Reuse Grey Water, Save Water, Save $$$

Maybe my late blog gives me away, but 2016 has started out a little rough.

My first night in the container house was December 23rd…. my first day of running water was 2 days ago.  The 2 weeks in the middle were a little more like squatting in my own house than living in it.  I had been hauling water by the bucket (which I understand is a reality for many people) and showering at my parents’ house.  It wasn’t luxurious, but i gained a lot of perspective in that time.

The majority of us, in the western world, have ample access to clean, running water, mostly right in our very homes.  This is a privilege I can honestly say that in the past, I have absolutely taken for granted.  This experience has prompted me to do some research and look into all the ways we can better use that water, and waste as little as possible.  By doing this we can be respectful of our planet, the global water crisis and communities without such luxuries, as well as being humble first world citizens.

A large portion of unnecessarily wasted water is “Grey Water”. It is the water from our sinks (including dishwater), bathtubs and laundry machines that is not totally unsanitary and could be used again for purposes other than direct consumption.  Think of the places where we use fresh water where it is not required, toilets and gardens for example (these are the big ones in my house).

Disconnecting the j trap under the sinks and allowing the water to run into a bucket is an easy way to save your grey water for repurposing.  It may require a watchful eye to make sure your bucket doesn’t overflow, but being mindful is the name of the game, non? From there you can dump that water in the tank or bowl of your toilet to flush it.  Toilets are responsible for 31% of overall household water consumption.  You could stand to save 31% of your water bill, couldn’t you?

Plants and gardens are also a big one for me.  I love gardening and have many houseplants that at one point i was watering with fresh water until i learned about the grey water method.  As long as you are using environmentally-friendly soaps, dishwater and bathwater are perfectly fine for your plants and gardens (actually they might even be better for them!).  I found a great instructable that shows the easy way that the author rigged her laundry washing machine to drain out to spaghetti lines that water her garden.
But it doesn’t have to be a plumbing project, saving grey water can be as easy as showering with the plug in and scooping it out later.

Besides grey water, the same methods can be used with harvested rain water or snow melt.  If you were raised at the lake, like me then these are probably all methods you have used or at least heard of before.  I didn’t, but could have mentioned the old, “If it’s yellow, let it mellow…”…

Reuse Grey Water, Save Water, Save $$$

Tree Stump Tables

It’s the last post of the year! I just want to make a short note of thanks to everyone who as supported me and S&S during the last 6 months of tireless construction and blogging.  2015 has been a year of learning and new experiences and I can’t wait to see what 2016 has in store!  Thank you everyone, Happy new year!!!

Ive been feeling crafty!  I stumbled upon an awesome side table tutorial and decided to raid my wood pile and make my own!  I made the one below for my bf for Christmas. Here’s how:
2015-12-30 19.30.27
1. Aquire stump.
Any old stump will do.

2. You will have to allow the stump to dry out for about a month or so.  Then the bark will be easy to remove and it will be significantly lighter.  You can tell it is dry enough when you can see the bark separating, like below:20151214_191441

3. You will need a hammer and a chisel thingy.
Hammering the chisel thingy into where the bark and stump have begun to separate should make it easy to remove the bark.  For me it peeled off without too much difficulty.  It will take a little extra work around the knots, you will have to come at it at different angles with the chisel thingy, or use the prying end of the hammer.

4. It will look like this.
Sand the crap out of it.
Decide which end will be the top and sand that end as well.  Try to get all the sharp or splintered edges, ends of the knots and all the little wood hairs off.
Use a variety of grits.
20151214_1902425. Wipe it down.
Use a damp rag.
This will get all the dust from sanding off.

6. Put legs on! (Or don’t)
I used  3 inch “Capita” legs i found at IKEA.  I also used longer screws than IKEA gave me due to the big heavy stump i was attaching to them.
A standard side table is about 25 inches tall. If you’re stump doesn’t need legs (or you dont want them, consider putting those little felt stickems on the bottom so the table doesn’t scratch your floor.)
7.  Seal it.
I used this stuff.
I did 3 or 4 coats on the sides and 5 or 6 on the top, let it dry in between coats.

Annnnd voila!!
Stump table.
2015-12-30 19.30.27

Tree Stump Tables

A History of Shipping Container Architecture

Although shipping container architecture and repurposing has exploded in recent years, the concept is not new.  Almost immediately after containers were first developed in North America in 1956 by Malcolm McLean, the value in their structure was utilized for much more than the efficiency of ocean freight transportation, for which they were developed.

The Europeans had been using variations of shipping containers long before the modern standard container we see today had been developed.  But the invention really took off when the military began using them during the Vietnam war.  Not only for  shipping supplies but also as emergency shelters for soldiers in the field, as well as offices and medical units.  They have been continually used by the military, more recently, in the Gulf War where they are used as makeshift shelters because it was found that combined with the stacking of sandbags against them, they are strong enough to withstand RPG strikes.

