Getting Started: Shipping Container Homes

Posted By: February 18, 2016 In Featured

Want to build your own shipping container home? Start Here.

So you’ve just found out about these things called ‘Shipping Container Homes’, and you’re wondering exactly what are they?

Don’t worry; we get lots of emails from people just like you every week asking us what they are and where to learn more about them.

Container Home Plans has been the number one resource for all things shipping container home for the last several years and we have more than 50 articles on our website educating enthusiasts.

We’re guilty for sometimes thinking everyone knows about container homes, and sometimes we don’t remember what it was like to be a new comer to the shipping container homes movement!

So today we’re going to start from the beginning and explain exactly what shipping container homes are and then provide you with some must read articles if you want to learn more.

What Are Shipping Container Homes?

Shipping container homes are homes which have been built by converting and repurposing shipping containers.

These shipping containers can be used or new, 20 or 40 foot long- it doesn’t really matter. All that matters is that a shipping container is used to build with!

Blue Shipping Container Home

Thousands of shipping container homes have already been built all over the world, including: The US, Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, South Africa, India, Germany and the Netherlands.

You can see more pictures of container homes in our beautiful shipping container homes article or take a look at this video tour of five shipping container homes.

Are Shipping Container Homes Popular?

So now you know what shipping container homes are, you’re probably wondering if they are popular or not?

Yes- they are extremely popular and since 2000 they have been gradually rising in popularity all over the world.

But, why are they so popular?

We published a report earlier on last year and one of the most popular reasons people build container homes is because of the price.

Container homes can be built for a small sum of money which means that they can offer a route to financial independence for many people. We have seen shipping container homes built for less than $50,000- which is affordable for many people.

Another great reason why they are so popular is that they are environmentally friendly and help the fight against climate change.

Every shipping container recycled saves around 3500KG of steel.

Also, when you build a home out of shipping containers, you don’t need to use traditional building materials such as brick and cement- which saves the planet even more materials!

Still need convincing? Read 6 reasons why you should be living in a shipping container home.

Are Shipping Container Homes Dangerous?

Once people are familiar with container homes, one of the first questions they ask is: “are they dangerous to live in?”.

This is a fair question because ultimately you will be living in this home with your family so it needs to be safe!

Providing the home is built correctly and the containers are converted appropriately, then yes, shipping container homes are absolutely safe.

We have covered this in-depth in our article just how safe are shipping container homes, if you’d like to read more.

Pros and Cons of Container Homes

For many people building a shipping container home is the perfect decision; however it definitely isn’t the right decision for everybody.

It’s important that before you decide to build or live in a container home that you’ve taken into account all the pros and cons before you move forward with your idea.

Some of the biggest advantages of container homes are: cheap cost, quick to build, eco-friendly.

However it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Unfortunately, container homes aren’t suitable for everyone and if you don’t have any DIY experience then building your own will be a steep learning experience.

We cover this in more depth in advantages and disadvantages of building container homes.

Building Your Container Home

If you’re considered the options and are going to build a container home- fantastic!

We can’t wait to see what your home is going to look like; remember to contact us once you’ve built it with photos of the finished home. Better yet, get in touch with us along the way with any questions you might have.

We’ve spoken with lots of people who have built their own shipping container home and there are several silly mistakes which people make along the way which end up costing them a lot of money. Two of the most common mistakes are buying the wrong type of shipping containers and using the wrong insulation material.

We have drawn up the full list in our article 5 mistakes to avoid when building.

Once you’ve read this and are becoming more familiar with container homes, take a look at our in-depth interviews with 23 container home owners.

This is by far one of our most popular articles on the website and there is so much knowledge within this article.

We speak with 23 container home owners and ask them to share their best advice for people who want to build their own container home.

The top three pieces of advice are to:

  1. Purchase the right type of container.
  2. Establishing your local building regulations and permits before you start building.
  3. Using contracts who have previously built container homes.

Get Planning Your Shipping Container Home

So you’re all set now.

Hopefully at this point in the article you are well aware of what a shipping container home is, why people build container homes, and you’ve even seen some of the beginner mistakes that people make when building.

You now need to ask these 8 questions to yourself before you build a container home.

8 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Building a Shipping Container Home Blog Cover

The biggest decision you will have to make is whether to build it yourself or bring a contractor in to build it for you.

The majority of people I know who live in container homes decided to build it themselves- not only is it much cheaper it also brings you closer to the home because your blood, sweat and tears have been poured into it!

However, I can completely understand people who don’t want to build it themselves. As idyllic as building it yourself sounds, it can become very stressful- especially if you are doing it for the first time.

Bringing a contractor in can help take away a lot of these headaches and you can do all the fun stuff like designing the kitchen and flow of the house, whilst they do all the heavy lifting!

