Today's blog is written by a Super Cubes' customer from Northeast Minnesota.  I was so excited to see pictures of the final product that I asked him to share how he made his beautiful container shed.  We talked about using Super Cubes kits for the doors and windows, but he made the right call to do it himself with much more beautiful options that he found himself. Check out the slideshow at the bottom of the post for more pictures.

We purchased a 20’ one-trip container from Super Cubes, with the idea to convert it into a shed for garden implements, seasonal storage (swapping bicycles for a snow-blower), lumber, and camping and rec gear. We initially sketched out some plans for a new shed and interviewed several contractors to build what we wanted. But it seemed none of them had a very good idea about how to build something functional yet interesting to look at, and then we hit upon the idea of converting a used shipping container. It turns out our house is sort of box-like, on several levels — much in the style of Frank Lloyd Wright — including a vertical board-and-batten exterior, so a container not only provided a bomb-proof, ready-made basic unit, but it had built in the vertical lines that could complement the house. All we had to do was get it to the property and start cutting in some windows and a door.

Super Cubes made it very easy for us to ‘pick out’ the right container even without making a visit by providing good photos of a container that Julia had picked out for us. That was very helpful and we avoided a special trip to the Twin Cities. Unfortunately, we live a couple of hours away from the Cities and had to make some special delivery plans. We hired a local auto transport company that has a flat-bed truck with a tilt bed and winch. They made the trip down to Super Cubes and picked up our pre-purchased container without a hitch.

The truck arrived on schedule, backed up a rather steep driveway, and maneuvered into place. The container was going to be set on an area of relatively flat grass at the top of the driveway and next to the house with a separation of about 8 feet. Before the truck arrived, I had laid out the right position with string and pegs. I wanted the container to be parallel with the house line, so measured out the rectangular ‘footprint’ of the container very carefully and marked it with string. Because the ground was not quite level, I also used the string lines and a level to show me where the ground had to be cut away slightly in order for the container to sit flat. 

The last thing to do was to make a foundation. Because the area drains well, I decided to use wooden blocks at each corner. The loads in the container would not be great with our contents, so I figured the container structure itself would be sound. Using 2” x 12” stock of treated lumber, I cut 12” x 12” squares, and then stacked them in the four corners, using the appropriate number in each corner to make the final foundation level.

The next trick was for the delivery driver to land the container on the pre-positioned wooden corner blocks. Working only with the pneumatic lift of the bed and the winch, he slowly slid the container exactly onto the wooden corner blocks, occasionally laying some lumber underneath to provide support while he made ‘adjustments’ in the position. In the end, the container had come to rest just where I wanted it! He was rightly proud of his ability to land the container within what seemed a millimeter of the planned position.

So then, just to make some modifications. We decided we wanted one ‘man-door’ in the side for easy day-to-day entry, plus a couple of windows. We also wanted a roof with a substantial eave to complement the house design, and we wanted to roof to have a gentle pitch to shed water (we collect rain water for gardens). We did hire a contractor to make the structural modifications, and I did the finish trim and painting. 

To make the roof, we designed a conventional wooden frame like you would use to support a deck — 2” x 6” joists on 18” centers, covered by plywood sheathing and then poly-rubber membrane. The frame was simply glued to the container using construction-grade cement in order to avoid penetrating the container with bolt-holes. The area is fairly protected by trees, so we don’t expect much wind load. A proper eave, fascia and drip edge were included, as well as venting in the eaves to allow air circulation into the roof structure. We did not insulate the roof because the shed will be un-heated.

Next came the door and windows. We got a great deal on some Anderson windows that were on sale — vinyl-clad, thermal pane, with screens and easy latching — so simply ordered the sizes we wanted. One facing the driveway, which you see most of the time, has a vertical orientation and we offset it to one side to give a little dynamic look. This was planned for the fixed end of the container. The other window was placed on a side at the end near the container doors to provide light and cross-ventilation. Then we ordered a door finished in fiberglass and primed for paint. 

All we had to do was get some frames made for the windows and doors, cut some openings, and weld in the frames. Easy, right? I marked out where we wanted the openings with painter’s tape. We hired a local fabricator to make steel frames out of 2” square stock and measured to fit the window and door opening specs. We had to use the 2” dimension because of the ‘corrugations’ in the container walls. With the finished frames in hand, the contractor marked the openings to be cut and did the job with a heavy-duty hand-held circular metal saw. Sparks were flying! Welding in the frames seemed to take no time at all. Once the steel frames were secure, I primed all the bare metal for later finish painting. Now it was just a matter of mounting the windows and door into their frames using screws and construction glue, and then finishing off with some trim to make them look good. The welded frames are barely visible and the welds are clean so it all looks great.

