We have written before that containers can be buried for a root cellar or storm shelter. Click here for previous posts and videos. However, rarely do we get a picture of our warnings coming scarily true. In a recent story out of Florida, the police found a container buried under shed. Floridians don’t normally have basements, so this was unusual in itself. However, this was one looks like it was not built to last. The container was not properly braced on the outside or over the roof, so the container is collapsing. We cannot stress enough the importance of making sure that you properly brace your container and take your local geology into consideration.
Doorway into the collapsing container
Have you buried a container? Post your pictures or tell us about it! Thinking about burying a container – tell us more about it!
Pre-made 10-person tornado shelter from www.stormsheltersonline.com
Already this year we have seen devastating tornados. With the unusual winter and now early spring, forecasts call for a record number of storms and tornados. Many people in storm-prone areas are looking to protect themselves. Maybe you are one of them. A storm shelter seems like a good idea. But what kind? Do you install it yourself? How big does it need to be? Where should you put it? How much work do you want to put into it? Let’s explore some of those questions today.
First off, I am not storm shelter expert. But I do know containers. Secondly, let me say that containers are not the answer for everyone.
What kind of storm shelter should get you get? Ultimately, only you know what is right for you. But there are several basic types to choose from. There are pre-made, underground tornado shelters. There are storm shelters that are pre-made that you install above ground in your house, outside or other locations. There are containers which you can modify and prep to function as a storm shelter.
Above ground shelter from www.crestprecastconcrete.com
You will want to look at what kind of storms you have. What works best for that? If you get hurricanes, going underground is a bad idea. If you live in a very flat area that gets hit by tornadoes regularly and live in a mobile home, perhaps underground is a better option. Ask around locally for advice. See if any of your neighbors have some. See what they recommend.
What size should you get? How many people do you need to accommodate? Most pre-made storm shelters will tell you how many people they can comfortably hold. Containers are generally larger than pre-made shelters, so might work if you have a larger group.
Where should you put it? This goes back to what kind of storms you have and also what kind of terrain you have. If you live in an area where there are no basements, that might be because going underground doesn’t work very well. If you have a hill and want to put the container into the hill, that might be a great solution, but check into what kind of soil you are working with. You want to make sure you are tailoring your solution to your land and your situation. What works for someone in another state may or may not work for you.
Underground shipping container, for more details see http://tinyhouseblog.com/tiny-house-video/shipping-container-as-an-underground-shelter/
How much work do you want to put into installing your storm shelter? If the answer is little to none, then you may want to consider a pre-made shelter and use their installation services. Some pre-made shelters offer various options where you can do some customization yourself or install it yourself. For those of you who like to do your own customized project start to end, then containers might be the answer for you. Containers do require more prep, more planning and more work than pre-made shelters. For information on how to convert a container into a storm shelter, check out our previous blog posts on this topic, Click here. You will want to make sure you have an engineer inspect your designs before starting.
The bottom line is that you have to find the solution that works best for you. Of course you need to take into consideration your budget and local zoning as well. One website that asks a lot of good questions is TornadoProject.com. Check them out for more questions to ask yourself. Make sure you choose the best option for your needs, your area and your land as well. But above all, please stay safe during severe weather.
You have used containers at work or during building a home. You love to hunt. You don’t have a cabin on your land. Enter – the connex box. Drop a container on your land, add in a door and some windows and you have a perfect hunting retreat. Whether it is just a basic spot to base camp, or a complete man-cave, conex boxes offer all the flexibility and ruggedness to be a perfect hunting cabin.
You can insulate them, add in heat (or cooling, or both), add in features that make the cabin perfect for you. It might be the ultimate get-away cabin for the guys or it might be a snug, welcoming place to bring your kids and grandchildren to teach them how to hunt.
Here is a series of my new favorite hunting cabin. I got these by email from a colleague. If you know anything more about this cabin, please let me know!
So you want a container. You know it needs to be insulated, but what exactly will fit your needs? Containers come in two styles – standard shipping container and refrigerator (reefer) containers. Here are some general rules of thumb that might be helpful.
1) Refrigerator containers are ideal when you need to store items at a particular temperature year round and you have a power source to run the container. They are considerably more expensive than standard containers, which may play a role in your decision-making.
Inside refrigerator container
2) If you are storing general items, the standard containers are great. Standard containers are used around the world, year round for transporting the vast majority goods manufactured year round.
3) If you are modifying the container, standard containers are much preferred to refrigerator containers. Refrigerator containers have loose insulation between two walls, which makes modifications a huge headache. Also, if you are using the container for living space, you will be very disappointed with a refrigerator container floor. They are grooved to drain any liquid away from items being stored. While that is great if the container isn’t plugged in and you are storing ice cream. It is not as great if you want to live in the container.
Inside used 40'
One other consideration for those who are modifying containers – if you plan on adding electricity or plumbing, you will want to insulate the container once you have added those and done all your modifications.
