Convert a Shipping Container to Tiny House – Step by Step

Convert a Shipping Container to Tiny House

Wondering how to convert a shipping container into a tiny house? Tiny houses are increasingly becoming popular among individuals across the world. They offer us greater financial freedom and help us lead a self-sufficient life. Not only that, they leave a smaller environmental footprint than their bigger cousins. Shipping container homes allow you to further these goals of financial independence and environmental protection. With the use of these solid steel structures, you can create a tiny house at an extremely reasonable cost. Let us find out a step-by-step process of converting a shipping container into a tiny house.

Step-by-step process to Convert a Shipping Container to a Tiny House

Building a house out of a shipping container is not as easy as creating one out of building blocks. You will require a lot of planning and patience while converting a shipping container into a tiny house. Let us find out a step-by-step process to modify a container into the house of your dreams. These 14 steps will take you on a journey of establishing a tiny container home on your land.

Step 1 – Planning the structure of your tiny house

Correct planning will lead your tiny house project to successful completion. You must decide the number of rooms needed by your family and how they will be joined to each other. A proper design should be well prepared in the planning stage as it will avoid any confusion later. You must also consider taking expert advice here. An engineer will better be able to vouch for the structure planned by you. Make any necessary changes to your design with his suggestion.

Step 2 – Getting approvals from the local authorities

You cannot construct a house with any material without getting legal consent. You will be required to submit your tiny house design along with the letter of approval. Since legal matters take time, you must aim to get your design cleared on the first attempt itself. Expert advice will serve as guidance for you. Find info on legal permits here!

Legal Shipping Container Home Laws

Step 3 – Preparing land for your container

Putting a shipping container directly over the soil will cause its disbalance when loaded with furniture. The heavier parts will settle deeper into the soil than the lighter ones. This calls for leveling the surface on which the shipping container has to be placed. You will, first, have to mark the area as per the size of your container. Consider keeping an allowance on all sides to work around the space comfortably.

You need to dig the marked land and create a boundary of timber boards around it. The soil in this pit must be leveled to create a solid foundation now. A variety of foundations work well for these tiny homes made out of shipping containers. You can choose the one that suits your house design and local building laws. Find detailed information about the various foundation types from our foundation-related article. When converting a shipping container into a tiny house, most people prefer to use concrete slab foundations. More about foundations here!

Step 4 – Selecting and place the shipping container

When you have a design in your hand, you know the size and number of containers needed for your house. While sourcing a shipping container, you will encounter both new and used containers. The new ones are expensive but do not require upheaval. On the other hand, the used containers are a little cheaper but involve repair costs. Once you have selected a suitable container for your tiny house, it’s time to place it over the foundation. You can either talk to your container supplier for arranging the delivery or hire another company for the same. Whatever equipment you hire, ensure that it will bear the load of the shipping container. When placing your container over the concrete foundation, you will also have to secure it. Hooking your shipping container to the foundation might help.

Step 5 – Preparing the container

Almost all the tiny houses utilize used shipping containers for modification as they are budget-friendly. Such containers require some form of repair to increase their life. You will have to get rid of any rust and dents before beginning container modification. This will remove all the weak elements from your structure and a strong, durable metal will be left behind. You must also clear out any clogged water from the roof of your container at this step. More info on preparing your container here!

Step 6 – Sourcing doors and windows

Before proceeding further, you are required to select doors and windows for your tiny house. Selecting the right size and type as per your design is recommended here. Larger windows will bring in more light while smaller ones look visually pretty and save energy. Similarly, full-length doors are modern looking and bring in much-needed natural light to your tiny house. So, choose your doors and windows wisely.

Step 7 – Cutting out all the openings

Once you have a clean and rust-free container, you shall start with the cutting process. Doors, windows, and vents are required to be cut out of the container. You will, first, have to mark the portions that are required to be removed. The tiny house design prepared during the planning stage will help you here. Markings shall match with the dimensions of the doors and windows selected by you. Since the cutting of metal cannot be undone, be 100% sure of your markings before you run the welding torch.

Step 8 – Welding the doors and windows

The cutting process is followed by the welding of doors and windows to the shipping container. Ensure to fit your doors and windows properly so that there are no gaps left. You must also seal all the openings to make your house watertight. This helps to keep your tiny house secured from all environmental elements.

shipping container home insulation material

Step 9 – Adding insulation

Keeping an appropriate temperature inside your house is essential for comfortable living. Also, the metal containers are affected by the outside temperature much more than the traditional structures. Therefore, you must add insulation to the outside walls of the container. You can add it in the form of insulating panels or spray foam. More on how to insulate the shipping container here!

Step 10 – Adding walls and partitions

Once you have the basic structure ready with insulation, you need to cover the container walls and create partitions. Timber claddings can be used to beautify the interiors of your tiny house. Also, you will have to form partitions for the bathroom, kitchen, and living space. These partitions depend on your house design created during the planning stage. You can optionally add panels to your outside walls too.

Step 11 – Home installations and flooring

Since you have a structure ready, you can move ahead with installations in your tiny house. Fixtures like bathroom, electrical, and kitchen fittings shall be installed. You shall add appropriate flooring with adequate provision for preventing the occurrence of moisture. All openings shall be sealed at this point to make your home airtight and watertight.

Step 12 – Painting the entire tiny house

The next step takes us to the painting aspect of this project. You will be required to paint the entire house inside out for protecting it. Three coats of paint are used on the container walls to make these walls moisture-proof. Even if you have kept the outside walls natural, you must paint them to prevent corrosion. Choose an upper coat of your choice to add the desired color to your container house.

Step 13 – Adding furniture

With your tiny house being floored and painted, you shall consider adding furniture to it. As you decided to go for a tiny living, it is wiser to keep your home furniture to the minimum. Also, the functionality of every piece of furniture will be of great importance here. Multi-functional furniture is the best for tiny houses made out of shipping containers. Choosing a sofa-cum bed instead of a bed or office table with storage drawers is some such example.

Step 14 – Add an outdoor deck

As the space offered by a container house is too less inside, it is appropriate to add an outdoor deck. This adds great value to your life. Add a wooden deck and some outdoor furniture for creating a comfortable outdoor sitting space. You can also consider adding a portable fireplace here. Landscape your surroundings with beautiful flowers and small plants. Some people also love the idea of growing herbs and veggies around their house. This provides you with homemade organic food free of any chemicals.

Final Thoughts on How to Convert a Shipping Container to a Tiny House

Converting a shipping container into a tiny home is a unique experience. Along with providing benefits to our planet, these homes offer a lot many benefits to us as well. With a tiny container home, you can save money and spend it on other useful things than housing. Also, the process of creating a container home involves less hassle than the traditional building process. So, if you too resonate with a tiny living lifestyle, the above steps will be extremely useful for you. This is the most basic plan for modifying a shipping container making it very easy to follow.

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