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Old 10-12-2012, 09:44 PM   #1
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I am embarking on the process of building a home for myself (and possibly a few other people in the future). After spending a while looking at the possibilities, I've settled on purchasing a piece of land and using shipping containers for the structure of the home itself. This seems to be an advantageous solution as a standard container runs in the neighborhood of $2,500 and can easily be fitted and welded together to create a sound structure.

I do have experience with stick welding and basic home repairs and I'm very at-home with tools but I've never built a home or a structure. What I'm wondering is what other considerations I need to take into account for the project.

The home will be build in the city of Los Angeles, I know I need to look up the building code requirements but I'm not entirely sure where I'd go to get these. I've been running into the problem of simply not being able to find the building codes (or someone who would know them) that apply to this sort of application. I realize I also need hookups for sewage, water, electricity, and internet but I'm not sure how I'd go about finding out that process.

Anything else that should be accounted for and other advice would be welcomed.


Thank you in advance.

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Last edited by Helo; 10-12-2012 at 10:01 PM.
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Old 10-12-2012, 10:13 PM   #2
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Good luck with this wild eyed idea.
If you Google container home you will see lots of other people that have built homes and garages with containers.
Unless you can find someone with cash it's not likly a bank would ever lend the money to build one.
Good luck even trying to get a building permit to build one in LA.
About all you "saving" is the framing cost on a home of the same sq. footage, which would have been almost as much as to spent to buy, plus the delivery charge.
Then your facing the nightmare if trying to side, insulate and roof it.
Even if you got them for free there's just a whole lot more involved in making one a home then just building one yourself or buying a prefab house.

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Old 10-12-2012, 10:19 PM   #3
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A 40' High Cube in decent shape costs between $2-3,000. I'd probably get four as I dont need much space.

The land is relatively inexpensive if I can pick up something that has an undesireable feature on it for others such as a structure that is unusable, has burned down, or a plethora of junk on it.

I can do the vast majority of the welding and cutting myself and I live close to the port of Los Angeles, one of the busiest ports in the world. Closed cell spray-on insulation is readily avalilible and usable outdoors.

The major expenses will be buying the land and paying for an electrician to do the eletrical and a plummer to do the plumming. Both of which I could probably do if I studied the process enough, but I'd rather pay someone else to do it right the first time.

What part of this exactly is so impossible?
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Old 10-12-2012, 10:39 PM   #4
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You mentioned you have never built a home before, do you have the cash to pay for all of the work to be done for you?
No bank is going to lend money for any first time home builder even on a conventional home.
You need to spend a whole lot more time doing research before spending a dime.
Land, septic system or sewer hook up cost, site work, slab work, plumbers cost Plumbing need to be in place before the slab is pored), permits, Temperary power pole, welding rod, (better get some prices on spray foam the price will shock you) Trusses, sheathing, shingles, siding, doors, windows, ect. ect.
And all more expencive to do because of it being a steel building.
Get on some of the web sites I suggested and ask them some of the hoops they had to go trough.
Some ideas look good on paper but just are not worth it in real life.
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Old 10-12-2012, 11:03 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joecaption View Post
You mentioned you have never built a home before, do you have the cash to pay for all of the work to be done for you?
No bank is going to lend money for any first time home builder even on a conventional home.
I have an inherentence that will cover some of the expense and savings that should cover the rest. Granted that's based on rough numbers at the moment.

Quote:
You need to spend a whole lot more time doing research before spending a dime.
Hence why I'm here.

Quote:
Land, septic system or sewer hook up cost, site work, slab work, plumbers cost Plumbing need to be in place before the slab is pored), permits, Temperary power pole, welding rod, (better get some prices on spray foam the price will shock you) Trusses, sheathing, shingles, siding, doors, windows, ect. ect.
And all more expencive to do because of it being a steel building.
Get on some of the web sites I suggested and ask them some of the hoops they had to go trough.
Some ideas look good on paper but just are not worth it in real life.
This is a viable idea, its been done many times before by other people. A brief websearch turns up hundreds of projects but they almost NEVER include any of the technical information one needs to undertake the project of their own.

Contacting the builders generally doesnt work out because they often just plunked the money down to have a contractor build it for them.

