Foundation Plans

The foundation is one of the few things that I needed to get professional help in designing.  I wanted to make sure it was done correctly and safely, especially when the internal walls were going to be completely removed.  After looking high and low for an engineer that could help me with shipping container construction, I found George Runkle at Runkle Consulting, Inc.  He has a lot of experience in this area, and has even developed his own computer programs to analyze the structural integrity of shipping containers when they are modified. These programs were specifically used on my cabin to spec out the steel box beams that would be welded to the top of the cabin for support when the walls were cut out.

Proposed cabin foundation

Proposed cabin foundation

The first foundation George designed was a series of piers to support all of the container corner blocks.  Each pier had a metal plate on top with welded rebar embedded into the concrete pier.  When the container was set into place on the foundation, the corner blocks could be welded to the metal plates.  This would definitely be the most cost effective foundation, and would also be the easiest for the do-it-yourselfer to build.  In fact, most of the container cabins you see online use some sort of pier foundation.  Unfortunately, I really don’t like the look of pier foundations, and have actually had some trouble with them in the past.

Final cabin foundation

Final cabin foundation

I then asked him for a foundation with 1′ thick walls in the front and back to support the containers.  To me at least, this was much more aesthetically pleasing, and gave the cabin a more substantial and rugged appearance.  I also have the option to easily enclose the foundation with treated plywood on the sides if I ever wish to.  This could give me a bit more storage space protected from the weather if I ever need it.

The two center piers are to support the floors when the four inside walls are completely removed.  The piers are 6-8 inches below the height of the outside walls, and will be shimmed with treated lumber to the correct height when the containers are in place.  The top of the containers will be reinforced with two 6″x3″x20′ steel box beams welded to the containers.

final cabin foundation in SketchUp

final cabin foundation in SketchUp

8 thoughts on “Foundation Plans

  1. Jeff

    Hi Steve,

    You have an awesome site and I check back often to see the progress you have made on your cabin. I was wanting to design a home for myself and a lot of the steps you have gone through will also apply to my plans.

    I am in the phase now of trying to assemble the overall costs associated with such a project and was wondering how much these foundation plans cost you (if you don’t mind sharing). Did the firm charge by the hour or was it a flat fee?

    Thanks, -Jeff

    Reply
    1. Steve Post author

      Jeff:

      My foundation and roof reinforcement plans were a flat fee of a few hundred dollars. My design was a simple one, and I’m sure cost is commensurate with complexity. What matters most is if you are removing any structural components from the containers. If I wouldn’t have needed the roof reinforcement, I probably could have just figured something out with my foundation contractor.

      Steve

      Reply
  2. Jr

    Hi Steve,
    I am planning to make something similar to your house, but is possible to take advantage of your foundation space to have a garage under your containers whithout any other additional one.
    Thanks, Jr

    Reply
    1. Steve Post author

      Jr:

      I think it’s a great idea as long as you don’t mind having to walk up a flight of stairs to get into your cabin. I have actually seen this done with containers, but I can’t find the picture of it on the net anymore. If you build it, be sure to send me a picture.

      Steve

      Reply
  3. Danny

    I am a RE Investor that just purchased my first container to build out. I have some generic questions.

    Can i build it out in 1 location and then move it to its final location? I don’t want to break any windows or sheetrock on the move. Does that normally happen?
    Danny

    Reply
    1. Steve Post author

      Danny:

      I know someone who made a transportable single container cabin, and he was able to move it quite a distance without the drywall cracking or any windows breaking. That being said, there’s always a chance for damage depending on the road conditions and loading/unloading method.

      Steve

      Reply
    1. Steve Post author

      Alexandra:

      I was aware that he stopped designing for individuals, but my posts are more of a historical record so I haven’t changed them. Maybe I should though, as I’m sure a lot of these requests have come from my blog.

      His post is a good read though and makes many of the same arguments I do in my post The Shipping Container Cabin in Perspective. For some reason there’s a lot of unrealistic expectations out there when it comes to building with containers. It’s definitely not for the cheap, or faint of heart.

      Steve

      Reply

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