Building A Shipping Container Home: A Great Overview For 2021

Interested in taking shipping containers and turning them into living space? If so, we don’t blame you one bit, and you aren’t alone! The container living movement has exploded in recent years. This mainly comes from the convenience, affordability, sustainability, and environmental-friendliness of building your shipping container home.

Container homes are extremely versatile. Think of them as massive blank-canvas LEGO blocks for you to bend to your heart’s desire. They can make wonderful tiny homes for those with access to 20- and 40-foot containers, or you can stack multiple containers on top of one another to make a larger home big enough to comfortably house families.

Building your shipping container home is all about simplicity

It doesn’t matter the size of the shipping container house you are looking to build, they are particularly appealing to those looking for a modern, simple living option. While container home construction remains a relatively niche method, thankfully, the growth in popularity and simplicity of design makes the time span between ideation and development very short when compared to stick-built alternatives.

Shipping container homes are a cool and eco-friendly alternative when compared to traditional homes. As containers are manufactured for industrial and heavy-duty applications, they are convenient for many reasons, including:

  • These containers are extremely durable, and corrugated homes can withstand extreme force and tension.
  • They are consistent, as regulations determine sizing of specific containers.
  • These containers are inherently simple to move from location to location, since that is what they were built to do in the first place!

When you hire a crew to help with building your shipping container home, you will save time, money, and stress in the long run. Below, we break down typical, rough estimates for the cost of building your shipping container home.

How Much Does It Cost to Build a Shipping Container Home?

Factors such as container condition and age, as well as the size of a container, how far away it is, what state you are located in, and how it will be delivered, will usually play a big role in determining the per container price. Typically, the costs will range anywhere from $1,400 or so for a standard, 20-foot container, to $4,000 or more for something like a 53-foot high-cube container.

Similar to conventional homes, you are going to pay a bit of a surplus for additional features and further customized aspects of your home, unless you want to live inside a sleeping bag in a bare, cleaned, and primed shipping container.

Features like flooring, windows, plumbing, and electricity will cost around $50 to $150 per hour in contractor fees. However, this isn’t really any different from costs associated with a traditional home.

Pricing factors common with shipping containers

There are four main pricing factors that can affect the overall cost of a shipping container house build in the actual phase of physically obtaining a container or set of containers: availability, site prep, delivery, and permits.

  • Container availability: Many shipping containers are shipped in from China to places such as the United States. In fact, in 2018, while the US had a little over 50 million shipping containers in circulation at any given time, that number increased by a factor of five in China.
  • Site preparations:
  • Container delivery:
  • Necessary permits:


  • Site Prep: Shipping containers should be placed on flat, cleaned-up land. It’s crucial that the foundation of your property is prepared accordingly for the arrival of your container.
  • Delivery: Delivery prices are based on the number of containers you order, as well as the distance they travel.
  • Permits: This is going to depend on your local and state regulations, but the type of permit you need to place your container home is going to affect your total price.

A large home made from multiple cargo containers can cost anywhere between $150,000 to $175,000, but a smaller home can cost as low as $10,000. If you’re a handy person, you can even build a container house for as low as $4,000! But this doesn’t include any add-ons, just a simple, cleaned-up home.

Building Your Shipping Container Home

What’s great about this type of home is how quick and easy it is to order, build, and install. Container homes that are prefabricated are built around 30% faster than a traditional build. The construction process for container homes is relatively straightforward, so we’re going to go over the 5 steps toward making your dream container home a reality.

Create Your Plan

Your home plan should consist of your home’s location, design, and budget. As stated earlier, be sure to check your local laws and regulations before preparing land for your container.

Purchase Your Container

If you live near a port, you can inquire about any spare containers for your future home. Additionally, you can purchase one online or through a local market. If you’re going to purchase a container from China, keep in mind that they take around 3 to 4 months to ship.

Find An Engineer

It is critical to contact an engineer to determine the structural components of your shipping container. Structural integrity is a key part of a safe container home, so this should be one of the most important investments you make.

Start The Shipping Container Home Build

When you work alongside your engineer, you’re first going to establish the foundation of your container home. The main types of foundations for your home are (from least expensive to most expensive) concrete piers, Slab on Grad, and Pile Foundation. The type of foundation you use is going to depend on the land you’re placing your container on.

Aside from foundations, you’re going to connect your containers with welding. However, if you’re going to transport your container again, you may want to connect the containers with bolts and clamps. After your containers are securely connected, you’ll reinforce them, then cut rafters in the roof. (We highly recommend hiring a professional to take care of all of this for you.)

Once the roof is taken care of, you’re going to turn your attend downwards towards the floor. Container floors should be removed and replaced or encapsulated with epoxy before replacing them. Since they’re treated with pesticides to prevent insects during sea travel, they have no business being in your home. When you’re done taking care of the floor, you can add windows and doors to your home. This process is very similar to traditional homebuilding, so whether or not you want to do this on your own is up to you.

Power It Up

After the construction process is completed, the last thing you want to do is build your home’s power system. We recommend taking care of this as early as possible. This way, your home is ready to furnish ASAP.

Once you’ve established power in your home, the rest is history. Enjoy the benefits of your awesomely-affordable container home! Good luck with your homebuilding journey!