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Shipping Container Homes

August 18, 2022 by Jailin Harris-Putulin
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Shipping container homes are becoming ever more popular. Stephanie and Clark Evans built their shipping container home in the Chicago suburbs over the span of three years. They turned seven, 15-year-old cargo containers into a 3,200-square-foot home. The home design plan initially attracted a lot of negative feedback, but eventually was seen as a masterpiece. “In the beginning, people just didn’t understand it, and no one 100 percent supported it,” Stephanie said. “But as progression goes on, a lot of people who hesitated about it at first started to come on board. People came to see it for what it was, and not just an extravagant trash can.”

5 Benefits of Shipping Container Homes

  1. Cost Effectiveness – Shipping container homes can go for as low as $10,000. They are able to be purchased for so low because they require fewer building materials and less labor is needed to construct. Customization costs can also be lowered by DIYing different parts of your home.
  2. Building Time – Homes can be built by experienced contractors in under a month. In contrast to this positive, hiring a professional to build your home can increase build costs significantly. To avoid these costs, you can purchase a prefabricated container home and modify it to fit your home preferences.
  3. Customizable Home – Shipping container homes are easy to modify. Using a mix of different-sized containers, you can create any layout possible. You can also adjust your home size as time goes on by adding containers to increase living space. This is perfect for growing families!
  4. Sturdy Architecture – Corten steel is often used by manufacturers to support the homes. This steel is self-healing and protects cargo during transport. This material is also more likely to withstand poor weather than the traditional house.
  5. Mobile Abilities – Shipping transportation services such as FreightCenter can ship your containers to your preferred destination. This makes moving a breeze!

5 Difficulties of Shipping Container Homes

  1. Building Permits – With the idea of shipping containers being relatively new, it can be difficult to obtain the necessary building permits. Contact your local city planning office for information on their building codes, zoning restrictions, and permitting requirements for container housing.
  2. Electrical Applications – When dealing with electrical components of a shipping container home, they often are easily visible inside of the house due to the lack of space in between the “walls” (space between the containers). Electricians can often prevent the aesthetic look from being negatively affected by the electrical components by using coverings and tubing throughout the ceiling and walls
  3. Reinforcements Needed for Expansion – The more expansion done to the container homes, the more 4×4 steel beam reinforcements you’ll need. If the lower container has cut-outs for windows or doors and there are plans to place more containers on top of it, then steel beams will also be needed.
  4. Lack of Insulation – Shipping containers do not have insulating properties. When the homes are being built, there is no space for insulation materials. To insulate a shipping container home, you can use spray foam, cork board, and wool or cotton.
  5. Potential Hazards – When shipping containers have been used, they can contain harmful chemicals or other materials. They often are also treated with zinc paint coat to prevent corrosion. Shipping containers spend most of their lifetime (before being used for homes) near the ocean, which is a perfect recipe for corrosion and rust.

Container Home Plans

Expected Shipping Container Home Build Cost

Shipping container homes range in size and cost. The average cost to build is around $10,000 to $35,000. Larger, more complicated designs can reach upwards of $175,000. Desired amenities or materials can also increase costs.

Land Costs

While building costs are relatively low for a shipping container home, you still need to consider where the home will go. Unlike tiny homes, which often remain on a trailer, a shipping container home typically stays in one place. With that being said, you will need to own the land to place the house on.

According to the USDA, the average cost for an acre of farmland in 2020 was $3,160. This average number increases significantly when looking at land in more populated areas.

Keep in mind that not all types of land are convenient. Raw land lacks road, sewer systems, and electrical grid access. It is also crucial that your home is placed in a residential living zone, not commercial structure or farmland zones.

Laying The Foundation

Once you have purchased your land, the foundation can be laid for your shipping container home. A trench foundation is often found to be more affordable, where the concrete is poured into a shallow hole in the ground. A slab foundation is laid when the ground is soft and extra reinforcement is needed.
A pier foundation is another option that can be used. It includes a series of cylindrical columns to support the home placed on it. This causes the house to be elevated a few feet off the ground while preventing it from sinking into the ground. About $5,000 can be expected to be spent on laying the foundation.

Acquiring Containers

The next step is to find your container. You can choose between new and used containers. New being a “one trip” container (the trip to your house) and used being in service for a few months up to a few years. Used containers can be purchased for about $2,000. New containers range up to $8,000.

Tools Needed to Make The Home

Shipping container homes often are placed on their foundation using a crane. Using a crane has many benefits, such as safety, ease, and speed. You can hire a local builder or rent a rough terrain forklift to use if you don’t have access to a crane. You can use a large crowbar after placement for final adjustments.

You will need to remove metal from the containers to place windows, door openings, electrical sockets, etc. There are many options for cutting through steel, including using a plasma cutter, cutting torch, grinder, or even a jigsaw. It is crucial to contact professional help when removing parts of the container because too much removal can affect stability and safety. All gaps made by cutting will need to be sealed to protect the home from potential outside elements.

Final Touches

After the shipping containers have been delivered, modified, and secured into place, there are several steps left before your shipping home is move-in ready. These steps usually include finishing off windows and doors, including framing, flashing, thermal breaks, and glazing. All openings should be framed with steel to ensure durability and not be weaker than any other points in the home.

After the house has been fitted, insulation, heating and cooling, plumbing, and electrical systems should be installed, including all necessary fixtures. Oftentimes, Supertherm ceramic coating is applied to the outside of shipping container homes to help insulate them. Plywood is used to build the flooring, which is then covered with the desired tile or carpet. The walls are finished with drywall as if it were a regular home. Only after all of this is it time to install large fixtures and appliances and start outdoor landscaping.

A Few Companies That Specialize in Container Homes

Shipping Container Homes
Photo Property of Zack Smithey

Current Shipping Container Homes

In 2016 Zack and Brie Smithey constructed their three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bathroom, 3,000-square-foot shipping container home. The Smitheys were attracted to shipping containers because they offered a chance to recycle and to show off the couple’s unique style. But keeping the project on a budget meant doing almost all the work themselves—their work resulted in a gorgeous 8-container home full of quirky, fun, upcycled details.

Considering a Shipping Container Home?

No matter your experience, a shipping container home is a fast to construct, cost-effective, and sturdy yet mobile home that you can customize to your heart’s desire. Before building, it is essential to remember all the difficulties of constructing a shipping container home. There are permits, wiring, plumbing, appliances, and even health hazards, all of which can make the building process more difficult than expected. Whether starting from scratch or enlisting professional help, shipping container homes are eco-friendly options where you can live big in your small home.

 Once you have located and purchased your shipping containers, that’s where FreightCenter comes in. At FreightCenter, we can help you move everything, including your shipping containers and even container homes. Our carriers and freight agents can help you through the shipping process, ensuring a smooth ride for you and your shipment. Use FreightCenter’s free online quote tool to begin or call one of our shipping experts at 800.716.7608.

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