Shipping Container Home: Is it Right for You?

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What is a shipping container home?

A shipping container home is exactly what it sounds like – a home built from shipping containers.

These containers are made of steel and designed to transport goods over long distances. They come in various sizes, but the most commonly used for homes are 20 or 40 feet long.

The idea of repurposing shipping containers into homes started gaining popularity in the early 2000s. It has since become a trendy and eco-friendly alternative to traditional home construction methods.

What are the pros and cons for shipping container homes?

Shipping container homes have become increasingly popular in recent years and for good reason. They are affordable, eco-friendly, and can be built relatively quickly.

However, there are also some drawbacks to consider before jumping into building a shipping container home.

Here are some of the pros:

  1. Affordability: Shipping container homes are generally less expensive to build than traditional homes. This is because the shipping containers are already built, and just need to be modified to create a home.
  2. Eco-friendly: Using recycled shipping containers reduces waste and is a sustainable choice. It also means less construction waste.
  3. Durability: Shipping containers are built to withstand harsh conditions, so they are strong and durable.
  4. Mobility: Shipping container homes can be transported to different locations if necessary.
  5. Design options: Shipping containers can be customized and modified to create unique and modern home designs.

Here are some of the cons:

  1. Limited space: Shipping containers are generally small, so living in one can be cramped.
  2. Insulation: Shipping containers are not typically designed for living spaces, so they need to be properly insulated to be comfortable in extreme temperatures.
  3. Modifications: Modifications to shipping containers can be challenging, and often require welding and cutting.
  4. Permits: Building codes and permits can vary by location, so it is important to research before building a shipping container home.
  5. Resale value: While shipping container homes are gaining popularity, they may not have the same resale value as traditional homes.
  • It is important to carefully weigh the pros and cons of shipping container homes before deciding if it is the right choice for you.

Things to consider before building a shipping container home

While shipping container homes offer a unique and eco-friendly living experience, there are some important factors to consider before committing to this type of housing.

Local regulations and building codes

Before beginning any construction, it is crucial to check local regulations and building codes to ensure that shipping container homes are permitted in the area and to ensure that the structure meets safety requirements.

Land and site requirements

Building a shipping container home requires a stable foundation, so it’s essential to consider the soil conditions and slope of the land where the home will be built. Additionally, access to utilities such as water, electricity, and sewage should be considered.

Insulation and ventilation

Shipping containers are made of steel and can become hot and stuffy without proper insulation and ventilation. Consider insulation materials that can withstand extreme temperatures and install windows and vents to ensure adequate airflow.

Size and layout

Shipping container homes come in various sizes and layouts. Determine the size needed and the layout desired before purchasing a container. Keep in mind that connecting multiple containers can be more complicated than a single container.


Different climates require different design considerations for shipping container homes.

For example, in areas with a lot of rain or snow, it is important to have a roof pitch that prevents the buildup of snow and to consider insulation that can prevent ice dams.

Permits and fees

Obtaining the necessary permits and paying fees for construction can be time-consuming and costly. Make sure to budget for these expenses.

  • By considering these factors, you can make an informed decision on whether a shipping container home is right for you and avoid costly mistakes during the building process.

Shipping container home cost breakdown

The overall cost to build a shipping container home can range from around $30,000 to $300,000 or more, depending on the size, location, and level of customization.

There are several major costs involved in building a container home: The cost of permit, the cost of the shipping containers themselves, the cost of modification and building materials, labor cost, site preparation, utilities etc.

1, The cost of permit

On average, the cost of a permit for a shipping container home can range from $500 to $2,500.

2, Shipping containers cost

Container TypeNewUsed
20 Foot Standard$3,500$2,300
20 Foot high cube$3,500$2,400
40 Foot Standard$5,900$3,000
40 Foot high cube$6,000$3,500

3, Modifications and building materials cost

For instance, cutting out windows and doors will cost around $2,000 to $3,000 per opening, while adding insulation can cost around $1,500 to $2,500. Electrical and plumbing work can cost upwards of $10,000, depending on the extent of the work that needs to be done.

4, Labor cost

On average, labor costs can range from $50 to $150 per square foot but can also go higher depending on the contractor’s experience and the project’s location.

While some people choose to take on the construction process themselves, many opt to hire professional contractors. It’s important to get quotes from multiple contractors and factor in the cost of permits and inspections.

Also Read: How to Purchase a Shipping Container to Build a Home?

States that allow container homes

At present, about 18 states have fully embraced container homes and allowed them to be built without major restrictions.

These states include California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Texas, Utah, and Virginia.

However, some of these states may have specific zoning laws that you should look into before you begin building your container home.

How many square feet is a 40ft container?

A 20ft shipping container is approximately 160 square feet, while a 40ft container is roughly double that at 320 square feet.

Keep in mind that this square footage does not take into account the space taken up by insulation, drywall, or any other materials used to modify the container into a livable space.

Do container homes get hot?

Proper insulation is essential in maintaining comfortable temperatures, as it can help keep the home cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.

Ventilation is also important in allowing air to circulate throughout the home, and shading elements like awnings or plants can help block out the sun’s rays.

Do container homes rust?

Most shipping containers are made from a special type of steel called Cor-Ten, which is designed to resist rust and corrosion.

This type of steel is coated with a layer of oxide that prevents rust from spreading and gives the container its characteristic reddish-brown color.

However, even Cor-Ten steel can still rust if it’s exposed to certain conditions for an extended period of time.

To prevent rust from becoming a problem, it’s important to properly maintain your shipping container home. This may involve regular inspections to look for any signs of rust or damage, and promptly addressing any issues that arise.

You may also want to consider adding a protective coating to the exterior of your container to further prevent rust and corrosion.

Are shipping containers waterproof?

The short answer is yes, shipping containers are designed to be watertight. They are built to withstand harsh ocean conditions, which means that they can withstand rain, snow, and other weather conditions.

It is also important to consider the condition of the container when purchasing. Used containers may have damage or rust that could compromise their waterproofness.

Are container homes noisy?

While it is true that metal walls can transmit sound, there are ways to minimize the noise. First, adding insulation between the walls can significantly reduce noise levels.

Another way to reduce noise is to add sound-absorbing materials like acoustic panels or curtains. These materials can absorb and diffuse sound, making the interior of the container home quieter.

Can you join 2 shipping containers together?

Yes, it is possible to join two shipping containers together to create a larger space, and it can be done in different ways.

The most common way is by welding the two containers together, which requires a skilled welder to ensure a proper and secure connection.

Another way is to use a connecting kit or bridge, which is a steel frame that connects the two containers and allows for easier modification and maintenance.

How long would it take to build a container home?

Building a shipping container home can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months, depending on several factors such as the size of the container, the complexity of the design, and the location of the build.

On average, it takes about 2-3 months to complete the modification process of a 20 ft container home, while it takes about 4-6 months to complete a 40 ft container home.

Can a container home last 50 years?

Shipping containers were originally designed to last around 25 years of use in the shipping industry. However, with proper maintenance and modifications, a shipping container home can potentially last up to 50 years or more.