Shipping container studio

I will be moving from my beautiful 600 sq. foot, well equipped
studio to another city.

I plan on having a Crain lift a shipping container over a small
house and making it Into a studio by cutting windows in it,
installing gas, 220,110, and a sink.

Have any of you tried this? I’m looking for suggestions.

I will be selling off several pieces of equipment. A GTec, with only
30 mins. Use on it, A casting machine with custom shield, MDR
faceting, etc.

Have you heard of other ways to build a studio in a relatively small
back yard?

R Hayward

If you’re in the US, you might want to check zoning regs before
spending $ on this approach. I have a friend in CA who spent about 3
years trying to get a project like this one approved. $16,000 in
architect’s drawings and filing permits later, she lost.


I plan on having a crane lift a shipping container over a small
house and making it Into a studio by cutting windows in it,
installing gas, 220,110, and a sink. 

I’ve thought about it.

Two containers, one buried below the other would be cool.

Paf Dvorak

You should sit down and write out your total cost estimates for,

  1. The shipping container installation and (personally this is a no
    no idea)

  2. A 3 by 2 in timber framed sectional building properly insulated
    inc roof and floor with w/proof cladding and a dry lining and pitched

Re 1, you need to know the annual temperature variations at your new
home, ie max winter temp lows and summer highs.

By the time you have insulated the container to be useable the cost
in my guess will be as much as 2. if not more.

also if you move at some time youll have problems removing the

Also if youve niebours they might just complain to the local
authority who might just get you to remove it on account of planning

Re 2. if it looks like a garden chalet it will be an asset to your
home. Make the design look as if its in keeping with the new small

I was asked to build a Swiss chalet for my better half here some 5
yrs ago, 16 by 12ft inside size, as per 2. Warm in winter, cool in

I have always enjoyed designing and building timber framed

Could do it for you! Where are you? Probably not econimic for either
of us.

Best do it yourself, or get a quote from a local builder.

Hi Rachel, what a great idea. A friend told me of someone he knows
who did the same thing. He had to insulate it because of condensation

Vince LaRochelle

I plan on having a Crain lift a shipping container over a small
house and making it Into a studio by cutting windows in it,
installing gas, 220,110, and a sink. 
Have any of you tried this? I'm looking for suggestions. 

It’s been done. I read about a letterpress printing guy who built
his retirement shop in a shipping container. One of his concerns was
that his family would sell his valuable equipment off for scrap
after he died. This way, the whole shop could be sold as a unit and
easily moved.

And, the military uses shipping containers for housing units.

So sure, it can totally be done, as long as the zoning in your area
allows it. In my area, it would not.


Have my workshop in a shipping container - its really fantastic but
make sure to insulate the floor really well as whilst my walls are
insulated I stupidly forgot to do the floor and it does get pretty
darn cold under foot mid winter! Have put 2 partitions in so got wet
room (barrelling area, plating sink etc,) office area and workshop

My land slopes so has unit has a metre and half space under one
half- boxing in this has improved the under floor warmth and given
great storage space.

Put a wood burning stove in too and it heats the whole thing up
really toasty! my windows have vents at the top and find this helps
the heat circulate better and get fresh airwithout having to have
the windows open in winter - otherwise can get that like in a boat
effect where all the heat rises.

Best of luck

So sure, it can totally be done, as long as the zoning in your
area allows it. In my area, it would not. 

This is one of the reasons I post using a fake name…

There are many zoning “laws” that I simply ignore and continue to
live happily ever after.

Paf Dvorak

Hello Rachel,

Sounds like an interesting idea. I have seen episodes of “Extreme
Homes” which showed homes made out of containers. You might do a
google search and see what’s posted on line.

That said, it might be pricey to get one delivered and also set with
a large enough crane. You would have to insulate it, build the walls,
wire it, etc. I think a lot of yard barns could be built fairly
cheaply or moved to your lot and would be suitable for a studio. I
have a storage barn that is metal clad in and out, insulated, with a
double door in front and a single door in the rear, wired for 110
volts. It is about 15x24 and I paid about $2500 for it, used, and it
was set on site off a wrecker type truck with a telescoping ramp. I
do not use it as a studio, but could easily do so. Aside from the 220
line you mention, you could move right into something like this.

You could see what’s available in your area. There are lots of
businesses, such a car lots, which use small on-site buildings for
offices, etc., so I’m pretty sure you might find some for sale.
Sometimes they can be had pretty cheap.

Best of Luck finding a workspace that “works” for you.

My wife and I are currently building a house where a significant
portion will be from 40’ containers. 5 of them actually. The
containers are really for the shop, garage and framing out a large
greenhouse, as well as the studio. The living space will be of other

We are in progress now

I concur, check out your local building codes. Some are ridiculous.

Chris Lund

Ps. I will post pics if anyone is interested.

