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Temporary Container Living Set-up Suggestion?

 
pollinator
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Location: OK High Plains Prairie, 23" rain avg
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I'm having a difficult time committing to the location I've decided on for the 20' container house I'm planning on the family farm in Western Oklahoma. I've also missed the temperature window for spray foam insulation until spring and for the glue if I decide to insulate with InSoFast panels. I hate apartment living- noisy neighbors and a waste of money and I'm 30 miles away from the farm.

So, I'm considering 'camping' in the container till February or March. I would lay plastic under it to lessen condensation as it will be on grass, put concrete blocks under the corners to keep it off the ground and level it, use earth screws to hold it down for the high winds we get on the U.S. Great Plains, put a woodstove in for heat and cooking, seal the floor and call it good. It will take 2 months for electricity to get hooked up which will be in time to build piers, insulate, roof and finish in the spring before tornado season really gets going in May and June.

This way I will be on the land and able to see it and get a feel for it and the house location on a daily basis. I slept on the property in my Suburban mid-Feb to mid-March this year and it was okay except in storms. I'm a backpacker so I have off-grid gear. If I really hate the location I can move the container in spring.

On the down side, no electricity, no internet unless I drive 30 minutes to town. And I don't know if a woodstove will keep me warm enough in the winds we get. Before it's delivered I will have the double French door installed on one of the 20 foot sides. I could turn that side to face South and gain sun though in my permanent plan it will face North to the view and away from the dusty road.

Any practical suggestions would be welcomed. I'm really floundering with this project and life in general having just moved from everyone I know and being so isolated with Covid being rampant in Oklahoma now.
 
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Denise,

I like your idea about the french door, woodstove, and facing the container South.

I grew up in Oklahoma though it was Tulsa so maybe it did not get as cold as your location.

Kids on my bus route didn't have heat in their 2nd story bedrooms.  I was amazed that they could survive without heat.

If this was my project I would make the living area as small as possible aroung the woodstove. Blankets could be made into temporary walls and a covering over the door at night.

Dressing in layers both in the daytime and at night.

Planning to be outside when the weather is nice as much as possible will help with "cabin fever".

I have enjoyed keeping up with your progress for this project.
 
pollinator
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We have used rare earth magnets to hold bubble wrap insulation in place on a container to make an impromptu job office.  It was amazingly effective and the white interior side made it look finished.
 
pollinator
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Some thoughts;
-If the rent saved is greater than the cost of travelling thats a good start.
- Internet connection in remote spots is great. Can you get a booster for any signal in your area?
- consider putting the container high enough so you can insulate the floor with insulation panels, or do it when its hanging on the crane!
- Why not make the location decision at the start and save mucking about?
- Once you get power on it will be expensive to shift the power to a different location.

I am intrigued by your comments about high winds blowing the container away, how do people live there ?
Hope it all works out well.
 
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R Scott wrote:We have used rare earth magnets to hold bubble wrap insulation in place on a container to make an impromptu job office.  It was amazingly effective and the white interior side made it look finished.



This sounds like a great idea to me. You might also consider a tarp wind break or tent over the container to divert wind, and/or place on leeward side of other structures or evergreens if any. Perhaps paint a dark color to increase solar heat gain.
 
pollinator
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Time-out: Do I vaguely recall you that you have kids (profuse apologies if I'm confused)? If so, please consult with them, fully, before you commit.
 
pollinator
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Hello Denise,

I really don't think you've missed your window for spray foam.  You will have some 80 degree days between now and February.  
On a bright sunny day you could crank up your wood stove and in my opinion have the outside walls plenty warm for insulation.  Have you checked with your spray foam contractor to see what your minimum temperature needs to be and how long it it has to stay above freezing to get a good bond?  It will probably take him longer to drive out to your place, set up, and load his equipment up when he finishes than it will to spray a 20' container.  If you check your 10 day forecasts for your area you'll see temps in the high seventies and a low 80 for next week.   You should have several cycles of tee shirt weather mixed with insulated coverall days all winter.  

Good Luck!
Bryan
 
John C Daley
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Douglas, I am intrigued by the idea of discussing my housing ideas with my children.
I would never do such a thing myself?
 
Douglas Alpenstock
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I only mention it because it's potentially a huge change of life for them. School, friends, recreation; stuff that's really important to them. But the adult makes the final call.
 
denise ra
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Anne, as always thank you for your thoughtful and kind comments.
John C Daley, I am learning to live with the wind. I stay inside some days because of it. At night when I have begun to use white noise to block out the sound. Here is this afternoon's forecast:"This Afternoon Sunny, with a high near 78. Windy, with a west southwest wind 21 to 31 mph, with gusts as high as 44 mph." As to going ahead with permanent location I'd have to get piers engineered, built, and concrete poured but I find myself at a loss to manage that right now. Ideally, I'd go to south Texas and live near the beach for the next two months but Covid is even worse there than here.
Gregg Brazel - The above forecast is why not tent or tarp. The flapping alone would put me over the edge not to mention having to clean up what was left when it tattered.
Doug, no kids, those days are past. When mine was 7 we lived in a bus without electric one winter in Arkansas, but I had a husband to help me figure that out then thankfully. We enjoyed nature but missed luxurys like a sink and kitchen.
Bryan Elliott To insulate now I would have to decide on a plan for walls, roof, etc. I'm not up to it. I seem to need a rest from figuring things out for a while. Your local knowlege is always appreciated by me.


 
denise ra
pollinator
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Continuing to break this project into manageable parts, here is my forum ask about wood stoves.
Tiny Wood Burning Stoves
 
gardener
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Location: Ontario - Currently in Zone 4b
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My hands hurt just thinking of living in an uninsulated metal box for the winter. I hope you can find something that works!

