Hi everyone! So what’s my big idea? This is my pilot project, my first container conversion project. Have a look see how my shipping container plan has evolved.

My goal is a green, eco-friendly, high quality and visually attractive build.

So, after my wife got me hooked on container home conversions a couple of months ago on Instagram, I decided to look into designing and building my own. I have completed a number of renovations including bathrooms, kitchens, bedrooms, offices, minor extensions and carports. I’ve also been involved in volunteer construction work doing steel erections, roofing and drywalling. So, converting a shipping container doesn’t seem like an overwhelming project. Although, in the famous last words of Jeremy Clarkson, “how hard can it be!”

My First Plan

My first idea was two 40ft containers, separated along the length, and closed in along the middle.

My Big Idea - Basic Floor Plan for 2x 40' Shipping Containers
Basic Floor Plan for 2x 40′ Shipping Containers

I’d still like to try this one. It seems like good use of space. But, since this is my first container build, I thought I should keep it small for now. Big ideas should be realistic too.

My Second Big Idea

So here’s some ideas I have for a single 40ft container. Which one do you think is the best, and let me know why? When I’m done, I’m hoping to sell this container, so I’d like as many opinions as possible.

More of My Big Ideas - Basic Floorplans for 1x 40ft
Basic Floorplans for 1x 40ft

Nearly there – Final Plan

After much feedback and trying to decide on what is practical, I have the last two iterations:

Basic Floorplans for 1x 40ft
Basic Floorplans for 1x 40ft

Most of the feedback had to do with not having the bathroom and kitchen not right next to each other. However, for practical reasons the kitchen and bathroom should be next to each other to facilitate easier (and cheaper) plumbing. Hence the idea for a dressing room/cupboard in between. (Picture 2 above) But everyone still seems set on having the kitchen at the opposite end of the container. (Picture 1 above)

The kitchen on the far end of the container is nice because it allows for more counter space and cupboards because of the “U” shape.

Let me know what you think in the comments below.

14 thoughts on “1. My Big Idea – The Shipping Container Plan

  1. @ Michelle Campbell and to Juz

    Let me first tell you that the container you saw at the H&G show was a FIRST….yes a FIRST time that a 40′ Container was put on show. In order to achieve that took over a year of planning and trying to secure sponsors, so that you could walk around an actual converted container. Yes the finishing wasn’t spectacular,I’ll admit; but it was a rented container, so spending tons of money on the container to get the exacting finishes I would normally use wasn’t financially wise…I created that container so that you and the likes of people like Michelle could get to tangibly feel the spacing. There were a lot of issues that you will never know about, that had to be dealt with in order to be able to bring that container to you. So before you go about bad mouthing other people in order to premote your own business, think about this. You have been researching for months, BUT did you take the time and effort to bring your idea to life, NO you didn’t! I DID! I worked for over a year so that YOU could have the opportunity to see something that is completey unique to South Africa, shipping container living. So to you and Michelle Campbell Gillies, be grateful that someone else did ALL the legwork for you, so that you could go about publically bad-mouthing them.
    OH and by the way thanks for taking time out to visit my container at the H&G show, if you would like to take anymore information from me that you may have gathered at the show feel free to contact me.

    1. Hi Joao,

      Thanks for your feedback. You seem to be quite angry. Sorry about that.

      I appreciate that what you did to get the container to the show must have taken some considerable effort. I too have been involved with shows, and I know how much goes into planning and organizing a stand. And I’m sure you had issues and problems to resolve.

      However, I got to say that, on my website, I was not bad-mouthing YOU. I only gave my own opinion on the container you showed. Even you said in your comment now the finishing wasn’t spectacular. Don’t YOU appreciate the work you put in? Just simple things like painting over plug and light fitting switches – how hard can that be? The hole in the wall was too big for the electrical switch box.. Ceilings not painted properly. Bed not painted properly. No cornices in places. No insulation. No cupboards, except in the kitchen area. An open plan bathroom? So, I did not mention any of these things on my website – although I could have as it is merely my own opinion of what constitutes a quality product. After all, ‘quality’ is relative to the what the client finds acceptable, not necessarily to the manufacturer.

      Also, I do not have a business (yet) to promote, so there’s no point in belittling what you did. I am merely building my own container as a pilot-project, and may start a business depending on the interest shown.

      Secondly, I believe that the container you showed was a first for the H&G Show in Durban. I cannot believe it is a first for South Africa. https://www.bigboxcontainers.co.za say they have been around for 2 decades. http://berman-kalil.co.za/ has been around for a few years. In Jhb they have created multi-storey student residences out of containers, as reported by the BBC in 2014 – http://www.bbc.com/news/av/business-30450054/johannesburg-s-shipping-container-apartments. There are many more.

      Thirdly, have I taken the “time and effort to bring my idea to life?” Yes I have. I am busy with it. Nobody is doing the legwork for me. I have researched everything myself, and I am doing all the work myself. I have no sponsors, except for Marshal Tools who have kindly provided a discount on various tools I purchased from them.

      Lastly, I’m not sure what you mean by “if you would like to take anymore information from me that you may have gathered at the show?” Is not the purpose of a show to gather information?

