Last night I had a dream that I was in the market for a split-level house boat. This really doesn’t make sense because one of my biggest fears is drowning and I get seasick on boats. I think it was inspired by the phone call I had with my brother yesterday about how he wanted to buy a duplex. (Why a twenty year old college student needs to BUY a house is beyond me.) C’est la vie, I suppose. And, allegedly, equity.
So dream me, my husband, and another couple were perusing these massive sway-y boats made of inexplicably unstable materials. I’m not sure if I should interpret that as secretly wanting to be George (a la Hart of Dixie) or that my life is feeling particularly unstable. Instead, I choose to use it as inspiration for my second creative living series post (the first one is here if you’re interested).
I like to pin (and obsessively research) eclectic DIY housing situations in case I’m ever bequeathed a large expanse to build upon AND/OR if the dream of inviting all my brilliant East Coast friends to live on a massive ranch of tiny houses & creating an awesome startup company becomes a reality.
This concept is first because it’s been my dream for the longest time. It’s basically like a DIY RV which vibes perfectly with my near-future goal of traversing the country, blogging, and buying awesome vintage clothes to resell in my (soon-to-be-launched) boutique. What’s super neat about these are you can literally pick any type of bus to start with. I’ve seen tons of ideas ranging from double-decker skoolies to short bus conversions that have been beautifully executed.
Estimated initial bus cost: $1,000 – $8,000 (depending on mileage, state, and condition). Ebay, your local school district, and craigslist are good places to get started in search of buses.
Build costs: varies, but generally anywhere from $3,000 up to $50,000 depending on materials, cost of labor (or DIY), and any extras you’re putting in (eg: solar power, composting toilet, ceiling raise, etc).
Things worth keeping in mind:
- Many RV parks have regulations on what kind of vehicles are allowed to park on their property. If you’re not planning on buying/renting land, it’s worth having a conversation with some of the parks of the destination you’re intending to live.
- Many states have external appearance regulations. Do your research.
- Depending on the size, you may need a CDL.
- Typical interior height for a school bus is 6 feet. Tallest you’ll find in a stock bus is 6’5. Ceiling raises will add a ton of time and an extra $1,000 or so; keep this in mind if your significant other is tall (my husband’s 6’4).
- Skoolie Forum: people post a step-by-step thread on their current build. Definitely a great spot to start if you’re looking to see if this is something worth embarking on.
- Hank Bought a Bus a student converts a school bus for his Masters final project & documents it.
- My “Bus” Pinterest: A ‘lil shameless self-promotion here. But it’s worth it, ‘cause I literally have been collecting tons of interior design inspiration, how-to guides, and storage solutions for when we actually do our own build.
Shipping Container Home
These modular builds are the epitome of modern, green architecture. They recycle retired shipping containers. The neat thing about this option is the myriad of different sized & shaped houses that can be built from a simple 40’ metal structure. Depending on your climate, you get to pick the insulation level and al fresco space. They look more unique and tend to cost less than many iffy-quality prefab houses.
Image Credit @ Benjamin Garcia Saxe
Shipping container cost: $1,800 – $5,000, depending on size/condition. Building expenses vary, but end costs range from $15,000 to over $100,000 depending on the square footage.
Things to keep in mind:
- Depending on your location it may be more or less expensive to purchase used shipping contains. Shipping costs varies extensively.
- It’s more complicated than working on a skoolie (eg: welding, septic, etc), so have solid self-awareness of your own skill set.
- Do your research on your local building regulations. This may be one of the most important steps in the build process.
- You’re gonna need some heavy-duty equipment to get these containers into the proper place, especially if you’re planning on stacking them.
- Container Plans, Home of the well-known “Shipping Container Home Plans Package.” It contains “exact plans used to build a shipping container home for less than $35,000.” This is a solid spot to start if you’re willing to throw down the cash to have a more tangible guide instead of the “fly by the seat of your pants” method. Prices range from $49 – $69, depending on the package.
- Article: “The Cheapest Container Homes Ever Built“
Fans of the TV show Fixer Upper might be familiar with one of their most recent endeavors: the Silos. Joanna Gaines had the idea to convert the silo portion of their most recent commercial purchase into housing or offices.
Great shot of the silos! #Repost @foreverlawntexas with @repostapp. ・・・ Day one at the new Magnolia Market was a success! Keep a look out for pictures of the completed project! #magnoliamarket #fixerupper
A photo posted by Joanna Stevens Gaines (@joannagaines) on
Now these are giant silos, there’s tons of less intimidating options if embarking on your own silo project appeals to you. If you’re living in more of a rural, farm-centric area you may find that purchasing a grain silo is way less complicated than a shipping container. And the way the end product looks is just as unique! (If not moreso.)
Grain bin cost: < $30 per square foot (or less!)
Build costs: it ranges depending on labor costs, materials, size, etc. but this blogger estimated approximately $200 per square foot
Things to keep in mind:
- Just like DIY shipping container houses, you need to be well-versed in your local building codes before starting.
- Certain heavy machinery is necessary to set up the pre-build structure. Some of these bins are just as heavy as a shipping container but some can be moved with a flat-bed truck.
- Skillset & know-how: you might have to hire someone to do electrical, sewage, foundation, etc.
- This article on The Farm Show about a $9,000 grain bin conversion (with pictures!)
- “How to Find Used Grain Bins” on HubPages – including a weird comment about hiding dead bodies (ew)
- Mother Earth News “How to Build a Grain Silo House”
- Purchase plans for your own dream silo house here or here.
Would you live in any of these options? What’s the most out-of-the-box house you’ve ever encountered? Let me know in the comments!