Thanks to its eco-friendly features, shipping container homes are becoming the new alternative when it comes to building or renovating a home. With over 30 million unused shipping containers sitting around in ports all over the world, there are tons of opportunities to reuse these boxes, such as turning them into sustainable homes, offices, stores, apartments, and even schools.
The movement to build shipping container homes continues to gain traction because of its simple yet unique appeal: These homes are made to order, relatively cheap to produce, and completely customizable. You get the practical aspects of living simply and with less clutter. But the freedom to build, choose, and move your shipping container home comes with pros and cons, and there are many factors to consider to get the type of home you want.
Pros and Cons
Container units are best for homes because they are durable, flexible, and stackable. You can modify the steel boxes to adjust to your specific needs and tastes, while also allowing you to stack multiple containers to create that modern, sleek look
You won’t have to worry about extreme weather conditions, as shipping containers are definitely more durable than most homes built today. These are designed to be extremely strong and weather-resistant since its purpose is to ship delicate items across the ocean.
With shipping containers, you get to do your part for the environment while also saving a significant amount of time and money. Shipping container homes offer a much cheaper solution. Depending on the size, you can pick up a shipping container in good condition anywhere from as little as $1,500 to $5,000. Even new ones can be bought for just $10,000.
Building a shipping container home is not as easy as it seems, though, and you need to consider a lot of factors to make a structurally sound one. It’s a lot of work, especially if you’re working with multiple containers and you want to ensure that they are habitable. You’ll have to allot time to getting chemicals removed, replacing floors, and doing different kinds of modifications.
You’ve got a lot of work cut out for you but building shipping container homes is a worthwhile investment. Things need not be complicated; you just have to make sure you get the basics right and have the patience and passion needed to make it happen.
Knowing your local building regulations, legal requirements, and restrictions are essential first steps. Adhering to construction rules and getting the respective permits minimize your risks effectively and ensure safety and stability.
Planning is everything—your home plan should include the home design, budget, and location. Visualize the container home of your dreams and consult with an architect or engineer. Check your specifications—shipping containers are available in various sizes, but the typical ones are 20 and 40 feet long. Depending on the size, shipping containers can give you a floor area of about 305 sq. feet.
Strategically connecting your shipping containers will help you easily get sizable, open living space. You’ll also need to put together a solid base. Shipping container homes require a properly cemented foundation in order to stand firm and keep moisture from accumulating as this can lead to rust.
Insulating a shipping container can be very tricky. You will have to protect the roof heavily, as well as the walls. Get insulation ideas from the experts so that you can make the right adjustments and ensure that your shipping container home can withstand extreme weather changes.
Retrofitting includes applying the proper finishing touches—planning for plumbing and electrical lines, interior framing, decor, drywall, and additional features. With the right planning and execution, the construction process from start to finish can be about 30% faster than a conventional build.
If you’re smart in design and usage, you could build a lower-cost shipping container home than one that is traditionally constructed. The price range of a large house, for example, is from $150,000 to $175,000 or about half the price per square foot of a conventional home. Finishing and furnishing a shipping container home can be as low as $10, 000.
One type of design to consider is keeping the giant steel doors and shutters so you’ll get the added security and protection. Proper insulation is a must to avoid any potential issues with condensation and mold. You can install either external or internal wall insulation.
Depending on your budget, lifestyle, and design needs, you can use shipping containers to build small or "tiny house" structures featuring a single container to larger, more ambitious projects that combine numerous containers that result in opulent luxury homes. Two shipping containers can give you about 1280 square feet, which is the right size to start out. Spread the boxes apart by about 8 feet, and you increase the square footage to 1600 square feet.
If it’s an ultra-modern home that you’re going for, then you can invest in floor-to-ceiling windows, glass panels, and straight lines. You can retain the corrugated steel walls but design your house with amenities like that of a standard home.
For those going for a minimalist, off-the-grid type, then it’s all about environmentally conscious options such as geothermal heating, plant foam insulation, solar power, and a green rooftop. You can incorporate a bottom back glass wall to catch the afternoon and evening sun, or a top deck for beautiful sunset views. Plenty of windows and sliders can also be incorporated to expand the space to the outdoors.
Check out different options for improvising if you don’t want traces of a container to reflect on your home’s exterior. Paint and conventional wall decor and panels can do the trick. Wood paneling for the exterior wall can also hide the original cargo container, adding a touch of traditional materials for your modern container home.
With a bit of creativity and planning, your container home can be very energy efficient in almost any environment. If designed correctly, and smartly, you can create a home that is indistinguishable from traditional homes.