Eight Things To Ask Before Starting Your Container Home

Plan & Budget

8 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Building a Shipping Container Home Blog Cover

Constructing a shipping container home can be one of the most rewarding things you do. However, you don’t want to rush into it too quickly and make mistakes which could have been avoided by proper planning.

Consider these things. Are you going to be building with new or used shipping containers? Do you have the DIY knowledge to build the home yourself or are you going to need to use a contractor? Don’t make the mistake of rushing into the building process without figuring out exactly what it is you want to build.

Answer these questions before you start your container home project.

Can You Afford It?

A key question to ask yourself is whether or not you realistically can afford to move forward with your desire to construct a shipping container home.

Cost of a Shipping Container Home

Unfortunately, not everyone has a huge amount of cash sitting around. The majority of us have to be careful with how we spend our hard-earned money!

The simplest way to determine if you can afford it, is to calculate your maximum funds available. After that, calculate your construction budget by subtracting your contingency allowance from your total funds available.

For instance, suppose you have $100,000 to spend. This $100,000 is a sum of all monies that you have for the project.  It doesn’t matter whether the cash is from your savings account, a loan from the bank, or money from your family. Set apart 20% of this $100,000 ($20,000) to use for contingencies (unexpected expenses that come up during construction). This $20,000 is your contingency allowance and is not considered to be part of your construction budget. Your construction budget will be $80,000 (the difference between the $100,000 and the $20,000). This remainder of $80,000 is the amount which you use as your construction project budget.

The contingency allowance is not used for planned costs but is reserved to cover unplanned expenses that will always come up. You don’t want to allocate every last penny to the project and find out later that you forgot to include the cost of something significant in your calculations. Prudent builders include a contingency allowance, because you can be certain that there will always be unforeseen costs.

Note that an average contingency percentage is 20% as shown in the example. For very complex and expensive projects, a larger contingency percentage is recommended.

Which Containers Are You Going To Use?

Not only do you need to decide whether to use high cube or standard containers, you also need to decide on whether to build using new or used containers.

If at all possible, we recommend getting high cube shipping containers. They are a foot taller than standard containers, giving some extra headroom inside the containers. This allows you to insulate the inside of your ceiling and still maintain a ceiling height of eight feet.

For more information, read high cube vs. standard containers.

Example Of High Cube Container

Decide whether to use new or used shipping containers. Many people that construct with shipping containers do so because they are conscious about the environment and want to save money.

Building with a used shipping container meets both of these requirements. Used containers are more Eco-friendly than buying new containers and are also less expensive than new containers. Read building with new vs. used containers.

Self-Build or Hire a Contractor?

Deciding whether to build your container home yourself, or to get a contractor to build it for you is a big decision. There will be cost and time considerations.

Do you consider yourself a DIY type of person? Are you handy with a hammer?

Many people enjoy building their own shipping container homes because like the challenge and the achievement once the home has been built.

Building the home yourself is not only cheaper than paying a contractor; it also means you can ensure the home is built to a high standard and that no corners have been cut. However, to build the home yourself you need to have at least some construction experience.


If you don’t have any experience and aren’t DIY friendly then you would certainly want to bring in a contractor to construct the majority of the container home. Bringing in a contractor will be more expensive but it’s likely that it will be faster since they can have several people working on your home at once.

Do I Have The Time?

While shipping container homes can be built quickly, you still need to consider time frames when looking to build a shipping container home.

If you absolutely have to move as soon as possible then building a container home probably isn’t for you. You would be best just purchasing a house which is already on the market.

If you have enough time and aren’t in a desperate rush to move then you can look at constructing a shipping container home.

Ideally, you should still allocate several months to build from scratch with no foundations or prefabricated containers.

How Do I Want My Home to Look?

Before you start constructing your container home, you need to have a definite idea about how you want your home to look and have a plan!

Changing your mind about a bedroom or the size of a room during the actual construction phase will cost you a lot of time and money. Instead, give yourself lots of time before you start building to design your home the exact way you want it.

How many bedrooms do we want? How big should we make the rooms? Where should the kitchen be placed? Have all of these crucial questions answered before you purchase your first container!

Where Do You Want To Build?

You need to decide where you want to build your container home.

A previous article considered whether it is better to convert onsite or offsite. Most tend to favor converting shipping containers onsite.

Location of Shipping Container Home

Selecting a location and finding a piece of land also helps to test whether you have enough money. If you want to convert a container home in Beverly Hills but find out that land is over $1,000,000 and your total budget is only $400,000 then you need to rethink your plan. Sometimes there just isn’t any land available in your preferred location. Then you must decide whether you are willing to wait for a piece of land to become available or whether you should look at buying land elsewhere.

Do You Have A Builder?

If you’ve decided to self-build, you don’t need to worry about this question. However, if you’ve decided to use a contractor to build your shipping container, you need to make sure you can find one in a timely manner.

You will need a contractor who has experience constructing shipping container homes. The contractor also needs to be available during the time frame that you are considering.

Contractors who have shipping container construction experience can sometimes be tricky to find. Know that, though, there are plenty out there. You may need to be persistent to find them! Don’t wait until you are ready to start construction to begin the process of finding a contractor.

Once you think you’ve found a contractor, make sure to get some reviews from their previous clients. Ask around in your local area to check their reputation.

If the contractor wants to offer you the world for $20,000, be very careful! It might seem like a bargain if they agree to build your dream home so cheaply. It is possible that for an unbelievably low price they might cut corners and reduce the quality heavily. Only use a contractor who is realistic in their offerings and has an established satifactory reputation.

Also, if at all possible, take a tour of some other buildings that the contractor has built. This will give you a feel for their quality and style. Speak with the owners to see how easy it was to work with the contractors.

Are You Ready To Take The Plunge?

Building any new home is not for the faint of heart. Before you start constructing your shipping container home, ask yourself whether you are ready to take the plunge.

Is your lifestyle stable enough to accommodate building a new home? Are you just about to change jobs or start a family? Are your personal circumstances about to change drastically? If you answer yes to any of these, it is probably best that you don’t start construction quite yet. Building any new home can be stressful. It is not advisable to begin such a large project with other major life circumstances in flux.

Make sure your situation is stable before you take the plunge!


Please make sure you take the time to properly consider each of these questions before you start the journey to owning your own shipping container home.

Taking the time now will save you weeks, if not months, later on into your build. Making a modification halfway through the construction can cost you not only time, but lots of money!

Let us know which question you found most useful in the comments section below.

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