Getting your custom-made shipping container house delivered at your doorstep might be your dream. But is there something that is stopping you from ordering one? There are chances that you don’t have a container home builder in your area. Or you are not getting a reasonable quote from any builder. Whatever the reason is. Here is something that you must know. It is possible to build a shipping container house without taking any professional help. Following a ‘DIY’ route might pose some problems but what are we here for? We will cover all the aspects of building a container house to make your job easier.
Note: Please remember that for electricity and grounding/earthing, you absolutely have to hire a professional who will issue a necessary certificate in the end.
It is always better to choose a size first before you decide upon your house design. Dwellbox 160 is used for this DIY project . It is made from a 20-foot shipping container. You will be surprised to know that only a single container is used in this container home design. You can, however, choose either one or as many as you need for your current requirements. Point is that we will be discussing all the aspects of building a shipping container as per this size. It will help you get a realistic idea of the entire construction process. You will also get familiar with the possibility of creating a living space in a single shipping container.
You will find many types of shipping containers on the market. Choosing a new or one-way shipping container will provide you with a less-damaged container structure to start with. It can, however, be costly at the same time. For detailed information about the various types of containers, consider reading our topic Shipping container sizes. It will help you choose the best shipping container as per your requirements.
Ground preparation is important in every kind of construction whether it be a traditional one or a container home. Once you have selected your shipping container, prepare the ground upon which you are planning to place it. With the help of a rope and a few pegs, you can mark the area required for the placement. Ensure to match the dimensions of the marked area with the container you chose. In the present project, matching this space with the dimensions of a 20-foot container shall be your goal. Place the markings at 6 by 2.5 meters and consider adding an allowance of 300 mm on both the sides. This allowance will help you in working around the space comfortably. It will also be helpful in case you miscalculated the dimensions of your shipping container.
Forming a pit – foundation
After marking a particular area, you need to remove the topsoil from that part of the ground. This must be followed by creating a timber board boundary around the pit you just formed. You can then fill up the pit with the foundation you desire to use for your container house. For getting detailed information about the different foundation options, consider reading our topic Best type of foundations for container homes.
For this DIY project, we are using a raft foundation. To keep the amount of concrete to the minimum, we are filling up the pit with some solid rocks. This will create a solid core and also add height to the overall structure.
Once you achieve the desired height with rocks, you need to pour concrete over the solid core formed. Many factors need to be considered while pouring concrete. It includes your local climate, time of pouring, and the mixing ratios. You must also cure the concrete properly to strengthen it to the fullest. You can remove the timber boundary once the concrete is cast. However, it should be cured till the prescribed code of curing for adding the maximum strength. You will find detailed instructions for pouring and curing concrete in our foundation-related topic mentioned above.
Placing the container
Since the foundation is now set, you can place your shipping container over the concrete slab. You can get your container delivered to your door and instruct the delivery person to place it over the slab. You must ensure to place all the corners of your container over the concrete slab. It is essential to provide stability to the structure as all the load is borne at the four corners. You can compare them with pillars that are built in the traditional constructions.
Cutting out the doors and windows
Once the shipping container is secured at its place, it is time to start working on it. Finishing up the cutting and welding job is recommended before everything else. Mark your doors and windows according to the desired height and width for your doors and windows. Sticking to the standardized dimensions that are available at your local hardware shop is recommended here. If you are unsure about the availability of a particular size, you must first purchase these items. This is important as you cannot undo the cutting job later. When you are completely satisfied with your markings, you should start cutting the shipping container out. The cutting task can be performed with the help of a grinder or a welding torch. Remember to work carefully with these tools to ensure your safety while using them.
Fitting the doors and windows
Since you have carved out a space for your doors and windows, it is time to shop for them. Visit your local hardware shop and purchase the items according to the cuttings done by you. You need to pick up the items and fit them at the spaces carved out for them. Once you have cut the container for fitting your doors and windows correctly, this step becomes a lot easier. If, however, you have purchased your doors and windows before cutting, you are good to go ahead.
Welding the container door
In this DIY project, we are not using the main access door of our shipping container located at its back. Using this access door completely depends on your house design and your preferences. If you plan not to use it at all, it is essential to weld it up. This ensures to make your container structure watertight and weather-proof. Welding must be performed both inside and outside of the door for securing the joints properly. This will also add strength to the whole structure.
Building the roof
A roof is an important part of any house. Along with providing shelter, it is expected to be waterproof and weather-resistant. Our container already has a roof that solves the purpose of sheltering us. We are installing an additional roof for other functionalities. We are using a corrugated steel sheet for building a roof for this DIY shipping container home. This sheet acts as a protective shield for our container against harmful weather elements and direct solar radiation. This steel roof shall be fixed a little above the container leaving a space in between. This space has the following advantages:
- It will help in controlling the interior temperature of your house.
- It will regulate the airflow above your container.
- It will protect the metal container from receiving the direct sunlight.
Adding a deck space
Since shipping containers allow for limited construction inside because of their small size, it is recommended to build a deck. An outdoor seating deck helps in extending your living space to some extent. Consider adding a wooden deck as large as you desire. Your outdoors are not limited like the indoors.
Once you finish installing your outdoor deck, you are done with the basic structure of your container home. Since you have created a watertight exterior for your house, it’s time to design your home interiors now. Starting with an interior wall will give you a definite perspective concerning the inner home design.
