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:

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    We 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.

    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 Design
    I 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 Engineering
    I 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 foundation
    I 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 forms
    The forms were built out of 2x8s screwed to steel stakes that we hammered into the ground.

    We used #4 rebar to reinforce the concrete. This was wired together to match the structural drawings.

    Concrete Day
    Concrete 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.

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  • Chris Manos

    Chris Manos

     19 hours ago

    How much did you spend for the entire project?

  • Carlos Viquez

    Carlos Viquez

     22 hours ago

    What gauge is the side sheet of the container

  • bluebelly Brown

    bluebelly Brown


    I still think the concrete slab is a unnecessary over the top expense.. lateral movement ..earthquakes it's a steel box ?? it's not going collapse into a heap or take off down the road maybe?

  • p penca

    p penca

     2 days ago

    hi planning to build mine and you gave me an idea of putting a high cube on its side and add a sheetmetal roof which i´d do anyways. thx

  • James Blackshaw

    James Blackshaw

     3 days ago

    Could have just bought an RV alot less work

  • James Blackshaw

    James Blackshaw

     3 days ago

    Amazing init you can buy land but restrictions on what you can do with government are cunts

  • Riley Schow

    Riley Schow

     4 days ago

    if i buy my own land im not asking permission to do anything on it like wtf??? Maybe except power and water and electric obviously but i should be able to build my house how i want on my own property I dont understand why you have to ask permission for all this what do they do fine you or arrest you if you don't comply?

  • LeftoverCrass FPV

    LeftoverCrass FPV

     4 days ago

    Lol, captain hindsight here,

    Star pickets and 6 metre flat steel make boxing out concrete a sinch

  • Ray Zer

    Ray Zer

     5 days ago

    Seems that the only legal thing in California is to be illegal. I’m surprised breathing in air is still legal.

  • Márton Léránt

    Márton Léránt

     5 days ago

    ....why would it be a problem if it would have been used to store radioactive material???

  • Inventor Technologic

    Inventor Technologic

     5 days ago

    Se pueden unir y cortar dos contenedores

  • Inventor Technologic

    Inventor Technologic

     5 days ago

    Qué altura tienen esos contenedores

  • JayDee


     6 days ago

    Person in California moves one rock on their own land State of Californias do you have a Permit to move that rock and we need to know the size, weight, and color, also your need a Permit for each of those to

  • Menelik 3rd

    Menelik 3rd

     7 days ago +1

    $25,000 for the permits???😨 They get you somehow... highway robbery. I'm already mad.
    I think it would have been way cheaper to buy a house, demolish it and build on top of the original.

  • Richard


     7 days ago

    regulation madness

  • Guns N Glory

    Guns N Glory

     7 days ago

    screw your libtarted government of kommiefornia

  • Reza Tashakori

    Reza Tashakori

     7 days ago

    Did you go through DSA to get this permitted? I've built a school wiht shipping containers in LA

  • JMP Podcast

    JMP Podcast

     7 days ago +1

    So basically California tries to prevent anyone but the homeless from living there.

  • Wanderer Saldana

    Wanderer Saldana

     7 days ago +7

    Why does he keep saying “WE” ? I don’t see him doing shit in the hot sun

  • Michael Vaughn

    Michael Vaughn

     7 days ago +1

    You got taken on the cement pump ha ha ha that sledge that the cement rolls out on they have extensions for them extending 6-8 ft you got took.