The BIG Crane Day

The BIG crane day is the single most exciting day of this project as a lot of visual progress is made in a few hours. In this post, we show you photos of the containers being placed on their foundations, and share  some of the considerations and options available for completing this step in the construction process.

In this project, all the shipping containers were on site for several months as a means for storing furniture, construction materials, and tools. The containers were siting on wooden blocks, awaiting to be moved to their final resting places.

foundation panorama

Panorama shot of the final foundations after backfill and grading – click to enlarge

4 options for placing shipping containers

In order of price, but also lowest flexibility we have listed some options for placing containers below:

  1. Tilt and load flatbed trucks: These are the trucks that typically deliver 20′ containers and are the lowest cost option. They have the flexibility of unloading a container without any assistance of forklifts or cranes. On the down side, they are limited to dropping the containers and need a 60′ straight run way from the container unloading position. In this project, the land around the OCTOPOD is tight with natural drop offs and water, and therefore this method will not work.
  2. Off road forklift: Heavy duty forklifts capable of lifting containers and traversing soft and uneven gravel terrain. Again, given the limited ability to traverse around the foundation area, this was not a practical option for this project. However, in other projects with wider lay down area, an off road forklift can be used as long as the forks are wide enough and long enough (8′) to fit into the container fork lift pockets. If using this method, the forklift is limited to lifting the containers from the 20′ long side only.
  3. Small crane: Smaller cranes are lower to hire per hour in cost than large cranes but have limited reach capability and may take longer to complete the job if they need to move and reposition themselves for a second lift of the same container. When lifting containers or any other heavy objects, many cranes can lift them straight up but as you reach out, the laws of physics kick in and have the effect of requiring larger lift capacities to perform the work.
  4. Large crane: Larger cranes cost the most to hire per hour but have the greatest reach and can complete the job in less time and with ease. In this project, we wanted to be able to reach almost 100′ away from the crane location for the furthest container placements.  After being set up, the seven containers were moved into place with safety and precision in a few hours. 


Large 90 ton Crane for BIG Crane Day


Shipping container being craned into position


4 of 7 Shipping containers placed on foundations


All 7 Shipping Containers Cabin sitting on foundations

Click Time Lapse VIDEO of the BIG Crane Day!

Optimize the benefits of building with shipping containers.

We have figured out the tricks to building homes out of shipping containers in cold environments while meeting Ontario building code. Contact us for your DIY shipping container kit so you can prepare yourself to build your very own permanent shipping container home.

Minimizing Foundations Work with Shipping Containers

In Building Foundations for a Rocky Landscape, we completed the footings and now we will share how we completed the foundation work and our reasons why we poured concrete for the octagon in the centre of the Sea Container Cabin.

Replacing standard foundation building methods with piers

If you want to minimize foundations work with shipping containers, you can skip the standard foundations used in traditional building methods and use piers instead resting the corners of your shipping containers instead of having to support the perimeter of your structure. With a clean set of footings to build on, the forming of the outer box piers and the centre octagon takes place. The centre octagon has structural box piers located at each of the octagon points that hold one end of the containers. There are 20 outer box piers that hold the outer ends of the containers and supports the outer posts and beams for the roofing system.

Choice of floor construction for the great room

In the Concept & Design section, we describe the features of our centre octagon great room.  This great room could be designed with a suspended wood floor system, or with an elevated concrete slab on foundations. We selected a concrete centre hub for the following reasons:

  1. Permanent long term durability
  2. Invincible to damage from beneath from insects and animals (carpenter ants and porcupines love to eat wood!)
  3. Ability to heat a thermal mass with in floor radiant heat piping in an insulated concrete slab
  4. Superior weight load capabilities for heavy wood stoves
  5. Waterproof for winter gear drying in front of a fire, and in the event of a leak from the interior water tower there’s a floor drain in the centre

 Images Capturing Step by Step Foundations Work

sea container cabin foundations 1

 Centre octagon forms with structural box piers and concrete curtain walls

sea container cabin foundations 2 centre octagon

Structural box piers with embedded steel welding plates

sea container cabin foundations 3 box piers with steel welding plates

Centre octagon after concrete forms removed

sea container cabin foundations 5 centre octagon finished walls

Rebar floor ties inset into octagon foundations (Picture 1)

sea container cabin foundations 6 octagon floor ties

Rebar floor ties inset into octagon foundations (Picture 2) 

sea container cabin foundations 7 with airbook

Outer box pier concrete forms

sea container cabin foundations 8 outer box piers

Centre octagon backfilled, compacted, and insulation laid

sea container cabin foundations 10 back filled and insulated octagon

In floor heat piping installed before concrete floor is poured

sea container cabin foundations 11 in floor heat piping

Completed foundations, great room octagon floor, backfilled, and graded

foundation panorama

 Panorama of Sea Container Cabin site – click to enlarge

Optimize the benefits of building with shipping containers for more than foundations work

We have figured out how to optimally build homes out of shipping containers in cold environments while meeting Ontario’s building code. And after we figured it out, we wrote about it. Contact us for your DIY shipping container kit so you can experience what’s behind building your own permanent shipping container home.

