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Things to Consider Before Building a Shipping Container House

Written by Posted On Friday, 19 March 2021 13:29
What to Know About Building With Shipping Containers What to Know About Building With Shipping Containers

What to Know Before Building a Shipping Container Home

Are you considering building a shipping container home? Shipping container homes can be a great idea if you’re looking for something a little different, as well as eco-friendly.

But some things need to be considered first before you drive to your local port and splash out $5k+ on a used container. There is much to consider when it comes to shipping container housing, especially if you're looking to make a multi-story home.

When you are using multiple containers and blending them, you can certainly expect your costs to be much higher. Let’s get into some of the things you need to consider before building a shipping container home. By the time you're done reading, you will either have reaffirmed your conviction for wanting this type of house or maybe thinking of taking a step back and reconsidering it.

Walk Around The Containers Before You Buy

Obviously, you’re going to want to look at something before you buy it, but this isn't a product on Amazon. You should see the container in real life before you hand over your cash since photos don’t always show the whole picture.

If the container has dents, rust spots, or structural problems, this could all lead to your home collapsing in on itself once you start cutting away at it to make doors and windows.

If you’ve got a bit of extra cash and you don’t want to buy a container that has been heavily used, there are one-trip containers that have been only used once and have spent the rest of their life doing nothing in a port.

They're a little bit more expensive, but their almost pristine condition makes it worth it.

Especially since you’re going to be living in it.

Check Out Your Shipping Container Building Limitations in Your Area

Some cities and towns will not let you live in a shipping container as per their policies and rules. It becomes imperative to do your research in the local building department to make sure you can do what you want before spending thousands on a container home. It will be a matter of getting an answer on whether you will get a building permit for a shipping container home.

If everything checks out and a shipping container home is perfectly acceptable, you'll be able to move forward with your purchase. If you have your eyes on a specific piece of land to buy, it will be advisable to get a property survey done so you can set your container home in the best possible location.

If you are going to buying land and not building right away, your best bet would be to get land financing. If you are going to get started right away, it will probably be best to get a construction loan.

Find a Contractor Who Can Do it All

The worst thing you can do, whether you’re creating a shipping container home or just a regular home, is by having multiple contractors that only do specific things. Ideally, to make your life easier, you’re going to need an all-in-one contractor to oversee your project.

Since this is a fairly new niche, it might take some time for you to source a contractor who is comfortable taking this project on but trust us when we say it's worth the hassle.

Insulation Is Your Friend With Shipping Container Housing

It should be no surprise that the walls of a traditional home are much different from the shipping container walls. Without insulation, it’s going to be freezing in the winter and scorching in the summer.

Make sure you have an insulation plan with your contractor to ensure these things will be well thought out and dealt with appropriately. There are plenty of insulation options that can be discussed with your contractors, such as blanket-style insulation, foam insulation, sheep wool, or a green roof.

Please don’t Overdo it With The Cutting of The Shipment Container

Your shipping container is made of solid steel, which makes it super strong. When you start cutting into it to make way for doors and windows, you are weakening the whole structure, though.

If you need to cut for things like this, remember to add reinforcements to the interior so that it doesn't collapse in on you and your family.

Beware of Chemicals in Shipping Containers

Shipping containers were built to last a lifetime at sea and not for you and your family to live in.

Because of this, shipping containers have been spread with chemicals to help protect them from the elements while at sea, chemicals that will become a problem if you do not remove them.

The flooring might contain pesticides to keep the rats away, and the exterior will have paint that contains chemicals to protect it from salty seawater.

So, be prepared to rip out flooring or remove harmful paint from the walls.

Not All Shipping Containers Are The Same

Traditional shipping containers are only 8 feet tall, which means when you’re adding flooring and lighting to space, it might feel like you’re in a hobbit hole.

If you want something a little taller, you can look out for containers like high cube containers that will provide much more height, so things are a lot more comfortable to live in.

Plan Plumbing and Electrical in Advance

You’re going to need to know where you should be drilling holes for your plumbing and electrical lines. This sometimes can be an oversight to contractors as they are much more concerned with finishing up the interior.

If this is not done first, you might have to rearrange a whole room to get this sorted.

Avoid welding as much as possible

You might still have to weld separate containers together if you’re looking for a bigger area to house a large family, but you should avoid this as much as possible simply because it can be quite expensive to do something like this.

Ideally, you will do your best to design a house that doesn't need much welding, but in cases where you can avoid it, plan your budget around it.

Think About The Natural Elements

Shipping containers are hardly aerodynamic, and if you place your shipping container in a windy area, there will be a LOT of noise that will be super distracting all hours of the day.

The way you can get around this is by placing your shipping container in front of a windbreak, or if you don’t like the idea of an unusual-looking windbreak on your property, you could place it behind a more natural one.

Know Your Budget With Shipping Container Housing

One of the best things about shipping containers is that they are very cheap to purchase compared to a traditional home, but this can all change if you go overboard with the design.

So just like when you’re designing your old traditional home, make sure you’re budgeting everything as best you can, and you are not overspending on things that you do not actually need.

Final Thoughts on Building a Shipping Container Home

Without a doubt, a shipping container home is a cool housing choice. They are a cheaper housing alternative than many other types of homes, so they can work out great if you have a limited budget. By going with this lower-cost housing alternative, who knows, you may be able to pay off your mortgage quicker. Before getting involved with shipping container housing, however, it is essential to do your due diligence.

Hopefully, you have found this guide on shipping container homes to be useful.

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Bill Gassett

One of the top RE/MAX agents in New England over the last decade plus. Providing exceptional real estate services to buyers and sellers in the Metrowest Massachusetts area including the following communities: Ashland, Bellingham, Douglas, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopkinton, Hopedale, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Northborough, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Southborough, Sutton, Wayland, Westborough, Whitinsville, Worcester, Upton and Uxbridge MA.

See my real estate website at Maximum Real Estate Exposure - one of the most visited real estate sites in Massachusetts.

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