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!

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.



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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

Cargo-worthy containers can handle being stacked

Cargo-worthy containers can handle being stacked

Inside a refrigerator/insulated container

Inside a refrigerator/insulated container

Open-top 40' container has a tarp roof

Open-top 40' container has a tarp roof

20' open side container opens on one full 20' side of container

20' open side container opens on one full 20' side of container

40' office and storage

40' office and storage