The Ultimate Guide To Shipping Container Homes

Over the last few years, shipping container homes have become a very popular concept. Although there was once a time when shipping containers were nothing more than containers to ship things in, these days they are places that people can actually call home. But as popular as these unique houses are, there are still lots of people who don’t understand the hype. After all, if someone recommended that I live in a shipping container, I would probably be a little skeptical. However, as with anything else, education is key and learning more about shipping container homes may help you come to a better conclusion about whether or not they could be suitable for your needs. With the housing market continuing to struggle, and home ownership hitting record lows, it’s always nice to explore your options. Take a look at some of the pros and cons of shipping container homes.


Cost effective – Who doesn’t love saving money? The good news is that shipping containers tend to be a lot less expensive than traditional homes. For those who stay away from home ownership because of the cost, this is a huge plus. According to Jetson Green, “Shipping containers are already the perfect shape to be repurposed into homes, so a home built out of them is much cheaper than a same sized home built the traditional way. Shipping containers can also be obtained very cheaply, sometimes even for free. Almost all the structural work associated with building a home falls away when using shipping containers, and even people with no architectural training can build a home for themselves using them.”

Quick construction – If you’re pressed for time, shipping container homes will definitely appeal to you. Because the containers already come as a unit, constructing them into a house can be done relatively quickly. If you’re up for the challenge, you may even find that you’re able to build a shipping container home by yourself. Those who love hands on work will definitely find this to be appealing.

Eco-friendly – This is definitely the thing that draws most people to shipping container homes. Reusing old shipping containers helps cut down on the amount of energy that would need to be used in order to melt them down. There are millions of shipping containers that have been discarded, with not even half of them currently in use. This means that there are countless shipping containers out there just waiting to be turned into beautiful homes. However, keep in mind that there are some people who advise against using old shipping containers.


Not good for extreme temperatures – If you live in a place with extremely hot or cold weather, you might want to cross shipping container homes off your list. Controlling the temperature inside of shipping container homes can be pretty difficult because the metal walls make the structure susceptible to drastic changes in temperature.

Finding a suitable builder can be difficult – Sure, you could build a shipping container home on your own if you’re so inclined, but for most people, that’s out of the question. Unfortunately, however, finding a builder who is skilled and educated on shipping container homes can be a bit of a challenge since the idea of these homes is still relatively new. That doesn’t mean that all hope is lost though, just make sure your open and up front about what you’re looking for when you do find someone to work with.

Building codes – No matter what type of home you’re looking to build, building codes and local requirements can always be a pain. However, this can be even more true for shipping container homes. According to container home plans, “It’s important you’re aware that a building permit is required because a permit can take time to be approved so you need to make sure this time is properly budgeted for in your construction plans…Some areas in the US are known as ‘outside of city zoning’; this means your land lies outside of the building permit regulations so you can build there without a permit.”

Finding suitable materials – As mentioned earlier, there are lots of unused shipping containers out there. However, that doesn’t mean that they’re all safe to use. Some shipping containers may contain lead or other harmful chemicals. This is something you’ll definitely want to keep in mind as you begin the hunt for the perfect shipping container.

 25 Two-story Shipping Container Homes

Another one of the best things about shipping container homes is that they can be very versatile. Some people may think that living in a shipping container means that you have to settle for a specific type of house, but that simply isn’t the case. Shipping containers can be made into a variety of designs, including spacious two-story set ups. Stacking multiple shipping containers on top of each other is a great way to achieve a nice two-floor design, but you may want to consider some of the following before going to work.

  • Quality – Of course, if you plan on stacking shipping containers on top of each other, you’ll definitely want to make sure that you’re working with high quality containers. According to Super Cubes, “When you are stacking containers, you want to make sure the bottom container(s) are structurally sound enough to handle stacking.”
  • Proper alignment – This one may seem like a no brainer, but stacking the containers correctly is essential. Nobody wants to be in a structure that isn’t sound, and improperly stacking your containers could have some very unpleasant results. One source says, “The corner-posts and flooring of the container are designed to bear the weight of the container and the container(s) above it.  So you want to do the same with your stacking.  If you are stacking 2×20’ containers and 1×40’ container, be sure that the 20’s are on the bottom so all four corner-posts of the 40’ container have corner-posts to set on.”
  • Lock the containers in place – Since shipping containers are meant to be stacked, they will usually fit together pretty tightly. However, if you’re looking for some added security, you can get twist locks to lock the stacked containers into place.
Desert Hot Springs modern-shed

Apartment Style Shipping Container Homes

When most people think of shipping container homes, single family houses are the first thing that come to mind. However, over the last several years, apartment buildings made of shipping containers have been popping up in cities all over the world. Some schools have even started using shipping container apartments for student housing due to their low-cost and quick construction time. If you’re unsure about whether or not a shipping container home is for you, starting with an apartment can be a great way to get an idea of how the space might look and feel without having to make the commitment of ownership. Plus, their ability to be stacked makes it easy for these structures to contain lots of units.

