What I Wish I’d Known Before Building My Shipping Container Home Blog Cover

23 Container Home Owners Tell Us “What I Wish I’d Known”

Posted in Featured

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

We receive lots of emails from people asking us how to get started constructing a shipping container home.

So to answer this question, we asked 23 shipping container home owners to reveal to us what you really need to know.

Top 3 Things You Need to Know:

  1. How to purchase the correct shipping containers
  2. The importance of building regulations and planning
  3. Finding a contractor with previous experience

1. PV14 House

Matt Mooney, a principal at Corgan, based in Texas, decided to use shipping containers for his next home. More than fourteen containers were used in total to construct this Goliath 3,700 square foot home.

It has three bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms and an outdoor swimming pool to name but a few of the features!

PV14 Shipping Container House

What do you wish you’d known before you built?

Matt’s Response:

As far as what I wish I would have known, it is very hard to say. I have wanted to build one for almost 25 years. I have been thinking about and studying it for a long time.  We (thankfully) had very few surprises.  If I had to pick something, I would say that the actual process of buying and shipping one trip containers from Dolphin Containers in Shanghai was an interesting experience. We had to learn how to navigate the used container market here in the region before we decided to go with one trip containers. Other than that, I enjoyed every minute of the experience of building this thing.

2. Tiny 20-foot Off Grid Shipping Container Home

Brenda Kelly from iqcontainerhomes has been dreaming of living in a shipping container home since she was 13. She has been modelling and creating designs for shipping container homes for as long as she can remember!

Her new home was made from a single 20-foot shipping container.

Shipping Container Home Taking Shape
Brenda’s Response:

In answer to your question, I thoroughly researched prior to embarking on my first container home so I’m not sure there’s anything I wish I knew that I didn’t. However, this was a non-consented model that, due to its size, didn’t require council permission.

Building a larger home that requires council consent I would wish to know more about the application process for a building permit!

Hope that helps!

3. Nomad Living Guesthouse

Nomad Living Guesthouse

© Luis da Cruz

The Nomad Living Guesthouse was designed and built in 2013 by Arnold Aarssen from Studio ArTe. It is based in the Algarve region of Portugal. Only one 40-foot shipping container was used, which provides over 300 square feet of living space.

Arnold’s Response:

I wish I knew how to insulate the shipping container. We ended up soldering elements on the walls and then sprayed them with a foam anti-fire insulation.

Also I wanted to know how to keep the sun off the roof; in the end, we did this by double ventilating the roof.

Finally, how could we utilize passive solar energy for the container. We did this by placing large windows in the container facing south west.

4. Taj Malodge

Larry Wade built his shipping container home for a cost of around $35,000. Larry used two 40-foot shipping containers to make his new home. It features solar panels on the roof which are used to provide electric and to heat water.

Taj Malodge Shipping Container House

© Larry Wade

Larry’s Response:

Everything about building with a container was new to me and there wasn’t any useful info that I could find. For me I really can’t think of anything that stands out from the rest. I can say that the one thing that I wished I had not done was buy my containers without seeing them. I took the company’s word that they would be in good shape. They were beat all to heck.

The good thing was that most of the really dented places would end up being cut out of the containers anyway. I do wish I had known that it doesn’t cost that much more for a one trip container and they are like brand new.

5. North Branch Container House

Robyn Volker, from New York, wanted a small country house. She got in touch with Tim Steele from timsteeledesign.com who designed a small but spacious shipping container home.

The home is built into the hillside to take advantage of the natural terrain. Two 40-foot containers are spread 4 feet apart to create around 800 square feet of open plan living!

The two larger containers are propped up using a 20-foot container which is used for storage.

Robyn Volker Shipping Container Home

Robyn’s Response:

Remember that my house was started way ahead of the curve in 2009, so there was a lot that was unknown.  What I wish I had known is that building a house from shipping containers cost me a similar amount as a stick built house.

6. Manifesto House

The Manifesto House is by far one of the most famous shipping container homes to date. It was made using 85% recycled/eco-friendly materials and was designed by James & Mau.

We decided to speak with Raquel Izurzu, an architect from James & Mau, and ask her what they wished they had known before designing the Manifesto House.

Manifesto House

© Antonio Corcuera

James & Mau’s Response:

We wish we’d known that in cold climates, you need to ensure you have proper insulation to protect against condensation.

With Manifesto House in Chile we had good results. The climate is not really cold or hot there. We only needed to put some pallets on the external walls to control the sun and some insulation.

7. Containers of Hope

Perhaps just as famous as the Manifesto House is Containers of Hope designed by Benjamin Garcia Saxe for the Peralta family. The home cost a staggering $40,000 USD to build and provides over 600 square feet of living space. We sent a message to the Peralta family and here is what they had to say.

Containers of Hope

© Andres Garcia Lachner

The Peralta family’s response:

We did not expect so much wind in the site and are now having to screen off the wind with vegetation as the container makes a bit of noise when there are large gusts of wind.

