Sunday, November 18, 2012

Questions From Mike (planning to build container house)

I recently received questions from Mike about building a container house.  His questions and my answers follow:

1.  What was your estimated price per sq. foot total?  I estimate I spent $100-$120 per square foot.  The reason I do not know exactly is that I have never gone back and added it all back up.  I had a contractor who did the work.  If you contracted it yourself, you could possibly save some there.  My contractor was worth every penny though, because he knew things I did not.  Nevertheless, had I had the time, I believe I could have done some of it more cost effectively.

2.  How much did you pay for each 40' container?   Almost three years ago, I paid $2,500 per (45') container delivered to the site, but not including the crane to set them on the foundation.  I used three containers, side by side. Container prices vary with supply and demand and who you buy them from. 

3.  Roof Trusses, any problems?  Roof trusses were no issue.  The building supply place orders them to your specs, delivers to site, and never touches them.  You can see the original plan on the blog.  I had some extra corrugated Quonset hut material I planned to use, but the engineering was going to cost so much to get it to code, it was not worth using.  The combined cost of the trusses and the metal roof were less than the engineering necessary to make the salvage material work (see #4).  Also, I think I got a better roof with the truss and metal design.   The beauty of using the trusses is that I not only have insulation inside, but have blown in insulation in the attic space created by the trusses.  Better planning could have saved me some money.  For example, it cost appx $1k or more to get a crane to the site each time.  I brought one in to unload the containers off the truck and on to the foundation.  Had it been a slab foundation, I could have had the containers delivered on a roll off unit and avoided the crane.  I'm not sure how I could have done it, but if the trusses were there at the time the containers arrive, you could use the same crane to set both.  Again, it is a planning process, which I did not do nearly as well as I could have.

4.  Any budget costs you would mind sharing?  My goal starting out was to build a house for $50 per square foot.  It was the first time I had built a container house, and the first time the county building inspector had encountered one in our county.  An inspector may be, but is probably not an engineer.  There are regional building codes that many counties subscribe to.  If the inspector can find your design in the standard book, there is virtually no question of acceptance.  If he cannot find your concept in the book, he will require a professional engineer (PE) to submit the design and sign off on it.  That has liability implications for the engineer, so he will over design it, and he will charge you professional fees (like a lawyer or doctor) to certify your design.    The foundations was tremendously overdesigned.  I believe I could stack three containers high on the foundation I have, and be totally stable and safe.   Since the engineer did not have any experience with containers, he had no clue what cutting some of the walls out might do to the structural integrity of the container.  Therefore, he put a block foundation under every inch of every side of each container.  The foundation cost $6k.  I think a slab or piers would have been fine.  Either would have been cheaper, but the piers would get the containers up so HVAC, wiring and plumbing could be underneath (as my foundation did for my building).  All that would have to be put in or under a slab design.  The engineering for using the Quonset pieces was going to cost $6k and the material for tin and trusses was $5k.   

Another thing I really was enthusiastic about was re-using  as much building material as I could.  Habitat's Re-Store supplied my kitchen cabinets, toilets, bathroom sink, kitchen sink, all exterior doors, some interior doors, dishwasher, washing machines, etc. (new windows and tubs).  When you are using salvage material and using a contractor, you have to balance the figuring/thinking time of the contractor to adapt the used article, against the ease and familiarity of the contractor with installing new stuff with complete directions included. 

5. How many sq. ft heated/cooled?  There are 1,080 sq. ft. heated and cooled.  The porch is additional (16' wide and appx. 30' long).

Added comments: You did not ask, but I used an architect who was very interested in my project.  He was very flexible.  I could tell him my idea and he could translate it to working drawings quickly.  I could sit for an hour and try to figure out how to lay out the bathroom.  He could scratch it out in ten minutes and it would be exactly what I wanted.  If I were building again, I suspect I would put two containers side by side and stack two on top.  My house is 1,080 with three (45' not 40') containers.  Four 45' containers would give you 1,440 square feet and  four 40' containers would give you 1,280 square feet.  You would have to calculate the extra cost of the longer containers for the space gained.  I believe that if you have to have your foundation engineered, the smaller foundation footprint would pay.  Additionally, you do not need the porch foundation to be as substantial as the rest of the house.  Mine are all the same.  As much as I have complained about the cost, though, I think I could take a direct hurricane hit, and possibly a direct tornado hit and not lose the house (only the roof).  Since I did not let the contractor penetrate the top of the container, and sealed each container to the other, I could lose the roof and still not leak.  Also, no matter what, get the high-cube containers whether they are 40' or 45'.  The extra height allows you to frame it out and still have a roomy feel that height gives you.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Changing Colors

Progress is slow but it is progress.  I am painting the house with a light green paint to which I have added the silicon NASA beads.  http://www.hytechsales.com/  They are advertised as a similar product used on the space shuttle to coat the heat shield tiles.  The house is looking less and less like containers and more like a house.  One friend though, said this picture made it look like a mobile home.  I have framed all the windows with treated lumber and am waiting for them to age some before staining.  After a year, I am still pleased with the house, and would love to try another one.  At this point, I just do not have an excuse to build another house!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Living In A Container House


Living Porch


The container house has been home for four months now.  We are still working inside and things move slowly.  This week we got rid of the last of the construction debris.  Several weeks ago, we cleared the porch of building material.  I have been pleased with the power bills.  The tankless instant water heater works well as it has for me in another house. 