If you still have questions about which is the right one for you, please call us and we can discuss your needs further.
Taking a cargo container and turning it into something else – living quarters, emergency relief shelters/centers, storm shelters, etc, is a very popular idea. You can picture what you want it to look like in the end, but how do you get started on your project?
Inside a refrigerator/insulated container
1) Standard or Insulated/refrigerated? Containers come in either standard steel box or insulated/refrigerated box. In order to pick the best one for you, think about what you are going to do with it. If you are going to modify it (add doors, windows, or any other cut outs), then steer clear of the refrigerated/insulated containers. They are difficult to modify due to the loose insulation in between the container walls. Standard steel containers can easily be framed and insulated to provide the necessary insulation once your other modifications are done.
Cargo-worthy containers can handle being stacked
2) Shipping overseas or not? If you are shipping the container overseas, then you will want to plan your modifications accordingly. Containers that are being shipped on cargo ships must be cargo-worthy or sea-worthy, meaning they are structurally sound enough to handle having other container stacked on top of them. If you cut up a container, you reduce the structural integrity of the container, so you want to make sure you are keeping that in mind with your plans, or plan on modifying the container once it arrives at its destination.
Open-top 40' container has a tarp roof
3) Is there a container already designed for your need? There are specialty containers – containers without a top or with removable steel top, 20’ containers with doors that open the full 20’ side of the container or flat-racks, containers that have no long walls or roofs. While these containers are generally more expensive than standard containers, you may find that they fit your need so well; it is worth the extra money. However, be warned that some of these containers are not all that plentiful, so you may also end up paying for shipping long distances.
20' open side container opens on one full 20' side of container
4) How complicated is your design? If you are planning on creating a home or living quarters complete with electric and plumbing, stacked containers or other complications, be sure to get an architect or engineer involved. Even though containers make great building blocks, you are still creating a living space that needs to be safe and up to code. They may up with structural issues you have not considered which can save you headaches down the line.
5) Are you doing to modify the container yourself or have it done? Containers are easy to modify yourself if you have the right tools. Primarily, it requires a cutter and welding tools and the know-how to go with them. Kits are available for adding on basic additions like doors, windows, AC/heat, skylights, etc.
40' office and storage
If you don’t want the hassle of doing the work, have it done for you by a qualified container shop. Then your container can arrive ready to go (or at least part-way there) depending on what your plans entail.
Containers are incredibly flexible building blocks. Let your imagination loose to come up with fun ideas. Share them with us! Or share pictures of projects you have already done to inspire others!
The most common request I get with containers is to modify them – add doors, windows, partitions, etc; followed closely by people who want to turn them into storm shelters or root cellars by burying them. Now, I have covered these issues in the past, but it never hurts to revisit the basics.
Modifications. Containers are great building blocks. You can use them as is, or you can simply cut a few holes and add a few modifications and you can drastically change the purpose of a container. Extra doors and windows are the most common modifications, but some people get very fancy and will build homes out of them.
AC Heat Kit with cage
We can help you with your modifications in two ways: 1) have your container provider modify them for you; or 2) purchase a kit so you can modify it yourself. Modification costs and options will vary depending where in the country you are located. In some locations you can get electric work installed, in others that has to be done after the purchase. Kits are another great for adding doors, windows, AC/heat, skylights, partitions, etc. Specialty kits are available as well if you already have a feature you want added on, but just need a frame to install it.
Storm shelters/root cellars. This is a very common use for containers. People either bury them completely in the ground or put them into a hill. There are pros and cons to either option. Not the least of which is if you have a hill handy! Some things to keep in mind when creating your storm shelter/root cellar is 1) to protect the container from the elements, 2) to protect the container structurally,3) to follow local zoning.
Protect your container from the elements. This can be adding a protective moisture barrier and providing proper drainage so your container isn’t sitting in an underground puddle. Also, protect your container structurally. They are designed to bear enormous weight on the four corners of the container, not directly into the wall and roof of the container. Please keep in mind local zoning rules may also dictate how you install your storm shelter/root celler.
For a video of how one person solved these issues, watch this video:
For more detailed information on both of these topics, also see our previous posts:
Farmers, as a group, have some of the largest storage needs of everyone. Equipment, livestock, feed, grain, not to mention all the other stuff and toys that seems to accumulate on a farm! Containers are a great addition to a farm because they can grow with your needs. Containers can:
Provide insect- and rodent-proof storage for hay and grain
Provide dry storage for equipment
Offer extra storage space without the hassle of getting another building approved for your property
Be moved from location to location as your needs change
Have holes sections out and put out in pastures as shade for livestock
The sky is the limit! Wind and water tight containers provide a unique solution to keep items free from pests and moisture and those larger nuisances – like trespassers, pesky teenagers, etc.
Even storage for those out of the way places
Whether you have a large farm or just a hobby farm, we’re asking – What are you using containers for? How would you like to use one? If you have one, did you modify yours? Here’s a great chance to share with others.
