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How to Add Plumbing to a Shipping Container Home

Updated on November 12, 2019
Alexander Okelo profile image

Alexander is a professional engineer who specializes in the construction of affordable houses and structures using recycled materials.


Plumbing, just like adding a connection to electricity and gas, takes time and dedication to ensure that the water line is secure, sewer systems are in check, all piping has been connected, and water is free-flowing in your shipping container.

When people started to invest in cargotecture and living in these container homes, some of these elements pose major drawbacks, but now, the process has been simplified even for those who want to do the task individually.

If you're looking to add plumbing in your shipping container, you are in the right place. Here you'll learn about how all the water passageways are connected for that perfect shipping container home.

Plumbing in a Shipping Container Home
Plumbing in a Shipping Container Home

Some of the Factors to Consider While Plumbing

● Costs.

● Your responsibilities in this whole process as a prospective client.

● Water supply and speed.

How is Plumbing Added in a Shipping Container Home?

Step 1

The plumbing line within the area is located. The line will most probably be beneath the area you've placed the container on. Using either the engineer or a water company contractor, the line is identified and marked for the next step.

Step 2

Back to the house, drill a pathway where you want your main water line to be for the house. Remove any debris, dirt, impurities on the water line you plan to draw water from

Step 3

Ask the water contracting company to temporarily shut off the water supply so you can connect your water line. Cut directly to the pipe and add your line securely so that there are no leaks detected. Pass your secure pipe underground and straight to your shipping container home. Cover up the site you had to dig up.

Step 4

Once you can see the plumbing line has successfully been added to the house, connect to other portals such as the kitchen sink, bathroom, toilet, and other water outlets. From that central line, ensure that all pipes and taps are working well and arrange for an inspection.

Step 5

It's time for a quick test on whether the plumbing line is working. Check the water supply if it's efficient and also test if the water is draining well in the sink nor flushing in the toilet.

Installation of Plumbing Pipes in Various Areas of the Home

When you're creating a plan for your shipping container home, the drawings should show the drawings on routes and connections intended to be used for the waterline. They will most probably be installed at the back of the house, and underground to protect it from breaking or damage.

For piping purposes, most engineers or modification companies will use the PVC tube to hold incoming and outgoing water. Shipping containers may not have the luxury of installing heaters but with a solar panel, the water can get hot for use.

To secure the tube to the shipping container, you could weld small metal hooks to the container and use a steel cable, wrapped around tubing and then fed through the hooks. This will hold them in place without much hustle.

Just because most companies or engineers use the PVC tubing doesn't mean you are completely restricted. There are various other tubing options you can go for, depending on the use and your budget.

A good example is steel or copper tubing. It comes highly recommend, especially for copper tubing, since it's very strong and can withstand pressure for the incoming water supply. This could be a great replacement since there have been reports of long term health issues and problems associated with the use of PVC tubing, especially for younger people.

With such reports, you can also expect to environmental hazards which goes against the eco-friendly nature of shipping container homes.

Bathroom Connection

For the bathroom, it will be dictated by the design of the bathroom in your shipping container home, in accordance with your personal preferences. The size and the location of the sink, toilet, and shower all need to be considered, especially when designing a house with constrained space such as a shipping container house.

Because the shower tends to take up water as much as a kitchen, you can place it close to the central line of the water supply. This will enhance better water experience than having the water have to travel a long distance to get to the shower.

Kitchen Connection

Another major dependent of water is the kitchen. Where all the cleaning and cooking happens, the need for running water is much more rampant than usual. It will have one entry tubing that receives clean water from the water sewer, and one exit tubing to release the sewage.

Service Block

Similar to any brick and mortar house, there needs to be an area that will receive the electric and water service for the entire house. In this case, this is 8 feet long by 7 feet high and 40 inches wide module that stands in the middle of the container.

The service block receives power and water from the floor of the container, through a hole in the one-inch thick marine grade plywood floor. The service block contains a mini kitchen, toilet, shower, hot water heater, small vanity with sink, and two small closets. This makes a very compact and efficient unit accommodating pretty much everything one needs.

It acts like an infused box line that will operate where and how water will be distributed throughout the shipping container home. It's not necessary but for a compact home such as this, it may. e more helpful than you think.

