The Goal = Turn Two 8’ Wide Metal Boxes Into A Shipping Container Home, Part #1

Honesty First

My husband wanted to have the ‘WOW’ factor for our house. I wanted the most economical and yet livable solution available when you are trying to make an 8’ wide metal box your home. In the beginning, we talked and dreamed of the possibilities as far as design and stacking them together like Legos – everyone’s initial thought of building with shipping containers 🙂 We discovered quickly, it isn’t quite that simple or cheap to start stacking them willy-nilly. So we had to put some hard thought into what exactly we could and couldn’t live without in our future shipping container home.

My Husband’s Ideal Space

Dave is a practical man, with a ‘WOW’ factor mentality 😉 He needed a sink and counter, a hot plate would suffice with a mini fridge, a toilet if we could figure out the plumbing and a place to sleep. He was more concerned with the structural components, the welding and the infrastructure for the land. He didn’t really care how many windows we had, how the natural lighting would infiltrate the living spaces, where we were going to have space for our youngest son who was 10 at the time or where we would eat. He gave zero thought to laundry or family dinners, how his wife would stay clean or really anything that would make these cold metal boxes a home for our family. He’s a man – he could eat on an upside down bucket in the corner, off of a paper plate and take a shower in a portable tent behind a tree – God bless his heart 😉


My Ideal Space

My idea of practical also takes into account long-term usability and how to prevent me from running wild into the woods or going even more crazy than we already felt even contemplating this build 🙂 A kitchen with full size appliances, a washer and dryer, a bathroom with a large shower where I could shave my legs – girl goals 😉 and of course an INSIDE toilet and sink, lots of storage, a separate bedroom for our son, a master bedroom large enough that I could walk around my bed to make it, a living-room space where we could have our older children over for family meals, and windows; lots of windows and natural light – and it had to be pretty. I might be a Pacific Northwest girl, but I like my comforts 😉


We Compliment Each Other

Initially, our individual ideal spaces were quite different. But in our separate visions, we both addressed items that not only made our future home functional and solid, but also usable, comfortable and inviting. As we started to think ‘outside the box’ at all the possibilities of what our shipping container home could become when we combined our ideas, the magic really started to happen and our imaginations and creativity took flight. Our number one realization – when you are building tiny, you can have nice finishes and still not spend a fortune because of the small footprint. Suddenly, granite counters, tile showers, stainless steel appliances, zebra flooring, spiral staircases, multiple bedrooms and a large deck overlooking our valley right off our master bedroom were our reality, just on a very small-scale.

What Could We Live Without

We had lived in a much larger home prior to building our tiny home and took a hard look at what parts of the house we used in our average American family home. We only really used the kitchen and bar seating area, occasionally the living room to visit if company was over, the bathroom and 2 of the bedrooms. We rarely, if ever used any of the other rooms of the house. We knew that we could live with a living room, kitchen, laundry space, bathroom and 2 bedrooms. Now, to make it all fit in as small of a footprint as possible – exactly how many containers could we get away with using was the hard question? We decided that if we could get away with 2 shipping containers – a 20’er stacked on top of a 40’er or 480 square feet, it would help keep costs down and the footprint on our very hilly land easier to build on.

The Initial Design

I am an accountant, not a designer or an architect. So, I opened up my Powerpoint on the computer and started stacking rectangles on top of each other, because after all, that is what we were working with. I then dug into our local building code for the minimum square footage requirements in the spaces that we wanted to include in our home. The bathroom, bedrooms, stairs and entry points/doors had to be certain dimensions in order to meet the code for our state. With only 480’ to work with, the challenge seemed daunting. But, I have always loved a challenge – and so I measured and moved and measured and moved, over and over until I got everything to fit in the 480’ we ‘thought’ we had – Success!!! Or so I thought…


Back To The Drawing Board

To the casual observer or newbie like ourselves, 2 shipping containers provide approximately 480 interior square feet. But – and that is a very big BUT, when you start adding things like framing, insulation and sheet rock you lose approximately 6.5” on each interior wall in order to facilitate those basic finishes. Metal conducts moisture – and mold was not something I ever wanted to deal with inside my home. Taking this into account, we knew we couldn’t frame directly up to the metal interior walls. The obvious solution was to build a wooden framed box inside our metal shipping container using 2 x 4 construction and make sure that the metal and wood never touched each other, ever. (Because the strength of our home comes from the metal box, we didn’t need to use traditional 2×6 construction except on the end walls where the doors were for wind shear.)

To simplify for those who are new to the shipping container building process like we once were – when you add the framing, insulation and sheet rock, you lose approximately 6.5” on each interior wall and suddenly your 480’ tiny home, really becomes a 406’ ‘super’ tiny home.

Note – Our interior living space is 1” shy of 7’ wide – cozy living at it’s finest! Don’t worry, you get used to it. It does help to have the right size furniture to make it all work together – no oversized lazy boy recliners for us 😉 I know that in the world of tiny homes, our 406’ is a mansion, but moving from a 2,000 sq ft home to 406’ was a huge obstacle to work our minds around.

Now – to rework those rooms sizes to fit into the space we really had to work with. Back to the drawing board to design our shipping container home for me!

More to come… but until then, what is your dream? Never be afraid to chase it!!!

Chasing our dreams ~

Jaimie & Dave

2 thoughts on “The Goal = Turn Two 8’ Wide Metal Boxes Into A Shipping Container Home, Part #1

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