Like any new house build, there are pros and cons with the chosen building material- shipping container homes are no different.
We have already spoken about how to build your own shipping container home; in this article we are going to discuss the pros (advantages) and cons (disadvantages) of building your own container home.
Many people decide to build a shipping container home because they offer exceptional value for money; however there are many more benefits to building a container home.
For instance, did you know that building shipping container homes can be environmentally friendly?
Let’s get started by looking at the pros of building a shipping container home.
In a poll which we ran earlier on this year, we asked people: “would they live in a shipping container home”. We found that the majority of people would live in a shipping container home and they want to because container homes are incredibly cheap and offer exceptional value for money.
I won’t go into much detail here, as we have already discussed The Cheapest 5 Shipping Container Homes Ever Built, however I do want to focus on one specific home: Taj Malodge.
The Taj Malodge was built back in 2010 using two 40-foot shipping containers. This provides more than 600 square foot of living space and cost a staggering $35,000 USD to build- this figure includes the cost to purchase the containers and the cost to convert and decorate them.
You can also see on the photo that the Taj Malodge has two solar panels on the roof; these solar panels provide electricity and warm water for the occupants.
One of the biggest pros of building a shipping container home is that it is environmentally friendly.
This is also something which many of you agree with, as in our poll earlier on this year the second most common reason for building a shipping container home was its eco-friendly properties.
There are around 17 million shipping containers in the world, with only 6 million of these in use. So approximately 11 million shipping containers are currently unused and could be converted into homes for people.
For each recycled shipping container we are reusing around 3,500kg worth of steel. We are also saving all of the traditional building materials (such as bricks, mortar and wood) which don’t need to be used.
Whilst you could argue that melting down the shipping container and recasting the steel into something else is more environmentally friendly, you would be wrong. Recasting steel requires an incredible amount of energy and it isn’t financially viable- this is why there are so many abandoned shipping containers in the world.
Off Site Construction
Another great advantage of a shipping container home is that it can be built off site and then delivered to your land ready to move in to.
We have discussed this before in a dedicated blog post: Where Should I Convert My Shipping Container Home?
Sometimes a plot of land isn’t suitable to build on, and there can be many reasons for this: for instance it might not have any electricity so you couldn’t power your angle grinders or welders there.
In this case, you can convert the shipping container at a local workshop and then deliver the finished shipping container home to your plot of land.
This is particularly common when people want to make ‘off-grid’ shipping container homes.
Another great advantage of modifying your shipping container at a local workshop is that you don’t need to make your container water tight straight away. If you were converting the container outside, you’d want it water tight straight away so no rain gets inside the container. However converting the container inside means you don’t need to worry about making the container water tight instantly.
Fast to Build
Shipping container homes can be built incredibly fast.
One of the best examples of this can be found in Diemen- which is a popular city in Holland. The local collage wanted to build additional accommodation for its students… quickly!
So they decided to build a block of shipping container homes out of 250 containers.
The shipping containers were modified in China and then shipped to Amsterdam. In total around 5 shipping containers were stacked each day. This mean than in less than 12 week they had successfully built 250 shipping container homes!
The reason for this is that when you purchase a shipping container, you already have the walls, floor and ceiling for your home; you just need to apply insulation and decorate them!
Building Permits and Build Codes
When you’re building a new home here in the US, you will be subjected to your local Department of Building Inspection.
Unfortunately shipping container homes aren’t exempt from such scrutiny and you too will need to make sure that your shipping container home meets your various local codes.
This certainly can be one of the hardest parts of building a shipping container home. However this issue isn’t just unique to shipping container homes, it’s applicable to all new homes which are built in the US, regardless of their construction material.
It’s important you’re aware that a building permit is required because a permit can take time to be approved so you need to make sure this time is properly budgeted for in your construction plans.
If you’re extremely lucky though, sometimes a building permit isn’t required.
Some areas in the US are known as ‘outside of city zoning’; this means your land lies outside of the building permit regulations so you can build there without a permit.
However you should always check with your local Department of Building Inspection first!
Finding Contractors with Experience
Most people want to build their shipping container homes themselves, however sometimes this just isn’t possible either because they don’t have enough time, or they don’t have previous DIY experience.
Instead they will employ a contractor to build the home for them.
I know that one of the hardest things to do when building a shipping container home, is to find a building contractor who has experience. You want a contractor with experience so they will be able to advise you and guide you throughout the process.
I’m forever receiving emails from people who ask me if I can recommend a contractor to them.
Whilst I’m familiar with lots of contractors unfortunately sometimes I’m not familiar with a particular area and can’t recommend a contractor. In this instance there are a few things you can do to try and find a contractor near you who will build your shipping container home.
The first thing I would do is research your local area and find out if anyone has already built a shipping container home there. If they have, great! Speak with the owner of the container home and see if they can recommend a contractor to you.
If no shipping container homes have been built in your local area, don’t worry, you can still find a contractor- it just takes a little bit more legwork.
I’d look for the nearest shipping container home and speak with the owners to see if they know anybody in your local area. If they don’t then you need to start picking up the phone and calling your local contractors and directly enquire whether they have built shipping container homes before.
It can take a few phone calls but I guarantee you will find one.
Building a shipping container home can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life.
One of the biggest advantages of building your home using shipping containers it the cost saving aspects, also, they can be built with incredible speed.
Not only are they cheap and quick to build, but they are also environmentally friendly; for every shipping container upcycled we are saving around 3500KG of steel.
However, just like with traditional home building, shipping container homes still have their drawbacks. The biggest one being that you still require a building permit to construct a shipping container home. Make sure you apply early for your permit to avoid any delays!