Should You Build Your Own Shipping Container Home Blog Cover

Should You Build Your Own Shipping Container Home?

Posted By: July 25, 2016 In Guides

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

So you already know that living in a shipping container home can be a great way to save money and become debt free.

The question you’re wondering about is, whether you should build the shipping container home yourself?

It’s a question only you can answer, but we’re going to take a look through some of your options.

The three most common ways to get a shipping container home are to build it yourself, hire a contractor, or purchase a prefab container home.

Each of these approaches has their own pros and cons and today we’re going to discuss each of these choices.

Building a Shipping Container Home Yourself

Self built shipping container home

Let’s start by looking at the most popular choice when it comes to shipping container homes.

By far, the majority of people who live in shipping container homes have built it themselves, and in fact this is the very purpose of Container Home Plans– we created this website to guide people through the process of building their own shipping container home.

During our time running the website we’ve seen lots of people build their own container homes and we’ve even interviewed a few of them.

If you want to build your own container home and don’t have a big budget, make sure to read our article on building a shipping container home on a small budget.

Also, if you do decide to build it yourself, make sure you don’t make these simple mistakes!

Now let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of building a shipping container home yourself.

Advantages of DIY Container Home

The first and most important advantage of building your own shipping container home is the cost saving.

Building your own container home is by far the cheapest approach possible- why? It’s simple- you aren’t paying for other people’s labor to make money off of you.

The second big advantage of building it yourself is that you know exactly how it’s been built and that no shortcuts were taken.

You know that the insulation and roofing were done the correct way and weren’t rushed because your builder was running out of time.

Finally, by building your own container home you are free to design and style the container home any way you like.

You want to stack your containers and make a roof terrace?

Well you can if you build it yourself!

Also, if you’re halfway through the build and change your mind then you are free to do this and you can change the design of your home. If you’ve purchase a prefab container home or agreed on a plan of work with a contractor then it’s a lot more difficult and sometimes impossible to change the design.

Disadvantages of DIY Container Home

One of the biggest problems with building your own shipping container home is that you need to have the skills and know-how.

You don’t need to have built a container home before, everyone needs to start somewhere, but you do need to have some DIY experience.

Also it is not ideal if you have a job or any major commitments. Building a container home, just like any other home, will take a lot of time and effort.

This isn’t to say that building a container home whilst working isn’t possible- it certainly is and I know people that have built their own home whilst working. It’s just to say that it isn’t for everybody!

If you’re seriously considering building your own container home we go into much more detail on the pros and cons here.

Hiring a Contractor to Build Your Shipping Container Home

Using a contractor to build your container home

There are many different contractors which you can hire to build your shipping container home.

The most common one is a general contractor who will oversee the day to day work on your home.

They will generally have trade contacts and will bring in the other workmen needed such as welders, electricians, groundworks etc.

However you can also choose to act as your own general contractor and then just sub contract in professionals to complete the work which you are unable todo- for instance the cutting and welding…

It really depends on your ability and also available time.

Let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of hiring a contractor to build your shipping container home.

Advantages of Hiring a Contractor

Perhaps the single biggest advantage of hiring a contractor is you get access to all of their previous experience and expertise which can sometimes be years’ worth of knowledge!

These guys live and breathe construction so it should come as no surprise to you that they take their job seriously and will also tend to guarantee their work.

Another big advantage of hiring a contractor is the time that you save. Just imagine having five or six guys working on your container home and how much faster that is than just you on your own…

Not only that but if you work a job you can only build in the evenings and on the weekend whereas contractors can work all day.

Finally, contractors offer you great flexibility.

For instance if you want to build the majority of your container home, and then bring a contractor in just for the welding, you can do that.

Disadvantages of Hiring a Contractor

To my mind there are two major disadvantages of hiring a contractor though.

Firstly, the money.

Hiring contractors to work for you can be very costly especially when compared to doing the work yourself. And this fee can in fact be one of the biggest expenses when building a container home- so wherever practical you should try to avoid it!

Secondly, finding experienced contractors with a good reputation can be time consuming. However, I wouldn’t let this put you off using a contractor completely.

Once you find the right contractor it is well worth your efforts.

A good contractor is worth their weight in gold- especially if problems arise during the build!

Purchasing a Prefab Shipping Container Home

Prefab home being transport

Before we go any further let me just clarify what I mean by a ‘prefab’ shipping container home.

A prefabricated container home is one that has already been built and converted by a company.

They typically come as an ‘empty shell’ and are ready to move into- also known as a ‘turnkey home’.

The specification and interior fittings varies between models and manufactures, however they are a great choice for people who want to live in a container home but either have no time or no DIY expertise to build their own.

They are also a great choice when there aren’t the facilities to convert your containers on site.

Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why you would and would not want to buy a prefab container home.

Advantages of Prefab Contractor Homes

Definitely the biggest plus when it comes to prefab homes in general is that it is incredibly quick and by far faster than either building it yourself or hiring a contractor to build it.

Generally large prefab companies will carry stock which means your container home is already built and it just needs shipping to you, placing on foundation blocks and connecting to the utilities.

The second advantage of buying a prefab is peace of mind.

Building your own home either yourself or through a contractor can be stressful at times and you need to be aware of this.

Through purchasing a prefab home you take away all of the anxiety and unknown because you know exactly what your home is going to look like and exactly when it will be finished.

Finally, prefab companies tend to provide planning and building permit support so you don’t have to go it alone.

Disadvantages of Prefab Contractor Homes

You probably already know it but the biggest downside of a prefab is that you ‘get what you’re given’.

In the sense that you generally can’t customize the containers at all- you can only decide on which model to pick.

If you don’t like the placement of a window or doorway you’re generally stuck and just have to accept this.

The secondly big downside of a prefab is the cost.

Out of all the options looked at in this article, prefab container homes are always more expensive because you are paying a company to oversee the entire build.

This might not be a problem for some of you, but generally people want to build a container home to save money, not spend more money.


I hope this article today has made your decision about who should build your shipping container home a little bit more straightforward!

I always recommend to people that wherever possible you should build the container home yourself.

There is something incredibly rewarding about seeing your hard work pay off and being able to enjoy this everyday by living in the home which you built.

I’d love to hear from you. Did you decide to go it alone and build your own home or have you decided to bring in a contractor or buy a prefab home?

  1. Heather

    I’m very interested in doing a prefab container home (actually, homes, as I’d like to build a duplex and my house). I’m having a hard time finding prefab companies that aren’t very expensive (I’m thinking of Meka). Do you or does anyone have a reference site or list of US companies (I’m seeing quite a few in Australia)? I figure best to go as local as I can, not just for shipping, but for building codes, etc.
    Thank you!

    • Tom

      Hi Heather,

      As you probably know we focus on self builds, but I’ll leave your comment here to see if anyone can suggest prefabs…