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Exploring Shipping Container House Plans

Shipping Container House Plans

Living in a shipping container house has gained a lot of popularity among homeowners and architects alike. These innovative and eco-friendly dwellings offer a unique blend of modern design, sustainability, and affordability. Shipping container house plans provide an exciting opportunity to transform sturdy, surplus containers into stylish and functional living spaces.

This article gets into the various aspects of shipping container house plans, exploring their benefits, design possibilities, and how they are revolutionizing the housing industry. Whether you’re considering building your own container home or simply intrigued by this architectural trend, join us as we uncover the endless potential of shipping container living.

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Exploring Shipping Container House Plans

Is a Shipping Container Home Cheaper Than a House?

What is the Lifespan of a Container Home?

Do Shipping Container Homes Rust?

Are Shipping Containers Waterproof?

How Long Does It Take to Build a Shipping Container Home?

How Big are Containers for Container Homes?

What Foundation is Used for Container Homes?

How to Design a Container Home

What Should Good Shipping Container House Plans Have?

Related Reading

Exploring Shipping Container House Plans

Shipping container homes are a unique and stylish way to build a sustainable and affordable home.  They can be designed in a variety of configurations, from single-story studios to multi-story family homes.

When designing your shipping container home plan, be sure to consider the following factors:

– The size and number of shipping containers you will need. Shipping containers come in a variety of sizes, so you will need to choose the size that is right for your needs. You may also need to use multiple shipping containers to create your home.

– The layout of your home. Consider how you will use the space in your home and design your floor plan accordingly. Be sure to factor in things like furniture placement, traffic flow, and natural light.

– The location of your home. The location of your home will influence the design of your home plan. For example, if your home is in a cold climate, you will need to make sure that your home is well-insulated.

With careful planning, you can design a shipping container home that is both stylish and functional.

Is a Shipping Container Home Cheaper Than a House?

Shipping container homes can be cheaper than traditional houses, but it depends on several factors:

Potential Cost Advantages of Shipping Container Homes:

Lower Material Costs… The containers themselves can be a relatively inexpensive starting point, especially compared to building a house with lumber or bricks.

Faster Construction… Since the containers are pre-built steel structures, construction can be quicker than traditional methods, potentially reducing labor costs.

Simpler Design… Smaller, single-story container homes with minimal modifications can be quite affordable.

Factors Affecting Overall Cost:

Customization… Extensive modifications to the containers, like cutting large windows or adding multiple stories, can significantly increase costs.

Number of Containers… Larger homes requiring multiple containers will naturally cost more than smaller ones.

Location and Permits… Building permits, foundation requirements, and local labor rates can vary significantly.

Interior Finishes… High-end finishes like granite countertops or custom cabinetry will drive up the price, just like in a traditional house.

Cost Range for Shipping Container Homes:

– Basic Designs: $10,000 – $35,000 (This is on the low end and may require significant DIY work)

– Typical Range: $25,000 – $175,000 (This covers a wider range of sizes and complexity)

– High-End Designs: Can exceed $250,000 (These would be large, multi-story homes with extensive customization)

Shipping container homes can be a cost-effective option, especially for smaller, simpler designs.

They may not always be cheaper than a traditionally built house, particularly when considering high-end finishes and complex designs.

What is the Lifespan of a Container Home?

The lifespan of a shipping container home can vary depending on a few factors, but with proper care and maintenance, they can last for a long time:

Base Lifespan… The steel structure of a shipping container itself is typically designed for a lifespan of around 25 years when used for regular shipping purposes. However, a shipping container home is stationary and doesn’t experience the wear and tear of constant travel, so this can be a good baseline.

Maintenance… Regular maintenance is key to maximizing the lifespan of your container home. This includes checking for and addressing rust, ensuring proper ventilation to prevent moisture build-up, and maintaining any waterproofing materials used.

Quality of Construction… The quality of the construction process also plays a role. Proper welding techniques, using the right materials for insulation and finishes, and ensuring there are no leaks will all contribute to a longer lifespan.

