What is the Average Cost of a Shipping Container Home


For most people, having a house they can call their own is the epitome of success and accomplishment. Real estate continues to be the most preferred investment vehicle for many, but not all can afford the high cost of building even a starter home. This is the reason why more and more are turning to container homes.

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The average cost of a shipping container home is usually a tenth of the price of a traditional home. Another plus factor for container homes is that they are also extremely sturdy and can withstand hurricanes and other types of extreme weather conditions. This is because they are designed to be stacked one atop another, fully loaded, up to nine containers high.

The overall price of converting a seaworthy shipping container to a livable home depends on your purpose, lifestyle, and location. It is not a cookie cutter, turn-key solution. The project can be exciting and will run smoothly if you do your research well. Planning is key if you want to avoid unnecessary hiccups and roadblocks that will have a direct effect on the cost of the container home you want to build. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the most essential factors you need to know before you decide to go to a shipping port near you.

Shipping Container Sizes

Shipping containers come in different sizes and classes. The three most common sizes are 8×10 ft, 8×20 ft, and 8×40 ft.  Dimensions are a standard size so that the shipping containers can fit on ISO Standard flatbed trucks for transportation. The height differs as well. The two common ones are the standard height container and the high cube one, which is about a foot taller than the standard size.

The cost differs the bigger the container size. The cost does not only refer to the actual item but the price of transporting the container to your location as well.

Choosing A Shipping Container

When buying a shipping container, consider selecting new ones or, if purchasing a used container, choose those that were used to transport dry goods only. Avoid buying containers used to transport chemical and other hazardous materials.

Scrutinize each item carefully for the following:

1) Wear and Tear – Used shipping containers are not exempted from bumps, scratches, and dents. Inspect the item and see signs of welding to cover holes or punctures caused by sharp objects (normally by forklifts). Rust, faded paints, and small dents are normal, as long the structural integrity of the container is intact. Corrosion that chips away a huge portion of the metal parts is a sign of a bad item.

2) Water-tightness – This is very important since used shipping containers are much exposed to the harsh elements. If you notice a pinhole that shows daylight, say no to purchasing. The possibility of water seeping thru the roof will ruin your build.

3) Doors, Locks and Hinges – Straight doors and smooth moving hinges is a sign of a straight body container. Any bend on the doors will hinder easy access to your shipping container.

4) Floors – Scratches and uneven or rotting floors are points of concern. Check for chemical trails on the floor.

Average Cost of a Shipping Container Home: Other Factors to Consider

1) Insulation – The cost of insulating materials will significantly add to the average cost of a shipping container home. Shipping containers are made of metal and will absorb all heat and cold. Without proper insulation, it will not be livable at all. Insulation can be in the form of blankets, panels or spray foam. Ordinary plywood or drywall can be used to cover the insulating materials to hold it in place and act as soundproofing too.

2) Power generation and water supply – You can connect to your local utility providers, or you can have an off-grid solution by using solar panels and batteries to store up energy. Off-grid solutions are especially ideal when the proposed location for the home is in a remote area where utility providers are not present. In some places where rainfall is always at a minimum, a systematic water catchment system is also vital for sustainable off-grid container home living.

3) Foundation – You must prepare the foundation of your new home beforehand. Pylons or concrete piers are the most common and often, the quickest and cheapest form of foundation since they are shallow. They are simply concrete cubes with reinforced steel bars within.

Flat concrete slabs are the most expensive, but it offers you the chance to extend your floor space. It is especially good to use on soft soil types.

A choice of trench foundation is also possible. Trench foundation is somehow the in-between option. Ask your soil engineer to get the best foundation advice depending on your desired location.

4) Delivery and installation – Buying a shipping container is just the first step. You also need to consider the logistics of transporting that shipping container to the location of your choosing. A heavy-duty crane or forklift must also be present at the location as you transport and deliver the container home. You need to factor in the costs of renting both the truck and the crane.

Consult a Professional

Before embarking on your container home building journey, make sure to consult a professional first. A professional builder will advise you on everything you need to be aware of when constructing your container home to help you avoid making costly mistakes.

One such professional is Warren Thatcher, who has been in the container home building industry for 14 years. He has designed and constructed numerous container homes from scratch and knows the ins and outs of the business.

His detailed guide, Build A Container Home, deals with everything from getting building permits to properly laying down the foundation of your home to its actual design and layout.

Build A Container Home also includes comprehensive electrical installation plans as well as plenty of sleek 3D container layouts to choose from. In the guide, Warren discusses some tricks of the trade, including ways to get your shipping container at the lowest possible price without sacrificing quality.

Our top pick for container home designs

If you're looking for the best container home designs, look no further!

Learn More

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