7 Myths About Shipping Container Homes Debunked Blog Cover

7 Myths About Shipping Container Homes Debunked

Posted By: March 22, 2017 In Featured

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If you’ve been interested in shipping container homes for any length of time you will have noticed one thing:

There is a wealth of information online.

This has created several myths about shipping container home construction: They can survive hurricanes; shipping containers can be buried to create bunkers, etc.

You get the idea.

In this article I want to go through 7 of the most popular shipping container home myths and debunk them.

Myth 1: You Should Always Use Spray Foam Insulation

Spray foam insulation is definitely the most popular option when it comes to insulating shipping containers.

People generally use spray foam insulation because it creates a seamless vapor barrier which does two important things:

  1. Stops container getting too hot or too cold
  2. Stops condensation

Because of its ability to create a seamless vapor barrier there is a myth that it is the only type of insulation which should be used with container construction.

Wrong.

Spray Foam InsulationSpray foam isn’t the only type of insulation you can use. I have written an article here which discusses 4 other techniques to insulate your containers.

Personally whilst I do prefer spray foam insulation, it can be expensive and thus prohibitive for people.

I’m also a fan of blanket and panel insulation. And when they are used correctly they can be significantly cheaper than spray foam insulation.

Myth 2: All Shipping Container Homes Are Eco-Friendly

Whilst I wish I could say to you this myth is true, unfortunately it isn’t.

Unfortunately, not all shipping container homes are eco-friendly.

Why is this?

It can be for a whole host of reasons but let me outline the biggest reason here. Sometimes people build with brand new shipping containers.

This clearly isn’t as eco-friendly as building with used shipping containers.

It isn’t terrible, however it could be better.

I’ve long thought that one of the best things about building with used shipping containers is recycling.

Think about it. You’re using something which would otherwise be left to rust away in a shipping port.

Did you know that the average shipping container contains over 3,500kg worth of steel?

This means each time a shipping container is reused it saves the earth over 3,500kg worth of steel!

Not only that, but when you build with shipping containers you also don’t need to use traditional building materials such as bricks, wood and concrete.

Now clearly, when building with new shipping containers this advantage isn’t applicable anymore.

That isn’t to say that I’m against building with new shipping containers- I’m not. I think in some cases it’s actually a better idea to use new containers.

However, if you’re building a container home to be eco-friendly, then you should consider building with used containers instead.

Myth 3: Shipping Containers Can Be Buried

I’ve had emails from a few people that want to take shipping containers and bury them to create an underground bunker.

I think many of them have been inspired by Steve Rees who built the first underground shipping container home in California- we previously wrote about this here.

Now if you’ve watched the video above you can see that it is absolutely possible to build an underground bunker out of shipping containers.

However there appears to be a myth around this.

Here’s the myth:

You can just bury shipping containers underground and they will be structural sound.

Wrong.

Shipping containers are designed to be incredibly strong, however only when used in certain ways.

They are designed to be strong when stacking them on top of another- this transfers the weight through their corner posts.

When burying shipping containers weight is applied both onto their roof and side walls from the soil/earth surrounding the containers.

Containers are not designed to take weight in these areas.

So, you certainly can build a bunker using shipping containers however, you will need to add supports to distribute the weight load onto the containers corner posts.

Myth 4: Shipping Containers Homes Are For Rich People

I’m sure if you’ve followed shipping container homes for any length of time, you’ll have seen homes like this.

There have been several million dollar shipping container homes built over the last few years.

This has given rise to our next myth:

Shipping containers homes are only for the rich looking to build these mansions.

Wrong.

In fact, if you look back far enough you will see that the shipping container home movement was started by people looking for an affordable solution to the housing crisis.

More and more people were being priced out of the housing market.

People wanted an affordable way to build and live in their own home without having a huge amount of debt.

So, shipping containers were used as a replacement to more traditional building materials as this reduced the cost significantly.

Since then hundreds of affordable shipping container homes have been built including many for less than $50,000.

