Ideas, Plans & Designs for Environmentally Friendly DIY Storage Container Homes
Shipping Containers get called all kinds of things from cargo containers, freight containers,
intermodal containers, to storage containers. Whatever you call them, they are basically the same
thing, although there are variations in sizes and fittings. For example some have refrigerated
units built in.
The thing with used steel shipping containers is they’re a low cost sustainable method of
construction whether they’re for building temporary or permanent houses, offices, or recycled as a
workshop, or placed on concrete slabs and used in a self storage facility.
How Much Do Used Shipping Containers Cost?
Using shipping containers as homes is becoming increasingly popular as people realize how cheap
they are to buy, and how quick and easy they are to work with, and how strong and versatile they
are when used correctly in housing construction. Add to this the benefits for the environment in
recycling old used cargo containers and it’s a WIN/WIN for everyone. Used storage containers can be
purchased for anywhere from $1000 upwards, but obviously the better the condition the higher the
price. Expect to pay $2000 plus for good quality container. There’s no point in buying a rusty old
steel box, when there are good quality ones available at a reasonable price. There is often not
much difference in the price of 20ft and 40ft containers, so the larger sizes can prove very cost
What are the Benefits of Building Shipping Container Homes?
Apart from the obvious benefits of reusing or recycling the unused containers, there are
numerous other advantages for house design:
Innovative and Trendy Designs
Steel homes don’t need to look boxy, because with a few design modifications, they can resemble
very modern architecturally designed homes with clean lines and interesting color combinations. Yes
you can paint the steel or cover it with textured surfaces depending on your plans. Storage
container homes can fitted with high-spec features for very comfortable family living. They can
feature large kitchens, large bathrooms, big bedrooms and spacious living areas.
Ease of Use
Intermodal containers are like giant building blocks so are perfect for DIY home construction.
Both the 20ft and 40ft sizes are typically 8 ft 6 inches in height so are suitable for housing. 45
ft containers are typically 9ft 6 inches in height. Most are 8 ft wide. Always check the internal
and external dimensions before purchasing. With a few simple adjustments they can be expanded
horizontally or vertically as modular units to add rooms and space to the home. Depending on your
plans and design, you can add lumber, aluminum, or factory steel to add architectural features.
Shipping container homes can be anywhere from a couple of hundred square feet through to large
scale homes of several thousand square foot.
The beauty of steel storage containers is their strength and durability. They are not only built
to withstand the elements of weather, salt spray, and natural events, they’re also designed to
protect the freight they transport. They get lifted by cranes and forklifts and spend much of their
life on decks of ships, on railroad wagons, or a trucks – so strength is a built in feature.
Another huge benefit is that, being made from steel, they’re non-combustible unlike regular wooden
Apart from the low cost of buying used shipping containers, there are huge savings to be made in
the home construction process. They are already self supporting with steel beams and are often
already fitted out in “marine grade” plywood flooring. This can represent a huge saving in time,
materials and labor during construction.
How Cold are Shipping Container Houses?
They can be insulated just like an ordinary wood or brick house. Rigid insulation (or spray
insulation) is usually applied to the outside surface to keep the home warm in winter and cool in
summer. Humidity and condensation doesn’t need to be a problem. 1-inch rigid insulation can be
added to the interior surface by welding a screw or nail on to the container. The rigid insulation
can then be pushed into the nail before adding washers.
Are Shipping Containers Very Strong?
Absolutely! The simple fact is most are made strong enough to stack on ships in stacks of 8 or 9
high. That’s a lot of weight especially when filled with heavy cargo! The walls are typically 0.075
inch (14 gauge) steel corrugated sheet panels welded onto the main supporting structure. Low alloy,
high strength, corrosive resistant steel is typically used these days. The end frames, and the
bottom and top side rails, are generally constructed from tubular steel (7 gauge). The roof is
designed specifically protect the cargo from driving wind and rain, salt spray, snow, typhoons, and
earthquakes. The base of most sea containers have special cross-member recesses along the
side/bottom rails to allow for heavy lifting by straddle carriers.
What Shape Can Shipping Container Homes Be?
The house plans can accommodate all kinds of room configurations. Wide mid-span roofs can be
included to stretch between multiple containers to dramatically increase the house floor plan area.
The house can be made wider or longer without much difficulty. Large sections can generally be
removed from the steel sides to make space for door and windows. End and side sections can be cut
out so that two containers can be positioned side by side to form a large internal living space.
The homes are generally built on concrete foundations, reinforced concrete blocks, or in some cases
old railroad ties.
Some people even add steel tubing to the inside and position the containers underground.