Author Topic: A Shipping Container Cabin That Actually Got Built.  (Read 25527 times)

Offline Uzi4U2

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A Shipping Container Cabin That Actually Got Built.
« on: November 16, 2014, 09:56:11 PM »
Yep, there's lots of talk about doing it, but here's the real deal.  Took us 2 years from the time we bought the land until it was finally liveable.  Note I didnt say 'done'.  This is just phase 1 of what we hope is 4 phases.  We did a ton of research and did it all ourselves.  Here's a couple of pics for now.  If there's an interest, I'll post details on the construction.



"Pull back and nuke it from orbit.  Its the only way to be sure."  Cpl Hicks.


nkawtg

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Re: A Shipping Container Cabin That Actually Got Built.
« Reply #1 on: November 16, 2014, 09:59:31 PM »
Nice job, I like the lockable recessed entry door.

Offline redbelliedhound

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Re: A Shipping Container Cabin That Actually Got Built.
« Reply #2 on: November 16, 2014, 10:10:41 PM »
Details on the construction please!  :)

Offline Uzi4U2

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Re: A Shipping Container Cabin That Actually Got Built.
« Reply #3 on: November 16, 2014, 10:17:42 PM »
Thanks guys.  Since this is a remote location for us, security while we are away is a concern.  I'll post more photos once my photobucket album finishes importing.
"Pull back and nuke it from orbit.  Its the only way to be sure."  Cpl Hicks.


Offline Cylon

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Re: A Shipping Container Cabin That Actually Got Built.
« Reply #4 on: November 16, 2014, 10:23:56 PM »
Hell YES there's interest!

Please post as much as you can because i'm thinking of something similar here in Western Australia....

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Korben Dallas: Negative, I am a meat popsicle.

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Offline Cedar

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Re: A Shipping Container Cabin That Actually Got Built.
« Reply #5 on: November 16, 2014, 10:27:45 PM »
.
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Offline Erigorn

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Re: A Shipping Container Cabin That Actually Got Built.
« Reply #6 on: November 16, 2014, 10:28:49 PM »
Yes please post more photos. The few you have posted look good.

Offline Uzi4U2

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Re: A Shipping Container Cabin That Actually Got Built.
« Reply #7 on: November 16, 2014, 10:30:32 PM »
A couple of updated photos








"Pull back and nuke it from orbit.  Its the only way to be sure."  Cpl Hicks.


Offline Uzi4U2

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Re: A Shipping Container Cabin That Actually Got Built.
« Reply #8 on: November 16, 2014, 10:33:50 PM »
Ok, there's a lot to this, so I'll break it up into sections

Container Cabin Construction (CCC) - Part 1

We bought a ½ acre plot of wooded land next to my wife’s parents.  My wife’s sister and her husband also have a plot less than a mile away.  All three plots are in a rural development that allows campers, trailers, stick built homes, whatever.  It’s a lake community near a Corps of Engineers lake so no lake-front property, but lots of lake activities.  The land we bought was cheap, had power already to it, a decent shed, was already somewhat developed (but very overgrown) and the proximity to family was made it desirable.  We’re on the main gravel road of the development, so it can be dusty and loud (lots of ATV/UTV’s).  A screen of mature evergreens helps keep both down, but not completely.

The land is on a slope.  Not too bad, but enough that the back of the cabin is level on the high end, and about 4 feet off the ground in the front.  Typical of the Ozarks, there are plenty of trees, but the soil is very rocky.  The plant life and rocks have a sympiotic relationship.  Digging the rocks out is difficult as the roots of the plants hold them in place.  Cutting the roots is difficult as they are up against the rocks.  No way around it, you just have to hack away at it as best you can.  The up side is that the soil is very stable.

