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What to Know Before Building With Containers

Real Estate Agent with RE/MAX Executive Realty 91362

Considerations for Shipping Container Houses

Are you considering building a shipping container house? You are not alone in your thought with this Eco-Friendly housing choice. The idea of constructing shipping container homes makes a lot of sense. With large numbers of no longer needed containers taking up space in ports, surely they would make an easy way to construct a property.

Buying some shipping containers and stacking them together would appear to be a straightforward way to build a home. However, things are unlikely to be as simple as they sound when it comes to shipping container houses.

While using shipping containers to build a home is a sustainable and an interesting way to build a property, there are some things you need to know before you begin.

Let's take a look at what you need to know about shipping container homes.

Choosing Your Containers

While you can buy shipping containers online, you should really inspect the containers before you buy them. Often, however, this won't be possible with the containers located in a distance port. If you can find some shipping containers for sale locally, you will be able to inspect them first and save on transportation costs.

You can buy brand new shipping containers or those that have only been used for one journey, though both these will be more expensive options. The older the containers are, the more likely they are to suffer from rust or damage from being transported around the world. This can lead to repair work being required before you even start your construction.

Shipping containers are available in standardized sizes that are 8 feet tall. This might sound fine, but this can begin to feel quite cramped after you've fitted insulation.

There are high cube containers that offer an additional 1 foot of headroom inside to prevent this problem. This will give you more space to insulate your container's inside, though high cube containers are more expensive.

Understand Building Code Rules

Before you decide a shipping container home is right for you, you need to know if you can build it where you want. You need to find out if the building codes in your area allow this type of non-standard construction. If you know, there are some nontraditional homes already constructed locally; this is a good sign.

If there is available land to purchase, getting a land loan will allow you to plan your project at the pace you need. It will still be essential to get a land surveyor to make sure the land will be suitable for what you plan on doing.

Unless you plan to build outside of your city’s zoning area, where you will just need to make sure the building is safe, you should check with the planning office beforehand.

If you are buying where there is a homeowners association in place, it will also be wise to see if you would be able to have a shipping container within the neighborhood. Many areas have strict rules on what you can and cannot do.

Watch For Container Hazards

If your shipping containers are used, there could still be dangerous chemical residue inside. The wooden flooring often found in shipping containers might contain pesticides to protect the cargo from rodents or have been chemical spills. Even if neither of these things are problems, the specialist paint covering the container uses chemicals to protect it from the seawater.

You might want to make sure the wooden flooring is removed and replaced. Also, foam insulation can be used on the inside to remove the risk of gases from the chemicals in the paint.

Making Your Shipping Container Home Plans

In any construction, changes to the plans lead to delays and increased costs. Make sure the design of your home has been completely finalized before you begin construction.

Be sure that you are happy with what your architect has designed for you and that there is enough room.

Container homes need insulation to prevent them from being too cold in the winter and unbearable in the summer. Insulation can be sprayed onto the inside walls of a container is popular because it also creates a vapor barrier. Moisture can enter shipping container houses, and insulation sprayed onto the walls should prevent this if applied correctly.

Your shipping container home design needs to consider the plumbing and electrical requirements. This allows contractors to cut the holes necessary early on without needing to go back later and remove things to make the necessary room for pipes.

Limit The Cutting of Your Shipping Container

Shipping containers are strong, but the more you cut into them, the weaker they become. They are strong enough to stack on top of each other, but the more times you cut through the steel, the more you remove the strength.

The fewer times you have to cut the steel, the quicker your build should be. It will also save on costs with less work required. If you have to cut into the steel frame more often, you may need additional support inside the structure.

Countering High Winds

If you plan to build your container home somewhere where high winds are common, you may find the noise caused by the wind to be too much. If this could be an issue, you can deal with it in a few different ways.

You could plant trees or bushes to act as a windbreak preventing the wind from directly hitting the side of the home. A wall or bank of earth could also perform the same function.

Finding Contractors to Build Shipping Container Homes

It can be difficult to find a contractor skilled in and experienced with shipping container homes. As this isn't a common way of constructing homes, it could be very challenging to find a contractor who knows what they are doing.

You might find that you have to resort to managing the construction yourself. This will mean bringing specialist contractors for the different stages involved in the build. You will need contractors to cut holes in the containers, plumbers, electricians, contractors to apply the installation, and more to finish the interior.

This can be a stressful approach to building a new home, but it should provide you more satisfaction when you have completed the project, and you might have even saved some money.

There is another option, however, to do it all yourself. If you have some of the skills and are prepared to learn more, it could be a great way to cut the costs of building a home.

Final Thoughts on Container Homes

If you have concluded that shipping container homes are for you, remember that building a home this way has its advantages along with some additional problems.

Make sure you select the right shipping containers in the first place so that they require less work and offer you enough space in your new home. Don't skimp on insulation, either, if you want your home to be pleasant to live in throughout the year.

Hopefully, you have found this guide on shipping container houses to be useful.

Posted by

With three decades of experience, Bill Gassett is an authority in the real estate sector. Bill writes informative articles for numerous prestigious real estate sites to help buyers, sellers, and fellow real estate agents. His work has been featured on RIS Media, the National Association of Realtors, Inman News, Placester, Realty Biz News, Credit Sesame, and his own authority resource, Maximum Real Estate Exposure. Reach out to Bill Gassett for his real estate, mortgage, and financial expertise.


Norma J. Elkins
Elite Realty Group - Morristown, TN
Realtor - Elkins Home Selling Team

Great information.  Those are not real popular here in East TN but I enjoyed reading and learning more about it.  Thanks for sharing and have a wonderful day!

Mar 01, 2021 08:31 AM
Bill Gassett

I have never seen any container homes in my area of Massachusetts either. I do think they are a very cool form of housing.

Mar 01, 2021 01:29 PM
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