8. The DeWitt and Kasravi Sea Container Home

Kam Kasravi and Connie Dewitt own this particularly impressive shipping container home. The home was designed by Modulus using four high cube shipping containers.

The containers were prefabricated offsite, then delivered to California before they were reassembled. The very top floor has nine skylights installed in the roof, which provides huge amounts of natural light.

The DeWitt and Kasravi Sea Container Home

© Norcal Construction

Kam and Connie’s Response:

The one thing we would have done differently would have been to find one contractor to help the whole process versus having one for getting and modifying the containers, and another to finish out the interior.

This wasn’t really an option given local familiarity with containers as a structure, but that’s what we would have wished. It would have likely made certain things a bit easier.

9. The Beach Box

The beach box is built in the Hamptons, one of New York’s most expensive areas. The home was built by Andrew Anderson using shipping containers purchased from SG Blocks.

The containers on the ground level are used to create four bedrooms. The second floor contains the kitchen, dining room and living room. Just in case this isn’t enough, the home also features a 1,300 square foot exterior deck and a pool!

The Beach Container House

© The Beach Box

Andrew’s Response:

Don’t unnecessarily cut the boxes. Also make sure your contractor understands modular or container finishing. This will impact the price and quality of your shipping container home.

10. New Orleans Shipping Container Home

You might have seen in the news recently this shipping container home which was built for Seth Rodewald-Bateshome cost around $200,000 to build.

Seth and a team of friends and family spent two years building the home, working in the evenings and weekends. The completed container home contains one bedroom, a bathroom, kitchen, office and living area.

Seth’s Response:

The main thing would be that in this example there wasn’t any significant cost savings. That being said, I enjoyed upcycling the containers. It was less about the price for me. The largest ticket item was actually the pool.

11. Casa Incubo

Casa Incubo is another great example of a shipping container home which was built in Costa Rica. As shown in the picture below, the home has been built around the existing cedar tree and it was designed by architect Maria José Trejos.

The home was built using eight 40 foot high cube containers and using containers helped reduce the construction time by around 20%.

Casa Incubo Container House

© Sergio Pucci

Sergio’s Response:

Since this house is in Costa Rica with tropical weather, I wish I had been extra careful to paint it with the strongest paint to protect against the rain.

12. The Campo Cinco Retreat

Roger Black is the proud owner of the Cinco Camp which is over 200 miles from the nearest airport and based off an unpaved road, unreachable to all without a 4 wheel drive car.

Mark Wellen, from Rhotenberry Wellen Architects, designed the retreat and said the entire thing cost around $200,000 USD. He said that it would have been around $100,000 if the camp was built in a more accessible area!

The Campo Cinco Retreat

© Hester + Hardaway

Mark’s Response:

1. I wish I had known there were containers available for very little more money that were virtually new… that are in almost pristine condition.

2. I wish I had known that there were containers that are taller than 8 feet.

13. WFH House

This shipping container home is one of the first in China and was built by Mads Møller from Aarcgency. You can see in the photo that the home has a huge sloped roof which is topped with a living-garden. This filters rainwater and also provides the home with additional insulation.

The external walls of the containers are lined in bamboo which protects the containers from the natural elements and also provides the containers with insulation.

WFH Shipping Container House

© Jens Markus Lindhe

Mads Response:

Just one thing: Building code! What is allowed?

Every country has its own sets of rules and standards. This means a container house in the US does not look like a container house in Denmark.

That is something most people do not think about. The container is a generic product, but climate, fire regulations, etc. are not standard across all countries.

14. Nederland Colorado Shipping Container Home

Here we have a beautiful ,500 square foot home based in Colorado. The home was designed by Brad Tomecek, from Tomecek Studio, as an experiment to try and reduce the size of the average American home and to also be as environmentally conscious and friendly as possible.

The containers are bolted down into the existing rock and this provides the owners with a gorgeous view overlooking Nederland.

Nederland Colorado Shipping Container Home

© Braden Gunem

Their Response:

Welding takes a long time and is expensive, so try to keep it to a minimum.

These container projects have been for clients who really like containers or have some tangible need that containers provide such as durability. Certainly the projects that we have been involved in have always been unique.

15. Kuziel Residence

Way back in 2008 Marek Kuziel had the idea to build a shipping container home. It wasn’t until 2009 when things got serious and Marek purchased a plot of land just outside of Christchurch, New Zealand.

The home was built using three 40-foot and one 20-foot container and even has enough room for Marek’s office when he works from home!

Kuziel Residence

Marek’s Response:

To be honest I don’t really have one thing I wish I knew about shipping containers before I started. I did lot of research before I was convinced I wanted to do this.

My advice would be to do as much research as possible before the start of the project. It’s all about preparation.

There isn’t a silver bullet approach to research. I guess the more you know and learn about shipping container homes before you start making decisions will help you to fail less. But again, there isn’t a silver bullet approach to this. Failures along the way are inevitable.

16. Broadmeadow Shipping Container Home

While this isn’t exactly a single home, the construction process is similar and there are still many lessons which we can learn from Broadmeadow!