The first thing we are building inside is a wall backdrop for our bed. We wanted to ensure that this wall becomes the most beautiful of all the interior walls. This is the space where we are going to spend our major time throughout the day and night as well. The access door of the shipping container looks ugly from the inside currently. This is the place where we will be setting up our bed. To give our bed a nice backdrop, we will be covering the access door with a timber cladding. It will create a beautiful wall behind your bed and also act as its headboard. So, choose the best looking timber cladding for your container home. Fix the cladding against the access door with the help of annular ring shank nails. Ensure to cover the entire wall to keep the ugly access door out of sight.
Building bathroom partition
This step involves two jobs to be performed:
- Firstly, you need to create a partition wall to separate your bathroom from your living room. You can consider choosing a timber panel or a steel sheet for building the wall.
- Secondly, you need to install a suitable door for your bathroom. You will be required to cut out the partition wall if you have a large steel sheet or timber panel. Alternatively, you can invest in a partition that is just enough to cover the area beside the door. For this, you will have to measure your bathroom door and the total partition space.
You can consider fixing the door at one side and cover the remaining area with your desired partition. You can also fix two different lengths of partitions leaving a space for your door in between. These are the possibilities available for creating a bathroom partition. Choosing one over the other completely depends on your house design and personal preference.
Once you have separated your bathroom from your living space, you can focus on creating your bathroom interiors. You will install a floor and walls inside the bathroom. For building this DIY container home, we used anti-slip tiles for the bathroom floor. They are both trendy and functional for bathrooms and are available in beautiful designs. You can always choose a design of your liking. The anti-slip feature ensures safety while walking on the wet floor surface.
For constructing our bathroom walls, we used laminated vinyl sheets. These sheets are best for bathrooms as they efficiently resist moisture and are also inexpensive at the same time. You can also consider using wall tiles for building your bathroom walls. Both these options are great as they require minimal maintenance and can be cleaned quite easily.
Temperature control is an important aspect that requires your attention before you give final touches to your house. There are many ways of insulating your shipping container home. In this construction, we used spray foam insulation for a variety of benefits it offers:
- It makes your living space both watertight and insulated.
- It acts as a barrier to the environmental moisture keeping your shipping container dry.
- Along with saving you from the changing weather outside, this insulation adds life to your container home. By preventing the formation of moisture, spray foam prevents rusting of your metal container.
- This method of insulation takes far less space than many others and is still very effective. By covering less space, it leaves you with extra interior area for creating your living space.
Once you are satisfied with the construction of your home’s interior walls, you can move to the fittings aspect. You will have to consider the available space while shopping for these fittings. Invest in the desired bathroom fittings and install them as per the house design in your mind. Don’t forget to consider the functionality of all your fittings as this aspect helps a lot in the small spaces.
Living room interiors
After completing the design of the bathroom for your house, you shall focus on the interiors of your living space. You will install a suitable floor and the interior walls except the one we did earlier. For the flooring, we placed laminated timber on a waterproof liner for preventing the occurrence of moisture from the ground. It is also convenient to clean and requires less maintenance.
On the two walls on the lengthy side of the container, we installed a weatherboard for a full coverage. Remember that one wall will stretch from the access door to the bathroom partition. While the other wall won’t be as long because we installed our main entry door on it. Paint this weatherboard with a color of your choice. We’d recommend using a light color for painting as it reflects light in the small spaces.
Living room installations
You can progress with the living room installations once your flooring and walls are complete. Install a kitchen sink for washing your dishes at the space between your main entry door and the bathroom wall. You can install a hanging cabinet for your dishes at the same wall. For such small spaces, we’d recommend using a small table and an electric stove for cooking. These items cover much less space and can be conveniently tucked inside a drawer or over a shelf after using. Again, we stress on utilizing the functionalities of every piece of furniture you use.
Along with the kitchen area, it is important to make provision for your clothes. You can install a wardrobe exactly opposite to your kitchen area. So, it touches the lengthiest wall of your house and the other side of the bathroom wall. If you have constructed your bathroom door at the corner, you can install your wardrobe in the middle. In this case, it will touch your bathroom partition in the center and will be just next to your kitchen. In the end, it all depends on the interior design you are planning to use for your home.
Since we are using a single shipping container for this house, we’d recommend keeping very minimal furniture. Considering the functionality of your biggest piece of furniture is very important here. And this furniture piece is your comfort space, your bed. Invest in a sofa-cum-bed instead of a full-blown bed. A sofa-cum-bed will remain a sofa for your living space for the whole of your day. You can perform your work over it or laze around with your friends on it. It will turn into a bed in the night to give you a good night’s sleep. This will conveniently convert your living space into your bedroom during the dark hours. That is the power of functional furniture.
Decorating the outdoor living space
Since you have now created a beautiful interior for your home, you can consider decorating the outdoor space. It is very important to build an outdoor living area as the indoors are quite limited in this setup. Let us discuss the aspects involved in the outdoor living:
- Outdoor furniture
Adding a bench or some chairs to your seating deck will add some more living space to your house. You can also add a small center table or a little portable fireplace as a centerpiece. Selecting comfortable furniture for outdoors should be your priority as this is the place where you will be relaxing.
- Planting trees
Adding a little greenery around your house will give immense pleasure. You can plant shrubs and flowers around your container wall at its rallies or in little planters. Choose the way you like it. The easiest method is to plant flowers in the ground all around the container structure.
The options for decorating your exterior space are endless. Focus on your requirements and add the things you love. With the use of creativity, the sky’s the limit for decorating the outdoors.
The final words
With all the landscaping and home designing, your container house is now completely ready to move in. You can use it as a guest house or a small dwelling for yourself. You can also earn a rental income from it by listing it on B&B. Don’t forget to estimate your total construction cost before you begin your DIY container home project. Feel free to check out our cost-related articles for a correct estimation of your project’s cost. They will provide you with the details of every cost-related aspect you might require.