How to Build a Shipping Container Home Step-By-Step (For Beginners)

So you want to learn how to build a home using shipping containers, right?

Believe it or not..

It’s a very hot trend right now.

The average cost of building a new home is becoming more and more expensive.

Many potential home builders are looking for alternative materials for building a home to benefit from reduced construction costs.

That’s Why Building a Tiny Home Using Shipping Containers is Such an Advantage.

The use of these prefabricated boxes offers an excellent solution for a dream home creation. Just like me and many others, if you have decided to build a house from shipping containers, understand you can benefit in different ways including:

  • They offer speedy construction: While you can choose the DIY container home option, it is recommended that you seek consultation from an engineer or design firm…
  • They are eco-friendly: To build a container home you primarily rely on the existing building material…
  • They are cost-effective: To build a container home is relatively cheaper compared with the process involved in conventional building…
  • Offer creative freedom: Sea containers are available in different sizes for creating a large or small home and you may not have to adhere to the rules and regulations of conventional architecture and construction…
  • They are sturdy and durable: Containers are manufactured to be tough and durable for withstanding adverse ocean shipping elements such as moisture…
  • Allowing mobility: Once constructed, container home can be shifted to the required location as often as you like; unlike conventional homes…

The Process to Build a House from Shipping Containers

For you to build a container home, apart from purchasing the building material, you will need to consider other different tasks such as insulation, plumbing, and foundation.

While this step by step guide on how to construct a DIY container home tries its best to furnish you with the necessary information, you also need to seek the involvement of a professional.

1. Determine Your Budget: Cheap or Luxury?

Once you have decided to have your DIY sea container home, you must sit down and come up with a realistic budget suitable for the construction work. Like I had said before, you will see that the traditional home construction is relatively more expensive.

In setting a budget for you to build a house from sea containers, different factors may affect the total cost like the design, location, and the size of the living space. Also, do not forget to research the expenses exhaustively of:

• The containers and other building materials
• Compliance permits and fees
• Hiring architects and contractors

Equally vital when determining your construction budget is that you have a contingency fund. It should be about 20% of the overall budget of your project. We all know that unexpected expenses can occur even if the building plan is solid, needing the use of the contingency money.

And in the event the contingency funds are not used or exhausted, they can be directed to landscaping, buying high-quality appliances, or undertaking excellent furnishings.

2. Check Your Zoning Issues and Building Permits

Checking your local area zoning issues and acquiring building permits is a time-consuming process especially if your container home design and drawings are intricate. Understand that municipality zoning and building permit issues are beneficial for guaranteeing energy conservation, structural safety, and integrity, etc.

It is possible to avoid all of this process involved in checking building regulations and getting relevant planning permission and building permits. And I’m afraid it is not about avoiding the process. You can use the service of an architect or a structural engineer.

An architect has the prerequisite training and experience on how to build a home out of shipping containers. Thus, he or she understands the process of sorting out the issues of planning permits and building compliance. Also, a professional delivers a structurally-sound building.

When in a local area with a good number of people already with a DIY container home, there is a high chance you may find it much easier getting permits.

Sea Container Into Tiny Home
Sea Container Into Tiny Home

3. Purchase Your Shipping Container

Once your local council approves the plans and designs, go ahead with your project. To build a house from shipping containers, you need to acquire the main building material. For purchasing the container or containers, there are quite a few things you need to understand.

Sizes of Containers

The shipping containers are available in standard sizes and the common sizes for home are 20 FT and 40 FT long with an 8 FT standard width. Other sizes you can choose from including the 8’, 10’, 20’, and up to even 53 lengths.

The compact sizes of the containers make it easier and simple for them to be interlocked. As for the size and amount of shipping containers you need, it will depend on your budget and scale of plans.

Second-hand or New Container?

You may also be torn between choosing a second-hand or new container for building a container home. For you to save some reasonable level of money, make sure the container manufacturer allows the implementation of the modifications you need.

For quality, it must:

  • Be wind and waterproof
  • Have quality hinges, doors, and roof
  • Be rust-free

Another point worth noting here is that procuring a container must be done as soon as possible particularly if the delivery may take longer. As well, before buying your container inspection is necessary for determining its quality and look for things like unpleasant smells and rust.

4. Builders and Contractors Hiring

Choosing a DIY container home option is advantageous because it is a rewarding experience and cost-saving. However, to realize the benefits, you have to have enough time, practical experience, and even a license for building.

Most people who want to build a house from shipping containers tend to prefer the hiring of contractors, electricians, builders, painters, etc. Only choose tradespeople by asking for references from your family, friends, and colleagues. As well, consider their reputation and various quotes for achieving the best deal possible.

5. Preparation Of The Site

From my experience, this step is often overlooked by most people as it does not feel useful and appears like a task that can be done when there is a need. We strongly recommend you avoid falling into this common trap.

