HELP! The Walls are closing in!

25 Oct

Mailbag time.

If you want to guarantee that you’ll see your comment or email in “lights”, it seems that all you have to do is call me a name. 😉

Here we go:

Dear Ronin,

C’mon, Ronin. You’re full of beans. Standard Shipping Containers are awfully small. You can’t really live inside one. You’re lying.

I have almost 8′ ceilings in my house, now. I don’t want to have to “stoop my head”, to live in a scavenged metal box that is best used for shipping stuff to Walmart. Only an idiot would do that!

It does make me wonder… Can you tell me how eight-foot ceilings became the norm?



(Editors note: I was asked this question three times in the last three days. This same question – or a variation of it – just got asked on another forum I read, so I suspect that I’m being “taunted”, but here goes:)

Hi there, naysayer;

Whoa, there. You’re operating under a “myth-conception.”

High Cube shipping containers are just as tall inside as the house you’re probably living in now, possibly even TALLER. And even using “Standard” shipping containers, you’re going to easily get a finished ceiling at 7’6″ out of those boxes.

(Editors note: I just realized today (Oct 31) that the wrong version of the post was inserted by accident. I’m having computer issues and I kept losing paragraphs in the transfer process. So, I’m “fixing”  it here, to clarify the post. Consider this a “quick re-write”. Sorry for the confusion.)

Standard shipping containers have a finished ceiling at 7’8″. As you probably know, if your read the blog regularly, I always tell people that they want “High Cube” (or “HQ”) shipping containers when building a home, as those boxes are a foot taller. So, using HQ ISBUs, you get an 8’9″ ceiling , all day long…

And, I’ll point out that 8′ ceilings are NOT “the norm” – at least not here in America, according the National Builder Statistics over the last few decades.

Sure, 8′ ceilings are “cool”. And I do admit that they are in that “Not too hot, not too cold… just right” zone for a lot of us.  Not too far away, not too close.

(FYI: I ruthlessly stole that last “Not too far away…” part from Laren Corie, a savant and extremely savvy “Little House” guy who sponsors a forum I get heckled from occasionally.  The guy is a freakin’ Gold Mine of information. And, he’s a pretty good musician, too, I hear! ;))

Building Code spells out ceiling heights depending on the room it’s located in.

For bedrooms and common areas, it’s 7’6″. I’ll point out that this is lower than the existing ceiling in that ISBU in most cases. (Remember: The “rough ceiling” of a Standard ISBU is at 7’8″)

And in the kitchen and bath department, building codes say that you need ceilings at  7’0″ (min.).

U m… unless I screwed up my math… that’s BELOW the finished ceiling height of that same “Standard Shipping Container” ceiling you were referring to.

So, it’s QUITE possible to live inside a steel box, even one that used to live on a container ship, hauling TVs to Walmart from China.

And by the way, we don’t like being called “idiots or liars.” Your momma should have raised you better.

So there! 😉

Stay Tuned.

This post was brought to you by the Letter “C” and the Corten Coalition.


5 Responses to “HELP! The Walls are closing in!”

  1. Jeremiah October 26, 2010 at 6:59 am #

    ha! love naysayers. 7′-6″ is code minimum, but I do agree that it is a little low for a functional living space. if you can reach up and touch the ceiling as an average height guy, that can feel a little “closed in”. but there are obviously other things that can be done to raise the ceiling height of a container economically. if naysayers took a little time and thought it through, I’m sure they would not be naysayers anymore.

    • Renaissance Ronin October 26, 2010 at 8:04 am #

      Hi Jeremiah,

      While it might SEEM low when you look at the numbers, if you put people in two rooms, one at 8′ and one at 7’6″, they usually won’t react to the difference.

      Now, add a good glazed surface (like a wall of windows) and the “low” ceiling height becomes a non-issue.

      I think you’re right, if you take the time to think it thru, instead of “knee-jerking”, you’ll see the sense in it.

      Thanks for your comment!