You have a great idea. You are going to transform a cargo container into your workshop, cabin or home. You can visualize what it will look like. But before you start cutting up a container, here is some information on how containers are made to make sure you are making the most out of your container.
Exploded view of container
Design - Containers are designed to filled, then stacked on ships, then removed. Containers hold all their weight in the floor of the container and the four corner posts. Those corner posts are what the cranes connect to when moving full containers around. These corner posts are slightly higher than the roof and slightly lower than the floor of the container.
What this means for you – When you stack containers, make sure that you always have corner posts resting on corner posts. If you can’t do this, make sure those corner posts have extra support. Also, do not remove these corner posts unless you have designed to support the container in another way.
Corrugated walls and roof
Walls and Roofs
Design – Containers are made of corrugated steel. The walls and roofs are made of the same material. The walls support the roof of the container.
What this means for you – You can cut holes for doors and windows in the side of containers. But just make sure you don’t remove the whole side of a container without providing support for the roof. Also, the roof is not strong enough to handle heavy loads. If you are planning on burying the container or making a balcony on top of a container, make sure you create a platform that distributes the weight back to the four corner posts.
Design – Container doors are attached to corner posts.
What this means to you – They work well they way they are designed. If you want a different type of entry, add extra doors on the other 3 sides of the container.
Design – Standard containers are made of corten steel and are not insulated. Refrigerator containers are steel containers with insulation and an interior wall added onto the container. The insulation used is loose between the walls. Also, refrigerated/insulated containers are generally sold with cooling units still included.
Inside refrigerated container
What this means to you – If you are looking for a container that is insulated, the first big question to ask yourself is if you are going to modify the container further. If you are, the standard containers will be much easier to work with. Once you cut into an insulated container, you will have a mess on your hands and the insulation will be reduced. Instead, go with a standard container, make your modifications to suit your needs and then frame the container like you would a traditional home. You will lose the same amount of container width as you would with a refrigerated container, but will skip a large headache.
For more questions on do-it-yourself modifications, please call us!
Edit: Please note that Super Cubes does not recommend burying containers without work with an engineer to ensure your container remains structurally sound when in place and complies with your local zoning. Also, please test buried containers for radon.
Here’s your idea: Get a steel container and bury it as a root cellar, storm shelter, or both. You have the land. Now you need a plan. Here are the 5 things you need to consider to make your container cellar or shelter a reality:
1) Zoning. Are there any state, county, or city zoning laws that would restrict where or how you bury a container? This may vary depending on where you are, what the ground is like in your area, and how far into the ground you want to go. You can go the range from buried underground, nestled into a hill or embedding the container just far enough into the ground to be secure. Either way, zoning rules may apply. Start with a quick search of your city and county websites, then follow up with phone calls to offices listed on the sites. Take notes on the calls—and as decisions are made, “get it in writing” if you can.
2) Placement. Is your plan to bury the container completely? Just far enough that a tornado won’t send it to Oz? In working out placement details, be sure to think through how you will use your container. If it will be a root cellar, will you build your container into a hill with steps and a door? If it will be an underground storm shelter, how will you provide access in and out? Keep in mind that the more deeply a container is buried, the greater the planning.
3) Structure. If you will bury your container, even partially, how will you ensure that it withstands the pressure of earth? Containers were made not to be buried, but to be stacked on a ship. Only the four corner posts of a container are load bearing, with the sides strong enough to support only the roof. You’ll need to plan on building a retaining wall around the container location. Be sure to include drainage so that heavy rains won’t leave your container submerged in water. If your cellar or shelter calls for completely covering your container’s roof, you’ll also need to build a platform to push all the weight to the 4 corner posts (products are on the market to do this). Never simply bury a container or it will collapse.
4) Moisture. Containers are wind and water tight, but think about how you will prep your buried container against earthen moisture. The container floor has treated plywood on steel cross-members. You will want to seal under the floor—and probably will want to set it on a cement slab foundation. In addition, you will need to seal your container with roofing tar, plastic tarps, or truck bedliners (such as RhinoLinings). A little research will help you find the most cost-effective solution for your container use and location.
5) Ventilation. If you’re turning your container into a storm shelter, you’ll want to make sure it will have good ventilation and air flow for the people who will use it. You’ll also want to add an extra door—ideally a man-door with a panic bar so it can be opened safely from inside and so that no one can be accidentally locked in.
For an example of one being installed, see this video. They approached some of the issues listed above a little differently, but it still provides some great ideas. It appears that they put the container in an area with solid rock, so the rock walls provided the support that most people would have to build in place.
Once you have your container cellar or shelter in place, the rest is pretty easy—making sure your root cellar has the right humidity level for vegetables or that your shelter is outfitted to work well as a storm refuge. If you’re just beginning to start your cellar or shelter project, please keep in mind that SuperCubes offers a variety of kits to help you modify your container—and we’re always happy to provide friendly advice as well.