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Container Homes – What You Should Know & What We Can Do

Shipping containers are used for a variety of different purposes, from pop-up bars to disaster shelters, backyard sheds and more. One of the most popular new trends in the container conversion market is the container home, inspired by the emerging tiny home boom. Eco-friendly and durable, shipping containers are a unique alternative to traditional home building materials. Whether your vision is for a complete home, a cabin, or an apartment, containers offer a clean and industrial aesthetic applicable to different styles for homes of all sizes.

If you’re considering building your very own shipping container home, here are some questions you should ask yourself at the outset:

1. Have you contracted an architect or structural engineer?
Safety should always be your first priority when building a home – traditional homes and container homes alike. You wouldn’t consider building a traditional home without having a trained and licensed professional review your specifications to make sure the house is structurally sound – the same is true with a container home. Containers are a great alternative building material, but as you remove parts of the container to fit your specifications, the structural integrity of the container can become compromised. We highly recommend consulting an architect or a structural engineer to make sure that your plan can be executed in a safe manner.

2. Do you have a design or floor plan for your home?
Like all homes, you’ll need to start with a floor plan. Without a floor plan, it will be difficult to properly estimate your homebuilding costs. We recommend putting together a complete floorplan and specifications list before you purchase any materials or hire a contractor.

3. What are your main objectives for using containers to build your home?
It’s always a good idea to reflect on why you’ve chosen to build a container home – understanding your objectives will help tremendously as you plan the buildout and material procurement. For example, if you’re looking to design a home that has a crisp, sleek, distinctly industrial feel to it, you’ll probably want to use lightly-used, one-trip, almost-new containers that have that look. On the other hand, your main priority may be building a green-friendly, environmentally sustainable home. In that case, you’ll probably end up repurposing used containers rather than brand new ones. Or maybe your goal is to build a home in a remote, sparsely-populated area, in which case you’ll want to use fewer containers and stick to minimal modifications that require less maintenance.

Having a clear sense of purpose for how you plan to use your container home will help you narrow down your choices and make design decisions. For example, you may find that you don’t want to be confined to the 8’ width of a container, so you’ll probably end up going with a hybrid of container and traditional-build methods to create the design you envision in your head. Or, conversely, your vision for an off-the-grid tiny home may fit perfectly inside a 20’ container with very few modifications. Either way, we recommend reflecting upon these items before making any hard commitments.

4. Do you want your container home to be 100% made from containers – or do you want a mix of containers and traditional built?
There is no wrong answer, but there are endless possibilities. Once again, reflect on your intended purpose for building a container home and those decisions will be much easier to make.

5. Are you going to complete the work yourself or are you going to use a contractor?
Just like a traditional home, you can do as much or as little of the construction work yourself, depending on your experience and capabilities. Advantage Structures, LLC does basic modifications to containers, and our capabilities vary depending on your location. However, if you’re planning a large, multi-container project, chances are you will need to have a contractor present to assemble the containers onsite and complete the  build-out.

6. Is it permissible to build a container home where you want to build it?
Different cities and counties have varying rules and permitting processes. Before you do anything, it is imperative to find out if your project will pass local codes and ordinances, and obtain any permits that you may need in order to proceed.

What We Can Do
So what can Advantage Structures, LLC do to help you complete your dream container home? It varies on a situation by situation basis. We can do a variety of the modifications that may be just the starting point to your container home, or we may be able to get a small cabin almost all the way to the finish line – depending on what you are looking for and where in the country you are located. We have containers all across the continental United States, but we only have one modification shop located in Chicago, IL. In general, here are some of the things we can do to help you out:

Cut-outs both large and small for creating doors, windows, openings between containers and openings for plumbing and electrical wiring to go through.
Door & Window glass installations (limited sizes only, as large windows often break in transit) onto your container
Basic HVAC units installations – We do not install central air or perform any duct work, but we can add in mounted heating or cooling units.
Electrical work varies depending on the requirements and building codes. Typically the electrical work needs to be performed by a licensed electrician to pass building codes.
Insulation – The type of insulation varies by customer preference. Please note that if we are unable to perform the electrical work, we will likely be unable to install the insulation as the electrical work is usually installed behind the walls of most homes.
Interior wall installations – Depending on the project scope and specifications, we can install drywall, paneling and other traditional options & materials.
Flooring installations

What We Can’t Do
There are some things we do NOT do. Please keep them in mind:

Financing – Advantage Structures, LLC does not offer financing options for your container home. We recommend consulting with your lending institution.
Floorplans, designing or design work of any sort – Floorplans & design sheets must be provided by the client prior to the engagement.
Plumbing
Onsite container installations – Depending on your location, we may be able to set the container on the ground for you. In some locations, you will need to offload the container from our trucks. If you need containers set on footings, you will need to have an equipment-handling company put them in place for you.
Onsite electrical work – You will need a licensed electrician to perform any onsite electrical work.

