July 21, 2013
I get e-mails all the time from people that want to build their own shipping container houses. Some of them are actually quite belligerent as to why we won’t work for individual homeowners in designing these. Some plead with us to make an exception, others ask for us to point them to a builder that they can go to that we will work with. Let me explain our reasoning, and hopefully clear up some confusion.
First, we have done work for individuals in the past, and it didn’t work out well. In most cases they had unrealistic ideas as to what this type of construction would cost. If you are building a container house by yourself, I don’t care what the many other websites tell you, it will cost you about $150.00 a square foot. Now, somebody will reply to this pointing out they “know a guy” that built a house for couple hundred dollars. I’m not talking about a hermit living in a box in the woods. I’m talking about a permitted legal house . I’ve challenged people to come up with a specific house that has been permitted and follows all applicable codes that costs less – I need specifics. If I get one of these, I will happily post about it here on the website.
Second, if you’ve ever built your own house you know what a pain in the neck that it is. Shipping containers are not conventional. Cutting them requires a skilled hand with a plasma torch or diamond saw. Welding them requires a lot of tedious grinding to get rid of the epoxy paint, and a skilled hand at welding. When you cut the sides off, the containers spring out of shape. They have to be lifted by a crane. This is more commercial type work, not residential. I don’t care if you’ve built a wonderful wet bar in your basement, it’s not a DIY project. I know there are websites out there that say that they can be built as a DIY project, but there are also websites out there that say the moon landing was faked, and that the US Government has an Alien breeding program where aliens are cross bred with humans. Look, I worked for the Government, and we were too incompetent to fake a moon landing, and you would have better luck mating my parrot with my dog than a human with a species from another solar system. You also would find building your own container house only marginally easier that mating the parrot with the dog, and would have better luck faking the moon landing.
Third is the liability. “Liability” is often used as an excuse for poor service, but in this case it is real. If you contract with us to design a house for you, and you run into all kind of problems as you find it’s sprung out of shape, you can’t get the floors to match up, you have problems stacking the containers, and the details have to be changed, you may get very angry instead of realizing you waded in over your head. That’s how lawsuits begin. It’s just not worth the risk for us.
Now, one other problem is that people that want to build a home for themselves with shipping containers get very angry when we don’t return their calls or e-mails. It comes off as impolite, but let me explain why this happens. First off, we say in our contact information that we don’t do shipping container houses for individuals, we also say it again in this post. So, if you are calling or e-mailing us, you probably had read that we don’t do work for individual homes, but you chose to contact us anyway. That’s a red flag right there.
If we respond to an e-mail or a phone call, it almost always starts a bargaining session that can be very time consuming. If you spend 15 minutes talking to me on the phone, it costs the company $50.00 in billable time. That’s a lot of time to be spent to tell you “no”. With e-mails, if I respond, it starts a flurry of back and forth e-mails, again trying to bargain with us. Again, it is time consuming going back and forth on e-mails for projects that the answer will certainly be “no”.
If you really want a container house, what do I recommend you do? I don’t really have any recommendations on this. This is something we just can’t help you with.