Shipping containers revolutionized the transportation of goods around the world, making commercial transport more efficient and cost-effective. Now shipping containers are being converted into homes, which has launched a smaller revolution in housing.
Efficiency in building
The uniform size and design of shipping containers make putting them together like Legos relatively simple. An estimated 14 million shipping containers are sitting in shipyards and junkyards around the world. Recycling them into container homes is an innovative and sustainable reuse of them.
Containers were built for efficient transportation, so delivery to your home site is simple. Your foundation can already be laid and waiting for delivery.
House design plans are available online for $50 and up. If you have decent do-it-yourself skills, you may be able to do most of the fitting yourself. You can also order prefabricated modular homes made from shipping containers.
Advantages of shipping container homes
- In many ways, assembling a container home is a simpler building project than a traditional site-built house. A shipping container home won’t need framing and siding like a traditional house; the structure itself is done. The container home will need to be set on a foundation, then finished out with paint, windows, doors, a modified roof, insulation, plumbing, electrical and HVAC. The relative simplicity of a container home can make it cost less than a traditional site-built home. The price will depend on the number of containers used, how the containers are configured, the total square footage of the home and how the home is finished out. On average, container homes are five-to-ten percent less expensive than a site-built home. If the container home is smaller than a traditional home, the cost of living there may also be less, contributing to sustainability.
- Containers are made of steel, and their walls are quite strong. Their roofs, however, are relatively weak. This means building a container home requires adding a pitched roof overhead, particularly in areas receiving heavy snow.
- Repurposing these containers is environmentally friendly since it keeps them from rusting away in a waste dump. Experts disagree on whether a container home is the best use of a discarded shipping container, however, since they can also be recycled into building materials for numerous homes rather than used for a single dwelling.
Disadvantages of shipping container living
- The size of container homes may not appeal to some potential owners. Ceilings are eight feet, six inches high, and adding insulation and ductwork can lower them, which can make container homes feel claustrophobic. Rooms are small — seven to eight feet of width is typical. Furniture is difficult to position.
- To avoid a dark and cave-like feeling, you must cut plenty of windows and doors into the container’s sides. Each opening diminishes wall strength and will require reinforcement.
- Shipping containers are made of metal, which conducts heat and cold. That makes Insulation vital to keep container home temperatures livable. Thick insulation on the interior walls will cut into the already limited space, so a relatively thin layer of spray foam insulation is the best solution.
- You may not know what was shipped in the container. If it carried consumer goods, no worries. But what if it was used to ship toxic chemicals? It’s a good idea to thoroughly clean the container’s interior before beginning construction.
What about financing?
Mortgage lenders view every loan through the lens of risk, gauging whether a borrower will pay back the loan. This makes mortgage underwriters cautious when any aspects of a loan situation are unconventional. You must be prepared to assure the lender that though your container home is unusual, you are committed to it.
You may get a personal or a mortgage loan for a container home. To qualify, have house plans drawn up and build a permanent foundation for the home. Have the property surveyed and the title to the property put into your name just as you would a conventional home site. Your container home will be recorded in county government records just like other homes. These steps should satisfy a mortgage lender.