A construction timeline is used to visualize all of the activities which need to take place throughout building a home.
Whilst there are many generic construction timelines available online, to my knowledge there aren’t any specifically for shipping container homes.
I know that a lot of you have asked for this, so today I’m very excited to bring to you a construction timeline for shipping container homes.
It’s important to state that whilst not every shipping container home will be the same, they will all share similar characteristics…
You should use this example below and tailor it to your own build.
In the example I will highlight the main build stages and then discuss within them the variables and how this can affect your build time.
Example Shipping Container Home Construction Timeline
- Planning the Project (6 Weeks)
- Budget allocation/financing (4 days)
- Develop initial home plan/design (20 days)
- Assemble site specific information and ordinances (3 days)
- Material selection (2 days)
- Finalize Design and Construction Approval (9-12 Weeks)
- Finalize home design and plans (10 days)
- Prepare construction plans (5 days)
- Allocate final budget (2 days)
- Local structural engineering approval (10-15 days)
- Building permits (15-25 days)
- Identify general contractor (link to previous article) (3 days)
- Site Preparation and Foundations (4-7 Weeks)
- Shipping container identification and purchase (5 days)
- Land clearance, drainage and access (5 days)
- Foundation layout and excavation (5 days)
- Run utilities to site (2 days)
- Lay foundations (5-15 days)
- Place and Modify Containers (3-9 Weeks)
- External air seal/spray foam insulation (1 day)
- Siting containers and welding to foundation (2 days)
- Shipping container modifications, cutouts and reinforcements (1-15 days)
- Structural framing and roofing (1-5 days)
- Install windows, doors and siding (1-10 days)
- Utility services rough-in (3 days)
- Interior framing (5 days)
- Finish to Occupancy (2-13 Weeks)
- Insulation (1-10 days)
- Drywall (2 days) (Optional)
- Fit flooring (2 days) (Optional)
- Finish plumbing, electrical and HVAC fixings (2-10 days)
- Finish fixtures, fittings, appliances and trim (2-15 days)
- Painting and decorating (1-5 days)
- External cladding (1-10 days) (Optional)
- External landscaping (1-5 days)
- Final walk-through and cleanup (1 day)
- Receive final approval (1-5 days)
1. Planning the Project
You can see in the construction timeline I’ve outlined approximately six weeks for the planning stage.
As you already know, planning is the most important phase of the project and if you get this stage wrong it can cost you a significant amount of money in the later stages of your build.
If you take a closer look at the planning phase you will also notice that I haven’t included a stage to find and purchase land. This is because I’ve presumed you already have land so if you don’t, you need to add this to your timeline. This can take anywhere upwards of 4 weeks.
The largest part of this stage is to develop your initial home design. You can see in the plan that designing your home comes after you’ve established your finances. You need to have a clear idea of your budget before you move forward. Once you’ve figured out how much money you have to spend on your home build you can start designing your home.
You can either design the home yourself or with an architect and structural engineer. The choice will almost certainly depend on whether or not you need a building permit.
One quick point to consider when designing your home: try not to make too many cuts and modifications to your shipping containers. In doing so, you can significantly increase the cost and complexity of the build.
2. Finalize Design and Construction Approval
For the second stage of the shipping container home construction timetable, I’ve allocated 9-12 weeks.
This stage is predominantly focused on finalizing your design and getting your building permit approved.
This is the longest stage of your build.
As you can see the two longest activities here are: gaining local structural engineering approval and acquiring building permits.
If you are building outside of the city’s zoning code or in an unregulated zone then you’re in luck. You won’t need to get a building permit and the only activity in this stage is finalizing your design.
However, I expect the majority of people will need to get a building permit.
In my experience it’s best to work with both people and local authorities who have experience with shipping container homes.
If not shipping container homes, then make sure they at least have experience with unorthodox builds – it will make everything easier throughout the build.
You will see the last activity in this stage is to find a local contractor who will build your home. By far one of the most common questions I’m asked is where do I find a local contractor?
My advice for this is to use your local networks. Do any of your friends or your friends’ friends know anyone?
If you are coming up short, then go and speak to people in your local neighborhood who live in shipping container homes or unorthodox builds. They will be able to point you in the right direction.
3. Site Preparation and Foundations
The third stage of the shipping container home construction timetable is when you actually get out on site and physically start working on your home for the first time.
During this stage you will mainly be preparing your site for the arrival of your shipping containers.
Starting by clearing out the land and making sure you have access to the site. Not only do you need access to the site but you will also need to make sure a flat-bed truck has access to the site. This way your shipping containers can be delivered to the correct spot.
Here you will also be preparing and laying your foundation.
If you aren’t certain which type of foundation you should use, you can read my article here.
The only potentially problematic activity in this stage is running utilities to your site; this includes, water, electric, sewage, gas and cable.
You should contact your utility providers in advance to make sure they can meet your construction timetable. The last thing you want is to be waiting around to pour concrete for your foundations because the utilities aren’t connected yet.
4. Place and Modify Containers
The fourth stage in the construction timeline is to place and modify your shipping containers.
The first activity here is to use spray foam insulation to seal up any gaps. Whilst this isn’t a must, I generally recommend it in 9/10 cases.
Using spray foam insulation on the underneath of the shipping containers will create a vapor barrier which helps with insulation, ventilation and pest control.
Also by applying external insulation it means you don’t need to use any internal insulation underneath the flooring which saves a foot or so, of head height.
You will also notice I detail welding your shipping containers to the foundation as mandatory in the construction timeline. Again whilst this isn’t always necessary I generally recommend it from a safety perspective.
During this stage, some of the activities have a lot of variability in the timings, for instance shipping container modifications and fitting door and windows.
This is simply because it depends on the amount of modifications you are planning to do to the containers.
If you have few modifications then it’s cheaper and quicker; simple as that. If you are planning on large scale modifications it is going to take much longer.
5. Finish to Occupancy
At this point of your build your shipping container home should be waterproof.
The finish-to-occupancy stage can vary from a matter of days to months depending on your budget and required finishing spec.
If you’re looking to build a simple survival container home then days, however if you’re looking to build a grand shipping container home with immaculate landscaping and a swimming pool then you will be looking at months.
At this point it’s very difficult to change any fundamental design aspects. If changes can be made it will be very expensive and time consuming. This is why I always recommend you spend a lot of time at the start of the build to get the design right.
Once this stage is finished your home will be ready to move into!
Summary and Final Thoughts
I hope this shipping container home construction timeline has helped to give you a much better understanding of the build process.
As you will have a seen the timeline contains a wide variance in terms of time.
This is because shipping container homes can be built much quicker, or slowly, depending on a variety of factors including: complexity, budget, experience.
I’ve seen container homes built in less than two weeks and some which have taken the best part of a year to build.
It really all depends on the design, budget and location.
Feel free to take the timeline and modify it for your own build. Be sure to drop me an email if you do.
Leave a comment below if there are any activities or stages which you think I need to include…