, this is just a rule of thumb and a serious Producer should be able to give you a realistic estimate of the number of trucks necessary to ship the house... already at the stage of the first price offer.

Producers take into account the actual size of elements and can calculate the number of trucks with quasi-absolute precision.

In a later stage, they'll need to plan the loading of the truck.
The most advanced Manufacturers use a 3D software while in most cases this work is still done on paper with some old-school brain power.

Key concept: when you buy a house, you don't just buy the structure. You also buy all the logistics and the project management that is behind the house. These services are very valuable and, if well implemented, they can save you thousands of euro along the way.
Make sure your Manufacturer has the right procedures in place to handle logistics and project management properly.

Mind the Space on Your Property

If your house needs 7 trucks to be delivered, all these trucks will not be arriving at the construction site at the same time.
That is a relief.

It takes about 5 days to put up a two-story house of 200 square meters, therefore you can expect those truck to be distributed over this time window.

That makes 1 or 2 trucks per day.

It is a reasonable amount to handle... BUT... there is still one potential problem.

In fact, all trucks have to be unloaded (usually within 2 hours from their arrival), so you must fit all their content in the space available on your property.
In some cases, this could represent a major issue.

It is very important you take care of planning this extra space beforehand (eventually negotiating with neighbors) because if there is no space the assembly team and the truck driver will have to handle this situation improvising and this will end up costing you more money (the Producer will bill you for the extra hours of work and for the penalties deriving for delaying the schedule of the shipping company).

Other Shipping Related Issues

When it comes to delivery of the house, it is your responsibility to make sure the trucks can reach your construction site. The Manufacturer usually states this very clearly in the Contract.

This means that if any of the roads to get to your site is too small for a truck, you should report it by time, so the Manufacturer can find a solution (it usually will cost more).

Also, should the road resent hard conditions that prevent trucks from reaching the site (snow, flood, ...) you are responsible for clearing up the inconvenient. Again, this is usually stated in the Contract.

Sometimes the access road to the site is too small for a regular truck, so the elements must be moved to smaller trucks (unloaded and re-loaded) mid-way.
This operation is usually not included in the initial transport quote (the Manufacturer has no way to know in the beginning and it is your duty to inform him about this possibility).

Cost of Transport

How much are these trucks gonna cost?

Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer to that.
It depends on your location and it depends on the location of the Manufacturer where you buy from.

For example, prices of shipping from Estonia to Central Europe, are generally around 2000-3000 EUR per Truck.
Shipping to the extreme North in Norway of the extreme West in Portugal can reach 4000 EUR per truck.

For a house delivered on 7 trucks, the total shipping cost can be in the range 14000 - 25000 EUR.

The cost of shipping for the entire house kit, is generally around 9 - 16% of the overall cost of the Contract with the Manufacturer (including Engineering Desing, Production, Shipping, Assembly).

Note that by optimizing the size of the house it is often possible to save at least one truck... which might or might not be an appealing option for you.

 

One last thingusually Manufacturers do not own trucks and they rely on transportation services provided by shipping Companies.


 If you want more information on Shipping or you have any other kind of question, feel free to reach out to us.

 

 

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