      Anyway, thanks for your time in writing to me.

      1. Justin

        Let me clarify some things for you. Yes those companies have been around for some time, I can also use google. They however have not taken a 40′ container to any shows ( none that I found anyway), so yes as far as I’m concerned it was a First.
        As to the issues you were so quick to now publically point out. The electrical box came with the container, so what is there to be done about that issue. The ceilings were supposed to have come painted with the container, again an issue you don’t know about, so to get the paint finish you saw on that ceiling took hours, the container came with walls missing and the wrong lighting etc etc, I won’t go on about what was wrong, all you saw was the end product. As for the open plan bathroom, well of course who would have that, don’t be idiotic. It was open plan because the printed glass wall was shattered by the installer whilst installing and there wasn’t time to put in a replacement, so again you mouth off without knowing the facts.
        Am I angry, you damn right I am, what you have said has insulted me, and my business.

        1. Hi Joao,

          I did not know, nor question how the end product came to be how it was. I merely expressed my opinion on the end product. So I don’t need to know what went wrong during installation or otherwise. A customer only sees the end product. I’m not sure why you are angry at me for not knowing what went on behind the scenes?

          Please, you must know that I am not insulting you. I don’t even know you. I was only commenting on the container I saw. And I don’t know your business either. I’m very sorry to have upset you. What would you like me to do? I can remove the paragraph where I spoke about the container? There are no pictures to remove.

          Thanks again for your feedback.

  2. Hi Juz
    If you ask me, single 40ft conversion and option 3 is the way to go.
    What would such a unit (complete) actually cost? I also assume you do it in a way that the entire unit can be picked up and dropped into place at the location required?
    All in all an interesting concept – seen it before, but never in SA in the shape or form you are considering.
    Good luck with it!

    1. Hi Klaus, thanks for your feedback. This is my pilot project, so I can’t really give any specific price. But another company in Cape Town was offering something similar for R290 000. I’m hoping to be quite a bit cheaper than that. There’s been a lot of interest in this project, so who knows…I may make a business out of it after all.

  3. The challenges of finding a suitable container and cost of converting it aside, I prefer your 3rd floor plan option. I don’t like the bathroom being right next to the kitchen and floor plan 3 puts it as far away from the kitchen as possible. This is the most practical option as far as I’m concerned. Yes, visitors will have to go through your bedroom to get to the toilet, but that won’t happen every day.

  4. Hey Juz, please put your one on a mx track, will be staying by you every wknd🤣🤣🤣. You got some cool ideas hope it all works out bud.

  5. Hi juz. I have been so keen on this idea for some time myself. I agree the one at the east coast show was terrible and I went home and reconstructed the whole thing in my head. I would love to put one up at home so I look forward to your comments as u go along.

  6. Hi
    We have a stand in Dana Bay. Up until yesterday we where very excited about the concept of container homes and have already finalized our preferred design, imagined how we would tackle the project, until yesterday…………slip, bang, crash our dreams came to a screeching halt.
    Firstly….. were actually invited by an unintelligible “lady” (should have been first warning sign) to view available containers at MACJALO (Pty.) Ltd in George, fortunately only 45min. drive from Mossel Bay. Get to the street address….. could not find the place and when we called again we just got a voice mail. It is my sincere wish that whoever is running this scam and all other scams is inflicted with a serious case of constipation for at least a month, followed by permanent and constant diarrhoea. Anyway….during our search for this company we came across another container company in the same street called “Valley containers”. They deal in containers, do conversions etc. The were wonderful, helpful and very knowledgeable. I spoke to a Leo-Heyns Nel and he actually confirmed something that was bothering me about container conversions since I started looking into it. Most people having done container homes claimed it was as expensive, if not more expensive than building a house from conventional material. Being an architectural designer I did not want to believe this and thought it was possibly due to bad design. Bearing in mind that he had no reason to lie to me and could have made a container sale, had he not being so honest. I still don’t understand why it is so expensive, but believe it to be true considering the consistent confirmation. We also met another couple who were about 90% complete and they also mentioned a figure around R7000/m2 to date. There are certainly some advantages in container home design, but I find the container dimensions, especially width, very restrictive and since there are apparently not cost savings will probably abandon the idea.

    I would love to hear what your experiences are. You can personal mail me at given email address. Regards and good luck with your venture.

    1. Thanks Robbie for your feedback. I feel the same as you about scammers. It is really frustrating and such a waste of time. As my TD teacher at school always said, “may the fleas of a thousand camels infest their armpits!”

      I’ve also heard about the high costs of a container build. In my calculations I can’t find the high costs. Perhaps it is using contractors to do some or all of the work? I’m planning on doing it mostly myself, maybe get some temporary labour for menial stuff. So hopefully that will keep the costs down.

      The advantages are that once it’s done, a person will be able to see exactly what they are getting. No dealing with builders or having builders on site – a good thing if one is adding a granny flat to an existing residence. Only minimal work on site to hook up services.

      Anyway, I’ll keep that blog updated. BTW I may have sponsorship from a tool company. Just got to get more interest in this blog. ?

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