Sourcing Timbers and Brackets for our Post and Beam Great Room

This past winter was the coldest Ontario has seen in 20 years. Spring is officially here however the nicer weather hasn’t exactly arrived yet. After checking in with our builder, it appears we’ll need a little more patience before the roads dry up allowing us to get back into the construction scene.

During our planned sea container construction downtime, we have been busy preparing for our next steps.

1. Source big timbers

We believe in local sourcing to support the community and to reduce shipping costs. These savings will ultimately reflect in our final construction costs so we searched for a nearby sawmill with the capacity and capability to mill up dimensional timbers as large as 10″ x 10″, and some as long as 26 ft.  Sure enough, just one concession road over from the project site, our friendly local sawmill was up for the task.  Timbers of this size require a long lead time. Our order was placed months ago in order to align with our spring construction period.

2. Source heavy steel brackets

Another long lead time item are the custom heavy steel brackets for connecting the post and beam timber works.  For ease of on site assembly, and for the beefy rustic look, we decided to go with heavy steel brackets instead of custom fit hand carved joints.  Once the final dimensions of the rough sawn timbers were confirmed, design and engineering of the brackets were finalized, and off they went into the fabrication shop for manufacturing, and over to the finishing shop for a hot dipped galvanized treatment.

Now we wait for the ground to dry up.

Once we mobilize the crane, the containers will be placed on their foundations. Then we start building the great room.

The following preparation and progress has occurred while the site lay in winter hibernation:

  1. Post and beam timbers sourced and cut, ready for delivery
  2. Manufacturing of enormous engineered brackets and hot dip galvanizing, ready for delivery
  3. Researching off-grid power and determining requirements of the cabin, keeping us busy –  interesting findings on the latest energy storage technologies post to follow
  4. Documenting interior design requirements so that a furniture, electrical and lighting plan could be created to optimize the living space. We have an exciting interior designer engaged – deserving of her own dedicated post.
  5. Did we mention we’re hoping to have the sea container cabin project filmed for a TV series?  Film producers are excited about the rich content of this project, so we’ll see if they can keep up with the speed of the build this summer.

white pine timbers for sea container cabin

First load of timbers for the great room are waiting to be delivered.

If you would like greater detail on any of these topics or just want to hear more about our experiences, contact us or leave us a comment below. Your interests do influence our future community blog topics. You can also follow us on our journey by signing up for our emails.

Building Foundations for a Rocky Landscape

Old man Winter was finding its way quickly into Southern Ontario and we were knee deep in building foundations for our shipping container cabin. The Bobcaygeon area is known for rocky terrain with a clear presence of cambrian and pre-cambrian geology. The entire foundation area was excavated and scraped down to the granite bedrock. Due to the uneven rock terrain, we decided bringing in surveyors to accurately locate the centre octagon points and outer piers would be a worthwhile investment. After all, it isn’t exactly easy to undo concrete work.

Concrete forming commenced for the footings, with some crafty carpentry work to follow the natural granite. Rebar pins were drilled into the granite for all footings. Rebar reinforcements were inserted into concrete footings and with projections for foundation walls and piers to come next. Let’s just say these piers are securely fastened to mother earth and we won’t have any concerns for foundation settlement, that is for sure. And just in the nick of time with winter settling in!

 excavated area

Excavation of shipping container cabin site

survey pins 2

Construction plans for shipping container cabin

surveyors 1

Surveyors to accurately locate piers

surveyors 2

Measurements and anchoring to the rock foundation

survey pins

Straightening metal spikes from the disassembled barn for transformation into markers

surveyors 3

Marking our locates

footings 2

Crafty centre octagon form building

footings 6

Initial octagon cement pour

footings 7 done

Aerial view of future Octopod

Do you have any questions regarding building foundations in our project? We’d be happy to share our learnings. In fact, there’s been so much interest in our project we are putting together a free of charge sneak peek of our Do it Yourself Shipping Container Cabin kit. Sign up for our blog if you’d like to be the first to know once it becomes available. Or leave a comment.

Demolishing the old to make room for our new shipping container cabin

Demolition time has arrived.

The excavator and our seasoned contractor George are making quick work of what is otherwise a mountain of carnage.

The old cabin was rotted from beneath, but it was built tough. Demolishing the old revealed that this little cabin had multiple layers of material in every part of its construction. The floors were composed of steel beams, joists, tongue and groove subfloor, SM foam, plywood, and finally topped with hardwood flooring. The walls were tongue and groove pine on the interior, studs, fiberglass insulation, tongue and groove board exterior, tongue and groove wood siding, topped with an extra layer of cedar board and batten. The ceiling to roof was composed of tongue and groove pine ceiling, studded partially vaulted ceiling, fiberglass insulation, roof rafter joists, tongue and groove board roof sheeting, asphalt shingles, wood strapping, steel roofing. The amount of material to dispose, recycle, reuse and burn was equivalent to 2 or 3 such structures.