Broadmeadow is designed and owned by Christian Salvati from Marengo Structures. This megastructure was built with 27 containers, is four stories high, and contains 6 apartments.

Broadmeadow Shipping Container Home

Christian’s Response:

There is no one liner that I can answer with. The key word in your shipping container home question is HOME/HOUSE.

Building with shipping containers can be challenging and the aggravation is still the same as traditional construction, though the costs are reduced.

17. G-pod’s Dwell

G-Pod has recently launched their brand new prototype named Dwell. This prototype is an environmentally sustainable home, made to be easy to relocate. It is built using a single shipping container and has various pull-out and fold-down sections to enhance the homes overall size.

Their director Dan Sparks was asked what he wished he knew…

G-pod's Dwell

Dan’s Response:

A good question. I did a lot of research up front so it wasn’t as though I jumped in and discovered something that complicated the build. However, I think understanding how the structural integrity works is very important, i.e. the two long walls are both load bearing and bracing so if you were to cut a hole in one it needs to be compensated.

Insulation is also something you need to spend time researching.

18. Tiny Home Prototype

Like the G-Pod Dwell above, this Tiny Home is also a prototype. The home was built by Steve Sawyer.

The home was made using a 20-foot shipping container and contains a full kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom!

Tiny Shipping Container Home

Steve’s Response:

That’s a tough question, and one that I don’t have an answer for. I began modifying shipping containers 10+ years ago. I have made so many mistakes I can’t remember them all. I tend to forget most of the bad decisions and remember the good ones. The neat thing about this business is we are always learning.  The advice I give every new person is to speak with their local building department before purchasing the land.

19. Cargotecture C192 Nomad

Like a couple of other homes mentioned, the C192 Nomad is a prototype. The Nomad is made by Cargotecture and sleeps comfortably a family of four.

Joel Egan, Cargotecture’s owner, says the Nomad is designed as a self-contained backyard cottage or remote retreat.

Cargotecture C192 Nomad

Joel’s Response:

I wish I had known how important it is to have a design expert involved at the front end.

It’s not a good idea to go it alone if you have a custom home you are interested in. It’s best approached with professional drawing services and competent structural engineering.

20. The Box Office

The box office is the creation of Truth Box.

Peter Gill Case, owner of Truth Box, said the windows have been strategically placed to provide maximum daylight while using the smallest windows possible. In addition the studios are fitted with energy recovery ventilators which helps to conserve energy and supply the block with fresh air.

The Box Office

© Nat Rea

Peter’s Response:

Finding a balance between good building design and total construction expense is the key to utilizing containers in buildings.

21. SeaUA Building

These apartments are the first residential shipping container homes in the Washington D.C. area. They were designed by Travis Price and Kelly Davies from Travis Price Architects.

The building was built using second hand shipping containers meaning they could keep the cost of construction down!

Washington DC Container Apartment

© Travis Price Architects

Kelly’s Response:

There are countless things that I wish we had known prior to doing our project, but I would say the ONE thing that would have made a big difference would have been to have all of the plumbing chases cut out of the container floors and ceilings to easily run pipe once they were stacked.

Also, the containers sit very tight next to each other and in the design phase we added an additional inch to the width of the foundation just in case they didn’t butt up tight. In hindsight, we should have designed it an inch less for a better drip edge connection.

22. Cordell House

Cordell house is the brain child of Katie Nichols from Numen Development. Christopher Robertson, a local architect helped design the home and the results are just stunning!

The home spans some 1,500 square feet and contains two bedrooms, an office, playroom, kitchen, and laundry room. There is also a 40-foot container located at the rear of the home which contains the guesthouse!

Cordell Shipping Container House

© Jack Thompson

Katie’s Response:

There are many things I could say, but I think the biggest thing I have learned over nearly a decade of container construction is this:  Shipping containers are like my favorite people.  Overall, they are very simple, but they have intense bits of complexity.  Knowing and understanding those complexities is truly key to being successful with a container build.

It is definitely worth it to work with someone who has expertise with container structures.

23. The SurfShack

We now reach out to Hartman Kable from Kable Design Build. He built this beach retreat using recycled shipping containers. Hartman wanted a holiday home on the beach which he could enjoy over the weekend!

Hartman’s Response:

Thanks for asking. I guess the one thing I wish I’d known was:

The walls of the container are rough and need framing so that your internal walls are flat and smooth.

Have you built your own shipping container home? Why not tell us the one thing you wish you’d known before you began building your shipping container home?   


Blog Cover Image Modified From Angel Schatz

  1. James

    I am getting ready to move to Florida in October 2018, and wanted to buy some land, and build a small shipping container home on it..I know they allow manufactured homes, but do they allow container homes? I hear they are pretty hurricane proof as well..

