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Layout of our Tiny Shipping Container House - Episode 002

The layout was the first thing we planned about the building of the house. We have been thinking about this since 2016 in Indonesia. The hours we have spent thinking about how our house is gonna be are incontables. That’s the beauty of doing what you love for living. You don’t see the time passing by. We both always love architecture and now we are having the chance of designing or our house!!!! That’s an inexplicable amazing feeling of happiness.

We don’t need much to live, we just need to have a little space for us to call it home. When we started thinking about building and living in a tiny house as our new project of life we studied many ways of building it: tiny house on wheels, campervan, bus, sailboat,... The initial idea was actually to build a boat, but we thought we probably wouldn't have enough money to finish it. So, a shipping container is the closest way of having the experience of building a metal boat (learning how to weld, how to build the furniture…), but with a perk, we would have the money to finish it! So, that is the plan, to build a Tiny House using shipping containers.

Well, in order to talk about a tiny shipping container home layout I think it makes more sense to begin by talking about the shipping container itself.

I guess we could say there are mainly two big groups of shipping containers: the refrigerated ones and the dry ones. I would say that both names are pretty much self explained. The refrigerated shipping containers, also known as reefer, are basically used to transport anything that needs to be refrigerated, and the Dry shipping containers are basically used for any dry good that doesn’t need refrigeration. Well, it’s actually not that simple, in order to have a controlled temperature, the reefer containers have a complete different construction. They are made out of stainless steel or aluminum with an expanded polyurethane core as insulation.

As we wanted to build the interior insulation ourselves, and as steel is a lot easier to work if compared to stainless steel or aluminum, we decided to go with the Dry container. So, let’s focus now on this kind of containers. I say shipping containers in plural because there are actually a few different sizes of Dry shipping containers.

First let’s divide them in two groups, the 20 foot containers and the 40 foot containers.

Well, since the beginning our idea was to build the house in a way that if one day we want to change location, or even sell to someone somewhere else we could, so made more sense for us to use only one shipping container. We agreed that a 20 foot container would be a little bit too small for us, so we decided to go with one 40 foot shipping container, what actually open up another option.

The 20 foot container is made only in one high, 2.59 meters, while the 40 foot containers are made in two different highs, 2.59 meters or 2.89 meters. The second option is known as 40 foot High Cube shipping container, or just as 40 foot HC. Well, this been said, for us, there is nothing to think about here, it was a logical choice, after all, a 30 centimeters higher ceiling makes a huge difference in a house.

After many attempts we came up with a layout for the house. We are going to have a entry area, a bedroom, office, dining area, kitchen, bathroom and a storage area. Well, if you read the post 19 (the one that we explained about Living Tiny Project) the you must be confused, as we talked about 2 shipping containers of 20 feet instead of 1 of 40 feet. So, let me explain that.

The place where we gonna build the house is on the top of a hill, and to get there the road makes a couple closed turns, making it impossible to transport a 40 feet shipping container all the way up the hill. Well, we only realized that when we had all the layout figured out, and we actually liked the results, so we came up with a solution.

Basically the size of one 40 feet shipping container is the same size of two 20 feet shipping containers, so the idea was: instead of using one 40 feet shipping container we would use two 20 feet shipping containers, and in this way we wouldn’t have to change the layout.

The only two bad things would be that we would have 30 centimeters lower ceiling, and the fact that we would have to find a solution to connect both containers in a way that we could, in the future, divide them in two for transporting.

In the other hand, now we had the option of changing the shape of the house, and that’s when we came up with this “L” shape. Like always, that was the theory.

After deciding, we visited a company that sells used shipping containers and ordered 2 20 feet shipping containers and paid it in advance with the promise that they would arrive in 30 days. But that didn’t happen. 90 days later we found out that the company didn’t have any 20 foot container and they were just stalling. To make it short we ended up asking for our money back and bought from someone else.

We don’t want to mention the companies names, but if you want to buy shipping containers in Brazil let us know by a private message, that we can tell you more about our experience. The second company didn’t also have 20 feet shipping containers, but at least they were honest about it, so we could come up with a solution.

So, we bought a 40 feet shipping container, ask them to cut it in the middle and to add some structures in both ends of it, so it could be transported. This way we could still have the same layout and with the perk of having our 30 centimeters higher ceiling back. The only thing we actually lost was a second shipping container door, that would be used to create a sun shade whenever necessary on our bedroom. Well, we will need to find another solution for that in the future.

Another thing is that not only we will need to find a solution for the shipping container connection but we will also need to create a wall on the southeast part of the shipping container.

Well, we enjoy the process of every single changes and new challenges we needed to deal with on our daily new routine. To overcome an initial frustration about something is part of our new life and it seems that it’s just the beginning of this!

Roberta