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.




  1. Hi,
    My name is Watson and I was wondering. Can you use shipping containers as a foundation for building with other shipping containers?

    • Hi Watson. The short answer is Yes. You always need a foundation design for the first container level, but if you want to stack another container on top, then we need ensure the base foundation design is capable of holding the extra weight and stresses. Containers are designed to stack on their corner points, and shipping containers are stacked as high as 20 high on the large shipping vessels when carrying deliveries around the world. However many fancy home designs tend to want to position containers on top of each other without aligning the corner points. This creates the need to use additional structural members, beams, posts, etc. to accomodate those design features. Hope this helps. Jason.

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