Reduce, reuse, recycle: Drake, Sask man turns old shipping container into new home

A Saskatchewan carpenter is building a house out of shipping containers.

The home combines two shipping containers to a total of 540 square feet.

Cutting through the metal of the shipping containers for windows and doors posed a problem during the start of the build. (Submitted by Ian Schmidt)

When some people see shipping containers, they think of metal bins that hold garbage from home renovations. Not Ian Schmidt though—when he looks at shipping containers, he sees a potential home.

The Drake, SK man is a year and a half into building a home out of two shipping containers, or as some call them, Sea-Cans, that he's fused together. The home-in-progress is 540 square feet, and came about after Schmidt found himself intrigued by shipping container homes he saw on social media. 
Ian Schmidt of Drake, SK expects his shipping container home to be complete by the fall of 2018. (The Box LIVING Company/Instagram)

There is an environmental reason behind why he's put 500 hours into building the shipping container home and dreams of being able to build homes for others on a full-time basis.

"It's not really the aspect of saving money, it's more of that you're recycling a shipping container to begin with because there's a huge thing about metal waste and stuff and how they got brought to Canada and America and they just get left here, so it's a way of using them," Schmidt said.

'I've been kind of just figuring this out as I go'

Schmidt didn't go into the project blind. He is a carpenter who does home renovations with his brother, his dad is a cabinet-builder, and he has friends who are plumbers and electricians. The first thing Schmidt did before starting the build was price out the project and plan the layout, including custom-building much of the kitchen and furniture.
The shipping container house has taken more than 500 hours of work to build (Submitted by Ian Schmidt)

Still, he said the process of hauling in the first 24.2 metre container and the second 12.2 metre container and getting started presented a lot of challenges.

"Dealing with metal has been like a whole new battlefield for me. And cutting it apart and stuff, it was tricky but once you do it once you kind of learn from mistakes you make," he said.

He had to figure out how to maximize space by framing the home as much as possible from outside of the shipping container rather than inside. The end result will be a wood-framed house that, aside from the ceiling of the shipping containers being visible, will bear no resemblance to the containers.
Ian Schmidt says only the ceiling of his house will reveal the shipping container it was built around. (Submitted by Ian Schmidt)

"I"ve been kind of just figuring this out as I go," he said.

He has nearly finished the bedroom of the home and has been living there about three-quarters of the time. Plumbing is not yet finished but luckily Schmidt's new home is located on his parents' farm property so he's able to use their house when needed.

Shipping container housing makes less sense in cities, carpenter says

The city of Moose Jaw recently proposed a bylaw that would prohibit people from living in shipping containers and also keep the containers from being stacked.

Schmidt said shipping container homes the same size as his are less likely to see in the city since they're so small. He sees them more as a guest home or lake property.

"But once you start getting into the aspect of building a larger one you can use traditional house framing combined with shipping containers and you would never be able to tell on the exterior of a home that there's even shipping containers involved in it," he said.

He expects the home to be complete by the fall.