In our last blog post, we talked about the process of building a shipping container house. One of the key questions to answer is, “Am I doing this myself or am I hiring someone to take this on for me?” This week, we’re taking a trip to Houston for an example of someone who chose to take on the project themselves.
Will Breaux is a designer and homeowner in Houston, Texas-- he moved to the Midtown area in 1999 and purchased the lot on McGowen Street in 2011. After firing the first design crew that he hired to conceptualize his vision, he chose to use his own design skills and Sketchup, and started the process himself.
You can read the full saga from start to finish straight from him here, in the blog he set up and still maintains for the project. His website has the most accurate information for this project and focuses on techniques that he used, dealings with contractors and inspectors, and permitting, to name a few of the things you can find there. ALL photos have been pulled from that blog, and are accredited to Will Breaux.
He chose to have the 11 containers modified and fabricated off-site at a container yard using modular construction techniques. Making changes to the structure of the containers in this manner is less costly than doing so onsite, where the intermodal containers, equipment, and labor crews are all at the mercy of the elements. In Houston, the weather can cause severe delays for any project, so Will was able to sidestep a few headaches by doing the modifications this way.
He relied on a trusted professional welder to do all of the remaining necessary onsite welding and fabrication-- rather than take this task on himself, he made the wise choice to put this in the hands of a seasoned pro. As we’ve mentioned previously, Container Discounts strongly recommends that any alterations and fabrications be conducted by experienced technicians; many local building departments will require it, as well.
Will had a great idea: order the windows and doors before you do the fabrication, which allows you to tailor the fabrications to the exact specifications of the windows and doors that you already have! He did much of his own installation: as Hurricane Harvey loomed over the gulf coast, no one was willing to come install them for him. Luckily, he chose to build an extremely sturdy shipping container home and used only the highest quality materials for his windows and doors-- this house wasn’t (and still isn’t) going anywhere.
A really cool feature of this home is that there is acoustic insulation above the foam insulation between the floors, which helps to dampen the sound between the levels. This is a great feature for any home, frankly, but for a home built out of industrial intermodal containers it could make a big difference in personal comfort.
Will has been living in the space since early 2019, and continues to work on the home. He’s recently hit a snag with local building departments who failed to maintain proper records of their own inspections. This is where the homeowner is their own greatest advocate: it is VITAL that you keep ANY documentation to CYA in the event “the man comes a’knockin’,” as Will put it in his blog.
We are eager to see how this stunning space develops and to find out more about how Will is doing as an owner-builder in navigating the ongoing build and the murky waters of Municipal Bureaucracy.
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