Designing and building a home from shipping containers is on trend at the moment. The main reasons being that a shipping container home is cheaper and quicker to assemble than a traditional build and upcycling containers for reuse are environmentally friendly.
But there are always pros and cons with any chosen building material.
Pros of a shipping container build
Reuse of existing materials
With around 11 million shipping containers in the world currently being unused, there is no shortage of potential building material for homes. Second-hand containers are cheaper than traditional builds constructed of wood and bricks, and using existing shipping containers means saving money as other building materials aren’t needed.
Build off site
If you have a plot of land that’s difficult to build on or remote, then using shipping containers can be a significant advantage. Shipping container homes can be constructed off site and then delivered, rather than trying to hook up electricity to equipment or having contractors working in awkward conditions. It’s also a practical solution for dealing with less than ideal weather, as constructing in a local workshop means you don’t have to get the building water tight immediately.
Fast to build and strong
The standard dimensions of shipping containers lend themselves to being stacked vertically or horizontally with ease. This means that shipping container homes can be built incredibly quickly. But still allowing room for creativity and flexibility in the design. Shipping containers are also extremely strong since they are designed to withstand all kinds of climatic conditions on their long ocean voyages. This makes them a durable building material, and this does away with the need for costly foundational support.
Cons of a shipping container build
Paint stripping necessary
To withstand ocean spray, shipping containers have a paint coating that contains lead, phosphorous and other potentially harmful chemicals that need to be stripped before repainting. This can be an added expense if you’re already on a tight budget. The wooden floors in shipping containers also can’t be used as they are treated with insecticides that contain arsenic and chromium to prevent insects being transported to Australia. Beware of containers that are dented as well, they can compromise the structural integrity of the building.
Cost of modifications
Although shipping containers can be stacked like Lego, to create a decent-sized house you need multiple containers, which require a lot of structural reinforcement and changes to make it habitable. All of which can get expensive. A heating and cooling system and proper insulation are essential as shipping containers get very hot in summer and freezing in winter.
Building permit and contractor issues
If you live in a residential zone that’s unused to shipping container homes then trying to get a building permit to meet all the local building codes can be difficult. Finding an experienced builder who knows how to construct a shipping container home is also not easy. But not having one can mean running into problems during the build, and could end up costing you more in the long term.