I'm here as part of the research.
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Old 10-21-2012, 03:34 AM   #6
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No one else has anything on this at all? No one here has experience with alternative construction?
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Old 10-24-2012, 09:10 PM   #7
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You can possibly find copies of the building code at a public library.
All big cities are very particular about building plans and code, but I expect that L.A. is an earthquake zone and they will be particularly picky, so before the county issues a building permit, I expect you are going to need to submit a full set of plans that are signed off by a profesional engineer licensed in the state of California.

So step 1 would be find a P.Eng to design this home for you.
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Old 10-28-2012, 10:35 PM   #8
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how big are the containers on average?
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Old 11-17-2012, 11:51 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Helo View Post
No one else has anything on this at all? No one here has experience with alternative construction?
While I don't have any direct experience with container homes, I do have a friend who used them to make a hunting "lodge".

Ventilation can be an issue with shipping continers. My friend's property was right on the Gulf of Mexico, so a breeze was almost always present. He went to a marine salvage yard and got some marine portholes and had them installed in the sides of the containers so that he could generate a cross breeze in the living areas. The metal heats up quickly on a sunny day and it would have been intolerable inside otherwise. The portholes also served as weatherproof windows when it was stormy.

He situated his two containers in an L-shape. One was living space, sort of a large living room with a bed at one end. The other was kitchen and bathroom space, that cut down on the plumbing expenses. The space in the protected area of the L contained a sunscreen covered pergola with outdoor cooking sources, a horno and pit barbeque and a propane grill, as well as weatherproof comfortable seating...most mornings and evenings it served as more living space.

In order to secure the living areas he had wrought iron gates welded to the corners. When he left he closed the container doors, then closed the gates over them and padlocked the gates. He never had a problem.

He sold the property....some of his hunting friends made him an offer he could not refuse, he said.

Cheers! Hope your project goes off....having been a licensed and bonded contractor I foresee huge problems with the city building inspectors, and have no doubts, they really live for the chance to make self-builders miserable. You'll get little help from them when you run afoul of the codes....you're on your own.

Don't get me wrong, codes are not a bad thing, just remember that they are the MINIMUM requirements. If you have a family you will house in the structures, are you sure they will be safe enough if all you strive to achieve is the minimum?????

If you could afford country property you would be much less burdened by the bureaucratic gestapo!

Cheers!

Dugly
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Old 03-01-2013, 12:20 AM   #10
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Why don't you look into a Yurt or Straw Bale construction. These are more acceptable in the main stream. I understand your wanting to use containers. That would be something I would try. I have a shop inside of a tent. If you go forward then hard foam insulate the outside. Build a carport type frame around it, OSB with a wrap, then metal or plastic roofing as a covering. Easy. dorf dude...
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Old 03-01-2013, 07:07 AM   #11
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Finding the building code should be just about the easiest thing about this project, the building inspector will have a copy, and can direct you where to purchase your own copy. It may be on line as well.

Containers are used fairly frequently for homes, and are getting increasing use as temporary shelters after disasters, or in military zones. As has been pointed out, the container only gives you framing and a skin, so all the standard costs of a home remain, including foundation, plumbing, electrical, HVAC, finishes, siding (unless you like the look of a raw container), a roof (ditto, maybe you like the steel skin look of a container).

There is the usual site prep costs, which may be lower for a container since you can often just put them down on a gravel pad.

I would start with the building inspector. There may already be a few similar designs in LA, I saw one in New Orleans at a demonstration site for alternative, low cost housing.
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Old 03-04-2013, 01:41 AM   #12
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An excellent method of reusing containers! Recycled shipping containers offer a quick and inexpensive solution to housing needs.
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Old 03-04-2013, 05:55 AM   #13
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I have no advice to offer, but I always thought it would be cool to bury them and make an underground shelter / hideout.
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Old 04-02-2014, 09:32 PM   #14
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My wife wants to get one and use it for a root cellar and wine cellar. Our concerns are ventilation so we don't get mold and mildew which was covered by YerDugliness. Good luck.
Edit: didn't realize this post was 2013 I hope all went well.

Last edited by Robpo; 04-02-2014 at 09:38 PM. Reason: didn't realize this post was 2013
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Old 04-04-2014, 01:49 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Robpo View Post
My wife wants to get one and use it for a root cellar and wine cellar. Our concerns are ventilation so we don't get mold and mildew which was covered by YerDugliness. Good luck.
Edit: didn't realize this post was 2013 I hope all went well.
I am in the process of getting one done. A whirlybird vent is what I am placing on the top of my container.

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