Container homes have become quite popular over the last several years. So much so that today, one can be purchased from your choice of large online retailers. Many even include free shipping.
Maybe you have seen them featured on some of the DYI and homebuilding programs on television, or YouTube. They seem to be a fun and exciting way to create a very personalized living space.
But why would you want to own one? What makes them a suitable choice?
Do they really cost less to build? What are some of the things you should consider?
In this post, you will find information to help you make an informed decision on those questions. When you are done, you should have a much better idea about why a container home might be the right fit for you.
Buying any house is a significant life and financial decision. For most of us, it is the biggest purchase we will make in our lives, and it may be your most significant financial asset. Therefore, something as unique as a container home, and its potential advantages deserves a closer look and better understanding.
As with any home, your container home must fit your lifestyle and personal needs. How much space do you need? The number of bedrooms and bathrooms you are looking for, and will a container home be able to provide you with the kind of living spaces you want in your home.
Once you determine what that might look like you can begin your search. Whether you purchase from a container home builder, by an existing container house or build one for yourself, here are five of the many reasons you may want to make that choice.
Shipping Containers Are Environmentally Friendly and Sustainable
There are many aspects of container homes that make them exceptionally sustainable and eco-friendly. In today’s world, this can be an essential consideration when you are looking at a new home. The positive impact on the environment of a shipping container house begins when you decide to build one.
You haven’t even seen your container, and already you are working to help the environment, the container itself is made from 85% recycled steel.
Some estimates put the number of excess and unused shipping containers worldwide at something over 300 million. There are millions in the United States alone.
So, not only is your container a recycled product, but you are upcycling that product once more to make it your home.
Many containers are only used one time to ship goods from Asia to the United States. These single-use containers can be purchased for just over $1500 to just over $3000 depending on size and style. Whether you decide to buy a used one or go for brand-new, the initial purchase of your container should not be much more than that.
But the environmental benefits don’t stop there!
Choosing a container for your home means that the structure and the exterior are already in place. No need to cut down trees simply to build a frame or put siding on your home.
All shipping containers area about 8 feet wide. The standard length is either 20 feet or 40 feet. Standard shipping containers have a maximum height of 8’6”. Containers which are designated as “high cube” are up to 9’6” in height. A simple calculation shows you that a 20-foot container has about 160 ft.². A tiny, tiny house. The 40-foot containers will have about 320 ft.² for a larger tiny home.
Although you can build a mansion with containers, they make a perfect choice when your wish is for a tiny home.
But you don’t have to build a tiny home.
Container homes come in all sizes and shapes. You might decide on a multilevel home which can be created by stacking containers. You may choose to combine different sizes. Often, containers are cantilevered for more exciting design and the protection of an overhang.
No matter what size you build your container house, you can rest assured that you are living in an environmentally friendly and sustainable structure. By adding such things as solar panels, rainwater capture systems, or any other self-sustaining amenities, you can significantly increase your eco-friendly characteristics. All in all, a container home can be a great way to decrease your carbon footprint substantially.
Make It Yours
What could be better than an environmentally sustainable home with a small carbon footprint?
Designing that home with a dramatic flair to create your own unique design, and to reflect your personality and style.
Container homes offer a unique opportunity for creativity in design. From a single unit to a combination of several containers of different sizes, the possibilities are endless. These structures lend themselves to the midcentury modern style quite readily. Although you can do anything you want, that architectural style likes the straight lines and geometric shapes.
For some inspiration in out of the box thinking and some of the possibilities; take a moment to look at the homes in this gallery. Notice that these homes range from a single container to one constructed with over 30 shipping container. From the beach to the desert, from Australia to Scotland, Costa Rica and beyond. Imagine the possibilities.
There are a couple other opportunities for a unique use of your container house that are worth making a note of.
Depending on your environment and desired use, you may want to use your container to build an underground house. Something you may have never considered. In hot, arid climates this can offer a welcome relief from the unrelenting sun and will make your home even more eco-friendly.
A simple container house can make a fantastic vacation rental. You can get them placed almost anywhere and build times can be significantly reduced. This could be an excellent opportunity to not only create an affordable getaway but to also have it pay for itself.
But wait, there’s more.
In the case of a single unit vacation home or if you build a single unit home, you can easily relocate to almost anywhere you wish. Remember, shipping containers are precisely that shipping containers. Even if you convert one into a home, it is still a container and can be transported by railroad, truck, or by ship if you wanted to go overseas.
The basic structure of your home was built to do these things. There is no reason that you can’t take advantage of that feature once you have transformed the container to become your home.
While there are several reasons that a shipping container house might be cheaper than a standard home to construct; site preparation, building codes, material and labor costs, can vary substantially in different geographical areas.
Another factor is your choice in materials and finishes. The type and number of high-end finishes and fixtures which you use will obviously drive your costs up. But typically, you should expect to come out at least a few percentage points ahead of a stick built structure. Some estimates put the savings as high as 40%.
Building a home from shipping containers requires several different construction methods and techniques than your standard home. For one, you will likely need to do a fair amount of welding. You will be cutting and fabricating metal. If this is not something that is within your capabilities, finding the right contractor is critical. Depending on their rate and your design, welding can be a significant cost in your project.