It’s all about making these decisions now so you know what to expect. Planning your project is so important, as the old saying goes:

Fail to prepare then prepare to fail.

We won’t get into planning too much in this article except to say you need to do it!

Fortunately, we have written an entire 2000+ word article just on how to plan your shipping container home.

From designing, to budget, through to contractors it’s all in there.


I really hope this article has explained what shipping container homes are and hopefully you are feeling a lot more comfortable now!

When you’re new to the concept of container homes is can be overwhelming the amount of information out there, but hopefully this article has helped to get you started.

Remember there are more than 50 articles on our website all about shipping container homes, and you will find everything you need inside them.

Building your own container home can be extremely rewarding not only financially but also as a sense of personal achievement.

Let me know in the comments section below how you get on and here’s to your new adventure!

  1. Johnnie

    So pleased to have come across your blog. I live in Northern Ireland and am looking for land at present with the intention of trying my arm at building a home from shipping containers. I really see the advantages of having containers below ground level, hidden completely as the ground and second floors are built. Worried / concerned about drainage and waste water sub terra.

    • Tom

      Drainage is an issue just like any house with a basement. You’d probably want gravel around the foundation to permit water to continue past the container and go further underground instead of pooling near the container. Wastewater can be handled with a pump, which a plumber could help you with. The biggest problem that you haven’t discussed is structural. Shipping containers are meant to sustain heavy loads from within on their floors, and from additional containers placed above with loads transmitted through the corner columns. The walls and especially roof of a container are not designed to resist loading of any significant amount. Placing a container underground without significant structural enhancement is asking for major trouble. Depending on the soil type in your area, soil underground can exert a tremendous horizontal force on the sides of a container until they buckle or implode. Please explore this further with a competent structural engineer before attempting this!

  2. Gale

    I have been researching shipping container homes and have a question that I have not found discussed. If a home is created out of a single shipping container (my plan is using a refer) are there issues with humidity in such an enclosed home?

    • Tom

      Gale, regardless of the number of containers used, humidity is a concern for any container building, or steel building for that matter. Without proper insulation, if humid/warm air is allowed to touch a cool metal surface, condensation can occur. If you’re using a reefer, you already have a well-insulated starting point, but you’ll have to watch out for all the penetrations you make for doors/windows and try to minimize thermal bridging. If you haven’t already, check out our post on the pros/cons of using a reefer for a container structure. There are a few things to watch out for if you choose to go down that road.

  3. Schuyler S.

    Hi Tom!

    After many laborous hours of research, I’ve found your website. So many informative articles! My favorite part though is your customer service. Every post you answer all questions enthusiastically with no bull. I thank you for that! As well as all the other honest people on this site. It seems this is more than just a building. It’s a lifestyle, a community. Currently starting my own home up in the North Ga. mountains, after I finish reading all your articles I’ll be getting your book. Thanks for all the Info!

    • Tom

      Thanks for your kind words Alfred!


  4. Thabo Mathebula

    I would love to receive your free ebook on how to build container house. Your system refuses to accept my email. Thanking you in advance.

    • Tom

      Please send me an email Thabo, and I will sort this out for you.


  5. Joyce

    I am interested in finding vendors and contractors to have a container built. I cannot build the home myself.

    All the information and comments have been helpful.
    Thank you

    • Tom

      Hi Joyce,

      If you visit our resources section you will find the information you need.

      Many Thanks,


  6. Shrinath Rao

    Hi Tom,
    I am a retired Marine Engineer and have sailed with and maintained cargo containers in my time. I am now retired for 16 years. However, it is exciting to read that now there are thousands of these homes made from them. I might get in them [ making one for myself] soon.
    If the cost amounts to only $ 50,000 for a 1280 sq ft home. Does it include the cost of land and licenses and permits, registration etc.? I live in Michigan, United States.
    Your response will be most appreciated.
    Thanks and Regards,
    Shrinath Rao.

    • Tom

      Hi Shrinath,

      That sounds fantastic.

      I believe that the $50,000 included the permits and architects drawings etc- however it didn’t include the cost of purchasing the land.


  7. Ivan

    Floors, floors, floors. Tom, how to you recommend insulating a floor. If I do it on the outside of the container (presuming I guess that I go with a stilt type of foundation) what do you recommend? Spray foam and then cover the side with flashing and the underside with exterior rated plywood. Or is inside a better option. Something like rigid pink etc.

    • Tom

      Hi Ivan,

      If you have a stilt foundation I would definitely recommend insulating the underneath of the container with spray foam. You can cover it with flashing but it isn’t always necessary. I wouldn’t insulate it internally because you lose too much space with regards to ceiling height.