Side-door container 2nd life as WA’s ski town outdoorsy home

was tired of life in a 2500 converted farmhouse, so he bought a side door shipping container to convert it into a tiny new home. The “train car” style container is built to open completely on two sides so Shiah didn’t need to make any cuts (and thereby lose structural strength).

Containers are built to handle a 300-pound snow load and in his Northern Washington town ( is about 50 miles south of the Canadian border) Shiah only had to build for 120 pound loads. Without the need for stick-frame walls, he created his own system for building out the inside/ He attached a C-beam on the ceiling, lined everything with a foil-faced foam insulation (the highest available) and covered it with plywood (screwed to the C-channel and the edge of the container). The resulting home is highly-insulated (R34; R40 ceiling and R22 walls) for winters of average lows of 14°F (-10°F).

After a couple of months living in a on his property, he moved into the converted home and loves living with just what he needs.

26 Comments

  1. That town …! Adorable — I’ve never seen anything like that in real life … or on screen. Only yesterday I asked for a price on a regular-opening container and one that also opens on the side to do something similar (with murphy bed, for more room), so this is amazing timing. On a second-hand site, I have seen the side-openers be a few thousand dollars more (in Australia), so I hope the company I asked is not that variable — I’m not a welder either!

    • Indeed! I got in touch with a few container companies, and the side opening ones are very rare and even more rare second hand, so they’re priced around $8 – 9k new, $7 – 8k used! Hiring a welder for a regular $2k container would save me thousands, by comparison, I’m sure!

  2. Wow, lots of potential with doors like that. I did not know they even existed.
    There could be a company that sells something like this for people that want a small vacation home and don’t want to worry about vandalism.
    You’d want to make sure no one could lock you up when you’re inside!

  3. Would have liked to hear about the water,and electrical service. Is it well water ? Did he have a well drilled ? Thats expensive. I didn’t see any solar panels.

    • Well was already drilled. Solar power is great for a small home like this but hasn’t been integrated yet due to price of entry (Panels, Storage, Inverters etc.). We’ll get to it eventually though.

  4. He says he didn’t break up with his girlfriend because of the closet.Maybe it was because the only thing there was to eat was vodka a crackers. LMAO

  5. #hewillnotdivideus
    j/k, cool, w/lots of good ideas. The “train car” bicon offers interesting possibilities. If the folding doors/walls are not structural, for instance, then you should be able to redo them as you please (& still keep it transportable). Or must these meet particular standards?

  6. Don’t you need to vent the drain pipes? I think this is one of the smartest container designs I’ve seen. Placing 2 of these together in an “L” configuration might be even better.

    Also, great idea recycling the floor like that. I’d heard that there were health concerns with used containers.

  7. Q – About the on-demand water heater? Can that be used for like shower and kitchen water and heating at the same time? That is a good idea.

    Q – Do they make right and left handed containers? That way you could pretty much jam four of them together and the open space would be all in the middle?

    • We didn’t talk any more about the on-demand water heater, but he did mention that the left side containers (or the opposite of what he bought) are more rare.

  8. With a quick web search I found some containers like this at outbackstoragecontainers.com for sale for $4,375.00 and some as low as $2,575.00. Some as high as $6,475.00.

  9. “i got a degree in math so its pretty easy to figure that shit out” (as he talks about a half assed engineering solution)
    spoken like a true scholar. a grizzled man in appalachia is laughing his ass off at this stuff.

  10. Thirteen years ago, I shipped a railway carriage about 150 km onto an island. I had to pay a barge fare, I had to hire 2 cranes for 2 days and the whole shipping expenses cost $5000 AUD.

  11. Too many windows. But I guess if you have blinds and doors to seel them from the outside world you can splurge. Nice to know that those kind of containers exist though. Many that I’ve seen were made from refridgeration containers (pre-insulated). Not having to carve up the container must have saved a bundle.

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