DIY Shipping Container Home Built For Less Than $10,000

Case Studies


Welcome to another shipping container home interview.  In these interviews, we speak with shipping container builders to help you learn from their experience, including what worked and what didn’t work for them.

In this interview, we speak with Stephan Busley, from Australia, who managed to build his shipping container home for less than AU$10,000!

We speak with Stephan about key shipping container home topics such as:  foundations, insulation material and technique, build cost, etc.  And, of course, we ask him if he would recommend container home construction.

How did you get the idea of building your home with shipping containers?

We were looking at the most cost-effective way to live on our family’s newly purchased block of land so that we could stop renting and own our very own place.  We started off living in a caravan and originally looked at kit homes, and then sheds converted into livable dwellings.  But, the more we looked into that type of thing, the more overwhelmed we became at the costs associated with not only buying the kit home/shed to begin with, but to have it built.  Simple google searches for cheap ways to build soon put us on the right track to using shipping containers.  We became very excited about the idea after seeing amazing ways some people had put them together to create cheap and unique houses.

Shipping Container Home Construction

Why did you decide to build your home out of shipping containers?

The moment we realized we could get a standard container with strong construction, that was essentially the steel foundations of a home (floor/walls and roof) for under AU$5,000 was when we decided it was the way to go.  Being handy and experienced in the construction industry, I realized it was something I could fit out and convert myself without getting builders in to do it.  The fact that it was Eco-friendly and an excellent way of recycling something that had already been manufactured suited our way of thinking and our lifestyle.

How long did the home take to build?

It took approximately six to nine months, working on it every weekend.  I could probably have completed it in one and half months working approximately eight hours a day.  We continue to add to it and constantly improve it all the time.

Roughly how much did it cost to build?  Can you give us a high-level breakdown?

Total cost comes in under AU$10,000.  This includes steel posts in the ground, concrete, the container, kitchen and fibro/paint etc.  (Editor’s Note: Fibro is compressed concrete sheets).

The off-grid solar that powers the house and also another house on our block of land was an extra expense at AU$35,000.  This includes 24 panels, 24 batteries, inverters and a 20-foot shipping container to house the batteries.

Can you talk about the process of building your home?  What were some of the highlights of the process?

It was important for us to think first about the size of the shipping container and standard vs. high cube.  In our hot climate, (Queensland, Australia) ceiling fans were a must, which was the deciding factor in getting a high cube.  We also wanted to section it into 3 areas – 2 bedrooms and a kitchen/living area.  I did a lot of research into how to fit out a container and then wanted to do things my own way.  I decided on gluing the 4 x 2 timber treated pine battens (for wall framing in the shipping container) instead of screwing through the steel, due to concerns of the screws causing the container to rust and leak with heavy rain.

We knew it would be some time before the outside was fibro sheeted.  After the framing was completed the plumbing and wiring were put into place.

Shipping Container Home Kitchen

How did you insulate the containers?

I put R 1.5 glass wool insulation (Editor’s Note: This is equivalent to R-9 in the inch-pounds units used in the US, see here for more information) on the inside before the fibro sheets were put up for the walls.  We have found this worked okay and is fine for winter and cooler times of the year.  In our very hot climate in central Queensland, though, in the summer, we definitely also need ceiling fans and air conditioning to keep the temperature at a comfortable level.

Shipping Container Home Insulation

What are the advantages of building with shipping containers?

Shipping containers are structurally very strong (easily stood up to category 5 cyclone Marcia and sustained no damage).  They are also low cost and very environmentally friendly.

Would you recommend building with shipping containers?

I would certainly recommend building with shipping containers, as they are strong and fun to work with. You learn along the way and you can keep on adding to them and create your own unique home.  Our shipping container home is still very new and we have plans to add a 20-foot shipping container as a bathroom/laundry room.  I would recommend that you do thorough research before starting so you know what’s involved.  It can be very time consuming and you can run into problems if you don’t prepare and plan well in advance.

Shipping Container Home


Thanks to Stephan for joining us and taking part in the interview.  We hope this interview has inspired many of you out there.   You can build an affordable shipping container home!

Let us know what you think about this container project in the comment below.

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