Shipping Container Homes – What You Need to Know?

Last updated on December 22, 2023

Building shipping container homes is a great way to cut construction costs and time significantly. Here’s what you need to know to get started.

Why wouldn’t shipping (or storage) containers make great prefab container homes? They are shaped as the perfect building blocks and they are made of durable material (steel). By reusing old containers you are not only cutting the costs but you are being eco-conscious as well. Indeed, it’s a sustainable way of building.

You are not limited to the confines of a single unit as well (which can be 20 to 40 feet in length). Modular houses are built from multiple containers (imagine building a home from Legos). Thus the cost and time of construction are cut significantly. The only caveat is the consideration of the foundation. While this industry is still young there’s the added cost of hiring professionals too.

Care to build your own container home as a DIY project? It’s possible! Indeed, buying shipping containers and having them delivered to your land lot makes it easier to build the facade yourself.

What else do you need to know? Let start in small baby-steps.

Table of Contents

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What is a Shipping Container?

Shipping Containers

In the context of international trade, shipping containers usually refer to intermodal freight containers that carry goods from one country to another. Most are made of steel and closed on all sides, although some have open tops and other special features depending on the intended cargo. Containers are also becoming popular materials in the construction industry.

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Shipping Container House

Shipping Container House

Millions of shipping containers have been discarded due to the high cost of sending them back to their origin. Given their impressive strength, some have turned the neglected units into detached homes while others have stacked them to form large residential buildings. Containers are easy to customize to fit the needs of the occupants.

The purpose of this article is to introduce you to different uses of containers to build different types of buildings.

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Container Homes for Sale

Container Homes for Sale

Readymade container homes can be bought by those who want to move in right away. Some are situated in a permanent lot while others can be transported to a chosen location. These are generally cheaper than traditional homes. They can be perfect extensions, home offices, or granny flats.

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Prefab Shipping Container Homes


With the rise in interest in shipping container homes, some companies have engaged in making prefab units that can be delivered and installed within a day. Buying them takes the stress out of homeownership as you can move in right away.

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Shipping Container Garage

shipping container garage

If you need a garage to shelter your car, then consider using a shipping container. You can place it adjacent to the house and drill a hole for the side door. You can also make it a standalone feature in your property since it is already enclosed on all sides.

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Shipping Container Cabin


Building a cabin deep in the woods is a challenging task because of all the materials and equipment that have to be transported. You will also need to find builders who are willing to work in the middle of nowhere. Consider a shipping container cabin instead as this can come fully built for convenience.

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Shipping Container Barn

Growing farms can use shipping container barns to house different types of animals and crops. These can serve as instant structures to minimize downtime and maximize productivity. Use these to shelter cattle, goats, sheep, and horses with their food. You can also protect your grains from bad weather to prevent spoilage. Containers can even be used as a structure to make prefab barn homes.

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Shipping Container Tiny House

Tiny House

Shipping containers are a perfect fit for the tiny house movement. They already have the ideal dimensions for it so only minimal changes are necessary for habitation. It is eco-friendly since it uses discarded containers instead of fresh lumber. This model of the building is cheaper than traditional methods yet the strength of the structure is not compromised.

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Custom Container Homes

Custom Homes

You can buy a prefabricated container home if you like a particular design. You can also build a custom home from the ground up if you have a clear vision of your future house. The latter will provide you with more options in terms of design and budget.

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Shipping Container Apartments


You don’t have to use shipping containers alone. They can be stacked like toy bricks to build larger buildings. It is possible to have two, three, or even more floors as you will see in many shipping container apartments. This project calls for an expert engineer to ensure structural integrity.

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Luxury Container Homes

Luxury Homes

Although containers are considered low-cost building materials, it is possible to build luxury homes using them. It’s all in the design, size, and finish of the structure. By saving money on the shell, owners can allocate more resources to improving the look and feel of the house.

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How to Build a Shipping Container Home

If you’re skilled enough to go the DIY route, our best advice is to follow an example. The basic plan is this:

  • Draw your floor plan while keeping standard container sizes in mind.
  • Have the units delivered on your property, at a spot that has the proper footings.
  • Cut the holes for windows and doors.
  • Add insulation on all sides. Install the interior walls, exterior sidings, and fixtures.
  • Focus on the finish.
  • Decorate as preferred.

Check out the video above to see the building process pan out in action. It’s entertaining to see.

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Shipping Container Home Plans


If you are curious about how it can all work with these modular units, then check out existing shipping container home plans. Get inspired by the ideas of architects and see if you can apply them to your own home. You can build a tiny home using a single container to save money or get several to design a home with traditional sizing and appearance.

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Container Home Designs

Home Design

Container homes don’t have to look like big bare-metal boxes. Architects have created designs of aspirational homes using this humble building material. Some look like modern masterpieces while others appear like traditional homes. Work with a talented designer to create your dream home.

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Shipping Container Home Insulation


Since shipping containers are made of metal, they need lots of wall insulation to shield occupants from extreme heat and cold. Most people use blanket insulation such as fiberglass, sheep’s wool, cotton, slag wool, or denim insulation. Also used are loose insulation like cellulose and vermiculite. For a high R-value, one can opt for expanded foam. To get into nooks and crannies, use spray insulation.

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Shipping Container Sizes

Container Sizes

Shipping containers have standard lengths of 20 feet and 40 feet, although smaller ones that are 8 feet and 10 feet in length may also be used. The height is usually 8 feet 6 inches but some are a foot higher to accommodate more goods or carry taller cargo. Meanwhile, the width is a clean 8 feet as per ISO standards.

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Shipping Container Cost


Factors that affect shipping container costs include age, size, location, and condition. If you want to save money, then buy a used unit from a local seller. Make sure that there are no holes or advanced corrosion as this can be expensive to fix. A 40ft unit usually sells for $3,000 to $5,000.

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Where to Buy Shipping Containers

Where to Buy

You can buy shipping containers on the web just by searching online listings. You can also try seaports and logistics companies. Although buying local is usually cheaper, sometimes you can find online offers with unbeatable deals even with added shipping costs.

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Shipping Container Homes Cost

Homes Cost

A home that uses shipping containers can be cheaper than traditional homes when using designs that take advantage of their original shape and size. You can expect to shell out around half the cost of a traditional home per square foot. Those who know their way around construction can go DIY and save even more money.

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Container Home Builders


If you want to learn more about container homes, then talk to a builder that specializes in this type of construction. Meet or call at least three of them to compare rates and portfolios.

These are some of the most renowned container home builders:

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