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is this legal, can i build a house from shipping containers

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posted on Jul, 6 2008 @ 12:52 PM
I'm thinking to get an acre or so away from the crowded cities,
but I'm looking for the cheapest house I can build, but thats legal
and liveable.

I saw this article that explains how to build a house from shipping
containers. Is this legal? would the housing authorities permit it?
I understand it could get really hot inthe
summer, but cutting in lots of windows and fans should make that

It would be so cool to build a nice sized house for less than $10,000.00
a great part is you can live in it while you fix it up, you know the
structure is there allready, you can also put wood siding on the outside
or stucco to make it look like a real house.
do you think it could work?
would it be strong enough?
if not, any ideas what is the cheapest liveable type of house to build?

posted on Jul, 6 2008 @ 01:08 PM
You probably need a permit to "build" anything as in construct over a certain size depending where it is though, out in the middle of nowhere probably no one cares less.
You would be allowed to put shipping containers on your own land and do pretty much whatever you want with them.Except construct anything as that would probably require a permit.
But the answer is yes you can do this many have done it for $10000 you will get maybe 10 containers and stacking them up and side by side cutting entrances putting ventilation air conditioning heating decking them out you could make a nice house.

[edit on 6-7-2008 by Being_From_Earth]

posted on Jul, 6 2008 @ 01:24 PM
I saw a news story about that several months ago that talked about building houses with shipping containers. It was pretty interesting and yes it seems to be perfectly legal.

Another thing that's interesting is building dirt houses. They're supposedly very eco-friendly and cheap to build. Here's a link to a website that features some homes made with rammed earth:

There's other websites on the topic of dirt homes as well.

In a sit-X where homes are destroyed, I would think the shipping containers might hold up better.

posted on Jul, 6 2008 @ 01:45 PM
You can build a house out of anything you like on your own property, and as long as it adheres to your building codes.

If you are intending to live completely off-grid and you are far enough away from any adjoining property boundaries you may well be ok, but I would draw up an 'outline planning permission' with some basic construction drawings and include location on the plot of land, property boundaries, and location of neighbouring properties and get a friendly planning officer or architect to cast their eyes over what you intend to build, as they will be able to spot any legal/utility/structural/construction issues and related building regs that you may run foul of

Here in the UK at least, the building regs are complex to say the least for a standard permanent building, but as shipping containers are by their nature self-contained units you may be able to claim them as being 'temporary structures' and therefore less likely to be rejected by formal planning offices should an application be required

If you are intending to connect to any of the grid-services such as gas/elec/water/sewage you may have a few problems with regards to those respective regulations and certain building safety standards will need to be looked at and approved by the utility provider's engineers before they connect you

[edit on 6-7-2008 by citizen smith]

posted on Jul, 6 2008 @ 03:05 PM
As the others posted, it all depends on where you intend on putting these things. Chances are that if you live within city limits you will run into some trouble if you want a modernized home (ie- water/sewer/elec).

Here in interior Alaska people build homes out of anything and everything, I have even seen the cargo containers you speak of being used to live in. Depending on where you live, it would be just as easy to build your home out of logs. Sure, the hippies get upset but I am not real concerned about that group.

posted on Jul, 6 2008 @ 04:00 PM
I was watching xmen 2 the other night. Wolf had an F250 with a homemade cabin built on the bed. Pulling a trailer with a 250 honda. Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck (my favorite author of all time) had a decked out ride similar. I'd like being mobile in sit x. Don't need much. Sat internet with a battery array would be cool. Would require small generator. When to hot to sleep in, camp out.

posted on Jul, 6 2008 @ 04:06 PM
It depends on what you are after.

Building permits adn the like as a pain in the butt, but they do help ensure your home is being built in a safe manner.