The Toilet Connection

The toilet uses just as much water as the bathroom and kitchen. Hence plumbing is a major factor even more than electricity. It will have a huge sewer line to cater to the cistern and exiting one to cater for when you flush the toilet.

For the shipping container, you should invest in a good quality toilet system like a high-end commercial model. Something powerful and durable for use. The connection should also be strong like it can shoot up to 25 feet high and 150 feet away through a 3/4 inch pipe.

This will allow you to have at least a good inflow and outflow of water in your bathroom and toilet.

Other Exterior Uses

You could have water storage areas where you save water from the sewer line in readiness for that dry day. In case you may have reported having other water uses like you probably run a greenhouse or you're into a cleaning business, you can use the water extensively.

The plumbing line should be connected to the main water line but should be pointed to the outside. No need for an exit tube because there's no cycle of in and out with exterior uses.

The Sewer and Septic

The last part of the plumbing is sewage. After using eater to cook, clean, and bathe, it has to be drained safely somewhere. Plumbing works take care of the drainage pipes to ensure the sewage is disposed of in a clean manner to maintain a clean and healthy environment.

The same process as for connecting with a water line goes. You need to source for a sewerage line in the neighborhood. Research in the costs incurred to have the connection done. If you'd prefer, you can also create your own biodegradable septic tank to manage your waste.

A good technique for the sewage is a divided septic tank connection. For example, the wastewater is connected to the small tank behind the toilet, which includes two sinks and a shower. Once the small tank fills up, the macerating pump automatically starts and pushes everything far away to the septic tank.

As for the vent, there is only one, and it goes up a few feet from the toilet tank and then backs down through the floor. This seems to work just fine, and you can be assured not to detect any odors from inside or outside.

Connecting to the Water Supply

This is the main area of concern regarding this topic. You have to be concerned about how water will be flowing in your home. The total costs you will incur to have the water line actually connected to your shipping container home.

Despite the previously mentioned factors above, there are other factors that go into making the water supply connection. They include;

  • Costs - the entirety of costs lies around the ground excavation, labor, buying of the PVC pipes to pull the water, and the bill to the water contracting company.
  • Your responsibilities in this whole process as a prospective client.
  • Water supply and speed. You have the choice to look into nearby water providers who can offer a clean and uninterrupted water supply.

After you have made yourself acquainted with the information. You can now move to fill in application forms by your chosen provider. For waste, water services, and sewer connections; you'll require a separate application but may be provided by the same company.

The form will include the following information:

  • The site location and layout plans showing the proposed point of entry for your main water line.
  • Planning reference number for planning permission - the plans have to be approved before moving forward with the connection.
  • Details of any water recycling systems and/or sprinkler systems you intend to use. This will be used to roughly estimate the amount of water you will be connected to so you get the right connection.
  • A land risk assessment if the new supply pipes need to cross any potentially contaminated land. The security of other line users has to be kept in mind during the process.
  • Who will carry out the plumbing installation and lay the supply pipe from the boundary to your stop tap? The contractors doing the job have to fit the description.
  • Details of the plumbing installation

Once you have added all the details in the form, there may be a scheduled inspection done to oversee the groundwork. The supplier may want to organize a site survey to assess the extent of the work and make sure they can meet the statutory supply requirements.

All these details the supplier will be looking at have to comply with the Water Supply Regulations 1999 for the safe and efficient distribution of water, preventing waste, contamination, and misuse. The final stage of installation will have to be ascertained by an accredited contractor under the Water Industry Approved Plumber Scheme (WIAPS) or by the supplier who inspects the supply pipe and the plumbing installation prior to connection.

Connecting To Drainage Systems

Lastly, we shall look at the final element of a sewage system. Many people complain of diseases and environmental hazards once waste has not been adequately and efficiently disposed of. While doing plumbing for the home, you should place a keen eye on what's required by the law in regard to having sewer and sewage services available in your area.

Winding Up

By law, a home can only be termed as a home if it features crucial elements like the bathroom, kitchen, sewage systems, and the toilet. These are all the things that modify a simple cargo structure into a shipping container home. The ability to have free-flowing water in and out is what makes the idea of cargotecture even a possible replacement to the brick and mortar home.

Luckily for you, you now know what's essential while adding the water connection to your home. Follow the right procedures and remain on the right side of the law.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Alexander Okelo


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