Hallelujah, the containers are on site!

I’d love to show you photos of all the angles of my new container house now it is on site, but the delightful thing is that most of it is hidden by the garden. Many of the pictures are of trees and shrubs with just a glimpse of container behind. You can see the whole house from the front where the view is, and it’s shown in the banner photo above.

Getting the containers into position while keeping a substantial garden intact was not a simple thing. I reckon I ended up with the best team in the business, both for the truck delivery and the crane. Adam’s team from Turner and Central Crane Services worked miracles to get the containers from the truck to the piers. Fifty tonne cranes don’t look that manoeuvrable but apparently they can turn tight corners quite well if they’re in the right hands, and this one inched it’s way off the driveway, down the little garden path, to a spot half way between the truck and the piers. I think I might be slightly oblivious to just how close we were to the maximum reach of the crane when it hefted the 6 tonne containers over the tree tops, but I’m happy to stay that way. Adam said not to worry they’d get it done, and they did.

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Setting up the crane in soggy ground near a garden retaining wall.
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The 50 tonne crane in position, with Adam from Turner and Central
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Crane in mid-lift. This gives an idea of how much garden everyone was working around!

Jodi Thompson from J & K Heavy Towing and Transport did some seriously talented driving to reverse the 12m containers down to the bottom of my driveway, with very little room to manoeuvre. A couple of other drivers had visited my site to give me a quote and said it wasn’t possible. Not only was there a blind reverse turn from a very narrow street involved but to add a bit more of a challenge there is a small garden right next to the road, directly opposite my driveway, which was right in the area where the truck needed to swing around. The garden now has large semi-trailer tread marks within 2mm of it, but is otherwise unscathed.

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The truck reversing into the driveway, neatly missing the neighbour’s garden bed by millimeters.
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The truck at the end of the driveway with a container being lifted.

We just had the wettest March since 1975 and then the rain didn’t realise it was April for a while so it kept on going. Delivery day followed the first good break in the weather but the ground was still soft and it’s a good thing we waited as long as we did – the crane only just got back out with the help of a few well-placed solid timber sleepers. I have a bit of landscaping to do to fill in the deep furrows it left in the driveway and path, but that’s a small price to pay.

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Lift off from the driveway – the truck pulled out to go and get the next container.
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A high lift over the trees.
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The first container going into place on the piers.

I am totally chuffed to finally have my house structure tucked away on site, and I can’t wait to get stuck into the rest of the build. I’m also pleased I chose this build method as anything else would have had much more impact on the lovely garden block.

The real fun is about to begin and I am now finally free from dodgy container fabrication companies.

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The first container in place, from behind showing the tree view through to the front.
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Container Number 3 going on top.
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A crane “dogman” with a fine sense of balance working on the roof of the first container.

If you read my last post, which was a frustrated vent about the performance of Port Shipping Containers, I have a relatively quick update for you. After some negotiation the Company Directors acknowledged they knew they were in breach of contract and didn’t care, they refused to release my containers until I paid in full. I offered several compromises including 10% payment after delivery (instead of the agreed 20% outlined in our contract), and a third party payment system where the final payment could be held independently until all parties were happy. Then I asked for payment by credit card, as that would give me a bit of protection via the visa charge back system if something was wrong. They said no to everything except payment by EFT, and decided to stay uncompromisingly unethical.

The company did a last quality check for me, where they picked up yet another mistake. We had actually picked this mistake up back in drawing stages and a correction had been identified then, but it was completely ignored during the build stage. They fixed it promptly this time, without arguing which was nice.

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The view from the garden path right near the containers. They can’t be seen at all from the street.
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The tree view from one side of the deck.

Then as a grand finale, as the one tarnish on an otherwise happy day of container delivery, Port had got the position of the bottom side rails wrong. This bit is rather important as the bottom side rails, along with the corner casts, are where the containers sit on the foundations. If they are not where they are supposed to be then the container might miss the foundations.

