Thursday, February 14, 2019

On shipping container homes

A lot of press has been given to the notion that, due to the structure already existing in a shipping container, that they are an ideal candidate for making small, affordable homes.  What is true is that they do keep out the elements, and that they are relatively affordable--you'll pay somewhere between $2000 and $6000 for a 40' long, 8' wide container. 

That noted, take a look at the below video to see why shipping containers really won't become the housing type of the future.  While the below is smarter than most tiny homes, not having a dedicated set of wheels below it, the builder ends up using some fairly specialized cutting tools to add doors and windows, and then ends up framing it in with standard 2x4 framing, reducing the home in size by about a foot in length and width. 

In other words, what he got for that $2k-6k was essentially siding, shingles, and...a likely horrendous water vapor issue.  Keep in mind that the outside of a shipping container keeps water out and in for a ~30 day transit by sea.  However, siding and Tyvek on a standard home are designed to let water vapor out to prevent mold in the walls.

To fix that, you've got to add another $1000 or so to upgrade standard fiberglass batting to closed cell foam.  In other words, the ~ $1000 he would have spent on shingles and siding is now replaced by $3000-$7000 for the container and specialized insulation. 

Worse yet, to get ~ 230 square feet of home, he's got an extra 30% of wall area (heat loss), a flat roof (water leakage again), and a choice of either a very low ceiling or low insulation in the attic--where it matters most.  There are great ways to make a compact home, but this isn't one of them.


elspeth said...

Our 23-year-old rather likes the idea herself, even WITH an additional few thousand to mitigate against some of the stuff you mentioned.

They way she figures it (and she has more than enough cash to do it, fix it up, and still not be broke), it's an ideal place for a single person or even a childless couple to live rent/mortgage free for a while until kids come. She doesn't know why we need so much space.

Disclosure: She is a minimalist at heart, and not particularly enamored with the surplus post modern way of life. She's rather do without for herself in order to have more later when she needs it to provide for her kids.

But I think it takes a special mindset to live in a shipping container home.

Bike Bubba said...

:^) That steel siding/roofing might be useful for those little storms that come to y'all from time to time off the Gulf of Mexico. You could even use the spare steel for shutters to close in such cases. Maybe consult a friend with a civil engineering degree?

(also a minimalist at heart, but I just don't see the "modified trailer" as necessarily as minimalist as other options)