What is a Shipping Container Home: Everything You Need To Know


More and more people are considering building shipping container homes these days. If you’re thinking, “What is a shipping container home and why should I consider it?” then this article is for you.

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Advantages of a Container Home

A shipping container home is simply a house built using large steel boxes that are used for intermodal shipments. A typical ISO shipping container is made of Corten steel, or weathering steel, and is designed to withstand extreme weather conditions. (If you’re wondering how strong or durable weathering steel is, it is the steel most commonly used to build bridges and towers.) The shipping container is covered with marine grade paint that will protect it for years and years to come.

There are many other advantages to using shipping containers to build homes aside from their durability. These are:

1) Affordability – Shipping containers are easy to procure and converting them into houses will cost you far less than building a traditional home from scratch. Container homes also offer incredible value for money. One shipping container home built back in 2010 was able to provide about 600 square footage of living space for about a tenth of the price of a starter home in New York.

2) Environment-friendliness – While some people use brand new shipping containers, others recycle used ones. Each recycled container is equal to about 3,500 kg of steel that would otherwise lie abandoned in a dump somewhere. There are currently over 10 million unused shipping containers in the world.

Melting metal, or recasting, requires a tremendous amount of energy, and, as such, is not a viable option since it would be very expensive. When you use shipping containers to build your home, you also save on traditional materials, such as wood, that doesn’t need to be used.

3) Convenience – Container homes can simply be built in another place and delivered to your land, ready to be moved into. There are also many companies offering moving services for container homes, and basically, a delivery truck is all you’ll need for this.

4) Speedy Construction – While traditional homes usually take several months to a year to build, container homes can be completed in just weeks to a couple of months. In the usual houses, builders would need to erect walls and put in the flooring and ceiling. In container homes, they are already built. Your home would just need insulation, and some finishing touches put in.

5) Flexibility – Shipping containers can be stacked one upon another to make storied structures. Their walls can also be cut away easily to connect two or more containers or to adapt into any design you want. There are hundreds of blueprints and layouts to choose from, and each can be smoothly modified to suit any size container you have.

Shipping containers have not only been used to build homes but several establishments as well such as restaurants, malls, studios, cafes, art galleries, schools, and offices.

What is a shipping container home? What are the types?

There are many types of containers; however, the two most commonly used for building homes are the regular and high cube ones.

High Cube Containers measure nine feet six inches tall and 8 feet six inches wide. These are ideal for people who want high ceilings, multiple stories (for stairs), or lighting space like sunroofs. They are usually available at 20 foot and 40 foot long sizes.

Regular containers are also available in 20 ft. and 40 ft sizes. They are a foot smaller than high cube containers.

The main difference between regular containers and high cube ones, aside from the size, is the price as well.  Not only the cost of the container itself but also the amount to be spent on insulating the extra space that high cube containers have over the regular containers. Regular-sized containers are also cheaper and much easier to transport.

New Versus Old Shipping Containers

While some advocate using old containers to recycle into homes, some people feel that new ones would be better. Below are the differences between old and new containers to help you make the best choice for your home.

New containers can be identified by their solid colors – usually tan or white – and are commonly sold without markings on. They are free of rust and dents. They are likely only transported once – from the factory to the depot – and are of the highest quality possible. Their big advantage over used ones is that you can be sure they have never been used to transport any toxic material or been treated with any harsh chemical as protection against seawater.

Used shipping containers, on the other hand, generally have logos painted on the sides and may have made more than three or four trips across the seas. They cost much less than a new one by hundreds to thousands of dollars. They are also easier to source and are eco-friendly. Some governments also give out tax breaks if a home is considered “green” which is another incentive to use a used container instead of buying a new one.

Detailed Guide to Buying A Container Home

Since your home is your investment, it is understandable that you’d want to learn everything there is to know about building one. A very in-depth guide is available online to help you out. Build A Container Home  is a detailed book put together by professional builder and designer, Warren Thatcher, who has been constructing container homes for 14 years. It has all the information you need to know on how to create your beautiful abode, without worrying about making costly mistakes along the way.

The Build A Container guide provides step-by-step instruction on everything from securing permits to designing and planning the layout of your container home. It also contains tips on putting in the concrete foundation for your container house, plans for installing electrical outlets, full diagrams, and lots of 3D layout options to choose from.

Our top pick for container home designs

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

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