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Foundation of our Tiny Shipping Container House - Site marking, levelling and excavation, footings, layout -  Ep. 001

We were sooooo excited to start building our dream project!!

The foundation of our TIny Shipping Container House was the first step of the building of our house.

Well, what was supposed to take 2 days, ended up taking a lot more than that. But, I guess that’s normal when we are learning and we have never done this before. It’s funny how sometimes a task can become so much more complicated on practice if compared to the theory.

We are both engineers and we have seen all the theory about this on the University, but one thing is memorize something that you need to know to take an exam. Another thing is when you need to learn for real life.

In order to start the first step on the process of building the shipping container footings, the site marking and excavation, Duca prepared a few pieces of wood, that would be used to represent each corner of the containers, and also to attach a nylon string that represented the sides of the containers.

Placing the first string was really simple. We basically needed to decide the location of one side of the container to mark the others. But we had a problem, we didn’t know how to create a perpendicular line, or in other words, how to locate the other sides of the container. And guess what? We found the answer on YouTube.

One way of doing a perfect 90 degrees angle is to create a rectangle triangle with known distances. So, we decided to use the 3, 4 and 5 meters. Using these measurements we had the certain of having 90 degree angle and, in this way, it was possible do mark the other edges to put the sticks.

But, the next day we needed to do the footings marking all over again. One of the reasons was the decision of changing the location of the house: we decided to move the house almost two meters towards the south part of the land. The second reason was because we did some mistakes.

The first one was the size of the sticks we used. If you intend to mark a site using wood sticks and a nylon string, make sure to use extra long sticks. In the end the sticks we used were too short, and it was not possible to attach the string on level, as in the west and in the north part of the land the ground level is 30 centimeters lower.

The other mistake was positioning the sticks and the nylon strings. Basically, the big mistake was that we used this little wooden sticks to mark the corner of the container, and we used a nylon string to connect them and mark the sides of the container, but in this way we couldn’t excavate each footing without taking the sticks out of place.

So, the wooden sticks need to be far from the corner of the shipping container. All the corners need to be free, so we can dig on the ground to place the footings.

It was time to do it right. We started by placing a reference line with longer sticks and using a water leveller to make sure we have the same level on both ends of the nylon string. We got a line and cut it in different sizes (3, 4 and 5 meters), this way it was possible to find the 90 degree angle. With the spots marked we decided to search for pieces of precast concrete wastes and to use them as part of our footings. And that’s what our shipping container footings are going to be made of: pieces of 120 kilograms of concrete waste that we got as donation. With the help of a friend that owns a big truck, we transported 14 precast pieces measuring 20 centimeters by 30 centimeters by 92 centimeters each.

Now we needed to find a solution for the footings using this batch of pieces. After a few attempts we came up with one layout for the footings. The 2 containers together will form an L shape, and for that, on this specific land, we decided to use 4 individual footings and two double footings. In order of levelling the site ground, we decided to dig a square hole with bigger dimensions if compared to the precast footings, and a second dipper round hole on the center of the footing. After that we cut some mesh rebars and some extra rebars for the center holes. After that we attached them together using annealed wire. To make sure the mesh rebar wouldn't touch the ground, we spread some rocks in between the mesh rebars and the ground.

With all the form work done, it was finally time to start producing concrete. We first put some water into the concrete mixer. Then we added gravel on the recipe and after that it was time to add cement, sand and some extra water.

concrete recipe: 1 part of cement, 2 parts of sand, 3 parts of gravel, water by feeling

But after repeating the process few times, we realized that it would take much longer than we have planned. So, we decided to divide this process in 2 days. For the second concrete day we invited 2 friends to help. Maycon was the responsible for the mixture of the concrete while I carry the loads. André, our other friend, was responsible for flying the drone and Roberta was in charge of a really important step of the process: making sure all the footings were on the right level. Well, like always, this was just the theory. In order to get the job done, in the end, everyone was doing everything.

In the end, all we are gonna see are the precast footings and the container on the top.

Well, this was the first step of the building of our tiny shipping container house and we have no words to describe how happy we were of finally starting it!! We have planned this moment for sooo many months and we were really anxious to start putting in practice our plan.

Roberta