The insurance replacement costs of an average single-family home in the Seattle area will run from just under $200 per square foot at the very low end to something over $300 at the higher end. You can use those rates for your area to help you estimate what your savings might be. Most people will end up either spending significantly less or about the same as a standard construction home.
You will also want to account for any added expense resulting from your sustainability efforts. Some things, such as solar panels will increase your initial costs. If you go all out in your sustainability efforts, this could also be a significant source of expense. But, there is value in this beyond the dollars and, in the long run, most of these efforts should save you money.
Another consideration of the cost of your container house is its resale value. Since this is a relatively new market, there are not a lot of data for a robust evaluation of resale values. The best thing you can do is to make sure your home is well constructed with quality materials and finishes. As with any home, correctly maintaining your container house will also protect your investment.
The effort you make at sustainability can be a significant factor in resale.
And, as in all things real estate, location is king.
If you are like most of us, once you make the decision to build your container house, you can’t wait to move into it. This is another place where your container home will shine.
Most container homes can be built in a couple of months. Of course, this will depend on zoning requirements that you must meet and the scope of your project. But, in most cases, you can expect to save somewhere around 20% of the time it would take to build a comparable standard home.
Not only is this a good thing because of your excitement and anticipation of your new home, but it can also be a tremendous cost saving.
Time is money. The longer you take with your construction loan, the more interest you will pay. Building a container house will drastically reduce the required time in most cases. When you take into consideration the equal size and scope of a stick built home and a container home, even a 4000 ft.² version should take less time to create than a traditional structure.
Another option is to purchase your home from a company that constructs their container homes in a factory setting. Doing so means that your on-site construction activities will be limited to preparing your site and placing your pre-built home.
Another benefit of going this route is that all the specialized knowledge and techniques which are peculiar to container homes will be familiar to the workers building your home. You don’t need to shop for that particular contractor or worry about what might be happening at your job site.
Better than that, you won’t be spending your precious extra time running back-and-forth trying to solve problems and keep things on track.
Containers Are Safe and Strong
Shipping containers are among the most robust structures built. To begin with, they are made from steel, which is among the strongest and most durable man-made materials. These containers are constructed to hold 26 tons or more of goods for shipping. Once they are loaded with product, they can be stacked on top of each other and shipped across oceans or cross country by train or with an 18 wheeler.
This makes them an excellent structure for areas prone to natural disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes. If you saw the devastating pictures from hurricane Katrina, you probably saw all the crushed and destroyed wooden structures. You may not have noticed the shipping containers which were strewn about on top of those demolished buildings.
In case of an earthquake, a shipping container can be one of the safest places to be. Such as when anchored to concrete piers on pilings. These types of extreme measures may not be required in your particular environment, a more standard foundation with a well-anchored home could be sufficient. A properly built and secured container house is every bit as safe as any home built in the usual fashion.
Containers are designed to be watertight. The modifications you will most likely make in creating your home will compromise that feature. Proper building techniques and appropriate materials can prevent that from being an issue.
In the case of a remote property, you may want the waterproofing and security provided by the original structure of your container. Still, you don’t want to live in a box with no windows.
There are containers available with multiple doors. Some have a wide opening with double doors on one or both sides, as well those at the rear. You can leave those doors on. This way you can frame in your doorways and windows so that your container’s original doors can still be closed and secured much like you would with shutters. Doing this will provide you with the highest level of protection and security for your home.
One couple in Australia lost their home to a flood and were nearly ruined financially. They were able to build a 6000 ft.² home with shipping containers on peers as described above. Even though they were in a floodplain, their plan was approved because this construction was flood proof. You can read more about that here.
Earthquakes can have a devastating effect on most stick built homes. The materials and construction techniques can make them vulnerable. It can take extreme and expensive measures to secure a home of standard construction from earthquake damage.
The steel used to fabricate your container and the techniques used to make it serviceable for shipping, provide you with one of the safest structures in case of an earthquake.
Because of their strength and mobility, shipping containers have been used to provide temporary emergency housing in disaster areas and for the homeless. They have been set up as mobile water treatment plants and used for secure storage in unprotected areas.
A properly constructed shipping container house is at least as safe and secure as any conventional home.
These are just a handful of the reasons you might want to build a container home.
Choosing a home is a very personal and vital choice with lasting impact on our lives. A container home won’t be for everyone. But not everyone wants an English Tudor either.
Hopefully, you have gained a better understanding of what it might be like to build and live in your own container home. There are container homes being built all around the world in all kinds of environments.
Learn about the different types of containers and what might work best for you. Decide whether you want to use a recycled container or would it work best to purchase new. If being eco-friendly is your top concern you will probably want to research used units. There is more to understand with them than with an unused container.
If you do decide that a container house is for you, take the time to do more research. You have just scratched the surface here.
Whatever you decide is best for you and yours, in the end, there’s no place like home.
Disclaimer: All figures regarding cost and time are broad estimates and will be determined by the exact requirements and scope of your build.