Drywall (part 1) begins for the OKC container home

Given how small the container’s interior is, I though drywall would be a two- or three-day process.

I was wrong.

At any rate, Morgan and I purchased 26 or so 3/8″-thick drywall sheets from Home Depot. We decided to complete the drywall installation for the bedroom first; that way, we would have one room in which we could store all the crap piling up in the container while we worked elsewhere.

The first part of our drywall process basically went like this:

  • Measure for the space that requires coverage.
  • Measure out and mark with a pencil that space on a drywall sheet.
  • Measure and mark for any outlets, switches and other abnormalities in general.
  • Use an Exact-O knife (with a sharp, fresh razor blade) to cut along the pencil lines. Rather than actually cutting THROUGH the sheet, this merely scores the top side.
  • Position the scored sheet so you can break it along the score lines using your knee.
  • Use a rasp to file off any irregularities in the cut edges, and use a drywall knife to cut out rectangular holes for outlets/switches.
  • Place the cut sheet against the wall and affix using drywall screws. (Ours were self-tapping screws suited specifically for the aluminum studs framing the container interior.)

So, we repeat that process ad nauseum, with Morgan doing the measuring of the space and telling me what to write down, then me measuring and cutting on the actual sheets. Then Morgan would screw them in place as they became ready.

Morgan Brown, of HB Contractors, screws a drywall section into place near the bedroom window.
Morgan Brown, of HB Contractors, screws a drywall section into place near the bedroom window.
OKC container home drywall
Morgan screws a drywall section into place above the bedroom door.
OKC container home drywall
This is a section of the kitchen where the water main enters the container through the floor just to the left of the front-door frame. This area became problematic later on.
The interior of this bathroom wall needed to accommodate the HVAC service lines (left and right). The rough in for the sink drain is in the middle.
The interior of this bathroom wall needed to accommodate the HVAC service lines (left and right). The rough in for the sink drain is in the middle. Drywall mud has already been applied in this photo.
Bathroom drywall in OKC container home
Drywall for the bathroom nears completion. This is the only space that received a drop ceiling. Note also that Morgan was able to build a knuckle wall to conceal the PVC pipe running alongside the window’s right edge. That pipe acts as an air vent for the shower and allows it to (eventually) drain properly.

Next time: Drywall work continues with taping, mudding, texturing, sanding, priming AND painting. PLUS: A nifty solution for bringing the walls flush with the natural contours of the container’s ribbed ceiling …


Installing insulation for the OKC container home

The installation of insulation constitutes perhaps the easiest step so far in vastly improving the container and making progress toward a livable space. The worst part about the task is working with insulation.

In my younger days I sought employment as a day laborer in Durango, Colorado. My first (and last) day of work for that company consisted of manually unloading a semi-trailer’s worth of hard-to-grip, mostly torn insulation bundles. We were issued neither gloves nor safety masks, but hey: This was 1999.

Even still, I wonder if, as I and a few other misfits desperate for cash bungled our way through that Herculean effort, the concept of a cargo box as dwelling unit wasn’t subconsciously burrowing into my psyche. The lasting impression of that task, besides a phenomenal case of itching once it was over, was that semi-trailers may look big from the outside, but you really have no idea just how big they are until you’ve plumbed the depths of a loaded one from front to back.

At any rate, here’re some shots from the OKC container home’s insulation install, taken over the course of three days in December 2015. Luckily, I had stashed two pairs of coveralls along with some other old oilfield gear in the container several months earlier, which allowed Morgan and I to work itch-free:

OKC container home insulation
Installing the insulation was easy enough because the rolls came in lengths that were shorter than the vertical gaps between the studs. We cut small lengths to make up the difference. Then, it was just a matter of spraying adhesive to the flaps on either side of each baffle and sticking them to the studs.
OKC container home insulation
I had wanted to hire spray foamers to coat the container’s interior, but this proved cost-prohibitive based on several quotes. I settled for R-13 from Home Depot.
OKC container home insulation
We did all the easy gaps first before filling the gaps that would require more cuts. Remember this space in particular; it comes into play later (in a bad way).
OKC container home insulation
Most of the container looked like this once all the interior insulation was installed.

My biggest concern about installing the cheaper insulation is that it may hinder my ability to gain Energy Star certification. The organization has minimum requirements for WOOD-FRAMED buildings, but nothing for a metal structure like a container. My only consolation is that I remain able to afford at least having the exterior of the roof and floor covered in closed-cell spray foam and then weatherproofed, so maybe that will help offset whatever deficiencies arise upon examination of the interior insulation.

Next time: The arduous (and, inexplicably, contentious) drywall process begins …

Framing the bathroom for the OKC container home

Near the completion of the HVAC install for the OKC container home, work began on framing up the walls and ceiling for the bathroom.

For this task, I tapped the skills of a very talented and friendly contractor I knew from way back in the days of undergrad at OU (early 2000s). Morgan Brown, of HB Contractors, is a local actor and voice talent who once lived in an apartment across from a good friend of mine. In that apartment, Morgan had transformed the interior into a series of shelves and cubbies that ultimately made the small space more efficient, and it was just this kind of drive, initiative and talent that I was hoping to tap for my container project.

Initially, we were working under the assumption that the first order of business would be to frame the bathroom so we could install the pocket doors on either side of the bathroom. This would allow us to drywall the whole place at once while also giving the plumbers clear dimensions for the shower fixtures.

So, we built the walls for the bathroom first. This consisted of vertical wooden studs anchored to the existing aluminum-stud framework. OKC container home bathroom framing

OKC container home bathroom framing  OKC container home bathroom framing   OKC container home bathroom framing

OKC container home bathroom framing

Since the lines for the HVAC and plumbing were already installed, we had to build the walls and ceiling so as to accommodate them while also leaving room for access should maintenance be required in the future.

Next came the rafters for the bathroom ceiling. We started with a wooden frame around the ceiling-mounted air handler. Since that unit was already fixed in place, it would dictate the spacing of additional framework.

OKC container home HVAC framing This frame around the air handler’s enclosure would also allow Jason (HVAC) to install the metal frame of the access panel, which covers the unit. We needed that installed before calling in the HVAC inspection. OKC container home HVAC panel

OKC container home bathroom framing

OKC container home HVAC control With the framework finalized, we created a space for Jason to install the final HVAC register that would supply the bedroom. We also had to install a temporary piece of drywall on which to mount the digital thermostat.

And with that, the HVAC install was complete. Inspection was passed without any issues.

Next time: insulation.