Should You Build Your Own Shipping Container Home?

Plan & Budget

Should You Build Your Own Shipping Container Home Blog Cover

Living in a shipping container home can be a great way to save money and become debt free.

The next question is whether you should construct the shipping container home yourself. Let’s review options for owning a shipping container home.

There are three common ways to own a shipping container home. They are to build it yourself, to hire a contractor to build it for you, or to purchase a prefabricated container home. Each of these approaches has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Building a Shipping Container Home Yourself

Self built shipping container home

Let’s start by looking at the most popular choice when it comes to shipping container homes.

Many of the people who live in shipping container homes build it themselves, at least in part.

If you want to construct your own container home and don’t have a big budget, make sure to read our article on constructing a shipping container home on a small budget.

Also, if you do decide to build it yourself, make sure you don’t make these simple mistakes!

Now, let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of building a shipping container home yourself.

Advantages of DIY Container Home

The primary advantage of building your own shipping container home is the cost savings. You save a lot of money doing much or all of the labor yourself rather than paying other people.

The second big advantage of building it yourself is that you know exactly how it’s been built and that no shortcuts were taken. You know that the insulation and roofing were done the correct way and weren’t rushed because your builder was running out of time.

Finally, by designing and building your own container home you are free to design and style the container home any way you like.

You want to stack your containers and make a roof terrace?  Well, you can, if you build it yourself!

Also, if you’re halfway through the build and change your mind, then you are free to change the design of your home (although we don’t recommend making major design changes midstream!). If you’ve purchased a prefabricated container home or agreed on a plan of work with a contractor, then it is more difficult and sometimes impossible to make any changes.

Disadvantages of DIY Container Home

One of the biggest obstacles to building your own shipping container home is not having the appropriate skills, experience, and knowledge.

You don’t need to have built a container home before, but it is recommended that you have some DIY experience.

Additionally, starting on a project of this magnitude is particularly difficult if you have a full-time job or other major time-consuming commitments. Building a container home, just like any other home, will take a lot of time and effort. It is not impossible to do if you have a job, it is just a little more difficult to juggle all of the balls. We do know people who have managed to work and build their home. Just be realistic in your expectations and understand that it will take longer to complete if you are working than it would otherwise.

If you are seriously considering building your own container home, we go into much more detail on the pros and cons here.

Hiring a Contractor to Build Your Shipping Container Home

Using a contractor to build your container home

The most common type of contractor to hire for building your home is a general contractor. This contractor is the person who will oversee the day to day work on your home. They will generally have trade contacts and will bring in the other workers needed, such as welders, electricians, etc.

You could also choose to act as your own general contractor. In this case, you would then subcontract your own professionals to complete the work which you are unable to do.

The decision basically depends on your ability and available time.

Let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of hiring a contractor to build your shipping container home.

Advantages of Hiring a Contractor

Perhaps the single biggest advantage of hiring a contractor is you get access to all of their previous experience and expertise which can be quite valuable.

These professionals live and breathe construction, so it should come as no surprise to you that they take their job seriously and will also tend to guarantee their work.

Another big advantage of hiring a contractor is the time that you save. Imagine having five or six guys working on your container home at the same time and how much faster that is versus just you working on your own. This is especially significant if you have another job where you are only free to work on your home on evenings and weekends.

Finally, contractors offer you great flexibility. For instance, if you want to personally build the majority of your container home, and then bring a contractor in just for the welding, you can do that.

Disadvantages of Hiring a Contractor

There are two major disadvantages of hiring a contractor.

First is the cost. Hiring contractors to work for you can be very costly, especially when compared to doing the work yourself. This expense can be one of the biggest outlays when building a container home.

Second, finding experienced contractors with a good reputation can be time consuming. But, a good contractor is worth their weight in gold, especially if problems arise during the build!

Purchasing a Prefabricated Shipping Container Home

Prefab home being transport

A prefabricated shipping container home is one that has already been constructed and converted by a company.

Prefab container homes are typically sold as an empty shell, immediately ready for move-in. They are sometimes called turnkey homes.

The specifications and interior furnishings vary between models and manufacturers. These prefabricated homes are a terrific choice for people who want to live in a container home but either have limited time or inadequate expertise to build their own shipping container home. They are also a great choice for those who do not have sufficient space, equipment, or facilities to convert your containers on site.

Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why you would and would not want to buy a prefab container home.

Advantages of Prefabricated Container Homes

Certainly, the major benefit to buying a prefab home is that it is incredibly quick to go from purchase to moving into the home. There is some amount of research that must be done, but the design and planning stages are virtually eliminated.

Generally, large prefab companies will carry stock. This means your container home is already built and just needs to be shipped to you, placed on foundation blocks and connected to utilities.

Another advantage of buying a prefabricated home is peace of mind. Building your own home either yourself or through a contractor can be stressful at times. If your life stage is such that extra stress should be avoided, then a prefab home may be a good option.

Purchasing a prefabricated home reduces the anxiety about the unknown because you know exactly what your home is going to look like and exactly when it will be finished.

Finally, prefab companies tend to provide support for planning and building permits, so you don’t have to go it alone.

Disadvantages of Prefab Container Homes

The biggest disadvantage of purchasing a prefab home is that you get what you’re given. Generally speaking, you can’t customize the containers at all. You are able only to choose from the available models offered.

The second disadvantage of a prefab home is the cost. Out of all the options reviewed in this article, prefab container homes are always more expensive. This is because you are paying a company to oversee the entire build. This might not be a problem for some of you, but most people want to build a container home to save money, not spend more money. Again, this is a personal decision that only you can make.


We hope this article makes your decision about constructing your shipping container home a little bit more straightforward.

Our recommendation is that wherever possible you should build the container home yourself. There is something incredibly rewarding about seeing your hard work pay off and being able to enjoy the result every single day.

Did you decide to go it alone and build your own home?  Have you decided to bring in a contractor or rather to purchase a prefabricated home? We would love to hear from you.

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