A construction timeline or schedule is used to visualize all of the activities which need to take place throughout the process of building a home.
While there are many generic construction timelines available online, to our knowledge, there aren’t any specifically created for shipping container homes.
Many readers have asked us for this, so we’re excited to share a construction timeline for shipping container homes.
It’s important to state that while not every shipping container home will be the same, they will all share similar characteristics. So use our example but tailor it to your own build.
Below we highlight the main stages and then discuss how certain variables can affect your build time.
Example Shipping Container Home Construction Timeline
- Planning the Project (6 Weeks)
- Budget allocation/financing (4 days)
- Develop initial home plan/design (20 days)
- Assemble site-specific information and ordinances (3 days)
- Material selection (2 days)
- Finalize Design and Construction Approval (9-12 Weeks)
- Finalize home design and plans (10 days)
- Prepare construction plans (5 days)
- Allocate final budget (2 days)
- Local structural engineering approval (10-15 days)
- Building permits (15-25 days)
- Identify general contractor (3 days)
- Site Preparation and Foundations (4-7 Weeks)
- Shipping container identification and purchase (5 days)
- Land clearance, drainage and access (5 days)
- Foundation layout and excavation (5 days)
- Run utilities to site (2 days)
- Lay foundations (5-15 days)
- Place and Modify Containers (3-9 Weeks)
- External air seal/spray foam insulation (1 day)
- Siting containers and attaching to foundation (2 days)
- Shipping container modifications, cutouts, and reinforcements (1-15 days)
- Structural framing and roofing (1-5 days)
- Install windows, doors, and siding (1-10 days)
- Utility services rough-in (3 days)
- Interior framing (5 days)
- Finish to Occupancy (2-13 Weeks)
- Insulation (1-10 days)
- Drywall (2 days) (Optional)
- Fit flooring (2 days) (Optional)
- Finish plumbing, electrical and HVAC fixings (2-10 days)
- Finish fixtures, fittings, appliances and trim (2-15 days)
- Painting and decorating (1-5 days)
- External cladding (1-10 days) (Optional)
- External landscaping (1-5 days)
- Final walk-through and cleanup (1 day)
- Receive final approval (1-5 days)
1. Planning the Project
You can see that in the construction timeline, we’ve outlined approximately six weeks for the planning stage.
As you already know, planning is the most important phase of the project and if you get this stage wrong it can cost you a significant amount of money in the later stages of your build.
If you take a closer look at the planning phase, you will also notice that we haven’t included a stage to find and purchase land. This is because we’re assuming you already have land. If you don’t, you need to add this to your timeline. It’s difficult for us to give you guidance on this, as it could take days or months depending on both your personal criteria and the laws for transferring property in your area.
The largest piece of the planning stage is developing your home design. You can see in the schedule that designing your home comes after you’ve established your finances. You need to have a clear idea of your budget before you move forward. Once you’ve figured out how much money you have to spend on your home, you can start designing it.
You can either design the home yourself or with an architect and structural engineer. The choice will almost certainly depend on whether or not you need a building permit.
One quick point to consider when designing your home: try not to make too many cuts and modifications to your shipping containers. In doing so, you can significantly increase the cost and complexity of the build.
2. Finalize Design and Construction Approval
For the second stage of the shipping container home construction timetable, we’ve allocated 9-12 weeks.
This stage is predominantly focused on finalizing your design and getting your building permit approved, and is the longest stage of your build.
As you can see, the two longest activities here are gaining local structural engineering approval and acquiring building permits.
If you are building outside of the city’s zoning code or in an unregulated zone then you’re in luck. You won’t need to get a building permit and the only activity in this stage is finalizing your design.
However, many people will need to get a building permit.
In our experience, it’s best to work with both people and local authorities who have experience with shipping container homes.
If not shipping container homes, then make sure they at least have experience with unorthodox builds – it will make everything easier throughout the build.
The last activity in this stage is to find a local contractor who will build your home. By far one of the most common questions we’re asked is where to find a local contractor?
The best place to start is by using your local networks. Do any of your friends or your friends’ friends know anyone? A personal referral always carries more weight.
If you are coming up short, then go and speak to people in your local area who live in shipping container homes or unorthodox builds. They will be able to point you in the right direction.
3. Site Preparation and Foundations
The third stage of the shipping container home construction timetable is when you actually get out on site and physically start working on your home for the first time.
During this stage, you will mainly be preparing your site for the arrival of your shipping containers.
Start by clearing the land and making sure you have access to the site. Keep in mind that you’ll also need to accommodate the larger vehicles of any contractors that come on site, and especially the trucks (and potentially cranes) that will be used to offload the actual container.
This stage also includes preparing and laying your foundation.
If you aren’t certain which type of foundation you should use, you can read our article about foundations.
One potentially problematic activity in this stage is running utilities to your site. This includes water, electricity, sewer, gas, cable, and telephone/communication.
You should contact your utility providers in advance to make sure they can meet your construction timetable. The last thing you want is to be waiting around in the middle of your build because the utilities aren’t connected yet.
4. Place and Modify Containers
The fourth stage in the construction timeline is to place and modify your shipping containers.
You have several options on how to physically get the containers on site, but they pretty much all involve some professional help.
Once on site, you’ll want to insulate the exterior of containers before placing them in their final positions, which may make them hard to insulate. For most people, we’re just talking about the bottom of the container. However, some people do choose to insulate the outside of the walls, so they have the corrugated metal for their interior walls.
Using spray foam insulation underneath the containers helps with heat transmission and controls moisture intrusion.
We also mention securely attaching the containers to the foundation and each other. As some people can attest, shipping containers CAN move in high winds and flood waters.
During this stage, some of the activities have a lot of variability in their length. For instance, the number of container modifications for doors and windows can significantly alter the amount of work needed.
If you have fewer modifications, the work is cheaper and faster. If you are planning on large scale modifications it is going to take much longer.
5. Finish to Occupancy
At this point of your build, your shipping container home should be dried in and in its finished position.
The finish-to-occupancy stage can vary from a matter of days to months depending on your budget and required finishing specifications.
If you’re looking to build a simple cabin type container home, this stage may take just days. However, if you’re looking to build a grand shipping container home with several thousand square feet of living space, immaculate landscaping, and a swimming pool, you will be looking at months.
At this point, it’s difficult to change any fundamental design aspects without a lot of expense and additional time. This is why we continue to reiterate the importance of spending plenty of time at the start of the build to get the design right.
Once this stage is finished your home will be ready to move into!
Summary and Final Thoughts
We hope this shipping container home construction timeline has helped to give you a much better understanding of the build process.
The timeline has a wide variance of overall length because shipping container homes can be built quickly or slowly, depending on a variety of factors including location, complexity, budget, and experience.
We’ve seen container homes built in less than two weeks and some which have taken the best part of a year to build.
It really all depends on you and what you want to accomplish.
Feel free to take the schedule and modify it for your own build. Let us know via email how it goes!
Leave a comment below if there are any activities or stages which you think we need to include