    • Discover Containers

      These issues are really decided more on the community level than the state level. The issues you could potentially run into can be both zoning and code related. If you’re outside of city limits, these issues become less relevant. If you’re inside the city limits, you’ll need to have some conversations with the planning and zoning office, the permitting office, etc. and get an idea of how strict their regulations are. Anything can be done if you’re patient enough, but you sometimes have to educate government officials that aren’t very familiar with containers.

  2. jerry Edgin

    Looking to build in Benton Il. on (3) city lots. talked to zoning comm. town never heard of this. any useful info. send it to me & will forward are you interested in building.

    • Discover Containers

      Shoot us an email via the Contact Us link at the top of the website

  3. Stacey

    I’m curious to why grinders are used to cut the windows and etc out of a shipping container, could you know use a cutting torch if your experienced with one? I want to say that the information you provide is great. I have been researching for a few years and have found more information on your blog than any single site. Thank you for sharing your knowledge, its truly a blessing.

    • Discover Containers

      An oxy-acetylene cutting torch will also work, but it requires more skill to operate (and obviously, you have to have one). Often you end up having melted metal adjacent to your cut that you have to later grind off to get a smooth surface. A cut-off wheen in a grinder makes a nice straight cut without the residual metal sticking around, but it has its own problems like noise, mess, consumables, and wearing our your arms from the gyroscopic effect and weight. If you have access to one, a plasma cutter has a lot of benefits.

  4. Scott

    I’m thinking about building a home from shipping containers and was wondering about foundations. Should they be bolted down with anchor bolts? If using multiple containers do you bolt or weld them together? Or is everything just stacked and free floating?

    • Discover Containers

      You definitely want to attach your containers to the foundation, either via large anchor bolt through the corner fittings, or welding the corner fittings to a piece of metal that is tied into the rebar in the foundation. The containers themselves should be attached together via bolting or welding, depending on your future plans for potentially moving the containers later on. A catastrophic weather event, vehicle accident, or other circumstances could move your containers around, so we always recommend securing them to each other and the foundation.

  5. Angela

    Is there a mortgage company that will mortgage shipping container homes? In my experience, we would need to advertise to cash buyers. But I was curious as to if there was a lender.

    • Discover Containers

      We don’t know of any off-hand, but they may be out there. One issue is that in a lot of cases, a container home is considered a piece of equipment, not real estate. Especially if it’s on the smaller end and could be relocated fairly easily. Obviously, there is a lot of gray area here and everyone in the ecosystem is working through these issues. With that said, we’d love to hear if you find a company willing to work with you.

  6. Dave Glass

    I have a site I’d like to put a container home on. I am wondering if the design is going to make it more cost than its worth. I want to have three 40′ containers next to each other on the bottom floor, but have a second floor with 2 40’ers in a V shape overlooking the view, overhanging the bottom floor on both sides. Then I’d fill in the space between the V with framing and traditional construction. I know I will have to add strength to the sides since they are made to sit corner to corner. Will this add so much expense that it will no longer be cost effective?

    • Discover Containers

      Answering your question is difficult as baked into it is how much you value having the design you’ve created in your mind. Could you build something simpler more cheaply? Of course. But will you be happy with it years from now? We don’t change houses like we change shoes, so if you have a design you’re really passionate about, it’s worth trying to see if you can realize it. What you’ve proposed is certainly doable. If you can support the corners of the two elevated containers with columns, it shouldn’t be too difficult. Some of the columns could be integrated into the walls of the lower containers (depending on the angle and orientation of the V), and some of the columns could be outside the footprint of the lower containers. If you want to have cantilevered overhangs without columns, that’s a little trickier and probably worth discussing with an engineer.

  7. Kelvin

    Hey Tom.

    I love the idea of the container homes. Do you know if is legal to build one in new york/ long island? Thank you

    • Discover Containers

      Sure, there are people in New York (both city and state) with container homes…we’ve even shown one or two on our Instagram feed! It might be tricky (but certainly not impossible) getting all the permits and approvals, and having an architect to help through that process would be quite beneficial.

  8. Steven Gronbach

    Tom I would like to build with 2 -40′ open top containers so I can have a cathedral ceiling with sissor trusses! Do you think the side walls are strong enough with 2’x4′ interior walls to support this? Thanks Steve

    • Discover Containers


      Open top containers still have the steel beams at the top of the container running along both long sides, just like an enclosed container. However, remember that containers are really designed to carry their load in the corners. Adding a bunch of scissor trusses will place all of that load on these horizontal beams, which are not really designed to carry vertical loads. Also, with a scissor truss, you’re only putting the load on one of the container’s walls, so it is holding twice the weight. Might it still be ok? Maybe. But a better choice would be doing some structural reinforcement to this horizontal beam, so it is not carrying all that weight across a 40′ span with no vertical reinforcements that transmit the load down to the foundation.

  9. DawnK

    Please make #2 your #1 before proceeding. Best check state, county/city and HOA regulations/covenants/policies before you put 1c into this. Not criticizing the concept, structure or methods…… but shipping containers are not allowed as living units in my HOA–nor are sheds, tents, etc. The tiny home idea is greatly romanticized….. but where will the values be in 5-10-25 years? That is another consideration–remember that manufactured homes have a “life span” and devalue like a vehicle. Does this fit in the same category….lots to think about.