The site for you to build a container home needs thorough preparation to make it suitable for home construction. Preparation of the site may involve debris clearance, earthworks, and setting up different amenities like gas lines, septic system electricity, and stormwater drains.

Apart from making the site suitable for appropriate construction, also see to it that it is accessible for delivery of supplies and containers. For permitting easy access to your site, there is a need for dealing with issues like loose soil, steep inclines, and low-hanging tree branches.

6. Sold Foundation Development

To build a house from shipping containers that are structurally sound, there is a need for using a robust foundation. Any structure without reliance on a solid foundation is guaranteed to collapse.

A qualified builder or engineer is in a better position to consider various factors such as container weight and number, soil type, and water level to provide a sturdy foundation.

A popular foundation option is the use of a concrete slab because it is not only relatively affordable but also efficient. A cemented foundation is also moisture accumulation resistant.

You have to undertake attachments of the containers and then apply steel reinforcements for their welding. If the budget allows, having a basement for extra storage is a welcome addition.

For other foundation options, there is also a concrete strips foundation.

Shipping Containers
DIY Shipping Container Home

7. Prepare The Storage Containers

This is another crucial step to build a container home. Shipping containers may come with different structures and modifications for delivering a wholesome strong structure. When front doors, corrugation panels, and other existing structures of a container are left as they are then the build will be more reliable. It can carry more loads than a typical home construction.

On the other hand, if you make modifications like holes cutting or paneling removal there is a chance that the DIY container home structure may be compromised. We recommend that before you make any structural modifications on the container, consult with an architect or structural engineer.

8. Attach Your Containers

You attach the containers not only to the foundation but also to each other. The use of a large crane may come in handy for transporting the containers to the actual site and accordingly positioning them on the created solid foundation.

9. Ventilation, Doors, Roof, Floor, And Windows Installation

Any installation undertaken must serve to safeguard the structural integrity of the containers’ Consequently, here are a few vital points to note.

  • When shipping containers are joined together it may lead to their roofs losing structural integrity. Hence, for enhanced structural integrity and proper drainage, the conventional roofing may be the best option.
  • The main disadvantage when you build a house from sea containers is that they may be susceptible to leaking moisture and becoming hot or cold. For appropriate temperature regulation, employ the use of a layer of closed-cell foam both on the walls inside and outside.
  • Seal any gaps to safeguard your investment from the elements.
  • While plywood flooring is synonymous with most shipping containers, you can still use another flooring option. One reason is that plywood can be harmful to your health as it is usually treated with resilient pesticides.

10. Fixtures and Fittings

For your DIY container home to be functional for your use, you must also undertake electrical wiring, fittings, and any other plumbing needs in different rooms including the kitchen and bathroom. For example, when in a desert environment solar panels can serve as an excellent source of electricity.

11. Proper Finish Application

As you build a container home, making modifications may be necessary but it may also lead to the stripping away of the anti-corrosive paint. The result is your home is left susceptible to the elements which create structural and aesthetic issues.

With proper finish touches, any bare material will be protected against rust and corrosion.

12. Inspection

As one of the last stages, hopefully, by now you have done everything possible to make your DIY container home ready as a proper living space. Thus, you need to contact inspectors to examine your building to establish whether it complies with the local building standards and regulations.

A building inspection may give you a nice opportunity to make any substantial changes to your DIY container home.

13. Landscaping

Landscaping the area you have used to build a house from shipping containers should be done for allowing a warm embrace between the surrounding natural environment and building. The natural surroundings may be a desert, forest, etc. Also, you may find landscape design useful in erosion and flooding prevention, reducing air pollutants and environmental impacts, etc.

Do you know how to do landscaping? No? If not, conversant with landscaping, there are many landscaping companies for choosing as per your preference. The important considerations in choosing a landscaping service may involve equipment, experience, landscaping budget, and many more.

14. Move-In

Once you have successfully built your container home, you can now proceed to use it and enjoy your investment to the fullest.

Read more: Build a shipping container home complete guide.

Your Next Step If You Really Want to Do This…

Now that you’ve seen the general to build DIY container homes, remember that this option of developing a comfortable home is not a new idea.

The use of discarded or new containers to build a container home is being adopted globally quickly. For that reason, you are among many people looking for an appropriate step by step guide of building a container home.

You’ll will benefit having an online expert guide you.

I mean just imagine if you buy the wrong container size, or don’t do the foundation correctly.

This will set you back a lot.

You’ll also have a big mess on your hands.

Doesn’t it make sense to avoid all those pitfalls…

And just get this done right from the start?

If yes, we recommend you invest in the Build a Container Home Program.

Build Container Home Book

You could try and do the DIY project alone, but why?

Why go through all that stress figuring it out yourself?

Read our review here, you’ll see why it’s important.

Posted by Matthew

My name is Matthew, and I am a metal detecting nerd. I've been hunting for metal for more than 10 years and now I want to share my experience as well as opinion about devices available on the market today. Happy treasure hunting!