Property Design: Container Homes – Part One

There has certainly been quite a lot of publicity recently on containers used for temporary homes for immigrants
arriving in Europe. But making a home out of a container is not something new and designs and ideas for
container homes can be found all over. Samui Phangan Real Estate Magazine takes a closer look at what this
is all about.
Many people are taking to the interesting option of building a home or even office out of a shipping container.

Container homes might seem to be small for some but by stacking or using multiple containers together your
home could be anything but tiny. There is a huge choice of designs for homes and normally using a container
will be much more financially reasonable than building a home from scratch. Depending on the type of build
using a container could mean your home would be classed as a temporary build and therefore fall into some
easier categories with building regulations. But please do your research properly as so many areas vary on their
government regulations.

How To Build A Shipping Container Home?

First thing to do before you even think of buying container is to decide on your home design. Containers come
in five lengths of 8 to 40 foot and that’s 2.5 to 12m respectively for those working in metric. You need to figure
out how much space you want and if multiples of containers are used will they just be lined up or stacked. Apart
from your wallet the only real limit is your imagination.

Consult An Engineer
Normally the outside framework of a good container is so strong that removing walls is not a concern at all but
if multiple containers are used especially stacked or structural components are taken out then advice should
be sought from an engineer.

Buying your container

There are too many places to buy containers to list them here, but a quick search on the net will turn up more
than you need. Buying them locally will allow you to inspect them before you buy, which is critical when looking
for used containers. Shipping containers have shipping licenses which expire after a certain time. Containers
that are near the end of their shipping life can be then bought up at a very reasonable price. But again a personal
inspection would be much advised as used containers are mostly still well intact but there are those that have
been sitting in some yard for years and should be left alone. For a reasonable container still in good condition
expect to pay around $2,000, but shop around and also do not forget that you will need to transport your
container to your building site. It will need a crane to load it onto a truck and then the truck journey and another
crane to unload. If your container is far away your transport and load cost could well exceed your buying price
so be careful. Often if you’re buying it from a company that has transport too make sure you lock them into a
delivery with the price. In Europe most container trucks come with capable cranes to unload but this is sadly
rare in Thailand.

Container Foundation
A foundation can range anywhere from some concrete or wooden supports on the ground for a single container
all the way up to a full basement for multiple containers. Your decision will need to consider both what is
structurally required and your own personal preferences. If you decide on some type of poured concrete
foundation, then you should plan on embedding steel plates into the concrete where the container corner blocks
will rest. This will allow the containers to be welded directly to the concrete foundation. If you need a cheap
and easy do-it-yourself foundation, piers are probably the best choice. They also have much less impact on
the site if that is important to you.

Putting the Container in Place
The easiest way to place shipping containers on your foundation is with a crane. I have seen a lot of different
methods on the web, but nothing beats the ease, speed, and safety of a crane. The large 40ft container actually
weighs (empty) 4 metric tons, this is actually not much for a crane and the smallest cranes can easily complete
this task.

In the next issue, we will look at connecting containers, insulation and what should be noted when actually fitting
out your container for your home design.