Most people dream of living in their own home eventually but sadly, it’s a dream most people are never able to fulfill. Other people just build a shipping container home! Every year, the cost of living increases while the income of millions remains stuck at the same levels. It’s no surprise that people started looking at alternative housing options, as far back as the early 70s when the Tiny House Movement was born.
The Shipping Container Home
Shipping containers were used as buildings as far back as 1962. The first officially approved shipping container home, the Redondo Beach House, designed by architect Peter DeMaria of California in 2006 was completed in 2007. From there, the use of shipping containers to build homes, business hubs, schools, and apartment housing spread across the world.
While building your own container home will require a fair amount of research, DIY skills, and a piece of land for your build, the overall cost of building your own home using shipping containers will be a fraction of any ready-built home. There’s also the added bonus of creating your own masterpiece to suit your needs and your budget. Additional shipping containers would be the perfect choice for add-ons should the need arise for more space at a later stage.
Building Their Own Shipping Container Home
Dave and Jaimie, a couple from Cowlitz County, Washington D.C. They decided to save themselves from paying mortgages and debts for what could be a lifetime, Instead, they designed their own shipping container home, using two shipping containers.
According to Jamie, their idea was based on Lego building blocks which actually makes perfect sense. The famous bricks are actually perfect for creating a model of the design and making adjustments until it’s perfect!
First They Bought the Land
The couple bought a piece of land and spent about $80k and 10 months on transforming the two containers into their home. Part of their deal was that the whole build would be a DIY, from start to finish. This included the structure with insulation, windows, plumbing, electrical wiring, and welding, and ensuring a huge saving on contractor costs.
The pair worked their jobs Mondays to Thursdays and built their home Fridays to Sundays. Not too shabby, three days a week over 10 months for a two-story home with a bedroom, bathroom, lounge and kitchen, pantry as well as a garden.
Not As Easy As It Looks
It wasn’t all plain sailing for the couple either. Halfway through the project, Dave had a medical emergency from a spontaneous intracranial hemorrhage which left him unable to do some of the work for a bit.
Meanwhile, Jaimie carried on with the jobs she could do herself and Dave started helping where he could. In fact, using tools and walking up and down the stairs became his physiotherapy and helped speed up his recovery, and not too long after they completed their home together.
Through their DIY building journey, they learned a lot, said Jaimie:
“I think what this has taught us about ourselves is that we can do things that are really, really hard that if we do them together, we can definitely accomplish it.”
Things to Consider Before Building a Shipping Container Home
Before buying the perfect piece of land you’ve found, you need to make sure you do a few things first!
Know The Building Code Restrictions
It is vital to check and understand the building codes of the municipal and state where you hope to build your container home. There can be a multitude of ordinances that could put a spanner in the works before you even start.
From home projects, design choices, property zoning, deed restrictions, and governing bodies in the area, you want to buy land. Bear in mind that regulations could be imposed at federal, state, county, or municipal levels. Make sure you cover all your bases in this regard.
Off the Grid or On
If you are within the municipal grid for water and electricity, make sure you add the costs for connection to your budget.
For off-grid living, you’ll likely need to access a water source on your property. Such water will have to be tested to ensure it is safe to use and that the source has enough to sustain you for the future.
Should the source be on another property, state, or federal grounds, there may be more red tape to gain reasonable access to it. Rainwater catchment tanks could be an option but be sure to check what, if any, rules or regulations apply.
Choosing Shipping Containers
The closer a port, where you can source containers, to the property you wish to build on, the less expensive the cost of transporting it will be. Inspecting the containers yourself before making a choice is the wise thing to do to avoid disappointment.
Older shipping containers are usually easy to come by and not expensive. They’ve probably been through many long journeys and are likely to have dents, rust, and structural problems.
Traditional shipping containers are eight feet high, and either 20 or 40ft in length. High cube containers have an extra foot in height which is particularly useful when adding insulation.
3 Things Most People Don’t Know About Shipping Containers
- The walls and roof of the container must be insulated, quite heavily in areas of extreme temperatures.
- Shipping containers often contain a lot of chemicals to protect them during their journeys. These could include heavy pesticides.
- 3. To know exactly what chemicals were used on your container, contact the manufacturer directly with the container number.
Foam insulation on the walls and ceiling will take care of the paint chemicals. The best option for the floor is probably to remove and replace the wood. New, chemical-free shipping containers are available, but of course, they come at a higher price
Shipping containers are built with solid steel and therefore very strong. However, each time you cut the walls to add a window or door the structural integrity of the steel weakens. It will eventually need steel beam reinforcement, adding to the final cost of the project.
- “12 Tips You Need to Know Before Building a Shipping Container Home.” Build With Rise. Tobias Roberts. January 18, 2018