We created our Resources page to share things we think you may find helpful or inspirational outside of the materials we include on Discover Containers and in our products. Everyone’s situation is different (including geographic area, design, skillset, etc.) so some resources may be more useful than others for your specific project.
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One of the most common questions we get is how to design a container home on a computer. While we do offer a collection of floorplans for sale, many homeowners want to take our plans and tweak/combine different ideas, or just create a totally custom design from scratch. While there are a few different ways to go about this, the good news is that everything we recommend below is free!
While we’ve listed several different options, we recommend Sweet Home 3D for most people and Sketchup for more advanced users/designs. Read on to find out more:
Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software allows you to draw almost anything, including floor plans. The most famous program for this is AutoCAD, although it’s quite expensive and generally overkill for the use of most container homeowners. The upside to CAD is that you can draw exactly what you want, but a downside is that the learning curve can be a little steep for those who are less savvy with computers. While there are software packages that do 2D and 3D drawings, we’re focusing on the 2D-only choices in this section.
Home Design software starts with the premise that you’re going to be designing a house, which cuts out some features of CAD but adds others. You still start off by drawings a floorplan, but the process can be a bit different. For instance, instead of drawings the individual lines that make up walls or windows, you’ll draw walls as a unit and drag/drop windows onto them. It makes for a faster design experience, especially for beginners, who can usually start making something within minutes. The problem is that some designs and details are hard or impossible to really capture with these tools, but they are great for getting a 90% solution that may be ok for most people just trying to generally think through design options.
3D modeling software approaches the task of home design from a different direction given that these programs are used to draw a huge variety of things in addition to houses. Instead of creating a floorplan like with Home Design software, you typically work to assemble home components in 3D space. Working in 3D can be a little challenging, and these tools are usually the hardest to use out of the three categories we’ve presented. In exchange for the learning curve, you have the opportunity to create an exact replica of your home in 3D. And there are outside companies and plugins that can help you do photo-realistic renderings of your home as well. With some work, you can translate your model into drawings like floorplans, but the main output of the tool is the 3D model itself, NOT the 2D drawings.
Building a container house, much like any construction project, requires a number of different building disciplines. Some of the major ones you’ll face are plumbing, wiring, and framing. Rather than try to cover these subjects ourselves, we’d recommend checking out some of the books below if you don’t have much DIY experience and need a beginner friendly resource to get up to speed. You may also be able to find similar resources in your local library. While code requirements change from year to year, the basic principles of these disciplines remains the same over time, so older books should be fine for building a strong base of knowledge.
Understand that we do not always agree with the suggestions and recommendations provided by these resources, but they do offer one person’s perspective on the process of building and living in a container home.