    • Discover Containers

      The regulations and policies are certainly important to check into before spending much money on your project. However, there is a huge disparity in how willingly different cities/regions embrace container homes. It sounds like your area is on one end of the spectrum. It’s often helpful to remind people that shipping container homes don’t have to look like shipping containers. There are many shipping container homes that are quite ‘incognito’ due to design and exterior cladding. And shipping containers need not be ‘tiny’, as there are quite a few homes built with shipping containers that are huge. People really do a disservice when they characterized all shipping container homes as tiny, corrugated metal homes. While some do fit that description (if the owner intended it), it certainly isn’t necessary to the design aesthetic.

  10. Usep Sulaeman

    I am really interested in the ideas you are describing. A very interesting and informative blog

  11. kam

    Hi guys,

    I’m from the UK. Can we build container houses on paddocks?


    • Discover Containers

      Hi Kam,

      What do you mean by paddocks?

  12. Sharon

    I am so excited to find this blog!!
    I am getting ready to build a home, I have decided either pole barn or shipping containers will be my construction.
    I’m looking for the land (middle TN) have about $35,000 to work with so will be lapping up ALL the info/education available.
    This is exciting!!!!

    • Discover Containers

      Happy to have you Sharon 🙂

    • Lesa

      I too live in middle TN (Lebanon) and I’m very interested in what ever knowledge you have gleaned during this process!

  13. Aryne W.

    This is all really great information. Thanks to all who shared. I was looking online to find information on building shipping container homes in Chicagoland, but didn’t find much. Has anyone heard of any success stories to building this type of structure in that area?

  14. Simon

    Could you bury a few underground to make a burm house? Do you think this could work?

    • Stu

      Condensation is a big issue with in-ground containers. Although most are made from core 10 steel (which is resistant to rust), they still do rust and the risk of mould is very high with unventilated areas. There are some fantastic solutions to these problems. Keep searching!

  15. Ryan

    Hi Tom, (and who ever else reads this)

    Myself and my partner are looking at building a container home, we live in the UK and have started the process of applying for planning permission which is looking good at the moment.

    What I’m really interested in is how much other people have spent on completing their builds. We will be building a 2 story, 2160ft2 house and although we are lucky enough to have a pretty ‘open’ budget, I still am interested in how much others have spent in fully completing their builds and what I am expecting to pay.

    Hope somebody can give me some guidance. thanks.

  16. Carol

    Check out Grillagh Water house in Londonderry. A stylish container house that featured on Grand Designs.

  17. Carmen McPherson

    This is so interesting as I just recently heard about the use of shipping crates. I need all possible info available. Thank-you in advance….Carmen

  18. August

    Good evening Tom I’m doing some research in regards to container homes. your website is one of the most accurate I’ve come across.
    I wanted to thank you for being so informative, as far as building necessary planning and precautions to take along the way. I have a one question. I live in New York City do you know of any container homes that were built in the city or any architects working on said project? Lastly, great article.

    • Discover Containers

      Hi August,

      Thank you for your kind words!

      Certainly, there have been several built in the NY area. Send us an email and we’ll be happy to discuss this further.

  19. Lain Stanley

    I just purchased a 40 ft container but have not started doing anything to it yet. What would you say is the must important thing to do first? I am planning to make it a guest suite. I am in no hurry and want to spread projects out to spread cost out. I know it needs to be power washed but what next? What about the wood floors? I don’t want to remove them. Also are there any contractors in Oklahoma? Thank you in advance.

  20. justin

    im new to this concept, but im going to build one. is it possible to build this with 32k (thats all of the capitol i have) i need a 3 bedroom 1 bath. are there plans for sale? where do i need to start? theres information on the web, but it mostly covers how they are off grid, the benifits, the cons, i need to know where to start.

  21. Nikki

    My boyfriend and I are looking into making this type of home due to the fact that it is cheaper in the long run than mortgaging a home in our area. However I have noticed that all the homes in this list seem to take place in warm-to-moderate environments. We, however, live in Northern Ontario. Any advice on heavy-duty insulation?
    Another question we have concerns the ability of the containers to support multiple floors. Our current design of our future home has one set of containers buried as a basement and three above ground floors above this. How can one maintain the structural integrity of the building while still having as much natural light as possible.

    • Discover Containers

      Hi Nikki,

      We cover this in our insulation article and it is certainly possible. We’ve seen several container homes built in Ontario.

      In terms of maintaining structural integrity- the best way is to reduce/minimize the number of alterations you make to the containers. If they are necessary, then you need to add in structural enhancements to account for what you’ve removed.

    • Shane

      Nikki, wondering if you were able to get the house put up. I have been talking to others in Brantford area who have told me its hard to get permits to build with shipping containers.

  22. Joost

    Hey Tom,

    Maaaaan I was excited, but now I am on it! Thanks a lot..will be using the info gratefully 🙂

    • Discover Containers

      Great to hear Joost!

