DIY Family Shipping Container Home Blog Cover

DIY Family Shipping Container Home

Posted By: February 28, 2017 In Interviews

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Welcome to our first shipping container home interview of 2017.

As always, in these interviews we talk to shipping container home builders to break down their build: what worked, what didn’t work and most importantly, how you can learn from their mistakes.

In this episode we are speaking with Ryan Naylor, who built his shipping container home for around $110,000 in Asheville, NC last year.

We speak about the best type of insulation to use on container homes, the most expensive part of the build process and if he’d build another shipping container home in the future.

In case you’ve missed any of our previous interviews, you can see them here.

DIY Family Shipping Container Home

Tom: How did you get the idea of building your home with shipping containers?

Ryan: My ex-partner and I wanted to build our home out of as many re-used and re-purposed materials as possible. We wanted to have as little an impact on the environment as we could with the construction of our home. We just happened to stumble across the idea of using shipping containers while searching for other homes that used re-used materials in construction.

Tom: Why did you decide to build your home out of shipping containers?

Ryan: We decided to build the home out of shipping containers because it uses less energy to re-purpose them than to recycle them (melt them down and remold the metal into something else). They are also really cool looking and add a fun industrial feel to the home. They are metal so we can use magnets all over the walls and they are almost indestructible. It’s the first shipping container residence in our city… so we thought it would be cool to build the first one here in my hometown!

DIY Family Shipping Container Home 2

Keli Keach Photography

Tom: How long did the home take to build?

Ryan: We planned and designed the architecture of the home over 6 months before we found the finances to actually invest in engineering and construction as well as the land. Then once we bought the land and started on construction it took us exactly one year to build the home.

Tom: Roughly how much did it cost to build – can you give us a high-level breakdown here?

Ryan: The property cost us around $30K, the labor and materials for construction cost us around $80K. The containers cost around $2500 each + $700 a piece for shipping. The roof, welding, electric, and insulation were the most expensive aspects of construction.

Tom: Can you talk about the process of building your home – what were some of the highlights of the process?

Ryan: We re-designed the home as we found materials. I looked in new-construction dumpsters all around town as well as tearing things out of demolition projects (with approval of owners) and purchasing items from resale locations such as Habitat’s Re-Store and from Craigslist. It was really nice having full control over what we used in the home and how we designed each part. The engineering company IONCON helped us get over the huge hurdle of inspections via Asheville City Building Department and using re-used materials for the majority of the construction. They were amazing to work with, and we would recommend them to anyone else taking on a shipping container home project.

DIY Family Shipping Container Home 3

Keli Keach Photography

Tom: How did you insulate the containers?

Ryan: We used open-cell spray foam insulation for the roof between the rafters and under the containers as well as the wall that connects the two 20ft containers. We used closed-cell spray foam for the container walls due to condensation from extreme temperature change in the metal- this is the only way to go. The nicest thing about the heating/cooling of the home though is the fact that our lot faces South-West which enables us to get full sun-light all day long through the huge windows upstairs in the winter, and with the 4ft. over-hang on the roof we get shade for most of the day in the summer. This helps with the temperature in the house a LOT. It’s called passive-solar.

Tom: In your experience what are the advantages of building with shipping containers?

Ryan: The main advantage is your environmental impact. They are hard to work with given a hand grinder or a welder is the only way to work with them… but they also give a really awesome feel and look to the home. The second benefit would be the strength as you can stack them up to 9 high. They last practically forever and are great for adding metal additions to the interior or exterior of your home such as the hooks I welded to the containers in the living-room. They allow me to hang up to 11 hammocks at a time in my home.

Tom: Would you recommend building with shipping containers?

Ryan: YES. Even though it was a hard material to build with… it was totally worth it in the long run. I love living in this home, and all of my friends and family members always want to come over and stay here in the house. It’s got a great story behind it, and it has a positive impact on the world… because people can see that you can re-use, re-purpose, and recycle while still building a beautiful and functional home that will last for a very very long time.

Keli Keach Photography

If you have any other questions for me just let me know. One final note though, I have never built a home before. This was all a learning process, and I learned a good majority of how to build this house off of the internet (blogs, youtube, etc.) which proves that you can do anything that you put your mind to as long as you really believe in yourself and follow through!

As always, thank you for joining us for this interview. Let me also thank Ryan for taking part and sharing his experience and knowledge of shipping container home building.

If you want to know more about Ryan’s container home or the build process, be sure to leave a comment below and I will pass the message on the Ryan.

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  1. abdul

    great to hear of this . The total cost is one thing we can easily jump at and its too high. But can you give some more details on what the inside looks like. How many containers in total used, how many bedrooms, whats the total space you worked with etc etc. Then we can try to compare cost and know if this is much better than the tradition brick and mortar build.

    • Tom

      Thank you for the feedback Abdul. I will speak with Ryan and see if he will share this information with us,


  2. Chris H

    Question for Ryan, would you be able to share more info on details for the roof structure? Or recommendation of container sellers? I’ve been researching container homes for a while and want to also consider heavy timber post construction. An architect out of Louisville, KY is using pole barn on many projects but I do agree with the recycling benefit. The open space floor in the interior photo looks really nice. Precutting the containers I read is very important. Thanks for sharing your shipping container home experience!

    • Tom

      Hi Chris,

      I’ll leave the message here for Ryan.