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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 efficient.

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 homes.

Low Cost

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.