Once all of the ‘additions’ were done, it was just a matter of painting. I stripped off all of the container markings (except for the metal certification plaques, which look cool), sanded down rough spots, and primed a few knicks. I used a paint sprayer to cover the original container finish, after masking off all of the door hinges and shackles, rubber seals, vents, and the new door and windows. Because I was going to paint to match the house, I decided on a latex final coat. This meant I had to lay down a coat of primer first so the latex would adhere to the container finish. So altogether, I sprayed down three coats — a primer base, and two finish coats. Then all the eaves, fascia, brick mold, and window/door trim by brush. Whew.

The final step was to landscape around the container and enjoy! My wife is an amazing gardener, creating natural landscapes and mini-environments with native plants, so we put in a combination of perennial beds and landscaping mulch to set off the container and also provide some paths for high-traffic areas. It looks really nice!

Viola! Not quite instant with all of these steps over some period of time and the passage of several seasons, but we have a custom shed that has all the features we wanted, it has relieved space in the garage, and it looks like it belongs with the house. 

Thank you Super Cubes!

Posted
AuthorSuper Cubes LLC

Here is a video of #5.

Today we're going to look at container homes.  I get a lot of calls about these and I realized it is time for more inspirational ideas!  Today we're going to look at 5 different container home projects that couldn't be more different!  There aren't any pictures on this page, but if you click on the red links, you will get a TON of pictures.

1) A high-end container home for sale in DenverThis container home is up for sale, according to cubed.com. This 3-bedroom, open-floor plan container home shows off what can be with a container home.  It also shows that you really do get what you pay for.  With an asking price of $749,000, clearly containers did not make this high-end home cheap.

2) 2 Private residences built from containers on top of a gallery and garageInhabitat.com reported on this 14-container duplex.  The top level resident has a rooftop patio and the other one that is directly over the gallery has a walk-out patio.  The open floor plan lets in tons of light and has an overall open feel to it.  One question I have is if that ceramic insulation paint is working. I get a lot of interest in it, but I have yet to have a project where we use it or hear if anyone else has had any luck with it.  If you have, please comment below!

3) A new container development in Detroit7 years in the making, containerized apartments in Detroit are a reality, according to mlive.com. The first building has two condos in it - am 1800sq ft 2 bed/2 bath and a 1000 sq ft 1 bed/1 bath.  However there are plans for more sizes and configurations.  Pricing will vary from $150,000-350,000, again showing that containers do not mean that the house is being built for free. It is just a different building material.

4) YMCA-sponsored studio suites for weekly rental in the UK. The Guardian report on a 10-unit structure built to address the need for affordable housing in Walthamstow. The first units rented for about $110/week to help lower income residents live in the high-rent area and also secure employment.  The Guardian report, "Each unit has a bed, storage space, cooking  and ensuite facilities."

5) Miniature apartments made from containers inside a warehouse in San Francisco Bay Area.  Bloomberg News reports that one man is converting warehouse space into smaller apartments by outfitting containers placed inside the warehouse. Luke Iseman is trying to create a business out of this idea, which he is calling cargotopia.  The containers have a shower, a bed and the most rudimentary kitchen and residents share bathrooms.  While this may not sound ideal to many, the Bay Area's median rent is $4,272, according to the linked article. All the suddent that camp stove doesn't sound quite so bad.

These examples show how containers are flexible from high-end architecture to repeatable designs for lower-cost housing.  What I like about all of these examples are that the designers worked with the containers. They didn't make them into something they are not, but worked to make the most of the containers. 

Please note we do not do any design work, but we have these posts to help people interested in container houses to get ideas to bring to their architects and structural engineers. 

Do you have an example of a container house to share?

 

Posted
AuthorSuper Cubes LLC

Roll-up doors go together with containers like peanut butter and jelly.  Containers come with two swing doors on one short end of the container, but often that simply isn't enough.  Many people need to access the container from multiple points or don't want to deal with tight container doors that can sometimes require a bit of strength to open or close.  (Although if you're having problems with that, check out our hints from this post.) One easy solution is to add a roll-up door onto the container.

Roll-up doors come in various widths - 4', 5', 6', 7', 8', 9' wide.  They can be made to fit a standard 8'6" high standard container or a 9'6" high-cube container.  This means there is pretty much a door to fit whatever you want to do with the container.  One popular spot to put a container is in the opposite end of the container from the container doors.  This allows access from either end, so nothing is too far from the door.  Also, the corner posts make a great foundation for putting the door tracks onto the container.

We have roll-up door kits so you can add a roll-up door on your own.  We also can add roll-ups in various shops we have located throughout the US.

If a roll-up isn't exactly what you want, we also have man-doors and barn-door kits.  Check out here for man-doors and here for barn-doors.

Here are some pictures of roll-up doors to show you some possibilities.