Where Should I Convert My Shipping Container Home?

Posted By: February 11, 2015 In Guides

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Once you’ve made your big decision to actually build a shipping container home, the next thing to address is… where are you actually going to convert your shipping containers? When it comes to the where, you have three choices. Firstly, you can convert your shipping containers on your new plot of land where you will soon be living; we will refer to this as ‘on-site’. Secondly, you can convert them ‘off-site’ this would either be at the place you purchased the containers from or a fabricating workshop. Thirdly, you don’t convert your shipping container home at all and pay a contract to convert them for you instead.

Convert Your Shipping Containers On-Site

The first option and the one we’d choose if it’s practical, is to get your shipping containers delivered on-site and convert them there. Converting your shipping containers on-site offers several key advantages.

Firstly, you can access your site 24/7, which means you can keep working late into the evening converting your shipping containers, if you’re that way inclined! Whereas if you store your containers off-site there may be time restriction when you are allowed to work on them; this would make it difficult for some people, especially if they have a full
time job. Secondly, if you get your containers delivered direct to your plot of land, then you won’t have to pay additional transport fees to move the containers twice; which you would need to do if you got your containers delivered to a workshop first. Finally, converting your containers on-site ensures they don’t get damaged once they’re finished. Could you imagine converting your containers off-site and then damaging them whilst they were being delivered to your plot of land!?

However, converting your containers on-site offers some logistical challenges. For example, if you are building on a green field site, then chances are you won’t have any mains electric or water supply their yet. This would make it very difficult to convert your shipping containers. You can get around this by having a generator on site but they can be expensive and noisy! Also if you aren’t the DIY type, chances are you won’t have all the tools required to convert your shipping containers. Sure you can go and buy them but some welding equipment can be expensive, and if you were off-site at a workshop they would have the tools there for you to use.

Convert Your Shipping Containers Off-Site

Your second option is to get your shipping containers delivered to a local workshop/fabricators and convert them there.

If you opt for this method and convert them at a local workshop you will get access to all of their equipment and chances are there will be some very knowledgeable people working there so you can always ask them questions if you get into any difficulties. A huge advantage of converting your containers within a workshop is that you don’t need to worry about making your containers water tight straight away as they will be stored indoors.

Also, as previously mentioned, if you are building on a green field site and don’t have electric and water, you can get around this by  converting your containers at a local workshop whilst your mains electric and water are being installed. Finally, if you keep your containers in a workshop they will be secure overnight and whilst you aren’t around on site, so it prevents anybody from tampering with them.

Again, converting your containers off-site isn’t purely a win-win situation there are some drawbacks which we need to bring your attention to.

Depending how far away to a good workshop you are; you may find yourself travelling for hours each week to get there and back! Clearly this isn’t the best use of your time and you could be using this time converting your containers instead. Secondly, the workshop will often have opening times which means if you work a full time job you will be very limited when you can actually work on the containers. If you do decide to use a workshop/fabricator remember to ask what times you can work there and also agree a flat weekly/monthly fee in advance.

50/50 Split

Of course the choice of whether to convert on site or off site doesn’t have to be solely one or the other. The most common approach is to convert the external structural elements of the container off site and then do the rest of the internal work on site. For instance, you would install your doors, windows and flooring off site and get the containers watertight. Then you can transport the containers to your plot of land and get on with all the internal work (insulation, kitchen etc).

In many aspects this option provides the best of both worlds because you are getting the advantage of making your containers water tight in a safe environment first. You also get to impose your own personal touch onto the containers converting the inside of them.  However it’s slightly more expensive to do the 50/50 split because you will have to pay to move your containers twice.

In addition, you need to be careful when converting your containers off site because if you make them too heavy will need to pay for expensive cranes to lift the containers into place on your plot of land.

Get a Contractor to Convert it For You

What happens if you really want to convert your own shipping container home but you don’t have the expertise or you simply don’t have enough spare time? Well your final option is to get a contractor to build the container home for you. Depending on the contractor they will either, come to your site and convert the containers for you, or if they are a large contractor they will typically convert the container at their own premises and then come to your site to install the shipping containers.

Bringing in a contractor to convert your containers has several advantages. Firstly, they will be experienced so they will be able to pass on this expertise to you and advise you throughout the construction phase. Secondly, they will be able to convert the containers in a shorter timescale when compared to doing it yourself.

Clearly there are two notable downsides; there will be additional costs by using a contractor and chances are you could do the work cheaper yourself. Secondly, you don’t get to put your own personal touch on the containers whilst converting them.

Ultimately the choice of whether to convert the containers on site or off site comes down your own individual circumstances. Typically we see people opting for the 50/50 split and getting the external work done off-site by contractors. And then they get the containers delivered on site and continue to convert them on there own. We’d love to know which method you chose to convert your shipping containers, let us know in the comments below!