Converting an ISO Shipping Container into a Livable and Safe Home

One of our readers – Craig from Maine – suggested this excellent, thought provoking video. Maybe some readers want to incorporate a shipping container in their earthbag home or use one for a shop/toolshed. I’m much more of a carpenter type person than a welder/metal worker and so I don’t cover shipping container homes very often. (Plus, the cost tends to be higher than the alternatives I prefer.)

7 thoughts on “Converting an ISO Shipping Container into a Livable and Safe Home”

  1. Roof: I’m thinking of a canvas or other waterproof material that is pulled taught at one end, but left to sag at the other. thus, water will create it own focal drain at one end, where I stick the barrel. It will also be ‘break away’ so that hurricanes don’t destroy the roof. I just have to go find it… It doesn’t weigh enough to do damage, and is cheap to replace if damaged or can’t be found after high winds.

    I had one positive meeting with the building nazis, but they have ignored me since…

  2. I saw this cabin design a few years back. They still like large, open spaces, which is a luxury a tiny house cannot afford. My local guvthugs seem open to the idea of a compound house made of cans. The sawdust toilet and the solar rainwater distiller, not so much…

    I’m wondering about back-filling with scoria. The interlocking nature of the porous stuff should result in little pressure on the walls. But will the pores fill in and eventually defeat the idea or become less self-supporting and compress the walls? Plants taking root, wind-blown particulates building up over time… :-/

    • Scoria insulated buildings work great. I use this technique on lots of my designs. Bern the scoria up against the sides of the containers so water will readily drain away. Add 1-2 layers of polyethylene sheeting on top (about 6″ below the grass) to keep out dirt and roots, and at least one layer against the structure for added moisture protection.

      Consider adding a roof to container houses in rainy climates.

  3. The art of the possible. Shipping containers are much more ‘acceptable’ to my local guvthugs. I’m working on a compound house concept with them that I never would have been able to approach with earth bags or straw bales. It may cost ‘more,’ but doing nothing is free, so that isn’t a useful comparison. Besides, the labor on earth bags requires at least a small group to pull off in a reasonable time frame. A can is instantaneous shelter. Need more room? Drop another can. No mortgage for the growing family, no remodeling, no add-ons, none of that outrageously overpriced crapola. Even if you have to buy the cans brand-new, it’s still an order of magnitude cheaper than the destructive, wasteful, McMansion death-trap we are otherwise forced to buy. But, that’s not what your blog is called, eh? ;-) If the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem tends to look like a nail. If the only tool you’re ALLOWED to have is a hammer, ingenuity and an open mind become very valuable.


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