There is an electric pole w/meter at the corner of the property.  Wire was laid underground previously, but wasn’t sufficiently insulated or heavy enough for what we wanted to do.  Power should be buried at depth acceptable to code.  However, the only requirement by the development is that it be buried, not strung overhead.  We rented a trencher for a couple hundred bucks buried our heavier wire inside poly pipe at a reasonable depth (considering the aforementioned rock issues).     This permanent arrangement was one of the last things we did on the property.  Initially we just ran an extension cord through the woods to the pole where there was an outdoor plug-in.  Cant recommend this practice, but it worked for us.

We bought our two 20ft containers from a shipping company in Kansas City, Kansas.  Since two 20ft containers fit on a roll-off truck, the shipping costs were the same as a single 40ft container, $500 delivered.  Since I knew the truck that was delivering the containers couldn’t get into the exact location I needed, I planned for a staging area.  Once the containers were rolled off, I hired a local guy with a Bobcat skid steer to drag the containers to the exact location.  20ft containers weigh just under 5000lbs empty.  With a relatively easy approach (after cutting out the overgrowth mentioned previously), the operator was able to drag the containers with no problems.  I also had the operator deliver 5 tons of gravel for the pier posts we’d put in next.  5 tons sounds like a lot, but really is just a small pile about waist high and 8-10ft in diameter.  What we didn’t use for the piers, we spread out for a driveway.

"Pull back and nuke it from orbit.  Its the only way to be sure."  Cpl Hicks.


Offline Uzi4U2

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Re: A Shipping Container Cabin That Actually Got Built.
« Reply #9 on: November 16, 2014, 10:34:57 PM »
CCC - Part 2

To level the containers, we decided to use concrete blocks, filled with ready-mix concrete and rebar.    First we had to jack up the up-slope end of the container.  We did this by digging under the middle of the end of the container down far enough to slip a 5 ton bottle jack and a flat concrete block.  Since the container was sitting on a slope, we also thought it prudent to temporarily chain the up-slope end to a a couple of nearby trees.  This was insurance against it slipped off the jack.  We never had any problems, but the peace-of-mind was worth the minimal time and effort it took to chain it up.

Once jacked up a couple of feet, we dug out footers under the two corners.  We placed the gravel in the bottom of the holes, leveled it, and then put in two standard hollow-core blocks in each hole.  We lowered the container onto some temporarily placed a 2X6 scraps on the blocks to cushion the steel to concrete connection.  We’d remove the blocks later when we poured in the concrete.

Next we moved to the down slope end, leaving the chain in place, but taking the bottle jack.  The down-slope process is similar to the upslope process, except we had to go higher.  This meant that once we maxed out the height of the bottle jack, we had to switch to a Hi-Lift jack.  Also, as we built we put safety cribbing under the side beams ¾ of the way downslope.  Just like the safely chain, this was insurance against a jack failure.  Once it was roughly above the height we needed, we dug footers just like before and set & leveled the first row of blocks.  Now it was time to mix concrete.

I had borrowed a friend’s portable mixer.  We used nearly a dozen 80lb bags.  In hindsight (i.e., end-of-the day when we (my 17yo daughter and I) were exhausted beyond belief, we realized that using 60lb bags would have been exponiently easier. 
When mixing concrete, no matter what product you use, you’re going to need water.  We don’t have water on the property, so we had to have it hauled in.  At this point, we didn’t have the ISO tanks, so we used a 50 gallon plastic barrel.  We would take it up to the public showers/water point and fill it in the back of my truck.  Once back on the property, I’d stick a garden hose in to the very bottom, and then coil the excesst on the ground next to the mixer.  Once I started the siphon, I’d pour out what we needed, then stick the end back into the open bung on the barrel.  This way, I locked the siphon off, but when needed it again, I could just pull out the running end and the flow would start again.

We filled the first row of blocks, then inserted a stick of rebar in each hole.  We then lowered the next layer of block over the rebar and repeated the process until we reached the top block.  To connect the piers to the containers, we fabricated a 12”X12” plate with rebar welded at a right angle.  We bent the rebar in a ‘Z’ pattern.  The upper part of the ‘Z’ was welded to the plate.  We sank the rebar into the  concrete until the plate rested on the block.  When the concrete set up, the angles of the rebar ensured that the plate was locked to the pier.  We then welded the container to the plate.
"Pull back and nuke it from orbit.  Its the only way to be sure."  Cpl Hicks.


