How to Build your Dream Container Home


Container homes are a fast-growing trend within the tiny and small homes sector.  Attracted by shipping containers’ eco-friendly credentials, many people are embracing the chance to design a unique and modern home from these by-products of the world economy.  Shipping containers offer a quick and simple skeleton shell for a long lasting and affordable designer home.  In this blog, we explore some of the important considerations involved in building your very own dream container home.  

container home

Location, Location, Location.

Your dream container home starts with securing the ideal location for your build.  Many people are attracted to the eco-credentials offered by shipping container living.  Securing a location that is capable of fulfilling any self-sufficiency goals you are harboring will be an important first step, as will ensuring local planning regulations permit you to construct you Dream Container Home.  It pays to do your homework and check with your local authority that you can erect your dream home. 


Design with the Future in Mind.

Your dream shipping container home may well incorporate eco-friendly features with the future of the planet in mind. Solar panels, greywater recycling, rainwater run off collection, wind power and space for composting and growing vegetables may well be part of your design if a green home is what you are looking for. It is important to also consider in the design process how what you require from the home might change in future.  If you plan to extend your family in future, you might want to incorporate the possibility of extending the home at a later date.  If you are clear about both your current and future hopes for the home, you can save money by planning with the future in mind.  


container home


Size Matters.

Once you have your location sorted, the next step will be to obtain suitable container(s) for your build.  It is important to note that shipping containers come in a range of sizes.  Standard containers are typically 20ft or 40ft in length with an 8ft width as standard.  Most are 8 ft 6 in high, although it’s also possible to purchase “hi-cube" units measuring 9 feet 6 inches.  You may also come across extra-long containers which measure 53 ft in length, with an 8ft 6in width.   It makes sense then, to have a sense of what sort of design you are aiming for any what sized container(s) you are in the market for.  


Choosing a Quality Shipping Container.  

When it comes to purchasing your container, aim for quality.  You can opt to spend slightly less on interior fittings such as flooring, paint or the kitchen and units, as you can replace and upgrade these eventually.  It’s a lot trickier to replace the container, so avoid skimping here.  The metal container forms the essential structure of the entire house.  You want a container that is solid and sturdy, with limited damage or wear and tear.  Many people opt to pay that bit extra in order to secure a one-trip container.  If that’s outside of your budget, make sure you visually inspect any container(s) prior to purchase so you check the condition of the unit(s).  


container home

Moving Towards the Build Stage

Once you have your shipping container(s) on site, you are ready to make progress on the process of transforming the metal box into an insulated and comfortable swelling space.  Build times are often significantly quicker than with traditional houses, as the essential skeleton of the building is already in place.  This means that smaller and simple container homes can be ready for habitation within a matter of a couple of weeks.  More complex designs with more high-end and complex finishes will, of course, require more time.  


Expert Input to Ensure Your Container Home Lives Up to the Dream.

Your dream container home needs to be built to last.  There are important structural considerations that need to be accounted for in the execution of your planned design.  It makes sense to enlist expert advice in relation to the installation of pluming, electricity, insulation and windows.  For example, containers homes can succumb to condensation if insulation is not sufficient.  Likewise, cutting holes in the fabric of the container can weaken the unit’s structural integrity.  The long sides of the container are load bearing, so do not simply cut holes into the container without careful consideration of how you can ensure the structure remains solid.   It can be money well spent to enlist specialist contractors who are experienced in building container homes to advise on your project to ensure planning regulations and safe building practices are adhered to.  

container home

There are plenty of technical decisions to be made in terms your container home build.  If you are using more than one unit, you will need to consider how you will secure the units together.  Some people opt for a two-story build.  Others connect containers together to ensure a more open plan design.  Welding can eat into any budget, so it makes sense to have deign input prior to beginning the build so you can make the most of your budget.  Such advice will also help you with decisions such as how and where to run electrical ducting and wastewater piping.  

Likewise, when it comes to the design of the interior layout, professional input can help you to maximise the limited space of the container.  Many container builds also incorporate outdoor decking and spaces.  For example, you may want to incorporate vegetation planting outside the container to offer a screen to reduce wind noise.  This can all be part of the brief for a designer experienced in container living. 


Safety Considerations for Your Dream Container Home


Some shipping containers can be constructed with pesticides and lead-based or other toxic paint.  It will be important to identify if your container(s) contain any of these potentially dangerous treatments.    Once you have established this, you can take action.  Remove any wooden floors that have been treated with dangerous chemicals.  You can then sandblast the paint.  It is important to wear appropriate personally protective equipment (PPE) when you do so, or leave the job to suitably qualified professionals.  Another option is to enclose any walls to limit exposure to off-gassing from chemicals.  



So, if you are considering re-using a shipping container to build your dream house, there is plenty to consider before you start.  Once you do, however, you are likely to be impressed with the speed of the build.  By bearing in mind the considerations outlined here, you can made steps towards settling down to an optimistic future in your dream container house.  Perfect for living the eco-dream.  

About the author:

Jade Piper is a solo traveller with a passion for writing. Her other interests include healthy eating, the environment, and green living.

Jade Piper