What You Need to Know About Building a Container Home

container home exterior design

From tiny houses to artistically designed shipping container homes, these alternatives to traditional housing options have become a growing trend of architecture. By using efficient designs and recycled materials, they have much to offer beyond their stunning looks.

But before you jump onto the bandwagon there is a lot to consider before building a container home. In this guide, we'll cover everything you need to know from the benefits of shipping container construction to details about the building process.

The Benefits of Building a Container Home

Shipping container homes are touted as a sustainable and affordable housing solution. Single units range anywhere between $1,400 to $4,000. Plus, this recycled material transitions into a floodproof, fireproof abode.

This trend came about as a solution to the estimated 24 million empty shipping containers sitting unused in the world. Yet with an architect's imaginative eye, they have transformed into innovative housing options that are as practical as they are attractive.

There are many advantages to owning a shipping container home, including:

  • Shipping containers are designed with the durability to endure extreme weather, including 100 mph winds and waves exceeding 50 feet in height
  • Their eco-friendly design repurposes approximately 3,500 kg of steel per container
  • They are remarkably affordable. In some cases, they make it possible for first-time or struggling home buyers to afford a home.
  • They are relatively quick to assemble with some homes being completed within 16 weeks

However, keep in mind this unique design also comes with a few unique factors to consider. Before you write a check, make sure you consider all of the tips below.

What to Know Before You Build or Buy

Some challenges, from electrical and plumbing to how the weather will impact the acoustics within the home, are hurdles you can leave to an architect's expertise. However, before his pen hits the drawing board, you'll want to review this checklist.

Below are 6 essential steps to take when considering building a shipping container home.

1. Explore Before You Buy

While it's not always feasible to physically inspect a shipping container before you buy one, it's important to at least review a thorough library of photos covering every inch of the product before you purchase it.

Used shipping containers are typically in service for 10 to 15 years before they are set aside. During that time, they weather a lot, including intense exposure to the elements. This can lead to rust, dents, and other elements that compromise the structure's integrity.

You can opt to purchase a one trip container. Like the name suggests, these shipping containers only make a single trip. With fewer miles comes less risk for structural damage.

However, even with one trip containers, you still want to inspect the product before making your purchase.

2. Know the Building Code Restrictions for Your Property

Building restrictions often bring many seemingly perfect ideas to a screeching halt. If you've already purchased the property you plan to build your shipping container on, make sure there aren't any existing restrictions.

This includes both your local building codes and your state building codes. Don't breeze over this process. Do your research and make any necessary phone calls to confirm your shipping container home falls within regulation.

Establish what you can and cannot do before you commit to building a shipping container home. This can save you a lot of time, money, and headaches.

3. Identify How You'll Insulate the Home

While it's true that your contractor and architect should plan for practical elements such as plumbing, electric, and insulation during the design of your home, it's important to follow up on the strategy.

Shipping containers on their own aren't insulated. You'll have to make sure the roof and walls are heavily insulated so you can regulate your in-home temperature. Ask your contractor what their solution is for this challenge.

If you are set on making your design as environmentally friendly as possible, consider using sheep's wool or opting for a green roof.

4. Make It a Point to Protect Against Chemicals

Used shipping containers weren't originally made to be lived in. Their sole purpose was to successfully ship items across seas. To do this, many containers are coated with pesticides to fend off rodents and chemically-protected paints to combat nature's weather.

To avoid any harmful chemicals left within a used shipping container, you'll need to strip out the old wood flooring and insulate the walls to suppress lingering chemicals.

5. Plan to Pay More for the Home You Want

A shipping container may be cheap, but you'll need a lot more in order to transform it into a livable space. Expect to spend a healthy budget in order to modify the interior and exterior.

Size and style will both influence your expenditure. In fact, large shipping container homes may end up costing the same as some traditional housing options.

Build within your budget, but don't skimp on the elements that make your container a comfortable, livable home. It's better to have a smaller, beautifully designed living space than a larger one that doesn't meet your expectations.

Pay for quality insulation, acoustics, lighting, electric, and plumbing. You'll be thankful you did once you're living in the home.

6. Stick with One Contractor Throughout the Project

Shipping container homes are not your usual architecture project. Because of this, you don't want to create additional challenges by juggling contractors for different stages of your build.

Find a shipping container home builder, if possible. They specialize in the construction of these unique homes. With their expertise, you can find peace of mind because they're familiar with the unique challenges that come with this type of home construction.

Explore the Latest Real Estate News and Trends

If building a container home merely scratches the surface of your interest in real estate, then make it a point to satiate your appetite with our many articles on real estate and finance.

From tips and money-making hacks to useful "How to" articles covering household budgeting, tax deductions, renting out real estate, and more, you can hone your skills and your investments.


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