Offline Uzi4U2

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Re: A Shipping Container Cabin That Actually Got Built.
« Reply #10 on: November 16, 2014, 10:36:20 PM »
CCC - Part 3

With both containers leveled, we then cut out the two inside walls that faced each other.  The walls provide some rigidity to the container, but the real strength is in the corners and frame.  As we didn’t have a plasma cutter (or the juice to run it), we used grinders with cut off wheels bought in bulk from Harbor Freight.  A torch would have done the trick as well, but would have left a rough edge.  We also used a metal cutting blade in our circular saw.  The process was to take out a 2-3ft section at a time due to the weight of the steel.  First we made the verticle cuts with the circular saw.  Then we cut the top and bottoms, but left about a 2” connecting tab in each corner.  We then cut the bottom tabs, and with someone ready to catch the panel, we cut the two top tabs.  My wife and I managed to get both walls cut out in a day.  We’re storing the pieces under the cabin for now for future projects.

Next we had to prep the floor.  Due to international insect control measures, the floors are typically saturated with insecticides.  The two options in dealing with it are to remove the wood (a huge project) or to seal it.  We sealed ours with a two-part epoxy, but first we had to degrease it.  We used long handled scrub brooms, water, and Dawn dishwashing detergent.   Once that was rinsed and dried (it was a very warm day and we had a couple of high-volume fans) we scrubbed it down again with isopropyl alcohol (NO OPEN FLAMES!!!).  When we were done, the floor was beyond clean!  We then applied the epoxy with long-handle roller brushes.  Once that dried, we laid ¼” plywood down to protect the epoxy.  We didn’t want any gouges to break the integrity of the epoxy.

Now that we’ve opened up the walls, the containers were no longer weather tight.  There was a gap between the containers due to the way the corner frames are constructed.  The corners are butted up to each other, but the walls are inset by a couple of inches.  This left a gap at the ceiling, the two end walls, and along the floor.  Contrary to popular belief, the roof isn’t flat; there’s a slight arch to shed water.  The problem is that half the arch on each container shed’s water to the middle where there’s a gap now.  We used a layered approach to seal the roof.  The bottom layer is a self-adhesive flexible metal flashing.  The adhesive is a rubber membrane and stuck well to the cleaned metal.  Next we lined each side of the flexible flashing with roofing tar and embedded a wider piece of standard flashing.  Over this we placed more roofing tar.  We laid up enough roofing tar to level the roof so that the rain does not drain to the joint.  Eventually we want to cover the entire roof with a metal roof for shade, so this seal will not be needed.  However, it does the job now.

The floor gap just got a layer of standard flashing nailed down with roofing nails every six inches.  The ends were stuffed with pool noodles and Great Stuff expandable foam.  The seams on the ends will need to be finished, but for now they are shielded from the weather pretty well , it was cheap, and it works.
"Pull back and nuke it from orbit.  Its the only way to be sure."  Cpl Hicks.


Offline Uzi4U2

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Re: A Shipping Container Cabin That Actually Got Built.
« Reply #11 on: November 16, 2014, 10:36:49 PM »
CCC - Part 4 to be cont.
"Pull back and nuke it from orbit.  Its the only way to be sure."  Cpl Hicks.


Offline Chemsoldier

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Re: A Shipping Container Cabin That Actually Got Built.
« Reply #12 on: November 17, 2014, 03:51:17 AM »
 :popcorn:
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Online Alan Georges

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Re: A Shipping Container Cabin That Actually Got Built.
« Reply #13 on: November 17, 2014, 06:39:18 AM »
Just wow.  I'm probably never going to build one of these things, but it is fascinating to see how someone has successfully done it.  Thanks, keep posting please!