      Best of luck.

  23. Sherri Sykora

    I really like the idea of a container home. I am in need of something very soon due to relocation. I live in South Georgia. I am moving to the north Georgia mountains. Where do I start? I know absolutely nothing about this process or who to contact!

  24. Nicole

    Hi Tom,

    I’m very delighted about that awesome idea. I live in a 120 years old, family heritage farm property home.

    It needs many repairs and extremely costly. We were advised to built from the ground up to minimize the costs.

    But now I see what can be done, I’ll definitely convince my husband… I really want a living basement as well.

    Waiting to hear from you,


    • Discover Containers

      Hi Nicole,

      This sounds fantastic.

      How did your convincing go!?

  25. Amber


    We converted a 40 ft reefer into a library / man cave for hubby. We took out the reefer’s engine, sold it for scrap and put a window in the gap. We have double ranch slider doors in the middle and a ply T & G floor over the top of the grates. We used 2nd hand, double glazed, high wind windows and slider. The walls are stainless steel and smooth we left them like that. We had the outside of the container sprayed with container paint in a cool purplish shade. The total cost of the library was $11,500 NZD That included $1,000 worth of piles and $1,000 transport and a crane to land it.
    I couldn’t find much information on converting a reefer before we did it – only that people don’t use them for health reasons, but we took a risk and listened to the advice of the guy who converted ours. We chose a 2nd hand reefer that didn’t have any repair patches and very few dings. I think the issue with reefers comes when the walls are pierced, moisture gets in and mould can grow. It’s all metal on the inside and was washed thoroughly. It feels clean to me..you’d think that all the metal would feel cold and sterile but the wooden floor and all the books on the wall balances it. We are very happy we chose a reefer, it keeps the temperature perfect, even though there are extremes outside. I’m glad we didn;t have the hassle or cost of insulating and lining. The insulation on a reefer is thick and in the walls, floor and ceiling, whichever temperature you heat it up to, it holds. It’s been great in cold old Dunedin.
    If we were going to live in a reefer we would want to install air vents but for the use it has now there has been no problems with condensation etc. We didn’t put any power in but just run a cord from the house. We could easily add solar to provide lights etc down the track
    We are so happy with it we thought about doing another one – A self contained little guest house. I do find it strange no one else is using reefers ..I wonder if any one out there has new information on the supposed health hazard of using them in conversions

    • Mike

      Hi Amber
      I total agree with you, As long as they are vented they are good.
      Next time use a Swinglift transporter trailer made by Swinglift in Rotorua. There are a lot of transport companies that use them now, they can come to your site and put it right were you want.
      I am looking into getting a high cubic reefer, They are higher than the standard. We are looking at using it for a holiday home down South.
      I also like the idea that they can be total locked up .
      Good luck with the future containers.
      Cheers Mike (NZ)

  26. Steev C

    Here in the UK we have a community who live in what are called “Narrowboats”. These are usually of all steel construction and internally are about 6 feet wide by 6 feet tall and somewhere between 20 and 50 feet long internally. For those who want to live in the container as a relocatable solution, Narrowboat internal designs may well prove to be a rich source of ideas. It occurred to me that an alternative to windows might be to use energy efficient TV screens fed from a camera placed on the outside. Then your window could become at the push of a button, a painting, a light panel or (of course) a TV/Computer screen. When it’s bright outside a single 250 watt solar panel would easily power quite a large & bright “electronic window”. I appreciate that does not address ventilation/emergency-exit-in-the-case-of-fire issues, but if you have a door at both ends..

    • Discover Containers

      Hi Steev,

      Thank you for the suggestion on the narrowboats. As far as the electronic screen as a window idea, it could be useful for some people in a specific situation.

  27. David

    Hi Tom
    I’m looking into building a container home in Australia the design I have in mind has 3 sections, each section is 6 40ft containers (3 side by side and 3 directly on top of them) so totaling 18 40ft containers.
    The problem I have is in a few of the section entire sides on both sides of some of the containers will be removed(creating a single room measuring 7.2m(23ft) x 12m(40ft) as the largest room, as the sides are structural are there any references you know of that I can draw on to help with what would be needed to appropriately brace the container to support the weight of the containers on top of it let alone its own weight.
    If you need any more details please let me know and i may be able to draw a quick sketch for you in what is envisioned.

    • Discover Containers

      Hi David,

      That’s a very detailed question that deals directly with life safety, and requires the assistance of a structural engineer. If you’re stacking containers directly on top of each other, corner to corner, this makes the analysis much easier, but if you’re stacking them in other locations, it’s a much more complicated matter.

  28. ady

    i am planning to build a container home in a city where temp ranges from 50c in summer to 3c in winter.i need advise for insulation.

