Building a Shipping Container Home | EP01Permits and Foundation Design

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  • Published on:  Wednesday, February 13, 2019
  • In Episode 1 we will go over the basic considerations for buying shipping containers, explain how we got building permits for a shipping container house and show how we constructed the concrete foundations. Link to the company i bought my shipping containers from: us on instagram for project updates: the Container Home: the Container Home: are still working on getting the website for this project up and running so please be patient.Buying the Shipping Containers: We purchased one trip condition hi-cube containers. California requires that shipping containers used for homes have documentation showing that have not had toxic or radioactive materials in them. This normally means that you need one trip condition containers with appropriate certificates. I bought my containers from and paid $4800 each for the 40-foot hi-cube containers and $3250 for the 20-foot hi-cube container. Hi-cube containers are a foot taller than typical shipping containers.Permits:I recommend going in person to the local building department showing them the survey and asking them for a checklist of everything that needs to be completed to get building permits. The survey is important because it shows the building dept both the physical nature of the property and documents its legal boundaries and history. I explained that I wanted to build a shipping container house and asked for a complete checklist of everything I would need to get done and submit in order to get building permits. Architectural DesignI used the architecture firm I co-founded, ZeroEnergy Design, to produce the architectural drawings. Even though I am a co-owner I made sure to pay the firm for the hours of preparation that this task would take. It would be unfair to my partners if I used firm resources for my own personal project. I paid $5000 for the creation of the architectural drawings. Structural EngineeringI sent the architectural drawings over to the structural engineering firm I hired, and they created the structural details and created a package of calculations showing that these details would meet all code requirements and result in a safe and strong building. This package of drawings and calculations was required by the building dept. My architecture firm primarily practices on the east coast and does not have a stamp in California so I had the structural engineering firm stamp the drawings. The building dept gave me the option of having either the architecture firm or the engineering firm stamp the documents.Foundation design:We ended up building a monolithic on slab on grade concrete foundation. We worked on designs for some piers that would have saved in material costs but then the space underneath the container would have been classified as a crawl space and the bottom of the container would have to be 18” off the ground at a minimum. This would mean I would have to build stairs and railing for all the decks. Grading the site and excavating for the foundationI rented a bulldozer and hired an operator to level a portion of the site where I wanted to place the house. I then rented a back hoe to dig out the footings for the foundation. Building the formsThe forms were built out of 2x8s screwed to steel stakes that we hammered into the ground.ReinforcementWe used #4 rebar to reinforce the concrete. This was wired together to match the structural drawings. Concrete DayConcrete day was pretty exciting. We had to pump the concrete to one of the foundation slabs because the truck couldn’t get close enough without driving over the other forms. Check out HomeMade Modern our DIY Channel:
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  • James Holbrook

    James Holbrook

     5 months ago +7330

    Your first mistake was trying to build anything in California.

  • JDM Engineuity

    JDM Engineuity

     1 months ago +784

    California, where the permits to build ON YOUR OWN LAND, cost MORE THAN YOUR LAND!!!

  • Mack Dlite

    Mack Dlite

     1 months ago +517

    California knows how to suck the fun out of any project.

  • Associated Stress

    Associated Stress

     yesterday +9

    Slabs. We don't need no stinking slabs. Seriously. It's a metal box.

  • 99maxa


     1 months ago +136

    I thought the whole idea of Shipping Container House is to minimize work, time and money for constructing a home... and I don't think you saved any of those for it to matter

  • Joshua Dodge

    Joshua Dodge

     4 months ago +2134

    This is the great thing about West Virginia:
    "I want to build a house on my land."
    End of process.

  • dan the man

    dan the man

     1 months ago +155

    After all that trouble you were better off just building a house from scratch.

  • Daniel Spaeth, Jr.

    Daniel Spaeth, Jr.

     1 months ago +104

    Minimum sf to build a home is 700 sf. Meanwhile all the homeless people have no sf.

  • Eduardo Tarusov

    Eduardo Tarusov

     1 months ago +72

    I only see one mistake. Building something in California. Get out of there.

  • sdushdiu


     1 months ago +103

    Cut to the chase - this money-saving DIY project costs "15-20%" MORE than conventional building methods.

  • herr mozart

    herr mozart

     4 months ago +1931

    Those workers wondering why this guy wants to live in boxes in the middle of the desert

  • Arya


     3 days ago +4

    You bought a house in the middle of the desert. You can’t even grow anything there.

  • MrFriko22


     4 days ago +4

    Correction: yo didn’t buy the land you rented the land!

  • Bryan Roupe

    Bryan Roupe

     1 months ago +172

    Cali wonders why everyone is leaving the state. You can thank your politicians.

  • TallStarlite


     2 days ago +7

    I have 32 years in Concrete foundations experience and with ground that hard where you had to use metal stakes You don't need a monolithic foundation for that container!!!
    level and prep ground and set it and forget it. Pure greed and corruption!!!

  • Victor Unbea

    Victor Unbea

     4 months ago +1310

    CA: Do you have a permit to get a permit?

  • Nathan McCauley

    Nathan McCauley

     1 months ago +33

    CA: HEY STOP!!
    Builder:? What?
    CA: Do you have a permit?
    Builder: Sure right here.
    CA: No No No my friend I need the permit for this permit to be permitted.

  • Anon ymous

    Anon ymous

     1 months ago +65

    Wow, this process is exactly why there is a Mass exodus form California.

  • Tomasz Chuk

    Tomasz Chuk

     1 months ago +22

    Thanks for showing whole process. So anobody can use it for his own building and can learn from your exprience. You are awesome!

  • Game Changer

    Game Changer

     2 months ago +272

    When your permits alone cost 5K MORE than you paid for the 10 acres of land - that should have been your clue to GTFO and build in another state. 20k for the land, 25k for the permits - Hence why they sold it so cheap.