Dec 28, 2012

New 8' x 20' Shipping Container Home Design

When I set out to design my first shipping container home, my goal was to keep it simple and affordable.  The resulting design is not fancy, but it has pretty much everything one person needs.  In my view, this is too small for two people for an extended period of time, but one person could be comfortable here.  It could be a great vacation home, guest house, or place for an adult child who has returned home after college, as many are doing these days. 

Front view of the 8' x 20', 160 square foot container home design with an 8' x 20' deck.

I was surprised that I was able to shoe-horn this much into 160 square feet.  There's a three fixture bathroom, a tiny kitchen, a stacked washer/dryer combination, a "great room" that combines living, dining, sleeping, and study/work space, plus two closets.  The dining table doubles as a desk, and the futon couch folds-out to become a full-sized mattress at night.

Floor plan for an 8' x 20', 160 square foot shipping container home with an 8' x 20' deck.


It goes without saying that 160 square feet is tight.  I tried to create a greater sense of spaciousness by having quite a bit of glass for natural light and views.  The bathroom and kitchen each have their own windows, and the great room has four windows and a double patio door.

Cross section view looking toward back wall.

Cross section view looking toward front wall.

Cross section view looking toward end wall.  A propane heater is mounted on the wall.

A small water heater could be installed under the kitchen sink, or in the closet next to the washer/dryer.  Another alternative would be to mount a tankless water heater on the wall in the bathroom, or raise the washer/dryer unit up on a platform and stick an RV water heater underneath it, or maybe even above it.  In a climate where freezing is not a problem, a tankless water heater could be installed on the outside of the house.

Building section through the bathroom.
I drew this using Google SketchUp, something I'm not very skilled at yet.  I am aware of some of the problems you may notice, such as the lack of a foundation, framing, and electrical outlets.  Also the shower would need a curtain or bifold shower door because the sink location would interfere with the door swing.  

Exterior perspective rendering.
If you build a container home in an area where it gets cold, you need to insulate the floor as well as the walls and ceiling.  You could mount the container on a crawlspace foundation too.  That would probably be the best solution in a cold climate, because it would allow you to put your insulation underneath the container, thus conserving headroom inside (you could also put your water heater in the crawlspace, as long as you have access to it).

I am including some additional exterior views, and a cost estimate below.
Exterior perspective rendering.

Exterior perspective rendering.

Exterior perspective rendering.
Incidentally, this tiny house design doesn't need to be built in a shipping container.  It could be easily built conventionally, with a gable or shed roof too, and any sort of siding, roofing, and trim that pleases you.

Take a virtual tour and hear my description of the 8x20 shipping container home in the video below.  I have some information about cost beneath the video.  If you enjoy the video, please "like", share, comment and/or subscribe on YouTube.  Thanks!



 How much would it cost to do this?
Okay. Many people have requested it so I did a quick work-up of how much it would cost to do this. My calculations include all framing, doors, windows, plumbing fixtures, most interior finishes, stacked washer/dryer, insulation, water heater, a prefabricated compact kitchen, and a propane heater. I priced most of the materials at a big box DIY store. For the most part, I didn't choose the absolute least expensive things, but neither did I choose the most expensive.  I didn't include labor of any sort, tools, the deck, electrical supplies, fasteners, furniture, or any plumbing supplies other than fixtures and faucets.   All materials are assumed to be brand new, but no taxes or discounts were included. The cost for materials alone (not including the shipping container itself) came to $10,075.  As a general rule, you can obtain used 8x20 shipping containers for between $1,000 and $3,500.  You'll want the "HC" (high cube) variety because they're a foot taller and you'll need that space for framing and insulation.

I'm not going to break the costs down in too much detail here, but the framing materials, insulation, drywall, doors, windows, and flooring came to about $4,470.  The bathroom worked out to $1,010, and the kitchen, including the washer/dryer, water heater, and prefab compact kitchen came to $3,395.  Substituting recycled materials could reduce costs a lot.  The big ticket items were the washer/dryer ($1,200), propane heater ($1,300), and prefab compact kitchen ($1,600).  Those three items combined add up to $4,100 (plus shipping).  Building your own kitchen and using a laundromat  could reduce the initial investment quite a bit.  This is a only a rough estimate.

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