You can use styrofoam on the out side for insulation and chicken
wire over it and then stucco over the wire makes a very nice looking
building and is cheap and cool and warm when you need it to be.

I would love to see pictures. Thanks


How can I share files and pictures with the list?

Or… send the files to the attention of and
we will upload them for you…


I have my lapidary studio in military communications box.Commonly
know as a heli-hut.

They were designed to be dropped in by helicopter to provide a
communication base in the field.

Some good features: insulated, double pane windows down both long
sides, fully wired. I bring a heavy cord from the house.

There is an outside plug for this. Jillions of lights. Both AC and
DC. There is a built in fan, and the windows open (and have

There is technically not a building because it is all self
contained. Kind of like a fish house.

It just sits on the ground. The OD exterior blends into the trees
around it.

I added a fish house heater. It does not have water. I just bring
out several gallon milk jugs of water.

I have considered a large drink container with an aquarium heater,
but have not done this yet.

I bought it for ~$500 at an auction. I have never seen them offered

I live in a rural area. It may be different in town. However, I
think that it compares to some of the storage sheds that are allowed,
and that are built with no foundations, etc.

Mexico has a entire school made out of them and London England has a
entire neighborhood made from them. Works very well.

Yes, Would love to see some pics as and when youve moment.

It seems that many of us have other projects in hand apart from
making a living as metal smiths/jewellers.

Perhaps this forum should have a “other projects” section for this
sort of thing.

40 ft containers here in the UK in good condition ie water tight and
not rusty, go for 1500.00 plus delivery.

Thats way more expensive than putting up a pole building using
s/hand telephone poles, and galvanised steel cladding on a 4/2
framing for the same volume. Here were in a depression in the
landscape, this makes the temperature variation much greater. ie
hotter in summer and a frost pocket in winter. So a container would
be more trouble than its worth. We build in wood here. Suits the

Just my 2 penny’s worth.

Ps. I will post pics if anyone is interested. 

Of course we’re interested! Please post!

(send them to


My favorite thing the Shipping container. With its oak floors; I’ve
seen some spectacular ones reconfigured in various Architectural
magazines. I would love to do one. I saw one at the Winter Garden at
the CNE in Toronto a few years back reconfigured as a small
workspace for a serious landscape architect. It was painted a soft
white with a pale yellow tint, had windows andshutters cut out of
the sides. It was really beautiful. I say go for it.

I want to see the pictures!


We are on our second cargo container as a shop/studio. Cutting holes
for windows is so difficult and so expensive to frame and so illegal
here in California that we have generally only used the front
opening doors for outside light. Inside we have fluorescent lights
mounted on the ceiling.

Insulation is another real problem because they are cold and damp
and most climates even in the summer. There are some fans that can
be used for ventilation rather easily. In our first location I was
fusing glass and using an electric heater to warm me when working
but not firing. This time our cargo container is legal but only for
storage so we are keeping the outside completely original. We have
wired it for 220 and insulated it but made the mistake of using OSB
as walls to cover the foam insulation board and it has been a
nightmare. OSB just absorbs moisture from the air and warps your
walls and are a real problem. Eventually my husband built me a stick
built studio with windows and doors and I love it. He took the cargo
container for himself and his metal shop. It still always smells
musty but he’s ok with that. We always bought used cargo containers
from Oakland and they would usually place them if it was easy for
$3000 delivered. Also we put it on railroad ties(my husband, a pry
bar and an 8 ton jack) to keep it from rusting. Barbara McCray

For this solution and many other original solutions one might invent
for building, it’ is true that they would not meet many local
building code requirements. This may or may not be a problem. Many
by-law requirements are only enforced if and when the authorities
receive a complaint. This is what we call "complaint-driven"
enforcement. So if your dog is barking too much, if your fence is
too high, if you have planted tomatoes instead of lawn grass in
front of your house - it will only be a problem for you if your
neighbours complain. If you are on good terms with folks in your
neighbourhood - no worries. The real problems can arise if and when
you have an insurance damage claim or someone is injured on your
property. The first thing the insurance company will do is to
determine if your studio (or dog, or fence, or tomatoes) comply with
code and were created with a proper permit. By then it is too late
and your neighbours’ good opinions won’t help. If not, then no
coverage will be forthcoming, no damages reimbursed, no liability
covered. But most of us, while on good terms with neighbours. rarely
assume that anything disastrous could happen to our studios (dogs,
fences, or tomatoes).

Remind me to tell you the story of how I once cut down an enormous
cottonwood tree which fell right onto the ridge of my workshop roof,
collapsing the roof, killing my nemesis, (the packrat in the attic)
and scaring my wife half to death. No problem with the insurance
company, however, because i had no insurance. Ah youth!

Marty the retired chainsaw operator in Victoria.