Here’s a breakdown of possible lifespans:

Well-maintained container home… Can last 25 years or more, potentially even exceeding the lifespan of a traditionally built home.

Home with lesser maintenance or lower quality construction… May have a shorter lifespan, closer to the 25-year baseline for the shipping container itself.

Additional factors affecting lifespan:

Climate… Harsh climates with extreme temperatures or high humidity can put more stress on the materials.

Materials used in conversion… The quality and durability of the materials used for insulation, roofing, and interior finishes will also affect the overall lifespan.

Overall, shipping container homes can be a durable and long-lasting option for housing, especially with proper care and maintenance.

Do Shipping Container Homes Rust?

Yes, shipping container homes are susceptible to rust, but there are several ways to prevent it and mitigate any existing rust:

Why they rust:

Shipping containers are made of Corten steel. While this steel is designed to resist corrosion to a degree, it’s not completely rust-proof. When exposed to moisture, oxygen, and salt (especially in coastal areas), rust can develop.

Preventing rust:

Painting… Applying a high-quality rust-inhibiting paint is the most common method. This creates a barrier between the steel and the elements. Choose a paint specifically designed for galvanized steel for optimal protection.

Galvanization… Some containers are already galvanized, which involves applying a zinc coating that offers additional rust resistance.

Cathodic protection… This method involves attaching sacrificial anodes made of zinc or aluminum to the steel. These anodes corrode first, protecting the steel from rust.

Moisture control… This is key. Proper ventilation helps prevent condensation buildup inside the container. You can also use a vapor barrier to further control moisture. Keeping the container off the ground and away from standing water helps as well.

Dealing with existing rust:

Early detection and treatment… Catching rust early is important. Small areas of surface rust can be removed with a wire brush or sandpaper, followed by painting with a rust-inhibiting primer and topcoat.

For more extensive rust… Sandblasting or grinding may be necessary to remove the rust completely before repainting. In severe cases, replacement of heavily rusted sections may be needed.

By taking these steps, you can significantly reduce the risk of rust in your shipping container home and ensure it has a long lifespan.

Are Shipping Containers Waterproof?

Shipping containers are generally considered watertight, not waterproof, with some key distinctions:

Watertight… This means the container is designed to resist entry of water from the outside.  This is crucial for their function of protecting cargo during transport, especially on ocean voyages.  Rubber door seals and carefully constructed seams play a big role in achieving this.

Waterproof… This is a stricter term, implying the container is completely impervious to water, even under pressure.  In reality, even new containers may have minor imperfections that could allow some water ingress in extreme situations.

Here’s a breakdown of factors affecting water resistance:

New vs. Used Containers… New containers with properly maintained seals will offer the best water resistance.  Used containers, especially those sold “as-is” may have damaged seals or compromised weatherproofing, reducing their water resistance.

Modifications… Cutting holes for windows, doors, or other features can potentially compromise the watertightness if not carefully sealed.  The quality of these modifications is important.

Weather Conditions… While designed to withstand harsh weather, heavy rain or driving wind with water could exploit weaknesses in an older container or one with modifications.

Here are some tips to maximize water resistance in a shipping container home:

– Inspect the container carefully before purchase. Look for signs of rust, damaged seals, or previous repairs.

– Have any modifications professionally done. Ensure proper sealing techniques are used to maintain watertightness.

– Maintain the seals on the doors. Regular checks and replacements when necessary are important.

– Consider additional waterproofing measures. This could include applying a sealant to seams or adding a vapor barrier inside the container to control moisture.

How Long Does It Take to Build a Shipping Container Home?

The construction time for a shipping container home can vary greatly depending on several factors.

Here’s a breakdown to give you an idea:

Possible Timeframes:

Simple Design (1-2 Months) … An experienced contractor or DIYer familiar with construction could potentially build a basic shipping container home in this timeframe. This would likely be a single-story container with minimal modifications.

Typical Range (3-6 Months) … This covers a wider range of designs and complexity. It could involve multiple containers, some interior design features, and obtaining permits.

High-End Designs (Over 6 Months) … Large, multi-story homes with extensive modifications and custom features will naturally take longer to build.

