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Shipping container house?

 
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Hi all,
I am fairly new to this site, and can I just say, wow! I feel like I found my people. Haha.  
Here’s where I’m at.  House rich, cash poor.  I would rather be debt free and house poor.  That said, While I would be happy to live in a trailer in  the woods solo, I have 4 children so (3 at home) so obviously I have some requirements that are necessary in my mind for their comfort and my sanity. That said, on my decent sized town lot, over the last 6-7 years, I have managed to grow upwards of 20 varieties of fruit as well as veggies in raised beds. But now, the market is amazing and I would like to cash out and buy 5 or so acres with the equity I draw from my house sale. Here’s the challenge; I can afford a nice little piece of land, but it will leave me with a (very) small build budget. So I started looking into some different building options (outside the box, if you will) I am considering a mobile (with the possibility of enclosing or surrounding it with a greenhouse. Well when I mention anything outside of a traditional build, I get some mighty strange looks.  I feel like we are behind the times here in a sense, and no one shares my vision. I posted re greenhouse idea and I got some incredible feed back, so I figure this is a good place to ask if anyone has experience in building a home out of shipping containers?? Are there “plans” for this somewhere? My thought was to add a dome style roof with the containers on the inner side and using the large open area as extra living space (clearly I would have to modify to add doors and windows etc.) Ideally, I would like to use the “open” area as additional living space (living/dining/kitchen combo, with the bed and bathrooms tucked into the shipping containers.  Eventually, I would like to use the area on top of the containers and below the dome as a deck.
Does anyone have first hand experience building a shipping container house? What are the disadvantages to this sort of build?
I expect building permit approval and occupancy certificates may be a sticking point.  It’s worth noting that I live in an area with a significant snow fall and occasional hurricane/tropical storm risk.


 
pollinator
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I have a friend that built one, pretty big, I forgot how many containers he welded together.

You are only limited by your imagination, I have even seen them stood on end to make a tower.

Two biggest issues I see:

1.  Adding holes for windows and doors.  You need someone to weld watertight frames and too many or too big of holes take away too much strength of the container.

2. CONDENSATION! The walls don't breathe and you always risk them sweating like your iced tea glass.  Bad enough on the outside but catastrophic on the inside-black mold paradise.  You probably need to use closed cell foam and every humidity control trick you can to prevent issues.


 
pollinator
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R Scott wrote:I have a friend that built one, pretty big, I forgot how many containers he welded together.

You are only limited by your imagination, I have even seen them stood on end to make a tower.

Two biggest issues I see:

1.  Adding holes for windows and doors.  You need someone to weld watertight frames and too many or too big of holes take away too much strength of the container.

2. CONDENSATION! The walls don't breathe and you always risk them sweating like your iced tea glass.  Bad enough on the outside but catastrophic on the inside-black mold paradise.  You probably need to use closed cell foam and every humidity control trick you can to prevent issues.




Exactly. Issue #2 is what ultimately soured me on the idea.

External closed cell sprayfoam is a possibility, but at that point you've given up the heavy duty exterior... and you still have a COMPLETELY non-breathable structure.

Plus, the structure of a building is not such a terrible expense, if you can assemble it. All the other stuff, still needed for most container homes, is where the bulk of the money goes...
 
gardener & author
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You can add your location in your profile so it will show up with every post, which will help people make suggestions.

I grew up in the northeastern US, mostly in stick-frame houses. I've lived more than half my life in adobe houses now in the high desert, with a similar range of seasonal temperatures. I've come to love living in earthen houses, especially for two reasons -- they moderate the thermal swings fantastically, and they also moderate the humidity. In both of these ways, I find an earthen house more comfortable than a wooden insulated house. But containers are even more extreme -- they have no mass or insulation naturally to moderate the temperature. They neither adsorb nor give back any humidity, so as mentioned above there can be real problems with humidity, and with condensation in winter.
 
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Hi Sue,
What would you like to make the dome out of? If you have heavy snowfall, good insulation is essential of course, but if the dome shell is insulated, the containers might not need to be.
 
pollinator
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Remember a prophet is always unwelcome in their homeland

In my experience it can be a lonely existence if you reject people who do think outside the square.
People seem to fear something different, I dont even argue with them, I present an idea and just keep
working with it. Sometimes others are surprised at the outcome and will come on board then.

Do you have any building skills?
 
pollinator
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Twin Shipping Containers
I recommend getting two shipping containers, I have seen them selling for $3,000 each.
One would have 3-4 bedroom and, the other shipping container would have:
-living room
-dinning room, and kitchen,
-bathroom, and mech/laundry room.