  29. Dale

    I was ready with cash to build a two container home similar to the Savannah project in rural Florida.The county was OK with my idea.
    I already have electric, a well, septic and a small mobile home on the property.
    As the architect advised that the price would be over $40,000, I had to pull the plug.
    So much for saving the planet, I guess I’ll have to settle for a new mobile home. 🙁

    • Discover Containers

      Hi Dale,

      Sorry to hear that you had to cancel your project. Without knowing the details of your project, and especially how much (if any) of the work you were planning to do yourself, it’s hard to know if this price estimate was unreasonable or not. Nevertheless, we hope your situation changes for the better and you’re able to breath new life into your project at a future date. Keep us posted.

  30. ContainerKid Chicago

    I am convinced my dream home will be made of shipping containers but can anyone comment on differences in financing the construction SCH?

  31. Jon Johnson

    We are planning a 3200sq ft house in Sheffield, England, as far as I know the first of its kind in this country. Looking for a site at the moment, thanks for the info, would like to hear more from these developers as they seem very coy on the pitfalls! In particular I’m interested in bio-based insulation, green roof tech, solar panels and wind turbines, ground/air source heat pumps, cladding options, wood-fired boilers, waste disposal (reed bed sewage processing, septic tanks etc) and off-grid heating/ cooking such as propane gas. Just a few issues to consider!!
    Will keep an eye on your site so any new stuff welcome!!!

    • Discover Containers

      Thank you for getting in touch Jon!

      Sounds great, we’d love to hear from you throughout your journey to let us know how you progress…

    • Chris

      Just wondering, how did you get on

    • Ben

      How is this going Jon? I’m quite near you In Goole,East Yorkshire. Did you find a piece of land yet?

  32. gene

    I’d like to put a container home on my west va property as a weekend hunting lodge, as it would be ideal in terms of security when I lock it up. I’d need help with the whole process , as in design and contractor. Any suggestions ?

    • Discover Containers

      Hi Gene,

      Send us an email via the ‘Contact Us’ link at the top of the page and we’ll give you some recommendations

    • Michael

      Gene, will be starting such a venture this week. Would be glad to keep you updated if you’d like.

  33. Dani

    Dear Tom,

    I am planning a 20×10 container farm house and your thread really has extensive information and appreciate your effort. Now my worry is all about the tropical weather conditions in my country, Malaysia where day temperatures are high and it rains almost every week….my plan obviously includes giving the container a half meter high roof to protect from rain and tropical sun…..but do you think i would need to invest in insulating the container inside out? I have no done projects around here to visit and see how it feels in a container home and from my readings insulating in a later stage start living is a big pain as you need to redo the electrical and sanitary jobs…please advise. thanks


    • Discover Containers

      Hi Dani,

      We’re glad you liked the article! We recommend insulation for almost all situations. In areas where it gets cold, it’s especially important for condensation. In more tropical areas like where you are at, it can help reduce your utility bills and keep your interior temperature more pleasant. We’d recommend placing insulation as you are building the container building, not afterward, for the reason you mentioned.

      • iain

        Hi Tom, I’ve just taken delivery of my shipping container today and already have noticed that the insulation should be on the outside with a further weather proofing on top of that. If you put it on the inside and use the metal as the outside surface then in the tropics you are going to get condensation forming on the inside of the metal wall. This will effect any internal insulation, and will likely deteriorate the inner wall material.
        I hope this is helpful to Dani- Iain Australia

        • Tim

          Sorry, but that’s exactly backwards. It is what will happen in a cold climate, not a hot one. The key in a hot/humid climate is to provide sufficient AC/dehumidification so that walls will dry to the interior. In fact, if your container is air conditioned and is not adequately insulated, condensation will form on the outside of the wall, not the inside.

  34. Melanie Nardiello

    Hi Tom,

    I have a dog business and purchased two 40′ containers to use for indoor dog play area. I plan on putting the two containers next to each other and cut a large door framed out. I live in New York where the weather is a challenge. Do you have any suggestion in regards to making my project successful?


    • Discover Containers

      Hi Melanie,

      Our recommendation in almost all cases for containers used for human habitation is to insulate. For animals, the answer is more vague. It depends on what ventilation you’re planning, if you’ll have any HVAC, and how long (and how often) the dogs will be in the containers. If it’s more of a place for the dogs to play on nice days, insulation probably isn’t necessary. If dogs will be kept inside for several days at a time, it gets a little more complicated. We’re happy to discuss this more via email if you’d like.

      Best of luck and keep us posted on your progress.

  35. Jerrica

    I’m planning to build a shipping container home. However I would like to be mobile on a trailer. Do you have any advice? Is this idea even possible?

    • Discover Containers

      Hi Jerrica,

      Yes, it’s possible, though honestly, it’s not a great idea. You’d really need additional structural support for the undercarriage, as containers are designed to transmit their loads through the corners, not through the middle of their long sides. Additional, containers are very heavy even when empty, and you’d probably be better off starting with a trailer chassis similar to many tiny homes. We’re happy to discuss more specifics via email if you’d like.

