Two shipping containers that could be homes

What Is A Shipping Container Home?

A shipping container is a large, intermodal steel box used by freight and shipping companies to store large materials on trains or ships. Shipping containers are sturdy, solid boxes that have typically been used primarily for business purposes. Recently, however, individuals started getting creative with shipping containers and have begun using them for architectural purposes. Most notably, people have started to use shipping containers to build cheap, funky, and sustainable storage container homes.

If you do a search “storage container homes,” and you’ll find amazing pictures of unique, modern homes made out of shipping containers. Despite the fact that shipping containers are all the same size, people have been able to get creative with the steel-paneled Lego look. Some use as many as 10 shipping containers to build large houses, and some use as a few as one or two for more compact living. Shipping containers are also made to stack on top of one another, so it’s easy to create two-story or bi-level homes. They’re sturdy enough to provide needed foundation because of their steel-durability.

There are plenty of ways to customize your shipping container's home design. In order to create homes that are more livable (and better looking) than solid steel box, people often cut sections of the shipping containers and put in windows, doors, and walkways. Some people cut out entire sides of the shipping container in order to combine two or three to create larger rooms.

Shipping container homes offer owners plenty of advantages. Typically, one shipping container costs between $1600 and $6000, depending on how long the shipping container have been used. The older the shipping container is, the rustier it gets, so if you find a bargain, be prepared to do some heavy cleaning.

One financial disadvantage of building a shipping container home is the cost of labor it takes to weld and cut steel. Welding is a specialized field, so if you don’t have welding skills, you may have to pay someone a higher cost for labor than you would for traditional homes. However, because you save on the cost of materials, the total amount you spend will still be significantly less. The more elaborate your shipping container home design is, the more costly the labor will be.

Another disadvantage is that shipping containers aren't great with heat and moisture. If steel is exposed to moisture, rusting can occur, so you have to make sure that your structure is well insulated to avoid rusting. Additionally, if you live in an extremely hot environment, you may find that the steel structure holds in heat a little too well, so insulating is important to make sure you don’t bake in your own home.

If you’re looking for an affordable sustainable living option, you should consider building a shipping container home. Not only are they a cheaper way to build a home, you’ll also be building your home from recycled materials. Plus, shipping containers are trending right now, so all of your friends and families will envy your chic new home.  

Last Updated: December 22, 2014