On the other hand its hardly covert. A shipping container is not all that hard to outfit, but will it offer any sort of protection? If anything I would bury a shipping container to use as underground storage (It will keep things cool) and can be a passable emergency shelter if sealed up etc.

posted on Jul, 6 2008 @ 04:23 PM
I agree FredT. Shipping containers would be first thing screaming Auntie Em in a tornado.
Now built into a hill? Now you got something, plus natural cooling.

posted on Jul, 7 2008 @ 12:53 PM
The author of the article is wrong about the size of a shipping container. He may very well have the dimensions right, but he quotes the size as 2261 square feet. Wrong. It may have an interior volume of 2261 cubic feet, but the floor size based on the dimesions given will only be a little over 300 square feet. So in order to compare to an average sized home, you're going to need 6 or 7 of them.

Otherwise, yes, its probably legal in most areas to do this. But at the same time, I think you'd probably have a whole lot less hassle buying a used, late model mobile home. It'll be 'livable' the minute you buy it and probably won't be all that much more expensive once you factor in all of the costs necessary to make that container possible to live in. And if you really want to go dirt cheap, you can probably find a used travel trailer in good condition for well under $10,000.

[edit on 7-7-2008 by vor78]

posted on Jul, 7 2008 @ 12:58 PM
reply to post by josephine

Interesting OP, Josephine...

Here's a link to a story about a woman in Hepburn, Australia who is making a large home out of 12 containers...

Hope this is of interest


posted on Jul, 7 2008 @ 06:05 PM
reply to post by jpm1602

Actually they are pretty darn heavy. Much heavier than a conventional stick frame house or mobile home. Depending on where it's made, the floors could be 3 inch lumber or 1.5 plywood. They are 1/4 steel at least on the siding and the frames are at least 3/8 thick. We used them in the military as mobile offices often. We painted one white in the desert and it was 25-30 degrees cooler than the outside normally. 3 together arranged in a u-shaped pattern would make a fine little living arrangement..

posted on Jul, 11 2008 @ 10:07 AM
I saw a news report about how california has way to many shipping freighters that they want to use for housing, well they wanted to build with them, so I'm sure you could purchase them or get them for free, and you should be able to build with them. Good luck.

posted on Jul, 11 2008 @ 12:19 PM
Think about it,it would be unbearable to live in,during the summer would be like living in an oven,then during the winter would be like putting a sleeping bag into a refridgerator,you could spend all sorts of money on insulation but to no avail

posted on Jul, 11 2008 @ 12:51 PM
if one had access to 'Free' shipping containers, it would be worth thinking about. If your thinking of stacking/bundeling 6-10 containers for under $10k...forget about it.

If you had in your possession that many free containers, I would take you $10k just to get the fundamental-primitive utilities into the vacant space.

as another said... get a used mobile home, pull it to the site and in 24 hrs you've got your bungaloo.

I lived in a $1,500. former job-site Office trailer for 3 years as i constructed the primary residence (phase 1 of 3 phases)
then sold the same revamped Office trailer for the $1,500 i invested to begin with
I only wish i had had access to enough dirt/soil to make my own 'Adobe' structure, but i sure was not going to have the material trucked in, soi had to have a typical frame construction and used cedar and cyprus for the total exterior (except chimneys)

good luck on your projects

posted on Jul, 11 2008 @ 01:23 PM
For info purposes only! It has been seen that someone dug out a hillside one weekend. The next Saturday bright and early a used container arrived and was prombtly placed in said hole. Plumbing was already laid. Rubber pond liner was placed over top and then entire unit was backfilled with gravel for drainage. A very conspicuous group of pine trees appeared in front of all this, and by Monday A.M. the only visible sign was new landscaping hiding what was once an ugly hillside.
It can be done and has. A good improvised "storage shelter". No permits. No inspections. No neighbors to even know it is there.



p.s. check out the simple survival wesite.

posted on Jul, 11 2008 @ 02:53 PM
In many locales, if your structure is on wheels it doesn't fall under local ordinance. Perhaps worthwhile checking that out.

Here are some links I found helpful:

Shipping Container Housing

On the Treehugger website: Shipping containers

fabprefab website: shipping containers

Sounding a slightly different note, this blog has information regarding construction techniques that are very helpful, especially new plumbing materials from Sweden that are exceptional.