Myth 5: Shipping Container Home Construction Is Complex

I’m sure after seeing shipping container homes like this, you’re left with the idea that building your own shipping container home is complex and shouldn’t be attempted.

Clearly it depends on what you’re attempting to build.

I wouldn’t recommend that you attempted to build a mansion shipping container home right off the bat.

However we’ve seen numerous examples of beginners building their own shipping container with no previous experience.

So the myth that all shipping container home construction is complex, is wrong.

Just like any type of construction technique there are easy and complex homes which you can build with these techniques.

If you’re looking to build your own shipping container home and don’t have much experience I would definitely recommend that you start small and simple- perhaps a single story home in a simple rectangular layout.

But after your first success there is no reason why you can’t build a more complex container home.

Myth 6: Shipping Container Homes Can Survive Hurricanes

The next myth I want to discuss is that shipping container homes can survive hurricanes.

I think that the popularity of this belief sky-rocketed after Hurricane Katrina and images like this one.

As you can see in the image, whilst the shipping containers have been blown around they are still physically intact- which unfortunately is a lot more than can be said for the wooden built homes they rest on top of.

The myth that shipping container homes can survive a hurricane is in fact:

True.

Providing the containers are suitably anchored down onto the foundation pads then they are able to survive such strong winds.

In fact it’s claimed that one of the most popular shipping container homes built, The Graceville Container home, is hurricane proof.

Find out more information here.

Myth 7: All Shipping Container Homes Are Cheap

If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, chances are you will have heard me talk about the first shipping container home ever built.

This shipping container home was built for one simple reason: cost.

Yes that’s right. The shipping container home movement was created by people looking to use alternative building materials to reduce costs.

Unfortunately house prices continue to rise and people are seeking alternative ways to own a home without burdening themselves with lifelong debt.

One such solution to this problem is shipping container homes.

However, the myth that all shipping container homes are cheap is:

False.

We’ve already shown examples earlier on in the article of multi-million dollar shipping container homes.

Just like every construction technique, it can be used to create a variety of homes including cheap or expensive homes.

However, is it true that the majority of container homes are relatively cheap when compared to traditional construction methods.

Since this movement has started we’ve seen hundreds of shipping container homes built for under $50,000.

Summary

There is a lot of information online about shipping container homes.

Hopefully this article has helped breakdown the myths and facts about shipping container home construction.

My favorite myth is that container construction is complex- rubbish!

Remember just like any construction method, use common sense and logical thinking and you will be fine.

Let me know in the comments below what your favorite shipping container home myth is…


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Comments
  1. Asaph Ken

    Keep an eye on news about Big Valley AB. They are moving ahead with planning for a Tiny house Subdivision. CBC Edmonton did a story as well as several local newspapers. Shipping container homes, as long as they meet the requirements will be accepted.

    • Tom

      That’s fantastic news Ken.

      I will take a look now,

      Tom

  2. Jason

    Great information as always. Very much appreciated.
    My wife and i are building a 9 container, two story home.
    Thanks again for all the info.

  3. Anne

    I am all on board for making a shipping container home… In fact, we have both a 40 foot shipping container and a 45 foot shipping container already on our property that we are using for storage. The only reason my husband is hesitant to build me one is he thinks that he cannot weld windows and doorways, as he is a frame house remodeler and has no experience. He also does everything himself, so he thinks that hiring a welder would be crazy expensive. Your thoughts?

    • Tom

      Hi Anne,

      If you’re just hiring a welder for the windows and doorways it shouldn’t be too expensive. Make sure to read my article from February where I discuss contractor fees and costs- I mentioned welders in there.

      Tom

  4. PeaceSouljer

    Hi Tom, and thank you for your great articles and newsletters. I had originally looked into using containers to build an “asterisk” style home using 6-8 units but then was put off by the fact that the container industry uses paint and wood floor preservative that contains toxic and noxious materials.
    How has this been mitigated by other builders since my wife has many allergies and sensitivities to these chemicals?

    • Tom

      Hi Ken,

      Please make sure to read my article on toxic materials. I cover this topic in-depth their.

      Tom

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