  36. Renea Greene

    Thanks for sharing. My husband and I are interested in building a container home on an island near Mobile Al. Being that Mobile is a port city and and we have a train station, we should have easy access to purchasing containers inexpensively. I would love to build a 1600 sq ft. beach house on pilings with 4 containers. I have to do tons more reading. 🙂

    • Discover Containers

      Sounds fantastic Renea! Keep us updated 🙂

    • Elizabeth Morgan

      Renea – Hello There! I’m interested in building a similar structure in NW Florida (not too far from you) as a modern more cost effective home for a family member. Would you please share your findings with me? Likewise, I would be happy to share my findings. There is a restaurant called, “The Gulf” located in Gulf Shores Alabama that is made out of shipping containers, has polished concrete floors, and surrounded by light wood for stairs, balconies, and porches. You may wish to check in that direction to see how and who built their structure. I look forward to hearing from you.

      E. Morgan – srm010396@yahoo.com

  37. john

    In about a year I’ll be building my own version of container home which will survive cat 5 tornados ,hurricanes,floods,tsunami’s fires etc undamaged.

    • Discover Containers

      Sounds like a plan John, best of luck.

  38. Rachel

    This is good info and provides great links to design firms but I don’t see anything on how to finance a container build and info is limited online! Can anyone point me in the direction of financiers in the USA who are willing to provide new construction loans for container builds? Thank you!

    • Discover Containers

      Hi Rachel,

      You’re right there isn’t much information out there on financing a container build, but keep your eyes peeled because we are currently writing a blog post on this and it should be out shortly…

      • Stephanie


        Any further info on financing. I am so ready to build my container home here in Arizona but am having trouble finding financing. Could this be classed as a factory built or manufactured home and get a FHA one time close loan for the land and then the build?

        Any info would be greatly appreciated.



        • Discover Containers

          Hi Stephanie,

          Thank you for getting in touch. Financing is still a difficult subject. If you’re buying a container home via a contractor, some of them are starting to offer financing. If you’re building it yourself, there are options like owner-builder loans, although there are a lot of stipulations to getting one.

    • Tyler

      I would go after local REIT’s (real estate investment trusts). There’s one in Seattle that does local funding for builder projects of all sorts.

      • Alfred S Ra'oof

        Hello Tyler, I live in Seattle and want to build here as well. Do you know of quality container builders local to me? I also need financing. Have you made your blog on financing? If so please send me a link. Thank you so much…

    • Chris

      We are going into this with the idea of being debt free. That said, I don’t think you have to get everything done at once. Our goal is to get the shipping containers assembled and then do the minimum on the interior – kitchen, bedroom walls and bathroom. The rest can be finished as time progresses, and particularly any outside desires. But the main thing would be to understand what your later desires are – pool, patio, garden bed, etc., so that you don’t have to undo, drive over, or anything to add to cost later on had you prepared better the first time. For example, if you want to add a pool later, but now to put it where you wish, you have to prepare the area or maybe the house is in the way making it harder to access the area where maybe you could have just put the container in the ground in the beginning and then finished it later. The same thing with with the garage, say you have 2 40 ft containers put together, you can later cut out the end to make a garage and build a wall separating it from the rest of the interior. Not everything needs to be done at once. And if you need a little bit of money, you can take out a personal loan to finish one section or area at a time, repay it, and then take out another loan and do the next section. Much better than taking out a loan for the whole thing and getting chewed up on the interest.

      • Discover Containers

        Good points Chris…planning early on always pays dividends and saves you grief later. Another thing to factor in is one-time costs related to mobilization. For instance, if you need to have a crane come out to place your containers, or you need to have a contractor out to insulate your containers, it’s cheaper to have them come out once and be done. You can leave all the work you’ll be doing yourself for a later date when you have additional funds for materials.

  39. RTC Container Sales

    Hi Tom,You have represented people from different areas and they seems happy with shipping containers. I am fond to learn something new about it. Your portfolio is really great. In modern time shipping containers are the language of living. Thanks for sharing.

  40. William Dobson

    Why is it no one has used the smooth sided insulated containers (reefers) ? They are a few thousand $$$ more but you have smooth interior and exterior walls and insulated sides, roof, and floor!!!

    • Discover Containers

      Hi William,

      There are definitely some pros and cons to using the refrigerated containers (reefers). Check out this article for more information: https://www.discovercontainers.com/should-you-use-a-refrigerated-shipping-container-for-your-container-home/

      • Mark

        don’t the reefer containers have pretty much the same size interior once insulation is placed in the conventional containers? It actually saves a money in the long run as its already insulated and you can see your initial interior dimensions.

        • Discover Containers

          Hi Mark,

          Yes, the interior size is comparable to a traditional container after its interior has been insulated. Whether it saves money in the long run is up for debate, and depends to a large degree on your design and how much you’ll be modifying the container. Our previously referenced article on the subject discusses all of this at length.

    • Stephen Barnes

      hey i would love to live in something like this when i move out next year

    • Charlie

      Probably because the wiring and plumbing would be way harder and more expensive to add to a reefer unit. And if local building codes require inspections then you’d have to open up the insulated walls anyway.