  2. Madrigorne October 27, 2010 at 12:20 pm #

    We are doing it Ronin, actually DOING it.
    Last year my best friend was foreclosed on. She was running a cat rescue out of her home, and was en route to the vet towards mass euthanasia when Pook and I redirected her to our home. We are caring for her many elderly charges while she searches high and low for different housing possibilities. I suggested Corten Steel, and showed her your site. I don’t know if you know – but when foreclosure happens, you can’t even dream of getting another mortgage for a long time, noone will loan you anything under any circumstances… not even your parents. So we discussed finances, found a shipping container provider local to her, (we get all sorts of containers around here due to large ships on the great lakes) and we should be getting started this spring.
    Building her a home that won’t be taken away, one she can pay for on her own terms, that she can put in everything she wants and needs and expand on over time.
    We’re building her a little 3stack house (bottom partially buried for use as a basement and for protection against zombie attack) and put a cat fence around the entire backyard so they can have more living area.
    I am about as excited on her behalf as I can get. She will purchase the land first and then we’ll dig out the spot and pour the foundation with her boyfriends excavator. They will deliver the containers – and the locks (thank you for letting me know to ask for those) they’ll even STACK and LOCK them for us.
    We have a crew of fellas up in da nortwoods who are interested in seeing how it’s done, and helping so they can do it too. For free. We’ll be using as much as we can from the Habitat ReStore, and Freecycle to keep our costs as low as humanly possible. I think there will soon be a Corten Colony full up here. Thank you Ronin. Thank you so much.

    • Renaissance Ronin October 27, 2010 at 2:07 pm #

      Hi Madrigorne,

      That is SO coool!

      It sounds like you have a plan and you’re thinking things thru! That’s the first big step.

      Second step: Start scrounging and stockpiling materials, so that you can start figuring out where you’re going to spend money.

      Tell me more about this “partially buried” idea you have, as you construct your semi-basement.

      You know that you can’t BURY the box, right? Not even halfway. The box won’t take the pressure. The skin isn’t THAT structural.

      Once you give me an idea of what you’re doing, I’ll see if I can figure out how to help.

      I have an idea how you can accomplish that “half-buried” scheme without taking any terrible risks. 😉

      Start thinking about things you anticipate that you’ll need. If you like, I’ll run a series of project posts, so we can let people in your general area know what you’re looking for. Perhaps we can find you some of the fixtures and even appliances that you’ll require. Think Freecycle and Craigslist, but use your head, huh? Zombies are everywhere! 😉

      Keep me posted and let me know how I can help.

      Watch your email. I’m sending you some love…


      • Renaissance Ronin October 29, 2010 at 12:42 pm #

        Since leaving this post, I’ve been hammered in my personal email about Freecycle.

        So, here’s what it is:

        What is FREECYCLE all about?

        FIRST, What FREECYCLE “isn’t” about, okay?

        Freecycle is NOT about giving only to the POOR.

        It is NOT about getting as much free stuff as we possibly can, like “demented hoarders”.

        (For the record, my wife accuses me of this constantly.)

        It is NOT about getting things to earn money on the side.

        (People don’t usually give away things that they can monetize themselves.)

        It is NOT about getting rid of junk that would be better off in the landfill.

        (If it really needs to be in the landfill, you don’t really need it either. Sometimes junk REALLY IS junk.)

        It is NOT about posting a “wish list” for expensive items and expecting a fairy godmother to fulfill it for us.

        (Don’t I wish! I’d wear freakin’ Red Slippers and promenade around the front yard in a speedo if it would bait that flying nut-job in…)

        It is NOT a community bulletin board for finding rentals, dentists, mechanics, or advertising businesses and services or special events.

        (There are better places to do that…)

        What FREECYCLE “IS” about;

        Freecycle IS about keeping (good) things out of the landfill.

        It IS about giving away something that has no use in our life anymore to someone who could extend its usefulness a little longer.

        It IS about giving gifts to people while clearing out our own clutter.

        It IS about creating, building, and sustaining an environmentally aware community.



        I’m a fan.

        ‘Nuff said.

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