06 Nov Making Shipping Containers a Safe Living Environment
Safely Transform Your Container
The practice of transforming used shipping containers into homes, vacation homes, cottages, hunting cabins and housing during disaster recovery efforts is very common, shipping containers have even been used as the basis for multistory apartment buildings and hotels. One group has developed a portable container hotel that can quickly be set up at a large event, rented out, then dismantled and removed upon conclusion of the event.
Because of the modular nature of containers they make a great building block, once reconfigured and positioned either next to, or on top of one another the basic frame work is complete. When the building is installed on a suitable foundation, all the builder needs to do is to insulate, install electrical and plumbing components, finish materials and fixtures to complete the process. Using containers allows the builder to sidestep the labor intensive rough framing process, and also has the positive environmental impact of saving raw materials by re-purposing the shipping containers.
There are many articles both on line and in print that feature some amazing transformations of shipping containers into living spaces. The beauty of the process is it’s really not that hard, with basic steel cutting tools anyone can undertake the project. But I want to caution about one thing, if you’re not careful it’s very easy to unknowingly build a very sick building.
As we discussed in an earlier article, shipping container manufactures must impregnate very potent insecticides into the wood used for the container flooring. Some countries have much more stringent insecticide requirements than others in order to keep foreign hitchhikers from traveling from continent to continent. Since the insecticide requirements vary from country to country it is simpler for shipping container manufactures to meet the most stringent requirements on all containers, this creates and very potent chemical cocktail within the container walls.
The chemical make-up of the flooring is required to be shown on the shipping containers label. However, if the label still exists and is still readable it will not tell you what has been shipped inside of and potentially spilled on the container flooring during its overseas career. While you may learn what was purposefully put on the floor, you will never learn what the floor was accidentally exposed to.
The best way to protect people from the potential hidden issues imbedded within your container is to remove and properly dispose of all of the flooring. Remember this could be a hazardous material so it shouldn’t just be tossed in the back field or land fill, it should be taken to a hazardous waste site for the proper handling. After removal of the tainted wood you’re looking at installing ten sheets of ¾” plywood flooring to replace it, hardly a deal breaker and well worth the additional work. While the flooring is out you will have the opportunity to further inspect your containers framing structure and make any further repairs you deem necessary and add some needed insulation. In addition to the piece of mind, the new sub floor will give you a much better surface to install your new finish flooring to.