I hope some of these are helpful to those interested in questions around shipping container housing.

Also, from Sweden, one may wish to keep an eye on this wind power source as it is much less conspicuous than windmills in the sky.

[edit on 11/7/08 by Pellevoisin]

posted on Sep, 24 2008 @ 04:17 PM
I just saw this on CNN. they are using these in New Mexico.

Shipping container houses

posted on Sep, 24 2008 @ 04:36 PM
You will need to be in compliance with the Standard Building Code (formerly Southern Building Code), NEC - electrical, and zoning codes, as well as provide a leech field and/or septic as required by your area. There's really nothing wrong with building with shipping containers -- with a few caveats:

We deal with 40-yard containers down here a LOT, as 90% of our supplies and building materials arrive via barge and shipping containers. They're often used as storage sheds. Since they have a flat roof, it's often advisable to build a slight-pitched gable roof over them; the metal roofs rust and once it starts, it gets profound very quickly. The fiberglass roofed containers get fragged by the UV. For fiberglass, that can be coated with rolled-on catelyzed gelcoat and that will give it a long life.

To me the worst thing about shipping containers is that they have no insulation. I help a buddy cut windows into one for him to use as a workshop, and even with the main doors and windows (including one window in the opposite end from the doors) it is HOT inside that thang. Of course, we're closer to the equator than you in California. Once we built a gable roof, that cooled it considerably, and we shot on white paint on the exterior and that made a profound difference.

To be in compliance with building codes, you'll need to form and pour a reinforced foundation -- every bit as stable and sizable as for a house. You may be able to get away with not pouring a pad, but at minimum you'll need to have concrete structural supports/beams across each container ............. I can't recall exactly, but every 10 feet comes to mind.

Most of the containers I've seen have a wooden floor. It's stout wood (1 1/2" lumber) but in most cases is not pressure-treated wood. I would seriously consider having a pest control operator treat the underside with Permethrin, as well as soak it into the edges and the topside. I don't know if you are plagued by Formosan Subterranean Termites there, but they're not worth screwing with.

That said, I think if you built a foundation and a stem wall, you could have a really cool hidey-space beneath the container(s). Another possible manner of construction that I've considered before is to take two containers, set them on foundations (through bolted, of course) about 20 - 30 feet apart and frame across them both. You could end up with a really open space in between, with your basic household functions (bathroom, kitchen) kind of modular in the containers.

Well, good luck with this....... we can buy used containers here for about $3-5,000, so don't get suckered into overpaying. I'd suggest you find out what each kind available to you is made of, and pay attention to the roof and floor. You'll probably need to cut an acess door, or else you'll have to sleep with the huge doors open at night .......... of course, you could always remove them, or pin them back and make a porch.

I think you can save some serious money and have an excellent and strong structure, but you'll need to really plan it all out carefully. You can get a copy of the NEC and SBC at your library, and it might save a bundle of time to pay an architect or planner to draw your plans if that's not one of your skills.

Good luck!


posted on Sep, 24 2008 @ 04:45 PM
reply to post by vor78

That's correct. 320 sq. feet footprint, most of them. If a person set them 20 feet apart and framed across them (with a continguous poured pad undearneath) they'd have 1440 sq. feet, or thereabouts. We live in an 850 sq. foot masonry home, and I wouldn't want to have any more than that to clean. ha

posted on Sep, 24 2008 @ 04:49 PM

Originally posted by josephine

if not, any ideas what is the cheapest liveable type of house to build?

There used to be these Mormons out of Texas, Monolithic Dome Constructors, mid 1990s they were saying you could build a house (FOOT-THICK CONCRETE WALLS - survive hurricane, SWAT team, Mad Max etc.) for $4000 after you took one of their workshops to learn how...and they had a good rep in my extended group...
Now I don't know if these are the same people, but anyway this is the type of structure, it's a real deal, it's good:


I want to build one out in the Utah desert here, a couple of jumps down the road...

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