“George, I can see it clearly now… there’s boxes up in them trees!”

24 Sep

Greetings, Campers!

Aren’t you sick of all this “Shipping Container Nonsense”… yet?

Nope? Me either!

As you probably already know, I’m the guy building shipping container homes, for sport and even profit!

Of course, in my case, the profit is the knowledge that another family has found a home! 🙂

And… I find it sporting to give the local Planning and Zoning guys aneurysms! Plus, my own family will profit by this as well, by getting a “Tonka Tough” house to live in, when it’s finally finished!

I’ve been telling you about a plot of land that we’re “experimenting” on…

It’s just outside Ocean Springs, Mississippi, for those of you who are interested in WHERE we’re building this little “science project.”

The idea is to take several damaged shipping containers rescued from “the place shipping containers go to die” and reuse them as shelter, by turning them into modules. These modules will be interconnected, to form an entire residence, by “compartmentalizing” each space.

shipping-container-treehouseNope. Not this. Can you imagine? I bet my local Planning and Zoning guys would have  strokes right and left! Hey… wait a sec… that could be… maybe… um… nah… never mind. 🙂

We’ve been debating, arguing, and just generally bullying each other for a few weeks, but here’s what we’ve decided.

The first experiment will be a “floating home” that is nothing more than a village of container segments all interconnected by walkways.

We were going to build a “galley” kitchen unit that will include a built in 6′ x 8′ “banquette seating arrangement.”

But… cooler heads prevailed, and now the kitchen, dining area, and family room will be housed in a central room, that serves as the nucleus for the whole demented collection of Corten molecules!

(2) Bedroom modules will be constructed, one for the “parents”, and one for any guests foolish enough to want to visit.


The bedroom modules will be entered thru double french pane doors that open OUT.

Yeah, yeah, I know, the code guy’s gonna have a fit…

In a space this ‘tight’, it’s the only way that makes any sense. This means that in spring and summer, the doors can be opened allowing the module to extend out onto the 8′ x ?’ deck.

(We’re still arguing about whether or not to just screen off the decks to begin with, to keep bugs out. I’m all in favor of starving the mosquitoes, so that they’ll go elsewhere. Those little lanai’s could be quite cool! )

You enter into an almost 8′ wide “seating area,” backed by a 4′  organizer closet that runs up 7′. A double row of  (5) stacked 1’x 1′ boxes forms a knee wall above the closet. The lower boxes will open into the sitting area, and a few of the upper boxes may open into the loft hidden behind that knee wall of boxes…

I haven’t decided yet which way the boxes will face. I suspect that they’ll open into the loft, to allow for more storage up there..

The sitting room is just a place to relax away from everyone else. We’re talking about (2) opposed chairs and a table between them, nothing fancy.

I know, you’re already complaining that the closet could be larger… But we’re building “small quarters”, here. Downsizing means getting rid of stuff you don’t need.

That 3′ opening on the left side of the closet leads to a full bath… behind the closet.   We’re thinking about a pocket door, here. And, for an added bonus… On the left side of that doorway is a 1′ deep storage cabinet, based on simple 1′ x 1′ x1′ stacked cubes. That storage cabinet is 3′ deep. We’ll just screw them all together, to make them all “connected and sturdy”.  Stacked 7 high, that’s almost 21 cubic feet of storage.


Because I have about (160) 1′ x 1′ x 1′ wooden boxes. Built out of 1″ MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard), they were used to ship huge electrical relays, internationally. Who cares? The REAL cool thing about MDF is that it’s really stable, and those boxes will accept paint really easily!

Why do I have such a large stockpile of them?

Don’t ask me why! My wife says that it’s because I’m an idiot! I suspect it’s really because I can’t let anything go into the garbage… and…

… because they would fit into my storage unit. 🙂

A local manufacturing company went out of business and the new tenant found then in the building when he moved in. He didn’t want them… Guess who did?

So, I just got 21 cubic feet of storage space, for free! Who’s the idiot now…Char? Hmmm? 🙂

And, if it looks cool… I might just continue it into the bathroom, to kiss the sink! 🙂

The bath is virtually the same as any bath you’d find in a “normal” house.  A sink and cabinet with a toilet next to it. and the tub running across the end. We may angle the sink in the corner, to get a few more feet of “moving around” space. No composting toilet, sorry folks.

Plumbers cost a fortune! If I had my way, we’d just cut a big hole in a “butt shelf.” Look out belowwwwww!  🙂

I recently bartered for some glass block, so we may even do a “feature window” of glass block behind the tubs.

Back in the sitting room, a library ladder attaches to a brass rail that spans the room, above the closet.  That ladder leads up to a clerestory loft, and that’s where you’ll sleep.

Unless, of course… you’re in the doghouse, like I usually am. 😦

WHY “Library Ladders”??

Because we salvaged four of the units that needed some TLC, and we had some fun rehabbing them. Plus, now they’re just itching to have my fat butt fall off of them! 🙂

We’ll create the clerestory loft, by building a knee wall on one end, and a full 8′ wall on the other, that will receive glass. We’ll cap it with a SIP (Structural Insulated Panel) roof overhead, naturally.

Remember that SIPs will carry themselves in short spans. So, we don’t need any beams or trusses.

In the sleeping loft, you’ll find a built-in Queen sized bed running across the back.We’re doing two of these units, so in one, we’ll run one bed system length-wise, on a raised “storage pedestal.” A built in headboard and footboard will allow a small place for knick-knacks, and beverages.  We’ll slant the headboard and footboard and then upholster them, so that the bed can also be used as a reclining seat, to read in the window. This’ll leave a nice space in front of the bed, that faces into/over  the sitting area.