In 1962 Insbrandtsen Company filed a patent to use containers as exhibition booths for travelling businesses. Christopher Betjemann was the inventor of the patent which was granted in 1965.
In 1962 Insbrandtsen Company filed a patent to use containers as exhibition booths for travelling businesses. Christopher Betjemann was the inventor of the patent which was granted in 1965.

Nicholas Lacey of the UK wrote a university thesis on reusing containers to make habitable dwellings in 1970 and 17 years later in 1987 Philip Clark filed the first patent in the U.S. to make “one or more steel shipping containers into a habitable building”.  It appears Clark did not make use of this patent himself, however it did set off a chain of similar thinking in the U.S.

Perhaps influenced by military use as well, since 2002 medical clinics in shipping containers have been shipped out to help 3rd world countries such as Haiti and Sierra Leone in association with “Clinic in a Can” and other organizations.

Shipping container architecture is nothing new to the rest of the world, mainly Asia and Europe.  The biggest European shopping centre in Odessa, Ukraine is made out of shipping containers, as are many other major shopping centres around the world including the Cashel Mall in Christchurch, New Zealand (rebuilt with containers after being destroyed by earthquake in 2011) and the Dordoy Bazaar in Bishek, Kyrgyzstan.

Currently in North America, Tesla Motors Inc. is touring the U.S.A. in a mobile showroom built from containers and in Canada, a Days Inn comprised of 120 containers opened last year in Sioux Lookout, Ontario.

Container structures and architectural masterpieces containing them are popping up everywhere.  The architectural world has turned a new page, coming into the age of repurposing materials and structures and tiny homes in particular, of which the features of shipping containers are perfect for.  Given their increasing accessibility, inexpensive cost and the excess of containers sitting in shipyards all over the world, I feel as though we have yet to see the best of this movement.


A History of Shipping Container Architecture

Used Shipping Containers: Things to Consider

Currently there is an excess amount of unused shipping containers sitting in harbours all around the world.  Couple that with the new trend of resourcefully building tiny homes using typically unconventional house-building materials and voila! Shipping container homes everywhere.  (Read “A History of Shipping Container Architecture” here.)FullSizeRender-2Obviously, if they’re good for building homes, they are good for building lots of other structures as well.  In the Netherlands they use them to build bus stations, people all over the world have converted them into shops and offices, Winnipeg’s Assiniboine Park has adopted 2 containers as their new washroom facilities ( and obviously they can be used for storage.

If you have use for a shipping container, here are some things to consider before you buy:

    • Depending on your plans, the look of the container might be important to you.  One thing I was surprised to learn was that shipping containers have hardwood flooring.  If your intent is to build a summer/lake house or you live somewhere where you don’t need insulated floors, you could easily clean up the hardwood and it would look awesome! If this is the case you would need to carefully inspect the floor of the container before you buy to look for dings from cargo or forklifts. But like bonus! Free hardwood floor!


    • Don’t buy anything you haven’t seen in person. Always schedule time to go check out the container.  When viewing it make sure your salesperson can guarantee the unit is watertight and look for signs of water inside.  This might be scary but go inside the container and have someone fully close the doors so you can look for light, if you see light holes the container is not watertight and you don’t want it.


    • These containers are built to have a 20 year life aboard freight ships on the rolling sea, when stationary they are considered to have what is called an “infinite life span”.  My point is that they’re freaking tough and they don’t have to be shiny and new to be a good deal.  Rust, dings and dents on a container are perfectly okay as long as they don’t compromise the stability and structure of the unit.  However, deep corrosion, warped frames and extensive patchwork is not okay.


    • The other considerable thing about containers is that they’re heavy.  Very heavy.  Because of this and therefor the labour and machinery involved, depending on where you live, the delivery might be more expensive than the container itself.  (If the same company you bought from is doing your delivery, always try to haggle a deal, you will always do better than the initial rate.)


  • Most used containers you will see have loads of stickers and logos on them, as well as serial numbers. By doing some research you can find out what the container was used to ship.  This could also aid in your decision to buy or pass on the container.
    I found out that one of my containers used to be the property of Hyundai, I can deduce that it was probably used to move cars or car parts.  However, you probably wouldn’t want to buy one used to ship chemicals, for example. Remnants of the container’s past could pose a health hazard as they may not be cleaned before being put on the market.
    A friend of mine was all set up to buy a container she found online, but upon viewing it she had a sense (of the olfactic kind) the unit was very obviously used to move fish.  Needless to say she passed on the fishy container.

Now that container architecture is so popular, so are container sales businesses. And some, like the containers themselves, are better than others.  Like buying/selling anything you just have to use your common sense, do lots of research and know what to ask and look for.

Used Shipping Containers: Things to Consider