House Build Timeline
The property at time of purchase in 2008. The house was a retrofitted mobile home fitted with a peaked roof and entire wood paneled interior from wood milled on the property.
It took two and a half years to design the house and many iterations. We wanted it to be highly energy efficient, sustainably built, affordable, and utilitarian in that it had to function perfectly for our way of living. We used D&Z Engineering in Cameron Park, CA and they could not have been a better partner. They were excited about a container project, were great to work with and helped with every step of the project.
In December 2011 we gave away the existing house on the property. It went to live a few towns south of us and was quite an undertaking getting it dismantled and moved. With the house gone we were able to start grading of the site in January 2012. The new house we built right on the front doorstep of the old house, it was the best location on the property.
Our neighbor up the road runs Ironworks, an excavation and earth moving company, and was a great resource to do all our grading and dug out for the crawl space under the house.
Precision Concrete get the ball rolling pouring the foundation pad and crawl space walls. The 4 shipping containers would sit on the crawl space walls while the ICF portion of the house would be built up from the pad. Precise measuring of the crawl space walls was critical as they had to support the corners of the containers perfectly and the containers measurements couldn't be changed.
Four high cube containers, two at 40' and two at 45', were delivered to the property from the Oakland Port. The containers had a few miles across the Pacific on their passport which added to the character and ensured we using containers that had served and weren't new. All the containers were placed on the foundation with a crane and the 45' containers were placed on top with a 5' cantilever on the east side.
The containers had all their doors removed with the help of a Grade-All and our great welder from RT Mobile welded all he containers together and the bottom containers to the plates embedded in the foundation.
Interior walls were framed out within the containers for bathrooms, laundry room and the engine room.
Radiant floor heat tubing was installed across the concrete pad prior to it being poured and attached to the lower container floors. When the concrete pad was poured we took it across into the containers, which would be our final floor, so that it was continuous. Radiant tubing was also added to the second floor and lightweight concrete was poured up there.
Interior walls of the containers were removed where needed and reinforced steel was installed to maintain the structural integrity of the containers.
Outside windows and doors were cut out and steel stud added to the exterior that will eventually provide for spray foam insulation and then siding. Red steel was added to the exterior as well as part of the California earthquake requirements.
We used Fox Blocks as the ICF brand and Mike Evans and his incredible team did the install. We had hoped to do the ICF ourselves but there was quite and art and skill to it and since these blocks get filled with rebar and concrete, it wasn't something we wanted to get wrong.
The ICF walls were filled with concrete in two separate events. The first floor was poured, the second floor built and then then second floor was poured using this huge beam pump. It is a nerve wracking day pouring concrete vertically, so much can go wrong but Mike Evans it all went smoothly.
The roof and loft framing were next to go in.
The containers on the second floor got their roofs cut out of them using a plasma cutter. We then built a raised portion of the wall and added some clerestory windows. The container roof line is dog shed whereas the ICF portion is gabled.
The whole container portion of the house was sprayed on the exterior with closed cell foam insulation over rigid foam insulation. The underneath of the bottom floor containers were sprayed and the ceilings in both the ICF and container portions were sprayed over rigid foam.
The stairs were built by RT Mobile Welding and Kyle made the railing. The stair treads were made by Jim's Custom Doors and Millwork. They are white oak and the kite inlays are from the leftover wood from the fire mantel.
We installed a standing seam cool roof over the entire house and used a high solar reflectivity galvanized color in order to deflect as much heat off the house in the summer.
Windows and doors went in pretty easily thanks to Dave Duncan. Ordering and receiving them was horrible. They are Serious Windows that are now called Alpen Windows. They perform well but the attention to detail leaves a lot to be desired to put it lightly. They are very high performing windows and are different E values based on the orientation in the house. They are fiberglass frame with argon fill.
The front and side doors were custom made by Jim's Custom Doors and Millwork using some of the salvaged wood from the old house we had here. Jim also made our mantel and stair treads. Very talented. The side door is pictured and the big opening at the bottom is for our custom oversized dog door that is energy efficient and accommodates both little Ziggy and humongous Denali.
We sided the exterior of the containers with corrugated metal siding and the ICF was covered with Gigacrete (environmentally and incredibly tough plaster). Plastering proved to be VERY difficult and we wasted a lot of product trying to apply ourselves so we got Pros to finish both inside and outside.
We built the front porch over the front door and integrated columns built of a hybrid of corrugated pipe and wood posts. At the same time we built another pad with a roof made from some of the container walls we cut out that houses the propane tank and whole house generator.
California has a new residential sprinkler requirement on all new and remodel homes. So we went with exposed copper pipe sprinkler system throughout the house and were thrilled with the outcome.
The kitchen went in along with pouring the concrete countertops. The basic line-up went in against the wall with 30" counter depth and 36" height. The rest of the kitchen was finished up after we moved in.