If you’ve been interested in shipping container homes for any length of time, you will have noticed one thing: There is a tremendous amount of information online.
And along with all that information, some myths have surfaced.
In this article, we will address seven of the most popular shipping container home myths and debunk them.
Myth 1: You Should Always Use Spray Foam Insulation
Spray foam insulation is definitely the most popular option when it comes to insulating shipping containers.
People generally use spray foam insulation because it creates a seamless vapor barrier which does two important things:
Stops the container from getting too hot or too cold
Because of its ability to create a seamless vapor barrier, there is a myth that it is the ONLY type of insulation which should be used with container construction.
Spray foam isn’t the only type of insulation you can use. Refer to our article on techniques to insulate your home for additional ideas. For instance, if you’re planning to insulate the OUTSIDE of your shipping container, you have plenty of space to work with, and a high R-value per inch isn’t as important. Or, if you’re not building in an area where it gets cold, condensation is less of a concern (check out our two-part condensation article for more information).
So, although we do prefer spray foam insulation, it isn’t always necessary and worth the expense.
Myth 2: All Shipping Container Homes Are Eco-Friendly
It is commonly thought that all shipping container homes are Eco-friendly.
Unfortunately, not all shipping container homes are Eco-friendly. Why is this? Newer containers are great for certain situations but they are not as Eco-friendly as used shipping containers. So, it isn’t terrible to use a new container, but consider a few things if you want to be Eco-friendly.
We’ve long known that one of the best things about building with used shipping containers is that you are repurposing something that is otherwise left to rust until it becomes unusable, or melted into new steel at a considerable cost of energy and emissions.
Additionally, when you build with used shipping containers, you don’t need to use as much traditional building material like as brick, wood, and concrete (which have many of their own environmental disadvantages and are not as easily reusable as steel).
Some of these advantages don’t apply when building with new one-trip containers, but in some cases, it is actually a better idea to use new containers anyway.
However, if constructing a shipping container home to be Eco-friendly is a primary consideration for you, then you should plan to build with used containers instead.
Myth 3: Shipping Containers Can Be Buried With No Structural Additions
We’re often contacted by people wanting to take shipping containers and bury them to create an underground home for possible energy savings, or a more bunker-like building for security.
Some have been inspired by Steve Rees, who built the first underground shipping container home in California, which we previously wrote about here.
If you’ve watched the video above, you can see that it is certainly possible to build an underground bunker out of shipping containers.
Here’s the myth:
You can just bury shipping containers underground as-is and they will be structurally sound.
They are designed to be strong when stacking them on top of one another, which transfers the weight through their corner posts. Additionally, they are designed to have all the supported load placed on the floor.
When burying shipping containers, weight is applied onto both the roof and side walls from the soil/earth surrounding the containers.
Containers are not designed to support substantial forces in these areas and you’ll need additional structural enhancements to bury your container.
So, you certainly can build a bunker using shipping containers, but there are some large caveats and restrictions.
Myth 4: Shipping Container Homes Are For Rich People
If you’ve followed the shipping container home trend for any length of time, you’ll have seen homes like this:
There have been several million-dollar shipping container homes built over the last few years.
This has given rise to our next myth:
Shipping containers homes are only for the rich looking to build mansions.
Myth 5: Shipping Container Home Construction Is Complex
After seeing shipping container homes like this, you may be left with the idea that building your own shipping container home is complex and shouldn’t be attempted.
Clearly, the complexity depends on what you’re attempting to build. It is not advisable to attempt to build a mansion shipping container home without any experience. However, we’ve seen numerous examples of beginners building their own simple shipping container home with no previous experience.
So the myth:
All shipping container home construction is complex.
Just like any type of construction technique, there are simple homes and complex homes that can be built.
If you’re looking to build your own shipping container home and don’t have much experience, we definitely recommend that you start small and uncomplicated. Perhaps you could begin with a single story home in a simple rectangular layout.
While many of the skills necessary to build a more complex home are similar, the design becomes much more important when you start joining containers and stacking them. This is when it starts to become important to have professional help, at least with the engineering.
Myth 6: Shipping Container Homes Can Survive Hurricanes
The popularity of the belief that shipping container homes can survive hurricanes increased after stories from recent hurricanes and an understanding of the conditions sea-going container ships encounter.
The idea that shipping container homes can survive a hurricane is:
Providing the containers are suitably anchored down onto an appropriate foundation, they are able to survive very strong winds. Their survivability and longevity is also impacted by the structural enhancements made to counter any cuts in the metal, as well as the presence of storm shutters over windows and doors.
The shipping container home movement was created by people looking to use alternative building materials to reduce costs. As housing prices continue to rise, people seek ways to own a home without burdening themselves with lifelong debt.
One such solution to this problem is shipping container homes.
However, the myth that all shipping container homes are cheap is:
We’ve already shown examples in this article of multi-million dollar shipping container homes.
Just like every construction technique, shipping containers can be used to create a variety of homes, both cheap and expensive.
However, it is true that the majority of container homes are relatively cheap when compared to traditional construction methods.
Since this movement has started we’ve seen hundreds of shipping container homes built for under $50,000.
We hope this article has shed some light on the myths and facts about shipping container home construction.
Remember that just like any construction method, use common sense and logical thinking and always start with a good plan.
Let us know in the comments below what you think about some of the myths we’ve discussed.