This was kind of a disappointment for me. I had arranged to have the internal walls removed with a plasma cutter, but there was a problem. The welder I hired could not find a large enough generator that could produce clean power for his plasma cutter, so he just showed up with cutting torches instead. I really wanted to have the clean cuts a plasma cutter makes for both the cabin interior and the resulting leftover steel panels. I’m not going to complain too much since his fee was very reasonable, and I really did not want to do this myself. In the end it probably doesn’t matter since everything that was cut will be covered up in some way.
The open interior.
Another interior shot.
A view of my recently plowed field to the south.
My understanding is that the strength of the container comes from the frame and not the wall. I might have been possible to cut the walls out before trucking them out to the site. Maybe you would have had to leave small corner triangles reduce flex but you would have had better access to power the plasma cutter.
Just a thought.
I encourage you to read Structural Considerations for Architects on the Runkle Consulting Inc. website. In it he states:
“When You Remove the Sides, the Container Looses Strength: If you take the sides off of a container, the bottom rail has very little strength left; it will only span about 10’ on its own. The top rail has basically zero strength, it will sag under its own weight. To counter this, we have to do a number of things to reinforce the bottom and top rails. It’s not a big issue, but in some cases it may be necessary to place beams under the bottom rails, since there is very little room for reinforcement on the sides of these rails when you place containers side to side. ”
In the big scheme of things it wasn’t too big of a deal to have the walls torch cut. Everything will be covered up anyways, and I’m still trying to find a use for the panels that were cut out. Maybe when scrap steel prices go up I can sell them for a few bucks.
I’m in the early stages of designing my container home, and I came up with a potential solution to using the removed walls. I want to have windows and a side door in my home, but like you, the security of solid side walls appeals to me. I’ve been considering compromise by mounting the removed walls on hinges over the remaining side walls.
Most of the time, they will be raised and supported my columns, forming awnings where we can enjoy sun and rain protection and relax outdoors. At night, they can be folded down and locked in place, making the building look, at first glance, like a pair of ordinary containers.
I’m not yet sure how practical this design would be, but it’s something I’m kicking around.
There’s a container house/cabin out there, although I don’t have the link to it, that had an entire side wall cut out and then hinged to let it fold down. They use a winch to fold it back up for security. It might be possible to do the opposite and fold it up as an awning, although a full metal wall is pretty heavy. Either way it would give you a lot of window and door space to work with.
That’s what I plan to do. 10, 15 or 20 foot wall cut out (40 foot container) that drops to create a deck. Winches shut for security, and use lexan plexiglass in windows the length of the cut out with sliding door access to the deck.
When deciding where window/door are to be placed, consideration should be given for emergency egress should a fire start.
That l8nk did not work. Can you repost it?
Here’s the website with the cabin with the folding down walls:
I hadn’t seen that one before and it does look nice. This is also being done with shipping containers and you can see and example at Ecopods.
thank you for such an informative article, I need to join two containers together, I am wondering if you removed the two inner posts at front, if so what reinforcements did you make
I basically need a 3 sided box from two containers without front posts
I did not remove any of the posts from my containers. The only parts I removed were the corrugated walls between the containers. i was trying to keep my build as simple as possible without a lot of structural reworking.
Great job on your containers. Female Veteran here, who has spent many months deployed in all types of container configurations. But of course wasn’t paying attention to construction details.
I am attempting to get nearly 3Ksqft of clear floor space. Like 8-40ftrs. For the top and bottom beams/seams at length what did you reinforce with what is your ideal suggestion?
I am so not qualified to advise on structural reinforcement. You will need to hire a qualified engineer to design any and all reinforcement. Unfortunately the man I hired to design my cabin does not do shipping container work anymore.
Shay have you found any info on installing beams or pillars after removal of container wall or if necessary at all? I feel like if been to the end of the web twice without a clear answer.
Architecturally speaking the load limit of a wall-less frame requires a support, either wood or steel beam, over, under or between frame structures. My plan includes using steel i-beam where compatible with design where a wall is completely removed.
You may have missed the posts elsewhere in this blog, but my cabin has two 6″x3″x1/4″ steel box beams that are 18′ 7″ in length that are welded on top of the containers above the cut out walls.
Thank you very much for your website. I have learned a lot. I am planning to build the foundation of my container homes this summer in northwest Washington where the ground is sandy. It is an ocean front property which I got for a great deal.
Anyway, I just need some clarifications. Your reply to one of the readers stated “You may have missed the posts elsewhere in this blog, but my cabin has two 6″x3″x1/4″ steel box beams that are 18′ 7″ in length that are welded on top of the containers above the cut out walls.”
I plan to cut out 20′ middle section of a 40′ container. When you welded the steel box beams to the top of the container, where they parallel to the cut or cross-wise from the cut? Why didn’t you just put vertical support posts to the areas where you cut it instead of welding it on the top roof?
Again, thanks for your posts. I really learned a lot.
The box beams run parallel to the container length, directly above the cut out walls. You can see the box beam in the following pic: http://www.tincancabin.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/Roof8.jpg
I could have used vertical support posts, but I didn’t want to lose the openness of my floor plan. The other issue with support posts is that they would have transferred any roof loads to the lower container box beams which would then need to be reinforced themselves – there’s no such thing as a free lunch. I do have a single support point for each lower box beam as part of my foundation, but I’m not sure if a single support point would work in your situation. In any case, I always recommend getting a qualified engineer to calculate the required reinforcement and support for modified shipping containers.
Thanks for your informative blog. I’m planning on a single, 40 ft high cube container house. I would like to make 3 fairly standard sized windows on one side, spaced evenly, and for the other side, two windows and one sliding glass door (6’8″ tall, 6′ wide), plus one small window at the far end opposite the doors. Do you think I need reinforcing beams for these cut-outs? I’d probably only have solar panels on the roof, but probably will need to walk on the roof. Thanks for your help! Celia
Additional interior framing may be required for you sliding door. Added vertical studs or possibly steel columns built into the wall at each side of sliding door. Once again, hire a licensed structural engineer to guarantee it meets building requirements.