Looking forward to starting our foundations next.





If you have any questions about our demolition experience, please contact us or leave a comment below. You can also follow our project and be the first to know what’s going on by signing up for our blog.

How Shipping Containers Are Made

This is the best video I have seen which shows how shipping containers are made in China.  This is a well refined, complete multi-step manufacturing process that is shockingly quick and well done.



Construction Office Set Up in Shipping Container

shipping container temp construction office door finish 0Every construction site needs a construction office.  A place to review drawings, eat lunch, and get out of the weather.  We decided to take two containers and set them up for just this purpose.  One shipping container is the main office space, with mock kitchen, large table, food storage, and a couch.  The second container has the sleeping quarters, with enough beds to sleep 5 people.  Both containers were outfitted with oversized sliding patio doors that are 8 feet tall.  They are installed directly behind the steel security doors, and demonstrates the project’s approach for obtaining large amounts of glazing yet maintain the security features of the containers.  We are now ready to start recycling and demolishing the old wooden cabin and barn.


shipping container temp sleeping

shipping container temp construction office door finish 4

shipping container temp construction office door finish 3

shipping container temp construction office door finish 2

shipping container temp construction office 1

shipping container temp construction office 2

shipping container inside temp construction office 3

Building Permits issued for Shipping Container Cabin

Building Permit

Another milestone has been achieved.   The project is now approved for construction by the township building officials.  In this jurisdiction, building permit fees for new residential construction is about $2000.

The  success in achieving this milestone is partly to do with the excellent work from our design and structural engineering team, and partly to do with our approach and positive interaction with building officials and other approving authorities in the process.

Since the footprint of the Shipping Container Cabin will be in the same location as the current cottage, there is also a second building permit issued for demolition.  Demolition work will commence shortly and will involve a large effort to recycle as much of the old cabin as possible.  The objective is to classify materials, storing reusable wood and steel roofing materials for future use, recycling valuable copper, keeping waste wood products for firewood, and disposing of minimal waste to landfill such as glass, insulation, and drywall.



Insulating Coatings for High Temperature Applications

Ceramic coating high temp testIn contrast to the previous post about using insulating coatings for ambient and cold temperatures, I would like to share my direct research on the use of ceramic coatings for high temperature applications.

I received a piece of metal with a 1/4″ think layer of ceramic coating, This is at least 10 times thicker than any of the manufacturer recommended thickness applications provided for our sea container cabin project. The origin of the coating was not confirmed, however we believe it is a SuperTherm product. We jumped straight into the high temperature test using the ceramic coated metal, a torch and an infrared temperature gun and videotaped the results to share with you.

This video speaks for itself.

Suffice it to say, I am convinced that ceramic coatings do have amazing performance characteristics in high temperature and high delta T applications that would be great for high temperature applications.

VIDEO: Ceramic coating high temperature test

Taking Delivery of our Shipping Containers

sea container cabin

The Big Day (or days as it turned out) has arrived to take delivery of our shipping containers for our future shipping container cabin.

All 8 containers have arrived from China.  So we headed up to the shipping container yard to do a pre-inspection of the containers.  Most importantly was to verify the shipping placard labels for the pesticide treatments used during manufacturing of the wood floors.  The treatment was not what we expected to receive (this is not a feature that you can specify when ordering containers), but after some research we satisfied ourselves with it’s characteristics and that it will be satisfactory for our project given our construction techniques.
In Ontario, with all the snow melting in the spring time, it results in load restrictions for hauling heavy loads during this time of year.  In our case, the last 1km of travel is on a seasonal dirt road which is even more susceptible to road damage.  As a result, we needed to wait until the “half load” trucking restrictions were lifted by the local municipality, and delayed our ability to take delivery of the containers.

Before the containers arrived, 50 cubic yards of gravel was brought in to expand the lay down area to accomodate all 8 containers beside the proposed construction site.  Here is a video of the existing cabin and lay down area, the Octopod will cover the area of the existing cabin and the drive shed.  VIDEO:  cabin before 360

All 8 containers were planned to be shipped up on a Tuesday.  The shipping company asked to advance shipment of half the cans to the previous Friday night and Saturday.  After waiting all evening, the 4 containers arrived at 12 midnight under a full moon.  The containers were unloaded from the tilt and load trucks and placed onto railway tie timber.  The truck drivers didn’t leave until 2am after working in the dark, and decided not to return on Saturday.  This meant the remaining containers would be shipped on Tuesday as originally planned.  Upon returning again on Tuesday, we noticed some damage to one of the containers on the front top beam above the door.  With the beauty of technology we were able to take photos and send them to the container company, who with excellent customer service in mind, had one of the trucks backhaul the damaged container and send a replacement unit that same day.  Here is a video of a container being unloaded from a truck onto railway tie blocks.  VIDEO:  container unloading


 container deliveries first four