We’re still undecided about the second bedroom unit. I’m all for building in the furniture, but the vote is still out.

(1) Bunk House with bathroom will be built, to give the kids their own space (and you can bet it’ll be located way out on the edge, where they won’t disturb anyone else!).

This lil beauty is going to be a “side entry module.” Essentially, we’ll use a french door to open the module to the deck. Their lanai will be wider (the full 16′ width of the module) and have a built in bench and table on one end so that they can play, eat, or whatever, in peace. The clerestory play loft is accessed thru a hatch above the bunk beds, to prevent kids from falling out and maiming themselves. It’s created by building a 5′ tall knee wall in that bunkbed end, and then an 8′ window wall in the bathroom end. Obviously, you just frame in the sides.  A SIP roof covers it up, and keeps the critters out. Or, it keeps the critters IN, it depends on how you look at it. 🙂


(1) “Meditation Module” is being built. It’s an 8′ x 16′  library, really, with soft places to enjoy the scenery and read a good book, draw, or even hunker down behind a computer. A loft in the eaves will provide that CPU space, or maybe even another bed. A powder room will complete the unit.

All of these modules will orbit a large octagonal room (in the center of this mess) made out of  SIP panels and french doors, and like I said… each module connects to that, by it’s  own “deck”.

That center room is the only “module” that won’t be ISBU based. It’s essentially a big open space, with a pitched roof to match. We MAY build a loft into it. The idea is to construct it out of SIPs  (Structural Insulated Panels) and recycled french doors (from a huge hotel rebuild in Destin, FL), and then put a thick  octagonal SIP roof on it.


Well, because we got a hell of a deal on the SIPs. They are “left-overs” from a large construction job. Now, you don’t usually have anything left when building with SIPs,  as each panel is usually precut, at the factory. In this case, they decided NOT to build a certain segment of the building. Thus, “left-overs.” We’ll take ’em.

A wood stove in the center of the “gathering room” will provide heat for the space.

Again, I know, I know… Why?

Sheesh, you ask a lot of questions!

Well, if you must know, it’s because we already had the woodstove, and it needed a home. The lot that this whole Corten Community is going in is heavily wooded, and there are a lot of downed trees. So, firewood will NEVER be an issue.

So, as we toil away cutting Shipping Containers up into even smaller Shipping containers…

I started looking at the size of these “reduced” boxes, and I’ve been thinking about how you could actually use one to build a “Tiny House.” The primary difference is that you’d just start with a steel carcass, about 8′ wide, by 16′ deep, and you’d have a 9.5′ ceiling. Cut the top out and add a big pitched roof (say… 8/12 pitch), and you have a terrific loft area. You could get about 200 square feet out of one of these easily.

The first shipping container arrived today from the ISBU dump, and needless to say, we jumped on it with plasma cutters blazing.

It was like those Sci-Fi alien movies, where the mechanical arms come outta nowhere, and start cannibalizing anything with metal in it! 🙂

We’re cutting this first ISBU into three sections, and one section is pretty much garbage. From it we’re going to get (2) 16′ deep sections, and they’ll be turned into bedrooms with ensuite baths. I’ll post the drawings when we finalize the actual design, in the next few days.

I’m sure you’re asking why we’re cutting before we have solid plans. I know that I would be.

Well, here’s the deal… The Shipping Containers that we’re getting right now are damaged boxes, and we’re just cutting around “the damage.” Careful cutting will give us two usable “pieces,” and we already know that we can build a pretty nice little sleeping box in 16′ of running space.

To recap:

Each bedroom will have a sitting area, a closet, a full bath that measures approx. 6′ x 8′, and a sleeping loft, overhead. Each sleeping module will have it’s own solar hot water heating system, and have radiant in-floor heat.

Each module will have at least an  8′ x 8′ front deck that will connect each module to the center octagon, in a hodge-podge kinda Ewok village sorta thing…

Concrete pilings built using sonotubes and rebar will hoist the whole shooting match up off the ground.

Each module will provide most of it’s own power, using photovoltaic panels and inverters that will feed into a “common” battery bank. A “desulferator contraption” will refresh deep-cycle golf cart batteries that we “commandeered” from a local golf course, for free.

So, now you know. We’ve finally lost our minds… But somewhere in all those metal scraps, we may just find them, again…

Stay tuned!

The Renaissance Ronin

4 Responses to ““George, I can see it clearly now… there’s boxes up in them trees!””

  1. Madrigorne September 25, 2009 at 10:43 am #

    Because space is so tight, might I suggest french pocket doors?

    Also – I would like to add some fuel to the pro-screen argument on your deck, it will keep you from the bugs, it will keep the lil’un from testing the inevitable umbrella-parachute theory, and in the wintertime you can use it as a walk out cooler – the screens keeping down the amount of snowage build up.

    I look forward to the drawings of your corten hive.


    • renaissanceronin September 25, 2009 at 1:39 pm #

      Hi M,

      We thought about using “pocket french doors”. But, we’re building with what we have. It wasn’t cost effective to jerry-rig a door system. But, you’re absolutely right, the doors would have been splendid!

      I like the “kid retention” quality of the screens (it’d keep kids like mine from playing “Superman” off the balconies), so I’m pushing for that.

      Not much snow here yet on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, but if I’m to believe Al Gore, it may be on the way… (picture Ronin rolling his eyes and spitting while he says “Al Gore”) 🙂

      As soon as we stop arguing, I’ll start drawing…


  2. Bison Pendergrass October 7, 2009 at 3:37 pm #

    What a great idea. I know from my time spent in the military that these “shipping” containers can provide some good cover. Just be sure to properly ventilate.


  1. “George, I can see it clearly now… there's boxes up in them trees … ZB BU online - September 25, 2009

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