Should You Be Living In A Shipping Container Home?

Posted on Feb 13 2015 - 5:05pm by Housecall

This blog was contributed by Tom Woods


In November of last year, we brought to you the concept of re-purposing end of life shipping containers and converting them into residential housing. In this blog post we are following this up by taking a more detailed look at the advantages and disadvantages of using shipping containers to build residential homes.

Why Should I Consider Building My House Out Of Shipping Containers?

The idea of building your own home out of shipping containers might seem downright bizarre to some people. But places like container home plans know that shipping containers can be used to build some truly incredible homes. Here are just some of the reasons why shipping containers can be the perfect building material.


With the cost of homes in America rising again throughout 2014, it’s no surprise that people are seeking cheaper materials and methods to build a house suitable for their family. Perhaps one of the most famous examples of this is ‘Containers of Hope’; designed by Benjamin Garcia Saxe. The home was built for $40,000 USD for the Peralta family who live in San Jose, Costa Rica. We have also seen examples of affordable shipping containers homes in England, Australia and the U.S. Building a home out of shipping containers allows for many a style and standard of living which would be unattainable if the house was built using traditional building materials.


It’s no secret that more and more people are now starting to look for more environmentally friendly methods of home construction and this is where shipping containers can be so beneficial. Each time we upcycle one of these containers we are saving around 3,500kg of otherwise unused steel. In addition, we are also reducing the amount of traditional building material that is needed to construct our home, such as bricks and cement.


Another key benefit of building with shipping container homes is the ability to construct buildings extremely quickly. Todd Miller, who built the Graceville Container Home, was able to build each 2,000 square foot floor of his home in under a day…including having the containers delivered.


The great news for any budding shipping container homeowner is that currently the availability of these shipping containers is vast. What happens is manufacturers send their products across to the States and it’s too expensive to send the shipping containers back to their origin so they are simply left behind. This doesn’t just happen in the States, but also in Australia and Europe. This means you can get your hands on used shipping containers easily and for a good price.

It’s Not All Silver Linings

Although shipping containers do offer various great benefits when being re-purposed, we also need to consider that building with containers isn’t all sunshine and cookies. Some practical considerations need to be taken into account before you start building your own home out of shipping containers.


The two most common sizes of shipping containers are 20 foot or 40 foot in length (both containers are 8 foot wide and 8 foot 6 inches tall). This means that the dimensions of your home are typically dictated by the size of the shipping container you select. You do have the choice of cutting individual containers or extending them; however making major alterations to these containers reduces the speed and cost advantages of using them, so we’d advise to try and not make large alterations to them where possible.

Changing Your (and Their) Mindset

It’s a given that building with shipping containers can be challenging and chances are it’s the first time you’re doing this. In our experience you need to find a contractor who is willing to take this jump with you and one who is willing to build using new ideas and materials. Having a resistive contractor who isn’t keen on building with shipping containers is a surefire way for your project to fail.

Making it Habitable

The wooden floors that line the majority of these containers are normally treated with hazardous chemical pesticides to help keep the pests away. This is great when they are being used to move freight across the world, however it isn’t ideal when humans want to live in them. This can easily be fixed by removing the floor and replacing it with new un-treated flooring. Or if you’re purchasing your containers new you can request that the floor isn’t treated with such pesticides.

If you want to read more about this issue, Brian Pagnotta from Arch Daily, covered this is more detail here.

Parting Thoughts

We’d like to think we’ve done more than enough to convince you that shipping containers are great resources to build homes from. If you are prepared to think outside the box and are looking for a great challenge which can be rewarding both environmentally and financially, perhaps shipping container homes could be the next move for you.

5 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Mary February 26, 2015 at 4:32 pm -

    If you, or anyone you know, builds these near Terlingua Texas, Brewster County Please contact me so we can discuss more. Thank you.

    Mary C Charest

    • Thomas Seeley December 13, 2016 at 12:31 pm -

      I can supply you with containers or fabricated container homes and I just need your zip code to get the price for you or to get a custom fab quote within a day or two once you describe to me. YOu can also call me at 330-338-3444. I’m a shipping container sales supplier with a depot in your state. I’m from Akron Ohio.

  2. Pelican Containers April 16, 2019 at 8:40 am -

    Shipping container home is great idea for homeless people. We’ve found that a substantial number of people appreciate the modern, industrial design aesthetic that is inherent in shipping containers.

  3. Top Universe August 14, 2020 at 7:39 am -

    The Sustainability of a Shipping Container is worth mention, the blog is very informative, but would like to add that tho mobility of the container can help you take your home where ever you want, cost effectiveness will help you save money and you can use all the renewable sources like solar panels or water harvesting equipment to save money after you buy/built you container home.

    If you want to know more about shipping containers, please do visit our website.