Random thoughts, hopefully something is useful to you:

Do you have a habitat for humanity restore near you? I love that store for randdom cheap supplies.

I occasionally see random extra bits of foamboard insulation on the local buy and sell or Kijiji. I would strongly suggest picking some up if you can, or buying it new, and insulating at least the roof. Tuck Tape works well for temporary use, and if you are worried about the stove, perhaps leave just the area above the stove uninsulated. If you don't need them for your final design, insulation panels resell quickly on buy and sell for ice huts, animal shelters, etc.  I would also put a sheet of foam under whatever kitchen area you have, then throw a scrap of lino on top of it.  Nothing worse then cold, frozen feet while working over an uninsulated floor in a kitchen. I would consider rolled vinyl remnants for most of the floor, which would add some R value, and be much nicer on the feet than metal. Carpet or rugs might be nice in sleeping areas.

Even putting up and taping the seams of large sheets of plastic on the walls would make an air gap and add a fair bit of weather protection and insulative value/r value. A second layer would add even more if both are well taped to avoid air leakage. Maybe a roll of tyvek which would be somewhat breathable and not crazily expensive? The reflectrix stuff would be even better, but probably a lot more pricey. You would have to be more concerned about mold. Cheap carpet behind tyvek might also make a decent insulation system.

I might also consider trying to find  and seal any holes - standing inside in the daylight, covering the French door with a tarp to block light, and looking for light sources might do quite a bit to identify major air leaks, which could be sealed.

If you decide to go with a wood stove, I would consider buying some bricks or patio stones to go under it and in the combustible zone. Even if you don't mortar them, they will remind you to keep combustibles away from the stove and avoid having potentially hot stove legs touch a metal floor, and add a tiny bit of thermal mass. Stoves are also usually very heavy, so spreading the load over a piece of thicker steel or patio stones or something (being cautious of fire) under the legs will prevent the stove from potentially denting the floor of the container from high point loads (lots of weight on a small area) under the little stove feet. Not sure what the loads are/if it's necessary, but it's an easy enough thing to avoid and adds value for other reasons too.
 
Douglas Alpenstock
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I have to agree with Catie -- I am a bit worried about your proposed living situation. Your climate is milder than ours but can go quite cold.

If it were me, I would find a way to do some crude framing and insulating on the inside of the sea can. Insulation always wins, and once it's in place you don't have to lift a finger -- it just does its thing. It's the difference between surviving and thriving.
 
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John C Daley wrote:Douglas, I am intrigued by the idea of discussing my housing ideas with my children.
I would never do such a thing myself?



My kids wouldn't make the final decision but I would always ask for my kids' input in such an important decision. They need to know that they matter and that their parents care about their opinion. Absolutely, I would discuss it with them even if I decided against what they want.
 
Carmen Rose
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denise ra wrote:I'm having a difficult time committing to the location I've decided on for the 20' container house I'm planning on the family farm in Western Oklahoma. I've also missed the temperature window for spray foam insulation until spring and for the glue if I decide to insulate with InSoFast panels. I hate apartment living- noisy neighbors and a waste of money and I'm 30 miles away from the farm.

So, I'm considering 'camping' in the container till February or March. I would lay plastic under it to lessen condensation as it will be on grass, put concrete blocks under the corners to keep it off the ground and level it, use earth screws to hold it down for the high winds we get on the U.S. Great Plains, put a woodstove in for heat and cooking, seal the floor and call it good. It will take 2 months for electricity to get hooked up which will be in time to build piers, insulate, roof and finish in the spring before tornado season really gets going in May and June.

This way I will be on the land and able to see it and get a feel for it and the house location on a daily basis. I slept on the property in my Suburban mid-Feb to mid-March this year and it was okay except in storms. I'm a backpacker so I have off-grid gear. If I really hate the location I can move the container in spring.

On the down side, no electricity, no internet unless I drive 30 minutes to town. And I don't know if a woodstove will keep me warm enough in the winds we get. Before it's delivered I will have the double French door installed on one of the 20 foot sides. I could turn that side to face South and gain sun though in my permanent plan it will face North to the view and away from the dusty road.

Any practical suggestions would be welcomed. I'm really floundering with this project and life in general having just moved from everyone I know and being so isolated with Covid being rampant in Oklahoma now.



