Like tiny homes, shipping container homes fulfill some very unique and growing lifestyle values: eco-design, helping the environment, upcycling and in this case, some very curious looks from the neighbors.
There are also very practical aspects to living in a shipping container home:
-Your house is fireproof
-Shipping container homes can be modular (stackable)
Where They Come From
Originally used for storage, shipping containers are made of durable steel and are built to withstand heavy stacking, a variety of weather conditions and ocean travel. They can last up to 30 years though the average working lifespan is about 10 years or less. For this reason, it is thought that there are over 30 million unused shipping containers available worldwide with prices as low as $2000 to purchase one.
Shapes and Sizes
The standard container home plan is about 150 square feet, measuring 8 feet wide and 8 feet 6 inches high, and come in lengths of 20 or 40 feet. A third option is called the high cube, a container measuring 40 feet long at 9 feet 6 inches high.
These seem pretty small but beauty of working with storage containers is the ability to stack them to create bigger spaces. For example, this emerald green-accented Crossbox house in France is actually two shipping containers which are cantilevered above two more (4 in total). Like traditional setups, the bedrooms are on top and the living/dining spaces below.
Some Advice Before Buying
You will probably need several permits and this will require you so some digging around in your local area.
Insulating a shipping container can be tricky with common issues such as extreme weather changes leading to interior condensation. Windy areas can create noise problems as well.
An empty 20-foot container can weigh almost 5,000 pounds. Delivery is the best option, in which case you need to be sure that a large truck can access your property. If one cannot you will have to deal with a more expensive crane.
Buyer beware: The contents of many containers are often sprayed with pesticides and/ or had previously transported toxic chemicals that will need to be cleared out if you want to go green.
It is definitely recommended that you hire a professional in order to make changes to your shipping container home.
The long, vertical walls on a container are load bearing and require the right reinforcements, and planning for electrical and plumbing requires expert opinions, especially to pass permit and planning requirements.
We also found this great Q and A:
“What’s the one thing you wish you’d known before you built your shipping container home?”
“To be honest I don’t really have one thing I wish I knew about shipping containers before I started. I did lot of research before I was convinced I want to do this.
My advice would be to do as much research as possible before the start of the project. It’s all about preparation.
There isn’t a silver bullet approach to research. I guess the more you know and learn about shipping container homes before you start making decisions will help you to fail less. But again, there isn’t a silver bullet approach to this. Failures along the way are inevitable.”
– Marek Kuziel
And this from Peter Gill Case, owner of Truth Box:
“Finding a balance between good building design and total construction expense is the key to utilizing containers in buildings.”
And more here in the article: “23 Shipping Container Owners Speak Out”
If you want to learn more and find out about companies that sell the homes, we suggest doing an internet search for reputable companies in your area. Be sure that you ask a LOT of questions and get customer reviews, that way you learn from other people’s experience.