Getting a Quote
If you would like us to quote a container home for you, please make sure you have the following items:

  1. A design or floorplan detailing the modifications you’d like to see performed.
  2. A detailed list of specifications for those modifications that include sizes, descriptions, preferred materials, etc.
  3. The intended location of the container home. Please be sure to include this detail so we can price out our work appropriately.
  4. As much detail as possible. If you are looking for modifications that include insulation, flooring, etc, please be very specific regarding specifications. Our basic modifications are very industrial, so if you’re looking for a particular look or aesthetic, please include some examples. Feel free to send links of any examples because they’re very helpful and will allow us to better serve you.

One Cool Customer: Coca-Cola Ice House at NRG Park

At Advantage Structures, no two projects are ever quite the same. We offer shipping container modification solutions for a variety of clients, in dozens of markets which include construction, industrial applications, bars & restaurants, and most recently…a rodeo show!

This past winter, Advantage Structures was contracted by Evolve Concepts to collaborate in converting and modifying three 40’ HC shipping containers for the Coca-Cola Ice House featured at NRG Park in Houston, Texas as one of the newest attractions at the 2022 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

The Ice House, a refreshments and apparel kiosk, served as a meet up point for rodeo attendees to relax, refresh, and find some umbrella shade from the hot Texas sun.

The custom built kiosk was constructed per the client’s drawings and specifications by modifying three new 40’ High Cube containers. Part of the build required the creation of two 20’ HC containers by splitting a 40’ HC container into two 20’ sections.

Advantage Structures was tasked with converting the containers and performing most of the modifications, which included the steelwork, painting, and ensuring structural integrity. Advantage fabricated and installed the roof top deck trays for the upper deck, hand rail mounting brackets and created a utility closet on the interior of one of the 20’ HC containers using the left over corrugated panel scraps.

The project was a time-sensitive, expedited job. Advantage delivered the final product both on-time and in accordance with the client’s specifications, leaving all parties pleased with the end result. Several photos of the finished product are included below.

Customer-Specific Solutions? That’s Our Specialty.

At Advantage Structures, LLC, our core business is providing shipping containers that are customized to your specific needs. Whether you’re a local business, or a company with global reach; whether you need a simple solution, or something more unusual; we’ll sit down with you to determine the best answer. And then we’ll build it.

Advantage was recently contacted by Gardner Denver, a global provider of air compressor and vacuum equipment for the industrial, energy and medical industries. Specifically, they needed a mobile solution to reach areas where a temporary air compressor system was called for. Advantage converted two standard 20’ shipping containers into vacuum/compressor stations that can be picked up and delivered to any required site. Modifications included a wide set of doors along the long side of the container for easy access, provisions for venting, and pipe penetrations and sleeves for utility connections. The floor was heavily rebuilt with 1” steel beams and cross members underneath reinforced steel plating, welded plates to secure the compressor equipment, and trays with drain systems to prevent leakage. Each container was finished with industrial-grade gun metal paint for long-term durability.

Several images of the process and product can be viewed below:

International Locations and Requirements? No Problem.

Advantage Structures, LLC can build a container for virtually any need, and that’s not limited to the American market. For over six years, our custom conversions have included international customers.

Advantage was recently contacted by Calbrandt, an industry leader in railcar handling equipment with a global reach and market. They had a unique requirement – a container to be used as an operating space for railcar switch gear motor mechanisms, to be installed at an oceanfront facility. To meet their needs, Advantage converted a 20’ open-side container with modifications including a fully galvanized floor, specialized bolts to hold the equipment in place, and provisions for custom aluminum venting systems. The container is divided into two separate areas, each with its own door – one for the operators, the other for the equipment itself. And due to the oceanfront location, the exterior received a special 25-year marine grade paint treatment for corrosion protection. Several photos of the finished container are shown below.

Exterior Electrical Control Center – Australia
Exterior Electrical Control Center – Australia
Exterior Electrical Control Center – Australia
Exterior Electrical Control Center – Australia
Interior Electrical Control Center – Australia
Interior Electrical Control Center – Australia