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Offline IKN

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Re: A Shipping Container Cabin That Actually Got Built.
« Reply #14 on: November 17, 2014, 07:31:00 AM »
Wondering what type of lock you use ?
I have a 20' container I converted to a small metal shop. Due to the location (out of view of the house) I bought a lock similar to this: http://www.ebay.com/itm/Top-Security-Shipping-Container-Warehouse-Garage-Trailer-Padlock-Heavy-Duty-/171403724580
Not exactly the one I bought, but close. Very, very difficult to pick this type of lock. Nothing short of a torch would allow a break-in unless someone wanted to spend a couple three days with a hacksaw.

endurance

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Re: A Shipping Container Cabin That Actually Got Built.
« Reply #15 on: November 17, 2014, 07:37:50 AM »
Great description and blow by blow on the project. Thanks for sharing. Questions likely to follow.

Offline Uzi4U2

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Re: A Shipping Container Cabin That Actually Got Built.
« Reply #16 on: November 17, 2014, 07:40:22 AM »
Sorry for the broken links above.  Try these:









"Pull back and nuke it from orbit.  Its the only way to be sure."  Cpl Hicks.


Offline Uzi4U2

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Re: A Shipping Container Cabin That Actually Got Built.
« Reply #17 on: November 17, 2014, 07:44:07 AM »
IKN, I'm just using a hardened MasterLock set.  4 locks keyed alike.  I use them on the front and back of the containers, one on the shed, and one on the boat.  Probably should upgrade as I know it takes about very little to cut one off with a set of bolt cutters.  However, we do like having them all keyed alike.
"Pull back and nuke it from orbit.  Its the only way to be sure."  Cpl Hicks.


Offline ncjeeper

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Offline Cedar

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Re: A Shipping Container Cabin That Actually Got Built.
« Reply #19 on: November 17, 2014, 08:10:56 AM »
+1

Cedar
"Do not breathe simply to exist."

"Make now always the most precious time. Now will never come again." - Jean Luc Picard

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Offline statesofmind

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Re: A Shipping Container Cabin That Actually Got Built.
« Reply #20 on: November 17, 2014, 08:29:19 AM »
Very cool!  Keep us posted!  +1

Security is always a big concern with remote cabins... it is for me as well.  Nothing is going to keep anyone who really wants in... out.  These containers are actually very easy to cut into with the right tool, ,unfortunately my neighbor found that out the hard way and lost an ATV, tools and others stuff. Fortunately he had several game cameras mounted and was able to get the local police some quality images that led to the arrest and recovery of a couple items.
Never work so hard at making a living that you forget to make a life...

Offline Uzi4U2

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Re: A Shipping Container Cabin That Actually Got Built.
« Reply #21 on: November 17, 2014, 09:01:50 AM »
NCJeepers, those locks would certainly deter the casual criminal. 

Statesofmind, I read your bus and cabin threads last night.  Way cool!  You make more progress on your project than I can even imagine.  And the quality is over the top.  Somehow you've found the right balance of working on the structures and working on the land.  My tiny little plot (2.5 acres) is miniscule comparitively and I struggle with balancing the need for the two.  Also gotta find time for the wife, 19yo and 12yo to have fun.  Unfortunately, none of them find "working" on the cabin or land fun like I do.
"Pull back and nuke it from orbit.  Its the only way to be sure."  Cpl Hicks.


endurance

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Re: A Shipping Container Cabin That Actually Got Built.
« Reply #22 on: November 17, 2014, 09:52:14 AM »
You've finished the interior very nicely.  You can't even tell it's a steel box.  I love the normal door hidden behind the steel container doors.  Very cool.  Did you insulate the ceiling and walls?  If so, how?  How well does it regulate temperature in the hot and cold of the Ozarks?

Did you install any plumbing yet or leave wet walls or other spaces to run it in the future? 