Single Shipping Container
If you wanted to just use 1 shipping container then any 40ft RV could be used as an inspiration

Insulation
I recommend adding the insulation on the outside. You can get 4ft x 40ft or even 8ft x 40ft slabs of insulation, but even regular 4x8 ones work just as well.
You could then easily lean those up on the north and south wall. Ditto for the roof and floor too. Then just add a bit of chicken wire and ferrocement/stucco it.
 
gardener
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I've enjoyed watching this couple build their shipping container house for the past year or so: Life Uncontained.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-l69It3hxAY3tkBH_utLNQ

They put out a video a week and have chronicled the challenges and unique steps they've taken as they've transformed two containers into a home in Texas.

 
pollinator
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Location: OK High Plains Prairie, 23" rain avg
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Sue Cooper, I am building a single shipping container tiny house in Western Oklahoma. Why? Tornado missiles, wildfire, security, reduced building material chemical exposure. Insulation on the outside is the way to go to keep the heat out, I'm going to use InSoFast insulation in the corrugations and another four inches of rigid foam on top of that, with 6" on the roof, and probably a 'Perfect Wall' system. For the exterior cladding, I will use something fire and missile resistant, perhaps Hardi board. You must have proper air exchange so that condensation doesn't form. For me, that means solar to run a mini-split I believe. In Texas, you may burn up in summer in a greenhouse.
 
John C Daley
pollinator
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I have installed insulation to the outside of shipping containers by fastening horizontal beams along the container
and then fitting sarking and metal roofing vertically across the beams.
The beams are spaced to suit the container, IE top, middle and base of the container wall.
And have the sheet size of the insulation cut to suit.
 
denise ra
pollinator
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Location: OK High Plains Prairie, 23" rain avg
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John Daley, in windy Oklahoma metal roofing is a hazard and I will not use it if I can figure out other options. Lots of old barns and buildings around here are losing pieces of metal roofing in every little wind storm we have and they are flying around the countryside.
 
John C Daley
pollinator
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It could be that people are not attaching the metal roofing properly.
I would like to see how its installed.
I use it extensively and it is the 'go to product' in Australia.

We screw it to battens which are screwed to the rood trusses, maybe nails are used where you are.
I build a 14m x 7M shed that just sat on the ground, I store trailers in it.
I never got around to creating foundations.
Last year I had a storm hit hard, it lifted this shed  and dropped it 5 feet away and not a single sheet came off.
We dont normally get winds like that.
Are cyclones prevalent at your place?
 
John C Daley
pollinator
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Out of interest I searched for info  and found some interesting points;

Oklahoma weather conditions create many difficulties for Oklahoma roofs. The suns harsh rays wear down the integrity of asphalt shingles over time.
With hail damage, ice damage and wind damage, the average lifetime of an asphalt roof in Oklahoma is 7 years.
Metal roofs have many benefits over asphalt roofing.

I found that metal roofs of corrugated iron, which we use here, are screwed to the battens on every ridge of the iron sheet to hold it down in Oklahoma.
We do it every 4th ridge in Australia below the tropics.

I imagine flying roofs have not been screwed down properly.

I can understand your concern, but it seems done properly, metal roofing works in windy areas. I saw a note somewhere that done to code in USA, it can withstand hurricanes!!
This brand makes this statement

The Varitile metal roofing system uses interlocking roof panels and batten-mounting. This interlocking system provides structural integrity.
The Varitile interlocking system creates an effective solution for freeze/thaw cycles, eliminating ice dams.
The design provides superior resistance to wind uplift. Most manufacturers categorize wind as an “Act of God” and do not warranty damage by wind. Varitile provides homeowners with a wind warranty.

Of course, Oklahoma roofs must withstand hail damage and the Varitile metal roofing system has been laboratory tested and shown to withstand 2 1/2″ simulated hailstones, while other roofs showed severe hail damage.
These truly are Storm Proof Roofs.


 
John C Daley
pollinator
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I suggest that there is good debt and bad debt.
Many just think any debt is BAD.
Trailers are very expensive starter points for building a house.
With a small debt and your own resources you may be able to start a small home that may be expanded later.
With 3 children, heating costs etc in a trailer I am sure would be a lot higher than in a small house well insulated.
 
denise ra
pollinator
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John C Daley, thanks for the Varilite roof info, I will check it out.
 
pollinator
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One option worth mentioning: it's possible to buy a modest, structurally sound house for a dollar and pay the cost of moving it. This often happens when mature neighbourhoods are going upscale -- it's cheaper to give away the old, small houses than to demolish and landfill them.
 
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