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Building a Shipping Container Home? Consider this First.

08.11.2015 - Posted by Updated On 08.11.2015    

First off, we're big fans of shipping container homes on every level of the concept. First and foremost, the design is limitless and a lot of what we see is highly creative and environmentally aware. However, a lot of people like the idea of building their own container home but don't think things through before they jump into it. The entire lifecycle containers a lot of components that can shut down any deal (much like log housing or modular housing in the 1990's). We've come up with five key points to consider when building a container home: long term housing desires, planning/design, do it yourself (DIY), permitting, and financing.

Long Term Desires

First off, a container home isn't a traditional type of house. If you're building a container home you're going to be boxed into a modular structure, and depending on your design you'll be locked into 8' wide, 16‘ wide, or some other multiple of 8' wide housing. Unlike a traditional stick built house, the home may not be a standard square. In the end, if you're accustomed to standard housing, building a container home will be a different lifestyle.

Planning and Design

Do you have plans, designs, or ideas for your container home? Unlike modular or manufactured housing, there aren't many “off the shelf” designs, and you'll probably need to either design your own, or at the very least work with a qualified architect to help you create a dream container home within your budget. Along with this, it's best to find a local architect to help you with the design. An architect in Pennsylvania will have different, and possibly non-native ideas for a project in Colorado, especially given the topography and relief of the area. shipping container inside

Permits and Regulations

Once your design is in place, the next step is to approach the local municipality and make sure that the container home design meets with the requirements of area. Some towns have covenants on colors, construction materials, or total size; so it only makes sense that some areas will want to make sure that a container home fits in well with the existing homes. Once the township or council gives you the green light, then your dream can really start to materialize.

DIY – Do It Yourself

Much like log homes in the late 1990's, today many people want to build their own container homes. They come up with idea, pay for the plans, and then try to get things in motion by putting in a rough foundation and purchasing a couple of shipping containers. While the idea makes sense, they end up getting into the project without realizing full costs, and cost over runs, associated with the total construction. What they end up with is a partially completed container home and no way of financing the rest of the project. shipping container cabin


If you've made it this far in your project, there are three possible situations that you're in: 1) You have a fully constructed container home that you've financed out of pocked and you're happy, 2) You have a fully constructed container home that you've financed out of pocked and would like to take a mortgage on, or 3) You have a partially completed container home and you've run out of funds and need a construction loan to complete your container home. The only positive situation is #1, because many banks and lending institutions have yet to become comfortable with container homes. The lack of comfort is due to unfamiliar construction materials and lack of comparable properties. The main point in this section is: Do the math for the total project, add 10-20% for cost over runs, and see if that fits in your budget. If not, approach a local bank before construction starts. Very few banks like to pick up partially completed projects.

This article may seem like we're against shipping container homes, and that's just not the case; in fact we're major proponents of container housing, we just like to see projects that are well thought out and executed – from concept and design, to financing and construction. If you have any questions about shipping container homes, it's best to contact a local architect or engineer; if you have any questions about shipping containers it's best to contact any of the sellers or sta

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