However, while there are lots of great things about shipping container apartments, Kelly Davies who worked on the first ever shipping container apartment building in Washington D.C. says she wish she and her firm would have done a few things differently when constructing the building. According to Davies, “the ONE thing that would have made a big difference would have been to have all of the plumbing chases cut out of the container floors and ceilings to easily run pipe once they were stacked.” Davies also added, “the containers sit very tight next to each other and in the design phase we added an additional inch to the width of the foundation just in case they didn’t butt up tight, and in hindsight we should have designed it an inch less for a better drip edge connection.”

Shipping Container Homes With Pools

Living in a shipping container home doesn’t mean that you have to give up on luxuries and amenities. While it may seem like these types of homes have drawbacks, you can actually do a lot more with them than you think. If your shipping container home has some extra yard space, you can even have your very own swimming pool. In fact, shipping containers can even be turned into swimming pools which is also a great way to save time and money. As with any other home, there are a few things you may want to consider before adding a swimming pool.


Recreation – Having a swimming pool in your yard can be a great source of recreation. Who doesn’t love hanging out by the pool on a hot summer day? Whether you’ve got children or are just enjoying living alone or with a partner, having a pool is usually a very welcome addition to any home. Pools can also be a great way to turn your home into an entertainment space for hosting pool parties and other events.

Exercise – Pools are perfect for people who are looking to do low impact exercises. If running and other forms of exercise are too hard on your bones and joints, you’ll find that swimming provides some relief while also giving you a great workout.

Home improvement value – Having a pool in your yard can be a great way to help raise the value of your home. According to one source, “The National Association of Realtors recently came out with an article discussing the fact that in ground fiberglass and concrete pools increase the value of homes on average 5%.” However, it is important to keep in mind that you can’t just add what you paid for the pool to your asking price in the event that you’d like to sell your home.


Safety – As great as pools can be, they can also pose a serious danger to small children. Although there are several things you can do to help make sure that your pool is secure, there is always the risk that an unattended child may get a little too close to the water.

Maintenance – It goes without saying that having a pool brings on a little added responsibility. Maintaining a pool is not an easy task, and it’s something that many people find overwhelming once they’ve had to deal with it. If you know you’re not the type of person who wants to put in the time, effort, and money that goes into having a pool, this is one luxury you might want to pass on.

Cost – Having a swimming pool is a serious investment. Although the cost of a pool is much lower than it was in the past, it’s still not what most people would consider cheap. With that in mind, it’s important that you weigh all of the factors when deciding whether or not a pool is the right choice for you and your home.

Elevated Shipping Container Homes

I don’t know about you, but the first time I saw a shipping container home, I wondered if there was any sort of foundation. In many cases, these homes appear to be sitting directly on the ground. For some people, this can pose a serious issue due to either personal preference or the geography of the location where they are trying to build. However, the good news is that those who prefer to elevate their house can still have that option with shipping container homes. These houses can be built on traditional stilts or simply elevated a foot or two off the ground. While some may think this choice is purely stylistic, there are some legitimate reasons why someone may want to elevate their home. If you’re wondering what some of the benefits are, you may want to take a look at the following reasons.

Protection from natural disasters – If you live in a place that is prone to tropical storms and/or flooding, you probably already know that having an elevated home can provide a bit of added safety. According to a developer from New Jersey, “If the main area of your home is elevated, flood waters don’t reach your main living quarters and therefore the damage that may be done to your home is a lot less drastic. An elevated home is also better protect from the wind, mud and sand damage that can come with being a victim of a storm or other natural disaster. Consider elevating your home even if you don’t live by the water, as you may be better protected from winds and dust.”

Added functionality – In many cases, elevating your home can add some functionality to your yard space. Having an elevated home allows you to have more space to actually use your yard, and also provides some added storage space underneath the home depending on how high you choose to raise the structure.

Enhanced views – If you plan on building your shipping container home in an area with beautiful natural surroundings, you’ll probably want to make sure that the views are easily accessible. Elevating your shipping container home can allow you to have a better viewing angle of the things that may surround your home.

Building on uneven ground – If you plan on building your shipping container home on uneven ground, elevating the structure may be a must.

Best Shipping Container Books

If you are looking for a more expansive guide, and perhaps one that you can hold in your hands as you start to plan your own shipping container home, check out these suggestions…

Shipping Container Homes: An Ultimate Step-By-Step Beginner’s Guide to Living in a Shipping Container Home Including Ideas and Examples of Designs

Shipping Container Homes: The Ultimate Guide To Building Shipping Container Homes For Sustainable Living, Including Plans, Tips, Cool Ideas, And More!


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