Getting Started With Shipping Container Buildings

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Want to build your own shipping container home? Start Here.

Suppose you’ve just heard about these things called Shipping Container Homes and you’re wanting to learn more about them.

Don’t worry; we get lots of emails from people just like you every week asking us what they are and where to learn more about them.

We have been the number one resource for all things related to shipping container homes for the last several years. Our website is dedicated to educating shipping container enthusiasts.  We have an abundance of articles aimed at helping you navigate your journey.

Today we’re going to start from the beginning and explain exactly what shipping container homes are and then provide you with some must read articles if you want to learn more.

What Are Shipping Container Homes?

Shipping container homes are homes or offices which have been built by converting and re-purposing shipping containers.

These shipping containers can be used or new, 20 or 40 feet long.  There are several options available to you, but all that matters as far as the definition, is that some type of shipping container is utilized at the heart of the construction.

Blue Shipping Container Home

Thousands of shipping container homes have already been built all over the world, including: The US, Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, South Africa, India, Germany and the Netherlands.

You can see more pictures of container homes in our beautiful shipping container homes article or take a look at this video tour of five shipping container homes.

Are Shipping Container Homes Popular?

Now that you know what shipping container homes are, you’re probably wondering if they are popular or not?

Yes.  They are extremely popular for constructing homes and offices.  Since  2000, they have been gradually rising in popularity all over the world.

But, why are they so popular? We published a report about why people build shipping container homes.

One of the most popular reasons people build container homes is because of the price. Container homes can be built for a small sum of money which means that they can offer a route to financial independence for many people.

Another great reason why they are so popular is that they are quite environmentally friendly. Every shipping container recycled saves more than 7,000 pounds of steel.

Still need convincing? Read 6 reasons why you should be living in a shipping container home.

Are Shipping Container Homes Dangerous?

This is a fair question since you will be living in this home with your family. It needs to be safe!

Providing the home is built correctly and the containers are converted appropriately, then yes, shipping container homes are absolutely safe.

We have covered this thoroughly in our article just how safe are shipping container homes, if you’d like to read more.

Pros and Cons of Container Homes

For many people building a shipping container home is the perfect choice.  That said, it isn’t the right decision for everybody. For example, if you don’t have any DIY experience, then constructing your own container home will be a challenge.

Some of the biggest advantages of container homes are: cheap cost, quick to build, and Eco friendly.

We cover this in more depth in the article advantages and disadvantages of building container homes.

Constructing Your Container Home

If you’ve considered the options and have made the decision to construct a container home, that is fantastic! Get in touch with us along the way with any questions you might have. We can’t wait to see the results. Remember to contact us once you’ve finished construction and send along some photos.

We’ve spoken with lots of people who have built their own shipping container home and there are several silly mistakes which people make along the way which end up costing them a lot of money. Two of the most common mistakes are buying the wrong type of shipping containers and using the wrong insulation material.

Read more in our article 5 mistakes to avoid when building.

Once you’ve read this and are becoming more familiar with container homes, you may be interested in our interviews with 23 container homeowners. In these interviews, we ask the homeowners to share their best advice for people who want to construct their own container home.

The top three pieces of advice are:

  1. Purchase the right type of container.
  2. Review your local building regulations and permits before you start building
  3. Use contractors who have previously built container homes.

Planning Your Shipping Container Home

By now, you are well aware of what a shipping container home is, why people build container homes, and you’ve even seen some of the beginner mistakes that people make when constructing shipping container homes.

Now consider these 8 questions to ask before you build.

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

The biggest decision you will have to make is whether to build it yourself or bring a contractor in to build it for you.

The majority of people decide to build it themselves.  One reason is because it much cheaper, but also because it brings you closer to the home since your blood, sweat and tears have been poured into it!

We understand that there are people who don’t want to build it themselves. As idyllic as building it yourself sounds, it can become very stressful, especially if you are doing it for the first time.

Bringing a contractor in can help take away a lot of these headaches, leaving  you to do all the fun stuff like designing the kitchen and flow of the house.

It’s all about making these decisions now, so you know what to expect. Planning your project is so important, as the old saying goes:

Fail to prepare, then prepare to fail.

We won’t get into planning too much in this article except to say you need to do it! Read our comprehensive article on how to plan your shipping container home. From designing, to budgeting, all the way through using contractors, it’s all in there.


When you’re new to the concept of container homes, the amount of information available can be overwhelming, but hopefully this article has helped to get you started.

Remember there are dozens of articles on our website all about shipping container homes.

Building your own container home can be extremely rewarding not only financially but also as a sense of personal achievement.

