Frequently Asked Questions

How much will it cost?

I figure it will cost about $80/sq ft when complete and with furnishings. If I would have done everything myself, built with used containers, and used piers for the foundation, it would probably be more like $60/sq ft.

Keep in mind that these costs are for a cabin and not a house. My heating system is a wood stove, there is no air conditioning, indoor plumbing will be VERY limited, and I doubt it would meet code for a permanent residence. Costs for a real home built with shipping containers would be much higher.

How does cutting the walls affect the structural integrity of the roof?

Removing walls from a shipping container will severely impact the structural integrity of the container. Before my walls were removed, I had two 6″x3″x1/4″x19′ steel box beams welded the entire length of the containers. If you look at the pictures in my Raising the Roof post, you can see the box beams in place under the roof. My beams were specifically chosen for my design by George Runkle of Runkle Consulting. I would recommend that you speak with him before attempting to remove your walls. Snow loads, roof design, etc. can have a dramatic effect on the size and placement of any reinforcement.

Can you share a little more detail about how the containers are attached together?

The containers were first held tightly together using come-alongs – see my The Containers Arrive post for a picture of this.  The containers were then welded together at each of the contacting corner fittings, and each bottom corner fitting was welded to a steel plate that was embedded into the concrete foundation.

I was told by someone who has claimed to have been an expert on these, said in no uncertain terms to remove the original floors. He said the treatment used for the plywood is toxic and will give off toxic fumes.

He is correct in that virtually all shipping container plywood floors have been treated with toxic chemicals. He is incorrect in that not all treatment chemicals give off toxic fumes. To give off fumes, a chemical needs to have a significant enough vapor pressure to evaporate into the surrounding air. There are several different types of treatment chemicals used in shipping containers today, and we can find out exactly what they used by looking on the container data plate.

I was fortunate in that my container floors were were treated with Radaleum FHP-60 which has virtually no vapor pressure and therefore virtually no fumes. I could probably have used the floors as is, but I wanted to be extra careful so I encapsulated them with an industrial epoxy. The epoxy coating not only creates a physical barrier from the treatment chemicals, but it also will prevent any significant amount of vapors, if they are even present, from passing through.

Keep in mind that I did not make this decision lightly, and that I spent a great deal of time investigating it. I am also not unaware of the risks involved as I have a masters degree in Environmental & Public Health and also have considerable industrial experience with hazardous air pollutants – I wasn’t always a computer programmer. The important thing is to consider each container separately and do your own research.

I encourage you to read my post The Floor Dilemma where I discussed this exact issue in much greater detail.

Are you worried you could be locked inside?

No. When the doors are first unlocked, I re-lock the padlock onto the eye of the left door locking mechanism. With the padlock in place, the right hand door cannot be closed without the lock being cut off. The doors will also be secured in the open position with cutouts into the rafters that are fastened with a latch. IF I ever felt the need for more security, each individual door handle could have a lock attached to prevent the rods from locking into place – a total of 15 locks. To try to close the doors with these measures in place would take some time and be quite loud.

Another interesting thing related to this is that I have excellent cell phone reception inside my shipping containers – even with the external doors closed (I actually tried it once). I never expected to get any reception inside the containers, and yet I do. So, even if I did get locked up, I would still be able to make a phone call.