Offline Uzi4U2

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Re: A Shipping Container Cabin That Actually Got Built.
« Reply #23 on: November 17, 2014, 03:59:35 PM »
Thanks Endurance.  Yes, we insulated the walls and ceiling. That will be part 5 of the write-up.  No plumbing in this phase.  Phase 2 will have two more unconnected containers for a bunk house and bathroom/storage.  I'll describe those in future 'part' installments.
"Pull back and nuke it from orbit.  Its the only way to be sure."  Cpl Hicks.


Offline Uzi4U2

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Re: A Shipping Container Cabin That Actually Got Built.
« Reply #24 on: November 17, 2014, 04:08:13 PM »
CCC - Part 4. Framing and Electrical

Ok, this is the part I expect to get the most flak.  I'm not an electrician, but have a health respect for those that are.  I've worked with two very qualified men in the past and have been taught what can't, can, and should be done and what the difference is between all three.  They were both diligent about keeping me alive (Dad and uncle, they had a vested interest.   ;) ) Here goes:

Framing was next.  Each container had one end that was doors, and one end that was solid.  We alternated ends so that each end of the cabin had exit.  The front was framed for a half glass, half solid door and window.  The window provides additional light and a place for a window AC unit.  The back wall has a large window that slides to the left for an emergency egress.   We used traditional 2X4 stud framing for the walls to accommodate wiring, insulation, and hanging of the finished wall.  However the metal tube channel at the top required that we used a power actuated nailer to drive nails vertically through the top plate and into the steel.  The top plate of the stud wall stuck out enough from underneath the metal tube to give us a place to support the 2X4 ceiling joists.  Keep in mind that the walls are only bearing the weight of the finished wall and ceiling and aren’t structural so we can deviate from proper framing practices safely.  Likewise, we only penetrated the inner wall of the tube channel, the exterior integrity of container was maintained.  In the middle of the two containers we don’t have a stud wall under the metal tube to support the 2X4 ceiling rafters so we horizontally nailed a ledger board.  We then used 2X4 joist hangers to support the rafters on this end.  The aforementioned roof gap that we sealed previously makes a great electrical chase.

Once framed up, the siding was placed on the front and back walls and holes cut for windows and doors.  The main breaker box (technically a sub box from the main on the pole) was located and wire was run to the many outlets and two overhead lights.  The circuits and outlets are as follows:  (1)circuit & outlet for AC unit, (1) circuit and outlet for the refrigerator, (1) circuit w/ 3 outlets for the kitchen counter and microwave (probably should have given the microwave its own circuit, given the watts pulled by it and the two cooking plates we have.  We rarely use them all at once, so its manageable, but not ideal), (1) circuit and (2) outlets for the bunk bed (each bed has its own outlet for a fan, light, charging phones, etc...  I still need to install a small shelf above each bed for these.  Think Navy coffin racks; I am a Marine after all), (1) circuit w/ (3) outlets around the Master bed, (1) circuit w/2 outlets on each side of the futon, (1) circuit w/ (2) exterior outlets, and  (1) circuit each for the (2) overhead LED lights.  I’ll admit, its not efficient wiring, its simple wiring.  If there are problems, they should be very isolated and easily troubleshot.   I’m not an electrician, but my father and uncle were and have signed off on previous subpanels I’ve installed.  Yes, they humorously belittle my inefficiencies (both being Navy men, and I a lowly Jarhead), but declared them safe and serviceable.   They’ve both passed away now, but what they taught me has lasted.

All that being said, connecting the main power to the pole was one of the last things to get done.  In retrospect, Im not sure that was wise.  Once insulation and finish walls were installed (more on that later), if there was a problem, Im not sure how I would have resolved it.  This weighed heavily on my mind until I flipped the main on and everything worked as designed.     The aforementioned extension cord ran up the ‘outfeed’ conduit to the main box.  Usually we just used the extension cord connected to a power strip.  However, we did do something a couple of times that I strongly do not recommend:  We used a suicide cord (male-to-male cord) connected to the power strip to plug into one of the counter outlets and back feed one entire leg of the main box.  Now before any electricians go nuts, let me explain.  The main box was not connected to the pole yet, so there was no way to hurt anyone on the grid.  The wiring to the pole wasn’t even in in the ground yet so that part is completely isolated and safe.  I’m a huge proponent of properly switched generator/grid power and would never advocate back feeding a physically connected circuit.  No, the danger here is that someone could have inadvertently unplugged the suicide cord from the wall while it was still energized.  This would have left the exposed male prongs electrically hot and been very dangerous.  I was very glad when we were able to stop this practice after two accident-free trips.  Again, not advocate doing this and in retrospect we shouldn't have done it.   
   