Factors Affecting Build Time:

Complexity of Design… The more modifications needed (cutting large windows, adding multiple stories), the longer it will take.

Number of Containers… Using multiple containers obviously takes more time to assemble and connect compared to a single container.

Experience Level… An experienced builder can work faster and more efficiently than someone new to construction.

Permits and Inspections… Obtaining necessary permits and passing inspections can add time to the process. Requirements can vary by location.

Availability of Materials and Labor… Depending on your location, there may be delays in getting specific materials or finding qualified workers.

Here are some tips to potentially shorten your build time:

– Start with a simple design. The more complex the design, the longer it will take.

– Hire experienced professionals. A qualified contractor can help streamline the process and ensure quality construction.

– Do your research on permits beforehand. Knowing what permits are needed and the application process can save time.

– Plan ahead and order materials in advance. This can help avoid delays due to material availability.

How Big are Containers for Container Homes?

Shipping containers for homes come in a variety of standard sizes, with two main dimensions determining their footprint: length and width.

Here’s a breakdown of the most common ones:


– 10ft: Less common, but these can be used for small projects or add-on spaces.

– 20ft: A very popular size, offering a good balance of usable space and affordability.

– 40ft: Provides significantly more space, ideal for larger homes or those wanting more open floor plans.

– 45ft High Cube: An uncommon option but offers the extra length of a 40ft container with the added height of a high cube container (see below).


– 8ft: This is the standard width for most shipping containers.


– Standard Height (8ft 6in): This is the most commonly available height.

– High Cube (9ft 6in): These containers offer an extra foot of headroom, which can be a big advantage for creating a comfortable living space.

Choosing the right size container(s) for your home will depend on:

Desired amount of space… Consider how many people will be living in the home and what functions the space will need to serve.

Budget… Larger containers generally cost more.

Local regulations…. Some areas may have restrictions on the size of structures allowed.

Transportation and placement limitations… Think about how the container will be delivered to your building site and if there are limitations on its size due to access or permits.

What Foundation is Used for Container Homes?

Shipping container homes require a foundation for several reasons:

Stability and Leveling… A foundation helps ensure the container home is level and stable on the ground, preventing uneven settling and potential structural problems.

Protection from Elements… Elevates the container off the ground, reducing exposure to moisture, pests, and potential flooding.

Creates a Tarmac for Utilities… Provides a solid base for running electrical wiring, plumbing, and other utilities underneath the container.

There are several options for foundations for shipping container homes, each with pros and cons to consider:

Slab Foundation… A common choice, it’s a poured concrete pad that the entire container sits on. Pros: very stable and durable, good for permanent structures. Cons: can be expensive and time-consuming to install.

Pier Foundation… Uses concrete piers or blocks placed at key points (corners and potentially mid-points) to support the container. Pros: relatively inexpensive and quicker to install than a slab, good for uneven terrain. Cons: may not be ideal for very large or heavy container homes.

Pile Foundation… Similar to a pier foundation but uses driven steel piles that go deeper into the ground for better support in areas with weak soil. Pros: very strong and stable for challenging soil conditions. Cons: most expensive option.

Gravel Pad… A simple and cost-effective option using a layer of crushed gravel.

– Pros: inexpensive and DIY-friendly, good for drainage.

– Cons:  Not as stable as other options, may require periodic leveling.

Choosing the right foundation depends on several factors:

Soil Conditions… The type of soil on your building site will influence the foundation’s required strength and design.

Weight of the Container Home… Larger or multi-story container homes will need a stronger foundation than smaller ones.

Budget… Slab foundations are most expensive, while gravel pads are most affordable.

Local Building Codes… Your area’s regulations may specify requirements for foundations.

Consulting with a structural engineer or experienced contractor can help you determine the most suitable foundation type for your specific shipping container home project. Here’s an article that goes over foundation options in more details What’s The Best Foundation Option For You?

How to Design a Container Home

Designing a shipping container home can be an exciting and creative process.

Here’s a roadmap to guide you through the key steps:

1] Define Your Needs and Budget:

Number of occupants… How many people will be living in the home?

