With millions of abandoned shipping containers in ports all around the globe, there are plenty of ways to utilize one. Some people purchase them for offices or storage space, but they can also be transformed into some neat and affordable houses. Whether you’re looking for lots of square footage, or multiple stories, it can be done by converting shipping containers.
Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as stacking some containers. There are many things to keep in mind to ensure your home is safe, viable, and appealing.
Let’s take a look at 12 important things to note before transforming a cargo container into your dream home.
- Check it Out Before Purchasing it
This may seem like common sense, but most people aren’t exactly familiar with buying shipping containers. To some people, buying a shipping container is just like purchasing anything else, but that isn’t the case.
If you start looking at used shipping containers, chances are you won’t be able to check it out in-person. Many people purchase containers from the other side of the country, or even the world, so checking it out in-person might not be an option. But that’s okay – Simply ask the seller for clear pictures, as well as a detailed description of the container.
Some containers have only been used once, while others have structural issues after decades of sea travel. The conditions of the container will affect whether or not it can make for a great home. But it doesn’t matter if you’re using it for a home or storage – you should make sure it is in good condition before investing your money into it.
- Learn Your Building Code Restrictions
There are many different kinds of non-traditional homes out there. Whether you are interested in a shipping container home, a tiny home, or something new, people need to inquire about building code restrictions.
Be sure to research your local and state building codes before making large purchases. The last thing you want is to invest thousands of dollars into your shipping container home just to change plans soon after.
- Hire a Complete Contractor
We know that you want your homebuilding process to be as smooth and simple as possible. Unfortunately, shipping container constructions is somewhat of a new niche, so it is hard to find contractors familiar with these types of homes.
Rather than finding multiple contractors to do different jobs, we recommend looking for a contractor that specializes in the jobs required to build a shipping container home. Feel free to check out this list of 16 companies around the U.S. that work with pre-built shipping container homes. But don’t fret if you’re unable to find a specialist – you can definitely organize a list of contractors that will help you out during the homebuilding process.
- Consult About Insulation
Shipping containers aren’t initially built for comfort. Without proper insulation, you’ll be unbelievably hot in the summer and stinging cold during the winter.
Make sure to talk to your contractor about needed insulation and be open minded about insulation ideas. Foam insulation can be directly sprayed onto a wall while blanket-style insulation will require an interior stud wall. You can even check out green alternatives such as sheep wool or a green roof for the top of your shipping container home.
Regardless of which option you prefer, it is important to inquire about insulation as soon as possible.
- Protect Your Container from Dangerous Chemicals
Shipping containers are often doused in all sorts of sprays to prevent problems out at sea. For example, wood flooring is covered in pesticides to prevent rodents from eating the flooring. On top of that, shipping container paint often includes chemicals to protect the exterior from saltwater spray.
We know you don’t want those harmful chemicals inside your new home. You can avoid these chemicals in two ways: (1) purchasing a brand-new container that hasn’t been coated with chemicals or (2) ripping up the floor and applying foam insulation to the interior. New flooring will get rid of pesticides while insulation will prevent gassing from dangerous chemical paints.
- Plan for Electrical and Plumbing ASAP
Shipping container homes require a lot of planning. Plumbing and electrical lines are no exception! When you’re designing your shipping container home, inquire with your contractor about where the electrical and plumbing lines will be placed, such as where they enter and leave the home.
Ask your contractor to place the holes for electrical and plumbing before completing the interior. You want to avoid moving furnishings or appliances that you’ve already placed in your home.
- Prepare for Wind Issues
This is probably one of the last things on your mind as a homebuilder and it’s completely understandable. This is why we’re discussing it with you!
Consider placing your shipping container home somewhere that isn’t too windy. Due to their rectangular shape, they’re not exactly aerodynamic. Strong gusts against the walls of your home will cause a lot of interior noise.
If you reside in a windy area, we recommend protecting your home from powerful winds by placing it behind a windbreak. Discuss wind concerns with your contractor to see if there are additional ways to protect your home from the noise.
- Steer Clear of Cutting your Containers
We recommend avoiding containers for a number of reasons. The walls of a high-quality container are strong enough to handle a second story or additional roof structure with ease. However, the more holes you cut, the more it compromises the structure of the container.
In order to support a container with lots of windows or doors, you’ll need to invest money into steel beam reinforcements. And the more reinforcements you require, the more money you’re going to spend. It’s important to consider reinforcements when creating your budget. (For a lot of people, this is an investment worth saving for!)
- Consider the Different Types of Containers
There is a myriad of shipping containers to choose from when building your future home. For the most part, shipping containers are built 8 feet tall. This is considered a “traditional” shipping container.
On the other hand, high-cube containers add a foot in height to your ceiling. People have reported feeling cramped in a standard shipping container home, especially if it’s heavily insulated. Paying an extra $1,000 for a high-cube container might be worth the investment.
- Look into Local/Vernacular Construction
Shipping container homes are admired for a number of reasons, but they’re especially great for their sustainability. Unfortunately, brand new shipping containers from across the country (or globe) can cost a lot. To save money, check out local ports for your upcoming tiny home.
Due to their size and the transportation needed to move them, shipping containers have a considerable impact on the environment. Your most sustainable options are those sold locally, especially if you live in a region with ports.
After considering transportation, we recommend considering vernacular construction options as well. Things like all-natural plasters and straw bales are great methods to use for interior insulation and walls.
- Avoid Additional Welding Costs
Shipping containers make for quaint tiny homes, but the tiny house life isn’t for everyone. If you need extra square footage, you’re going to require several shipping containers. In order to build a larger shipping container home, welding is needed to guarantee the home’s structural integrity.
Welding is expensive, especially if you’re welding for your custom home. Try designing your home in a way that avoids welding as much as possible. This is done during the blueprinting process. If you’re working alongside professionals, let them know that you want to limit the amount of welding. This can save you a good amount of money!
- Be Financially Flexible
Just like tiny homes, people are attracted to the affordability of shipping container homes. It’s hard to beat living in a home that’s sustainable, charming, and economical. But it’s not as easy as it sounds. When you consider the steps required to build your shipping container home, it’s crucial to be at least a little financially flexible.
From furnishing the interior to protecting the exterior, you’ll see the price of your home rise. Other items that will affect your budget include insulating, welding, finishing, and more. It’s also important to note that larger shipping container homes will cost more money than tiny homes.
Jotting down the building and furnishing costs can give you a general idea of how much money you’re going to spend, but we suggest setting money aside for additional costs. Financial flexibility can definitely contribute to a top-quality shipping container home.
Whether you’re interested in a prefabricated modular home or a recycled container from the sea, shipping container homes are a craze for a reason. The only downside to fads is the lack of familiarity. Not all construction companies are familiar with the container home niche.
It requires months of planning to build an efficient shipping container home. But here’s a question for you: Does living life in an eclectic, sustainable home sound like paradise to you? If your answer is yes, then building a container home can be worth the time and energy.