Speaking of properly switched power, we do have a method of switching from grid power to generator power.  Under the cabin there are 3 short 4X4 posts for electrical connections.  The middle post has a male prong and feeds the cabin.  The left post has a female outlet that comes from the pole, and the right post has a female outlet that comes from a future generator.  Normally the cabin is plugged into female grid outlet.  To switch to generator power, you switch off the mains inside the cabin, switch off the mains at the pole, unplug the cabin’s male plug (which would then be de-energized and safe to touch), plug it into the female generator outlet, start the generator, then turn the cabin mains back on.  Grid and generator power are physically separated so it is impossible back feed.  Likewise with the power sources being female outlets, there’s no risk of shock from exposed prongs.

One last thing, we added an additional ground rod connected through the cabin pole/wiring.  There was already a ground at the main pole but we wanted the added safety of an additional ground.  There were two challenges however: driving 10feet into the previously mentioned rocky soil, and placing the rod where it would be moist.  A ground rod is ideally located in moist soil to be most effective.  Driving the rod under the cabin would have been near impossible, and would be dry as a bone.  To the side of the cabin we tried driving the rod in vertically and at a 45deg angle and failed miserably; just too many rocks.  Our last option was to lay it in a 2ft deep trench outside the cabin footprint and make appropriate bends to get the end near the post.  Not ideal, but it works.



"Pull back and nuke it from orbit.  Its the only way to be sure."  Cpl Hicks.


Online Alan Georges

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Re: A Shipping Container Cabin That Actually Got Built.
« Reply #25 on: November 17, 2014, 06:20:49 PM »
Hats off to you, Uzi.  Inspiring work.  And I'm really, really glad the wiring was all good when you gave it the smoke test!

Artes sunt magis quam instrumenta.

Offline BLACK SHIRT

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Re: A Shipping Container Cabin That Actually Got Built.
« Reply #26 on: November 17, 2014, 06:35:01 PM »
Unbelievably cool!

Offline IKN

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Re: A Shipping Container Cabin That Actually Got Built.
« Reply #27 on: November 17, 2014, 08:00:58 PM »
IKN, I'm just using a hardened MasterLock set.  4 locks keyed alike.  I use them on the front and back of the containers, one on the shed, and one on the boat.  Probably should upgrade as I know it takes about very little to cut one off with a set of bolt cutters.  However, we do like having them all keyed alike.

I look and see if I can find where I got my lock. It came with 4 or 5 keys.
Nothing wrong with what you have, just saw too many Youtube videos of people opening standard padlocks with a piece cut off of an aluminum can bend into a shim and a pair of pliers. Takes them about 3 seconds to open the lock.
BTW, it is a beatiful place. Is yours the standard 8' high container or one of the extended height ones ?

Offline Cylon

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Re: A Shipping Container Cabin That Actually Got Built.
« Reply #28 on: November 17, 2014, 08:55:06 PM »
Very, very cool!

Good job...  :)

+1

Police: Are you classified as human?
Korben Dallas: Negative, I am a meat popsicle.

Commander Adama: There's a reason you separate military and the police. One fights the enemies of the state, the other serves and protects the people. When the military becomes both, then the enemies of the state tend to become the people.

Offline Caveat

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Re: A Shipping Container Cabin That Actually Got Built.
« Reply #29 on: November 17, 2014, 10:32:16 PM »
+1