Desired square footage… Consider the size needed for bedrooms, living areas, bathrooms, etc.

Budget… Determine how much you can realistically afford for the entire project, including container costs, construction, permits, and finishes.

Lifestyle needs… Think about how you’ll use the space. Do you need a dedicated workspace, a large kitchen, or ample storage?

2] Research and Explore Design Ideas:

Browse online resources… Websites and platforms like Pinterest and Houzz offer a wealth of inspiration for shipping container home designs. Look for examples that resonate with your style and spatial needs.

Consider pre-made plans… Several companies offer pre-designed shipping container home plans. These can be a good starting point, but you may need to modify them to fit your specific needs.

Follow These Simple Step-By-Step Plans to Learn How to Build a Shipping Container Home Easily & Cheaply

Sketch your own ideas… Don’t be afraid to get creative and brainstorm some initial layouts on paper.

3] Factor in Local Regulations and Permits:

Contact your local building department… Regulations regarding container homes can vary by area. Find out what permits are required and any restrictions on size, placement, or foundation types.

Consult with an architect or engineer (optional) … An experienced professional can advise on structural considerations, foundation design, and ensuring your plans comply with local codes.

4] Determine the Size and Number of Containers:

Consider your desired square footage… Based on your needs, calculate the total floor space required.

Choose the right container size(s) … Refer to the different standard container dimensions (refer to previous conversation on container sizes) to see which combinations would work best for your layout.

Think about single-story vs. multi-story… Multiple containers can be stacked to create a multi-story home, but this adds complexity and cost.

5] Design the Layout and Functionality:

Room layout… Sketch the placement of rooms like bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen, living areas, etc. Consider traffic flow, natural light, and efficient use of space.

Functionality… Plan where furniture, appliances, and fixtures will be placed. Ensure there are enough electrical outlets, plumbing connections, and ventilation.

Windows and Doors… Decide on the location and size of windows and doors for natural light, ventilation, and access.

6] Incorporate Sustainability Features (optional):

Solar panels… Consider installing solar panels on the roof to generate clean energy and reduce reliance on the grid.

Rainwater harvesting… A system to collect rainwater can be used for watering plants or flushing toilets.

Energy-efficient appliances… Choose appliances with high energy star ratings to minimize energy consumption.

7] Finalize the Design and Consider Professional Help:

Refine your plans… Once you have a basic layout, finalize details like material choices, finishes, and any specific features you want to incorporate.

Consider hiring a professional… An architect or contractor experienced in shipping container homes can help ensure your design is structurally sound, adheres to building codes, and provides valuable expertise during construction.

Remember, this is a general guide, and the specific steps may vary depending on your project’s complexity and your level of DIY experience.  Enjoy the design process and let your creativity flow!

What Should Good Shipping Container House Plans Have?

Good shipping container house plans should consider both the limitations and strengths of the containers themselves and translate those into a functional and comfortable living space.

Here are some key features to look for:

Space Optimization:

Multi-container design… Stacking or connecting multiple containers creates more square footage.

Smart room layouts… Consider open floor plans or strategically placed furniture to maximize the usable area.

Built-in storage… Utilize features like lofts, cubbies, and niches to take advantage of vertical space.

Addressing Container Limitations:

Natural light and ventilation… Standard containers have limited windows. Look for plans incorporating ample windows and doors, or light tubes for a bright interior.

Insulation… Steel conducts temperatures easily. Plans should include proper insulation for both hot and cold climates.

Moisture control… Condensation can be an issue. Look for designs that address ventilation and vapor barriers.

Matching Your Needs:

Number of bedrooms and bathrooms… Consider how many people will live in the house.

Single or multi-story… Decide if stacking containers for additional floors is feasible for your needs and building codes.

Incorporation of outdoor space… Balconies, decks, or patios can add square footage and connection to the outdoors.

Related Reading

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Shipping Container Garage: A Modern Twist on Traditional Storage

Increasing Backyard Leisure: The Rise of Shipping Container Pools

How to Insulate a Shipping Container

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