I don't remember where I was reading about how to stay warmer in cold places but they suggested warming up your seat. The heat going through your blood (major arteries just where you sit) helps to warm extremities. It sounds like you won't have electricity for a heating pad but a seed bag could be warmed up on a hot rock from a fire. Or just wrap and sit on hot rocks. I've tried it a bit when heat was too expensive to be lavish with and it really does make a difference.
 
Carmen Rose
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denise ra wrote:I'm having a difficult time committing to the location I've decided on for the 20' container house I'm planning on the family farm in Western Oklahoma. I've also missed the temperature window for spray foam insulation until spring and for the glue if I decide to insulate with InSoFast panels. I hate apartment living- noisy neighbors and a waste of money and I'm 30 miles away from the farm.

So, I'm considering 'camping' in the container till February or March. I would lay plastic under it to lessen condensation as it will be on grass, put concrete blocks under the corners to keep it off the ground and level it, use earth screws to hold it down for the high winds we get on the U.S. Great Plains, put a woodstove in for heat and cooking, seal the floor and call it good. It will take 2 months for electricity to get hooked up which will be in time to build piers, insulate, roof and finish in the spring before tornado season really gets going in May and June.

This way I will be on the land and able to see it and get a feel for it and the house location on a daily basis. I slept on the property in my Suburban mid-Feb to mid-March this year and it was okay except in storms. I'm a backpacker so I have off-grid gear. If I really hate the location I can move the container in spring.

On the down side, no electricity, no internet unless I drive 30 minutes to town. And I don't know if a woodstove will keep me warm enough in the winds we get. Before it's delivered I will have the double French door installed on one of the 20 foot sides. I could turn that side to face South and gain sun though in my permanent plan it will face North to the view and away from the dusty road.

Any practical suggestions would be welcomed. I'm really floundering with this project and life in general having just moved from everyone I know and being so isolated with Covid being rampant in Oklahoma now.



A few more thoughts - If you can form a very small 'room' out of blankets, etc., especially bringing the 'roof' down as low as feasible, your own body heat will help to heat it up. It really is amazing how much difference that can make. And BTW - those 'heaters' out of votive candles and terra cotta plant pots - don't bother. I spent a surprising amount of $ on nuts, bolts and pots and it didn't work. Then I saw warnings online about house fires being started because of them anyway. Do you have a dog? They also put out body heat, are warmer to sleep by (if you want to - I do not sleep with my dog!) and are better company than a lot of people. They're also a good alarm system in case of strangers coming around.
 
Posts: 55
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Hi Denise.
My husband and I, during a tough financial time, decided to stay in our semi-rural rental house in Nova Scotia, Canada, but let the power go as we couldn't afford it.

It was a 2 story 4-bedroom, so we used vapour barrier plastic to make a small living space out of our main floor kitchen and living room, moving our bed down to the living room where the wood stove was.
OF course, the house was already insulated in our case. But given the Canadian winter temperatures, the situation is comparable, I think. We lived that way from August through the following March, with outside January temps from about 10 to 38 F.

Creating the smaller space allowed our woodstove to heat the area quickly to a comfortable temperature. I totally echo the dressing in layers comment above. We added and subtracted our layers as needed. We had 5 layers of blankets on top of the bed, including a sheepskin mattress pad and a sleeping bag. In January we got ourselves a set of thick fleece sheets that made a huge difference in our warmth at night. Worth every penny!

My biggest surprise was how well my body adapted to the cold! I was surprised to find that I grew to feel more and more comfortable at around 45 F without a lot of layers. Trust your body, your blood will thicken! This is why you see crazy Canadians in LA, Miami  and Las Vegas in shorts and T-shirts in January, lol!

The house never dropped below about 38 F, so the plumbing was fine, but we had no use of the pump from our well. We were able to keep using one downstairs toilet outside the vapour barrier, filling the back of it with a bucket. We were lucky that it was a particularly rainy winter, and we set up a rain barrel outside the front door and filled the toilet from that.

What are your plans for water? Does it stay above freezing in your area?
Wishing you good success  with it and keep us posted!
 
Douglas Alpenstock
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Susanna Hammond wrote:My husband and I, during a tough financial time, decided to stay in our semi-rural rental house in Nova Scotia, Canada, but let the power go as we couldn't afford it.

It was a 2 story 4-bedroom, so we used vapour barrier plastic to make a small living space out of our main floor kitchen and living room, moving our bed down to the living room where the wood stove was.


It's a valid strategy, with a long historical precedent. People in drafty, poorly insulated houses (including fancy brick ones, and likely castles too) created a "nest" where they could have a comfortable living space and reduce their fuel costs.

I do think it's remarkable that your landlord allowed you to cut off the electricity though. The risk of damage from frozen pipes would be top of mind.
 
Susanna Hammond
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Hey Doug.
In hindsight, we were very naive about the plumbing, although we were willing to shut off the water all together and do what was necessary for the pipes if needed.... we just had no idea what that was!

It's just sheer luck/grace that we had a mild winter and the house had a full depth, well insulated basement. Most of the plumbing was on the side of the house we were heating, too. We had no problems at all when we started things back up again. Likely there was angelic help involved!  = )

And our landlord was posted in Germany. Never knew.
 
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