Where Should You Construct Your Shipping Container Home?

Plan & Budget


Where are you actually going to turn your empty shipping containers into a useable building or home? You have several options for where to do the conversion, each with various strengths and weaknesses.  There isn’t one option that is universally the right one; rather, you need to make the choice that best fits your life and your project.  Below we’ll discuss some of the options so that you’re able to make a better decision.

Convert Your Shipping Containers Onsite

A good option if it’s practical for your situation is to get your shipping containers delivered onsite and convert them there.  This allows you to access your site 24/7 where you can work late into the night, after work, if necessary.  And it’s much easier to visualize how some of your choices will impact the overall project when you can see the container as it will sit at the conclusion of the build.

Containers stored offsite may have time restrictions for when you are given access to work. If your containers are delivered directly to your land, there are no additional transport fees. Offsite conversion means transporting once to the workshop and then again to the site. Converting your containers onsite ensures they don’t get damaged once they’re finished. Could you imagine converting your containers offsite and then having them damaged during transport to the land?

However, converting your containers onsite offers some logistical challenges. For example, if you are building on a greenfield site, then chances are you won’t have any electric or water supply there. This would make it very difficult to convert your shipping containers. You can get around this by having a generator on site, but they can be expensive and noisy! If you aren’t already the DIY type, you may not have all the tools required to convert your shipping containers. Buying those and welding equipment can be expensive.

Convert Your Shipping Containers Offsite

Your second option is to have the shipping containers delivered to a local workshop or fabricator where they can be converted.

Converting them at a local workshop will give you access to all of their equipment. Chances are there will be some very knowledgeable people working there too, so you can always ask them questions if you get into any difficulties. A huge advantage of converting your containers within a workshop is that you don’t need to worry about making your containers watertight immediately since they will be stored indoors.

If you are planning your shipping container home on a greenfield site,  the electric and water can be installed at the same time as your containers are being converted at a local workshop. Containers kept in a workshop will be secure during times that you are away.

Converting your containers offsite does have some drawbacks that should be mentioned. One time consideration is that depending on how far away you are from the workshop, you may have to travel some distance to get there and back. This can be time-consuming and you may have time issues already. If so, you could be using this time to convert your containers instead of traveling to the workshop.  The workshop will often have scheduled times for which you have access to your container. If you work a full-time job, you may only have access a few hours after work and before closing time. If you do decide to use a workshop, remember to ask what hours you can have access to your container and also agree on a flat weekly or monthly fee in advance.

Split Conversion

The choice of whether to convert onsite or offsite doesn’t have to be solely one or the other. A common approach is to convert the external structural elements of the container offsite and then do the rest of the internal work onsite. For instance, you would install your doors, windows, and flooring offsite to get the containers watertight. Then transport the containers to your land where you can do all the internal work such as insulation, kitchen, etc.

This option provides the best of both worlds because you are getting the advantage of making your containers watertight in a safe environment. You also get to add your own personal touch to the containers by converting the interior.  It is slightly more expensive to do the 50/50 split because you will have to pay to move your containers twice.

Remember, when converting your containers offsite, that if you make them too heavy you will need to pay for expensive cranes to lift the containers into place on your plot of land.

Get a Contractor to Convert it For You

What happens if you really want to convert your own shipping container home but you don’t have the expertise or you simply don’t have enough spare time? Your final option is to get a contractor to construct the container home for you. Depending on the contractor, they will either come to your site to convert the containers or convert the container at their own premises and then come to your site to install the shipping containers.

Bringing in a contractor to convert your containers has several advantages. First, because of their experience, they will be able to advise you throughout the construction phase. They will also be able to convert the containers in a shorter timeframe when compared to doing it yourself.

There are two disadvantages to using a contractor. You will have additional costs by using a contractor. You won’t get to put your own personal touch on the containers while having them converted.

The choice of whether to convert the containers onsite or offsite comes down to your own individual circumstances. Typically we see people opting for the 50/50 split and getting the external work done offsite by contractors. Then they have the containers delivered onsite where the owner converts the interior.

We’d love to know which method you chose to convert your shipping containers and how you made that difficult decision. Share with us in the comments section.