Let us know, in the comments section below, if you have decided to move forward on the shipping container journey. 

  1. Bree Why


    I’ve just moved to Korea and it seems like container house is not that popular here. I would love to receive your free ebook on how to build container house!

    Please and thank you!

    • Discover Containers

      Container buildings are pretty popular across Asia, though perhaps more in Southeast Asia in places like Malaysia and Thailand. On almost any page of the website, there is a form on the right side that mentions getting the two free chapters. Just enter your email address and follow the instructions!

  2. Johnnie

    So pleased to have come across your blog. I live in Northern Ireland and am looking for land at present with the intention of trying my arm at building a home from shipping containers. I really see the advantages of having containers below ground level, hidden completely as the ground and second floors are built. Worried / concerned about drainage and waste water sub terra.

    • Discover Containers

      Drainage is an issue just like any house with a basement. You’d probably want gravel around the foundation to permit water to continue past the container and go further underground instead of pooling near the container. Wastewater can be handled with a pump, which a plumber could help you with. The biggest problem that you haven’t discussed is structural. Shipping containers are meant to sustain heavy loads from within on their floors, and from additional containers placed above with loads transmitted through the corner columns. The walls and especially roof of a container are not designed to resist loading of any significant amount. Placing a container underground without significant structural enhancement is asking for major trouble. Depending on the soil type in your area, soil underground can exert a tremendous horizontal force on the sides of a container until they buckle or implode. Please explore this further with a competent structural engineer before attempting this!

  3. Gale

    I have been researching shipping container homes and have a question that I have not found discussed. If a home is created out of a single shipping container (my plan is using a refer) are there issues with humidity in such an enclosed home?

    • Discover Containers

      Gale, regardless of the number of containers used, humidity is a concern for any container building, or steel building for that matter. Without proper insulation, if humid/warm air is allowed to touch a cool metal surface, condensation can occur. If you’re using a reefer, you already have a well-insulated starting point, but you’ll have to watch out for all the penetrations you make for doors/windows and try to minimize thermal bridging. If you haven’t already, check out our post on the pros/cons of using a reefer for a container structure. There are a few things to watch out for if you choose to go down that road.

  4. Schuyler S.

    Hi Tom!

    After many laborous hours of research, I’ve found your website. So many informative articles! My favorite part though is your customer service. Every post you answer all questions enthusiastically with no bull. I thank you for that! As well as all the other honest people on this site. It seems this is more than just a building. It’s a lifestyle, a community. Currently starting my own home up in the North Ga. mountains, after I finish reading all your articles I’ll be getting your book. Thanks for all the Info!

    • Discover Containers

      Thanks for your kind words Alfred!

  5. Thabo Mathebula

    I would love to receive your free ebook on how to build container house. Your system refuses to accept my email. Thanking you in advance.

    • Discover Containers

      Please send us an email Thabo, and we will sort this out for you.

  6. Joyce

    I am interested in finding vendors and contractors to have a container built. I cannot build the home myself.

    All the information and comments have been helpful.
    Thank you

    • Discover Containers

      Hi Joyce,

      Send us an email (see our ‘Contact Us’ link at the top of the page) and we’ll be happy to help.

  7. Shrinath Rao

    Hi Tom,
    I am a retired Marine Engineer and have sailed with and maintained cargo containers in my time. I am now retired for 16 years. However, it is exciting to read that now there are thousands of these homes made from them. I might get in them [ making one for myself] soon.
    If the cost amounts to only $ 50,000 for a 1280 sq ft home. Does it include the cost of land and licenses and permits, registration etc.? I live in Michigan, United States.
    Your response will be most appreciated.
    Thanks and Regards,
    Shrinath Rao.

    • Discover Containers

      Hi Shrinath,

      That sounds fantastic.

      In this case, we’re fairly certain that the $50,000 included the permits and architects drawings etc; however, it didn’t include the cost of purchasing the land. Obviously, every situation is unique though, and this cost may be higher or lower than what you encounter.

  8. Ivan

    Floors, floors, floors. Tom, how to you recommend insulating a floor. If I do it on the outside of the container (presuming I guess that I go with a stilt type of foundation) what do you recommend? Spray foam and then cover the side with flashing and the underside with exterior rated plywood. Or is inside a better option. Something like rigid pink etc.

    • Discover Containers

      Hi Ivan,

      For the floor, we usually recommend insulating under the floor in the cavity that already exists under the container between the floor joists. If you insulate the floor “inside” the container (between the subfloor and finished floor), you’ll be reducing the interior height of your living space. Closed cell spray foam is pretty resilient, but you could put a coating over it or a ‘flashing’ as you call it if you like.