Conex buildings are the hallmarks of architectural recycling. These are Intermodal Steel Building Units , or ISBUs , that are reused as structures for any place and for any purpose. Be it a home , a studio , a port or a palace , shipping containers are inexpensive and durable buildings for residential , commercial and even industrial use.
First , let’s get inspired by some of the benefits of having a storage tank as a home:
• They are extremely easy to build into a home. Storage containers usually stand superior in the face of building codes.
• Properly insulated , they can make for a warm and cozy home in the winter. There are also effective ways at making them resistant to excessive heat.
• Since they are originally built for transport , they can be easily moved when they need to be.
• They can withstand practically any extreme weather , such as hurricanes , tornadoes and earthquakes. Standing alone , an ISBU can handle 100 mile per hour winds. Securely anchored , it can take winds up to 175 miles per hour. You can also rest assured that it will never collapse during an earthquake. By far , they make for the safest storm shelters.
ISBUs are made of 100 percent Corten Steel , and there are a range of different sizes for them. However , the popular choice for shipping container houses are former sea containers that come in two standard sizes:
• 20 feet long , 8 feet wide and 8 feet tall , equaling to 160 square feet.
• 40 feet long , 8 feet wide and 8 feet tall , equaling to 320 square feet.
Alone , these can be suited as a tiny house. Even so , some people put multiple containers together for a bigger house. Others have even built entire commercial marine ports out of shipping containers , as well as big company headquarters , student housing and homeless shelters.
Cost and Prices
For a used 20-footer in good condition , the cost can range anywhere from $1,400 to $2,800. A 40 foot shipping container will cost $3,500 to $4,500.
There are also a growing number of manufacturers that are designing prefabricated shipping container houses for $15,000 and up. Bigger shipping container homes cost as much as $215,000 , which is still only a fraction of the price of some conventional homes.
Turning a Storage Container into a Livable Space
Shipping container house plans are relatively simple to build. They go up in almost no time at all and are built to last – forever. They are , in fact , storage containers designed to hold up to 57,000 pounds. There is a good amount of preparation , construction and tune-up projects necessary for turning a shipping container into a home. This includes setting a foundation , cutting frames for doors and windows , insulating , installing utilities and adding a roof and flooring.
Building a Foundation
There are essentially three types of foundations: a traditional concrete block , a crawl space and a basement. Factors that influence this decision are the overall shipping container home plans and design , water tables , soil type , climate , presence of radon , type of bedrock and the entire shipping container cost.
In this sense , the foundation follows the same protocol as building a conventional home. Although usually mandatory for building codes , it is possible to forgo a foundation in some areas.
Cutting Frames for Doors and Windows
It sounds easy enough , but how do you cut through the extremely thick and heavy steel? This is an important detail , and there are three possible options: Cutting disk , Reciprocating saw , and Plasma cutter.
Simply applying a closed-cell foam layer to the inside and outside walls of the building will work wonders for insulating against most problems of heat , cold and moisture.
Hot climates , or at least hot summers , might require reflective paint on the outside of the building. A “cool roof” coating helps reflect the sun’s UV rays and prevents too much heat gain.
Supertherm and NASA-type ceramic-based spray paints are the other option. They are cheaper than foam and leave more welcome room in an already compacted living space. They work well because the adhere strongly to metal.
These paints inhibit mold , mildew and rust from forming on the building. After several layers of application , ceramic paint can provide for very substantial insulation.
This is similar to installing utilities in any conventional home. Plumbing is usually restricted to one , two or three locations. Gas can go to the kitchen , the water heater and maybe a vented fireplace. Often , wiring runs behind dry wall and below the flooring.
Installing A Roof
One advantage of a shipping container is that it already comes equipped with super-strength and weather-tight roof and walls. However , the tank was initially designed for storage , and the roof is not the best fixed structure when two or more containers are joined. This is because the water run-off design of a single container is negated by that extra join. Water begins to build up on the roof and serious corrosion can occur.
In only a matter of hours , a conventional hip roof can be installed by metal straps , welding and clamps. The advantages of this are better water run-off , potential rain harvest , solar heat reflection and extra shade over the doors and windows.
Shipping containers already come with ½ inch plywood floor. One thing about this , however , is the hazardous chemicals that the plywood is treated with , such as insecticides , fungicides and preservatives. Many studies conducted on this subject have confirmed that these chemicals are harmful to humans. They are easily transferred to anything touching the floor.
For a shipping container home plan , it is a good idea to either remove and replace the floor or cover the existing floor with an industrial epoxy or polyurethane paint. Otherwise , an epoxy or polyurethane coating completely seals the chemicals and off-gassing into the floor.