I checked the position measurements with Port when I was doing the foundations. Their measurements were way out, basically it looks like they didn’t check which type of bottom side rails the containers had and they gave me specs for the wrong type. So I now have a section where the side rail of one container is sitting only on an overhanging steel top plate not directly over a pier and it will have to be reinforced. The incompetence of their staff just never ends.

I am currently looking into whether it is worth the legal fees to try to recover some of my build costs from Port due to the extended delays, plus the cost of fixing the foundation. I’ll certainly be posting some reviews to give people fair warning – if anyone is looking for a container fabrication company I strongly recommend you look elsewhere and find a company capable of using a tape measure, reading the supplied specifications, and sticking to their own contract.

Overall, apart from what is hopefully the very last stuff up by Port containers, it was a very fine day and a great outcome.

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Gold! Well, magnesium actually…

For those of you who have laboured through the last few torturous posts on wall structure and cladding options, it’s time to breathe easy, I have some good news.  A new solution has popped up. Popped up in the way that things pop up when you spend months dredging the internet for options, I guess it was more wrangled out of the cyberspace abyss.

I came across this option earlier but that was in the days when I thought spray foam insulation was the only option for containers, so I was ignoring a lot of the multi-layer external cladding options.

Builders out there are probably familiar with it, it’s magnesium oxide board – very green, almost carbon neutral, fire proof, rot resistant and termite proof. Now that is the personal profile I have been looking for in a cladding option, I could fall for this one. Oh and one more vital personality trait, because I am such a classy gal, it’s cheap!

Less than half the price of INEX weatherboard in fact, and it looks to be less fussy with the wall system you need behind it to meet BAL FZ compliance. Plus it’s manufactured in big sheets and would be much quicker to fit than individual weatherboards, so less costly in terms of labour. I discovered INEX does do a renderboard which would also be quicker to apply, but you have to then render it which would probably chew up any savings. This magic MgO board only needs a coat of paint. It complies with BAL FZ through the FRL option, of having flame resistance level of 30/30/30 or more – typically this stuff is at least 60/60/60 or more.

There are a bunch of different magnesium oxide (MgO) boards and structural insulated panels available, some with dubious qualities as they are all made in China. There appear to be two here that are certified to BCA standards and have sufficient details on bushfire qualities – MgOBoard and Modak. Modak also do a very cleverly designed gutter that removes the accumulation of leaf litter and so reduces bushfire risk.

Modak's clever leafless gutter design, which is also anti-bushfire.
Modak’s clever leafless gutter design, which is also anti-bushfire.

From the specs it looks like the board just needs to be fitted to an external wall with some decent insulation under it, no special plasterboard as part of the wall system. If there is no need for plasterboard then I might even be able to have some container steel showing on the inside of the house,  which would be great to expose the bones of the house.

Exposed container steel inside home.
A container home showing some exposed container steel for character (from https://www.pinterest.com/pin/558305685030848306/)

I did hear back from the container home builders and they are not real keen on the NASH wall system – they do builds at low cost by making them all the same, so a whole new system would not be easy or cheap for them. They suggested I get the wall system fitted once the containers are on site, but there are more layers and labour involved in that than just adding battens, insulation and cladding to the outside. And now that I know that insulation on the outside is actually a good thing, not a bad thing, together with the fact thinner walls in the inside will give me more space, the exterior cladding option is looking like the best for me.

For anyone out there creating more space with more containers, and who has the time and skills to add interior walls, NASH steel clad walls for BAL FZ could still be a good option – as of this month the standards have been adopted into the National Construction Code.

I am meeting with my bushfire assessor this week, to look at running with the MgO board and getting the final documents together for my DA. Whoop whoop!

There is still the small issue of the roof, but once the rooftop deck is on (which could be MgO or INEX) there is only a small amount of actual roof left (one container at 28 square meters) so it should not be a big deal to whack on something BAL FZ compliant. MgO do some roofing products as well. Or maybe I could have a split level rooftop deck and no roof…