DIY Shipping Container Home Built For Less Than $10,000

Posted By: April 12, 2017 In Interviews

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

Welcome to our second shipping container home interview of 2017.

As always, in these interviews we speak with shipping container home builders to help you.

We speak with them about what worked and what didn’t work and how you can learn from their mistakes so you can build the best shipping container home possible.

Just in case you missed our previous interview with Ryan Naylor, you can see it here.

In this episode we speak with Stephan Busley from Australia who managed to build his shipping container home for less than 10,000!

We speak with Stephan about key shipping container home topics such as: foundations, insulation material and technique, build cost and finally, if he would recommend container home construction.

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

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

Stephan: We were looking at the most cost effective way to live on our family’s newly purchased block of land so that we could stop renting and own our very own place. We started off living in a caravan and originally looked at kit homes, and then sheds and converting them into live-able dwellings. But, the more we looked into that type of thing the more overwhelmed we became at the costs associated with not only buying the kit home/shed to begin with but to have it built. Simple google searches for cheap ways to build soon put us on the right track to using shipping containers and we became very excited about the idea after seeing amazing ways some people had put them together to create a cheap and unique houses.

Shipping Container Home Construction

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

Stephan: The moment we realized we could get a 12×3 meter strong construction that was essentially the steel foundations of a home (floor/walls and roof) for under 5k was when we decided it was the way to go. Being handy and experienced in the construction industry I realized it was something I could fit out and convert myself without getting builders in to do it. The fact it was eco-friendly and an excellent way of recycling something that had already been manufactured suited our way of thinking and our lifestyle.

Tom: How long did the home take to build?

Stephan: Approx 6-9 months working on it every weekend. I could probably have completed it in 1 and half months working approximately eight hours a day. We continue to add to it and constantly improve it all the time.

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

Stephan: Total cost comes in under 10k. This includes: steel posts in the ground, concrete, the container, kitchen and fibro/paint etc.

The off grid solar that powers the house and also another house on our block of land was an extra expense at $35k. This includes 24 panels, 24 batteries, inverters and a 20 foot shipping container to house the batteries.

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

Stephan: It was important for us to think first about the size of the shipping container and standard vs high cube. In our hot climate (Queensland, Australia) ceiling fans were a must which was the deciding factor in getting a high cube. We also wanted to section it into 3 areas- 2 bedrooms and a kitchen/living area. I did a lot of research into how to fit out a container and also decided on doing things my own way. I decided on gluing the 4×2 timber treated pine battens (for wall framing in the shipping container) instead of screwing through the steel due to concerns of the screws causing the container to rust and leak with heavy rain.

We knew it would be some time before the outside was fibro sheeted (fibro is compressed concrete sheets). After the framing was completed the plumbing and wiring was put into place.

Shipping Container Home Kitchen

Tom: How did you insulate the containers…

Stephan: I put R 1.5 glass wool insulation on the inside before the fibro sheets were put up for the walls. We have found this worked ok and is fine for winter/cooler times of the year but in our very hot climate in central Queensland in summer we definitely also need ceiling fans and air conditioning to keep the temperature at a comfortable level.

Shipping Container Home Insulation

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

Stephan: They are structurally very strong and sturdy (easily stood up to category 5 cyclone Marcia and sustained no damage). They are also low cost and very environmentally friendly.

Tom: Would you recommend building with shipping containers?

Stephan: I would certainly recommend building with shipping containers as they are strong and fun to work with, you learn along the way, you can keep on adding to them and create your own unique home. Our shipping container home is still very new and we have plans to soon add a 20ft shipping container as a bathroom/laundry room. I would recommend that you do thorough research before starting so you know what’s involved. It can be very time consuming and you can run into problems if you don’t prepare and plan well in advance.

Shipping Container Home


At this point I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Stephan for joining us and taking part in the interview.

I hope this interview has inspired many of you out there to show you that you can build an affordable shipping container home. Also I hope that by Stephan sharing his experience and knowledge of shipping container home building you also learnt a thing or two!

Finally, if you want to know anything else about Stephan’s container home, leave a comment below and I will send this on to Stephan.

  1. Lisa

    I need info how to meet county code to use container as a shed in Orange county fl

    • Tom

      The best place to start is calling and asking what rules you’re required to abide by in your county. For an un-occupied shed, the requirements should be fairly minimal and if anything may be more related to property line setback distances and exterior finish/appearance. Best of luck!

  2. Dave

    It looks like they added a roof was this to lower the amount of direct heat on the shipping container? Do you know of anywhere we can get the compressed concrete sheets statewide?

    • Harry

      The look you mention of an added roof is most likely the solar panel array pitched on the top of the container. I am also looking at the solar option on a part of the roof as well as a vertical axis wind turbine for additional power generation.

  3. Dave

    This guy is smarter than I am. I have not even looked into any off grid set up, or how that is done. All of those batteries though do not sound like a lot of fun, or replacing them, or whatever the scenario is for that. This is about the smartest build I have seen, especially relative to keeping the cost down, and still come out without a super crude look. I suppose that there are adhesives these days fit to hold framing in a situation like this, and would be adequate. I just wish I knew how to live with such a small amount of floor space. I am sure that a lot of people would love to have more information on how the technologies for this build were implemented to get some more ideas on how to build their own.

  4. Rosemary Tate

    I would love to be able to get in touch with Stephen. I want to build something for my son and his son. Already have the container and could come up with that much money. My son suffers with aspergers and depression and this could be a great project for him to build for him and his son who he has every second weekend to take on with advice.

  5. Marcus Love

    Hi there,

    Great story!!! Well done Stephan!!!!

    I am a completely new to the whole container business, but would like to learn more about this particular project, mainly due to living in QLD as well.
    Is there more info that can be shared?
    Thanks in advance and nice job,