I dropped off the face of the earth for a few days. I didn’t do it voluntarily.
Look, “Today” isn’t exactly the “Tomorrow” that I had hoped for, but…
It happened because we just couldn’t stretch far enough to keep the “cable company” happy, and they turned off our internet connection.
They don’t care that we’re having a hard time. They don’t care that diapers and my wife’s prescription drugs for her cancer are more important than checking email and writing blog posts.
I know that it doesn’t sound like much, but when you’re struggling from month to month with cancer living in your house, everything gets put under the microscope, and last month… it was “medicine or bandwidth”.
As we rebuild, and as we teach other families to rebuild, we could use your help. I’ll continue this blog as long as “our wallet” allows us to.
But frankly, when it comes time to choose between my family’s “We can’t live without’s” and the blog, the family will win, every time.
If you like the blog, if it’s helping you to rebuild, if it’s fueling your ideas and it’s making things easier for you, then I’m asking you to help us continue doing it. We set up a Paypal account for that purpose, and it’s easy and secure. The button is up there on the right side of the monitor screen. Paypal spends millions of dollars to secure your transactions and keep your personal information safe.
And… we’ll never see your info, just your donation to the blog.
We all have these struggles as the economy commits sepuku, and jobs disappear. So, like I said… we’re behind right now, and over the next few weeks, I’ll do what I can to try and get caught up.
While I was “away”, I received several emails from families who are trying to figure out HOW to cut a container up, like we’re doing in the “Dawg Trots of Dixie” experiment/project.
Now… I’m not talking about making boxes “shorter”, I’m talking about making holes in them to put doors and windows.
So, I’ll interrupt the series on “Finding a Federal Grant”, so we can spend the day talking about actual fabrication. No, not the “creative writing” kind… The “get the plasma cutter, Martha, we’s gonna do some whittling” kind…
If this sounds familiar, it’s because I ran a similar post last year. Bear with me, huh? Some things are worth repeating…
All you really need to turn a container into a house-frame, is a plasma cutter or torch, a welder, and a grinder.
I know what you’re thinking…
“Wait a minute. If that’s true, how come they make circular saw blades for metal?”
Well… pilgrim… you can use a circular saw with a metal blade on it, but you’re gonna be there all day, and you’re going to go deaf.
A good plasma cutter will cut through container panels like butter.
Now, a torch will do exactly the same thing, it’ll just take a little bit longer.
I bet you’re thinking these tools are going to be massive and unwieldy, huh? After all, you’re trying to “frankenstein” heavy gauge steel…
Well, you’re wrong. They’re so small, you can carry them around the shop, all by your “onesies.” Now, I wouldn’t make a habit of it, but… here’s what they look like:
And since my personal exposure to injury is directly related to my durational exposure to power tools, less is more… Trust me on this. If you don’t believe me, ask my wife… LOL!
Doors and windows are easy to create…
… and the framing is done pretty much like on a “traditional” house. You just simply cut away the steel skin you don’t need, to get your openings. Depending on the size of your openings, you may add a structural support or two, but all in all, it’s not really difficult to get the “room of your dreams.” You’re welding steel to steel, so you don’t even need a special welder.
A small Lincoln welder will do just about everything you need to do.
(I love name dropping, don’t you? After all, merchandizing is the name of the game!) LOL!
Once you have your opening, you just frame in your door or window using steel tubing, or even steel sheet. I frequently build window boxes out of 1/4th inch steel sheet, and then “screw” the windows into that treated opening.
For doors, I actually build a rough opening using square steel tubing, because I like the rigidity it creates. Once I have my door framed in, I just install it like a normal door… right to that new “frame.” SOLID.
Okay, so I threw that one in for Joshua… Sue me. 😉
Since I know what doors I’m using in advance, I can pre-build the door frames and then just tack them in when I’m ready to install my doors.
In fact, aside from the “extra” metal-working skills you’ll need… if you really look at it, you’re not doing anything out of the ordinary.
You can use use the same kind of stuff as the house next door, on your “Steel-built” house. In our house, for example, we’re using the same stuff you see at Home Depot or Lowes (how’s that for a blatant plug?), just “regular” doors, windows, sliding glass and French doors.
The containers you use have integral locking points built into them, allowing them to be locked together, for all those sea-going trips to wherever they go. A twist lock is inserted into that lock opening, and it allows other containers to be attached to it, in a big Lego-like honeycomb of steel.
Those locks are stronger than anything you can imagine. They have to be, because these containers get loaded up to the brim with everything you can think of. A failure at sea would be a disaster. So, the guys and gals who build these boxes make them “Craftsman tough…” And we use those same connectors to allow these boxes to become houses. We can even use these same connectors to attach the boxes to the foundation of the house. Talk about tough!
Once you lock these puppies in place, they ain’t moving for anything.
Shipping Containers are designed and built to have forklifts race around inside them. The plywood flooring is massive. So, you’d think that you could just put “flooring” over it. Tile, carpet, you name it…
In our case (and in EVERY case that I PERSONALLY get involved with), we’re gonna remove the plywood (you can never tell how much formaldehyde and toxins were used in the creation of that plywood) and shoot a floor out a new floor of lightweight concrete. That way, we can install a radiant floor system, to heat and cool the house. And, aside from making your house even stronger… it’s easy.
That plywood gets recycled, too.
Right into a dumpster headed for a safe hazardous landfill. In most cases, shipping containers are floored with teak or bamboo. Although that’s a very valuable commodity, it’s one to be reluctantly discarded.
It can’t be re-used. It’s TOXIC.
So, you have a customized steel shell, locked together like a two pit bulls fighting over a t-bone steak, ready for whatever weather comes toward it.
And, because you got the shell for a song (they average about $1200 bucks for a used 40′ container), the cost per square foot is way below the normal construction price of a new house. Even with the labor, the primer, the insulation, and the configuration, you’re still under $15 a foot. Way under…
Once you get to this stage, all you need is some creativity, and about four or five friends who can use hand tools. You’d be amazed how fast you can wire and plumb a container, before the sheet rock goes on (if you must) and the paint starts to dry.
At least, that’s the story I’m telling my wife…
Stay tuned… because next time, I want you to meet someone…