 

Bookshelf in Den

Entrance From Inside


Guest Bath With Mirror in Antique Frame

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Moved In

Contruction was not finished, but we moved in December 11, 2010.  I noticed that date is 12.11.10.  I was curious and just looked back to see if we started on 11.10.09, but it was a few days earlier than that.  I noticed on Curt's container blog that he got too busy to post to the blog.  The same has happened to me.  Nevertheless, we are in and find the house comfortable.  I am finishing details as I go.  I have been working inside due to the weather and wanting to get moved out of the mobile home where I had been living.  The outside still looks like a construction site. 
Breakfast Bar and Lights
In a rush to make decisions in the kitchen, we moved the bar.  After the fact, we realized the light placements were no longer over the bar.  We built these fixtures from salvaged copper tubing and ceiling fan lamp holders.  They are missing the globes.






Thursday, November 25, 2010

Coming To The End

11/25/10 Thanksgiving Day!  While not much has changed as far as a picture could show, lots of work has been going on.  The HVAC unit has been installed.  Insulation has been blown in the attic space. Toilets and sinks have been set.  Plastic placed under the house and secured to the foundation walls (non-ventilated foundation).  The old container floors have been sanded and urethene is being painted on this week.  As best I can tell, the floors are mahoghany plywood and have finished up nicely.  The kitchen is complete except for the gas range hich I am waiting to find on sale. We have received our final inspection and are waiting for the certificate of occupancy to arrive in the mail.  I plan to begin moving in next week (God willing and the creek don't rise).    This is about it unless someone has questions. john@marmacwire.com.



Bidet and toilet (both salvaged). Floor and toilet surrond marble.  I was shocked to find after purchsing the marble that it was "made in China".  Too late to take it back.

Mahogony Plywood Floors (gouges from freight being dragged out)

Salvage cabinets and sink from Habitat for Humanity ReStore. Dishwasher salavaged from relative's remodle.  Range hood new.  Countertops new from Lowe's delaminated during installation and got full credit.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Wainscoting and Sheetrock

9/23/10 Waincoting is from wood we had sawed roughly ten years ago.  It was from 125 year old, 125' tall pines.  It has been air drying since then.  We sawed it to length, planed it, and grooved each edge to provide for overlap.  My brother Thomas helped me do the planing and my wife Mary Jane helped me install it.  Smith Drywall is doing the sheetrock installation.  Smith has found the sheetrocking to be a little more difficult due to issues of extra height and it being a converted shipping container.  We still have to finish the ceilings of the porches, blow the isulation on top of the containers (1' in addition to the 4" inside), HVAC installation, floor sanding, install cabinets and kitchen, marble on bathroom floor, doors and trim inside, and probably more than I have thought of.

Moving Forward Again !!

9/23/10 It has been a while since I last posted.  We seemed to be stalled and there was really nothing to post.  Electrical and plumbing work is done mostly in the walls and under the floor and does not make for great pictures.  The tankless/instant water heater has been installed along with the propane tank.  I was adamant that we not pierce the roof of the containers any more than necessary, so we used through-the-wall, house-trailer bathroom vents.   Now that the wiring and pipes are in, the insulation and sheet rock could go up.  Progress is more visible as you can see in the pictures.  We continue to comply with Chesterfield County building codes and meet our regular inspections.  We hope to have a final inspection before the start date anniversary. 



Thursday, June 17, 2010

Roof and Gable Coverings In Place

The metal roof is now in place.  This view shows the covered entry.  The space for the covered entry was made available due to extending one container eight feet beyond the other two.  This placement makes for a more interesting layout but increased the cost of the foundation and the truss placement.  There are a number of things I learned that have increased the cost that could be avoided in the future to reduce cost.  I will attempt to make a list of those items in a later post.

This view shows the opposite end of the house.  To the left is an open space under roof to be used as a carport.  Beyond this space is the screened porch.  To the right of the open space and to the left of the center container is a small private porch which is accessed from the master bedroom.    I do not plan to put any additional covering on the outside of the house.  It will be painted a consistent color to blend it all together. 

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Change Of Plans

If you noticed that there was no plan for roof trusses in the original drawings, you have just seen evidence of the unstable process of building an unconventional building.  I had originally planned to use salvaged material intended for the walls of a metal quanset hut to form the porch roof.  It would have been so expensive to get it engineered to comply with code, that we made the decision to go with a conventional roofing system using new material.  The roof covering will be Galvalume 5V metal (tin), attched with screws.

Roof Trusses

The prefabricated roof trusses took very little time to install.  Mac Pfifer is the framing contractor and with his crew and the help of a boom truck, placed all trusses in one morning.  It took them the rest of the day and the following morning to tie it all down and tie it all together.  This view shows the vaulted ceiling shape of the screened porch.  The space from which the picture is taken will be the carport.
There is no real front or back to the house.  There is a primary entry on one corner, but the screened porch is designed to be a living area and is contiguous to the kitchen, dining area, and den.  The roof extends over the entry porch.  We plan to leave the container doors in place (second container to the right), to be closed for security when the house is locked.  When not in use, the container doors will be opened against the adjacent containers.  Storm/security shutters may be installed over the windows using the cutouts from the window holes.  This may happen later depending on money and schedule.