This trend of constructing with shipping containers isn’t surprising considering that container homes are Eco friendly, affordable, and incredibly strong.
When you look at examples of shipping container homes, you find homes that were built extremely fast and for a small amount of money.
However, there are also examples of container homes which have failed because their owners have made simple mistakes which could have been avoided.
Here are the top 5 mistakes you can make when constructing a shipping container building.
1. Buying the Wrong Type of Shipping Container
The biggest mistake people make when building their shipping container home is purchasing the wrong type of shipping container. In fact, this was the most common response we received when interviewing 23 shipping container home owners.
Most of the people constructed their building using regular height shipping containers, only to find out later that there are high cube containers which are an additional foot in height.
High Cube Container Height Difference
Standard shipping containers are 8 feet 6 inches in height, whereas high cube containers are 9 feet 6 inches tall. Learn more about shipping container sizes here.
An extra foot in the height of your container is perfect for people looking to insulate the ceiling of their container without sacrificing on head room.
In a standard container, if you insulate the ceiling, the remaining ceiling height is only 7 feet. Using a high cube container, you can install insulation and still have an 8-foot ceiling height.
High cube containers tend to be only an additional $1,000. This is not too expensive considering the benefits they offer.
Buying Used Containers
Another crucial mistake people make is purchasing their containers online or by telephone, without seeing the containers in person before the purchase.
If you buy containers without seeing them first, you run the risk of ending up with damaged or dented containers which are going to cost you money to repair.
Even if you have seen photos of the containers, it isn’t the same as seeing the containers in person.
Seeing the containers in person allows you to check for things such as dents and corrosion which can be easy to miss when you’re only looking at photos.
Check out our pre-purchase container inspection checklist before you view your containers.
If you absolutely can’t inspect your containers in person before you buy them, make sure to ask for photos of all corner joints and also underneath and above the containers. You can then perform an inspection of the photos using the checklist mentioned above.
2. Not Researching Local Planning Regulations
Just about the worst feeling in the world is when you’re told that your house doesn’t comply with local planning regulations and that you need to take the house down.
Always contact your local public works building division or zoning office before you start construction. Be prepared by having a very good idea of what it is you want to build and where you want to build.
This normally means having scaled architectural drawings and foundation plans drawn up before you meet your local planning department. The planning application can take anywhere from eight weeks to a few months and will cost several thousand dollars.
Unfortunately, each area has its own rules and standards, so there is no one standard approach that fits all situations. Note that in the US, there are some areas that fall outside of city zoning. In these areas, a permit is not needed for building. If you are in such an area, consider yourself very lucky! But in most cases in the US you will need permits. Make sure you do your research first.
The key thing to take away is never to start construction until you have properly researched your local planning laws and acquired the relevant permits. You don’t want to end up like this person, who had to take down their $1.5 million home because they didn’t apply for a permit.
3. Using the Wrong Type of Insulation
A mistake people make with insulation is not considering their local climate.
For instance, in areas with lots of rain, you need to ensure your insulation provides you with a seamless vapor barrier. The best option would be to use spray foam insulation.
Image From Larry Wade
In very warm, dry climates your insulation should focus on keeping your container home cool. Generally, in this case, you wouldn’t want a seamless vapor barrier.
There is no one correct approach when it comes to insulation. It depends on many things like the local climate, your budget, the container’s age, and the style of home you want.
Most people agree that spray foam insulation is the best to use in most circumstances. It certainly isn’t the best choice for every situation. There are many other types of insulation such as insulation panels, blanket insulation, and even Eco friendly insulation such as recycled newspapers.
Choosing the correct type of insulation to use is crucial. If you are using the wrong type of insulation, or worse yet, don’t have any insulation, you are going to face lots of problems. Your container building will be freezing in winter and too hot during summer. However, your biggest concern is condensation and dampness.
Condensation can cause your containers to rust. This is very expensive to repair and can take a lot of time.
If you aren’t familiar with insulation methods and techniques, read our beginners guide to insulating a shipping container home.
4. Cutting Too Much Steel Out Of Containers
Additionally, a common mistake people make is cutting too much steel from their shipping containers.
A key feature of shipping containers is that they are incredibly strong. In fact, they can be stacked up to eight containers high when they are fully loaded! Shipping containers are the perfect building block to use for fast, affordable construction.
Unfortunately, some people over-modify their containers. By cutting out large sections of steel from the container you are reducing its strength and thus the structural integrity of the container. Doing this will also require you to incur additional costs, because you will need to reinforce the containers with steel beams. You will also need to weld the steel beams in place, which can further add to your costs and is also very time consuming.
You can remove sections of steel for your windows and doors without any problems, but when you remove entire walls, you will need to use support beams.
5. Choosing the Wrong Builder or Contractor
The last mistake we are going to look at is people choosing the wrong contractor to construct their shipping container building.
Many people like to build their shipping container home themselves. People without the time or DIY experience will need to hire a contractor to construct the building.
When you choose a contractor, make sure that they have experience building with shipping containers, or, at the very least understand shipping container buildings and are enthusiastic to construct one.
The last thing you want is a builder who doesn’t understand shipping containers. This will cost you time, money and certainly won’t be exceptional quality.
Also, make sure you choose a contractor who is able to follow the build all the way through the project. You don’t want to use multiple contractors during the build, if possible.
Let us know the mistakes you made while constructing your shipping container building.