With the recent inflation, people have started looking for alternatives to the exorbitantly priced process of building a traditional brick-and-mortar house. Shipping container homes are one of the most popular options that have popped up.

Building a shipping container home consists of these main steps:

  1. Purchase the land to be built on.
  2. Find a reputable shipping container home builder.
  3. Purchase a shipping container.
  4. Lay the home’s foundation and install insulation.

Read on to learn more about the steps required for your container home project. We’ve also outlined some positive and negative aspects to consider before starting the work.

Building a Shipping Container Home: A Step-By-Step Guide

Without further ado, let’s explore the steps you’ll need to go through when building your shipping container home.

Purchase Land to Build on

Open expanse of land shot aerially showing lots of greenspace to build shipping home
The first step of building a container home is selecting the land for it.

Before thinking about the shipping container home, you need to consider the location and type of land you will build on. For example, will you build your home in a rural or urban area?

Your decision will be a key determining factor in the total cost of your project.

After all, farmland in rural areas is significantly cheaper than land close to the city center. The cost of farmland will vary from state to state. However, an acre of farmland will cost $3,800 on average.

You can expect to pay more for urban land with amenities and infrastructure for utilities such as water and electricity.

Find a Reputable Shipping Container Home Builder

While building a shipping container home is far easier than a conventional brick-and-mortar house, it’s still not a project that most people can undertake without seeking professional help.

Therefore, we highly recommend that you work with a reputable shipping container home-building company.

Such companies will offer valuable assistance throughout the entire process.

For starters, a significant step is to obtain shipping containers that suit your needs.

A shipping container home builder will help you do just that—especially since building a shipping container home consists of many steps (which we’ll explore in more detail in the coming sections).

Home builders will also use their connections to put you in contact with trustworthy suppliers.

Such suppliers will help you get the materials needed to repurpose your shipping containers to the desired specifications.

Not only that, but such companies will guide you through the complexities of navigating the regulations, zoning rules, and required permits by the local authorities.

Acquire the Shipping Containers

Colorful shipping container homes stacked in rows in colors like white, red, orange, and blue
You can’t build a shipping container home like these without shipping containers!

Whether by yourself or with the help of a shipping container home builder, the next step is to get your hands on the shipping containers you’ll use for your new home.

In this phase of your project, there are two paths to choose from.

The first is to buy a move-in ready shipping container with all the features and amenities you need installed.

This may seem like the obvious way to go, but there’s a caveat. Such containers are rather expensive, costing up to $30,000.

The cost is so high because it includes the money you would have paid to equip the container with the required amenities.

If your budget considers this, all you need to do is align the shipping container home builder you’re working with.

They’ll deliver the container to the land where you’re building your home.

Do you feel like you can get the same product for less if you do the work yourself? Then, you should buy a brand new shipping container and repurpose it from A to Z.

A new container might cost less than a move-in ready one, but beware of the rabbit hole of expenses you may fall into if you go down this path.

You’ll need to set the container up for electricity and plumbing. That’s not to mention the cost of installing an HVAC system, walls, flooring, and windows.

Lay the Foundation

As with any structure built to last for decades, shipping container homes require a proper foundation.

Three types of foundations are typically used for shipping container homes.

First, you have the trench foundation. This involves digging a hole beneath your home and filling it with concrete.

You can also go for a slab foundation, which is a giant slab of concrete that separates your home from the ground and protects it from the elements.

Finally, there’s a pier foundation. This concept resembles the slab foundation in slightly elevating a container home above the ground. However, it uses columns to do so.

On average, laying your shipping container home’s foundation costs about $4,500.

Note also that a trench foundation is the cheapest option, while a pier foundation is the most expensive.

Install Insulation

If you decide against buying an already repurposed shipping container, you will need to install insulation. This is necessary regardless of whether you live in a hot or cold area.

The materials you use for this will determine how much it’ll set you back. Also, remember that you’ll probably need to hire a professional for this task.

Generally speaking, it costs around $2,000 to install insulation for a 2,000-square-foot shipping container.

The ideal materials to use for insulation are styrofoam, mineral wool, and spray foam.

Is It Cheaper to Build a House or a Container Home?

Not only is building a shipping container home much easier, but it’s also significantly cheaper than building a traditional brick-and-mortar house.

Although buying a shipping container can cost as little as $10,000, this isn’t the true cost of a shipping container home. There are other factors to consider, such as the land, foundation, insulation, and amenities.

Even with all these inputs added to the equation, the net price of building a shipping container home is considerably lower than that of a conventional house.

Assuming you’ve spared no expense during your container home project, you’re still likely to have paid only a third of what you would’ve for a brick-and-mortar house.

Additionally, shipping container homes are more cost-effective in the long run. This is because renovating them also costs much less.

The Advantages of Shipping Container Homes

Numerous benefits come with building a shipping container home.

Let’s go over them now.

Adjustable Size

Ease of customizability is one advantage of shipping container homes that needs to be talked about more.

This is especially true in terms of their size. If circumstances change for any reason and you need a bigger house, you can easily add additional shipping containers to your unit.

This comes at a fraction of the cost and hassle of adding extensions to a traditional brick-and-mortar house.

Easy to Transport

A row of white, neon green, bright orange, and lavender purple shipping container homes
Shipping container homes are quite portable, the same of which you cannot say about traditional homes.

Taking your brick-and-mortar house with you isn’t an option if you ever decide to move to another city.

On the other hand, shipping container homes can be easily transported.

In fact, this level of convenience is part of why such homes are in high demand and have excellent resale values.

Moving your shipping container home is as simple as hiring a transportation service to disassemble your home, load it into the back of a truck, and move it to your desired location.

Highly Durable

The shipping containers used to build container homes are designed to house tons of cargo across the unforgiving environment of the open ocean.

Therefore, the corten steel used to make these containers is as solid and durable as they come.

Corten steel can stand tall against the worst weather conditions. In turn, having it as the base material for your home is a major plus.

It’ll ensure that your home lasts for decades and maintains its structural integrity even when natural disasters, such as hurricanes and tornadoes, strike.

Shipping container homes with a solid foundation can withstand wind speeds of up to 100 MPH.

These homes also perform much better than conventional houses in the event of an earthquake. In fact, they’re 100 times more likely to come out unscathed.

Good For the Environment

Another perk of shipping container homes is that they’re much better for the environment than traditional brick-and-mortar houses.

When you build a conventional house, almost 30 percent of the building materials at the construction site go to waste.

This inefficiency can be avoided by going for a shipping container home instead.

The positive effect of such homes on the environment is twofold.

First, you use one of the estimated 24 million idle shipping containers worldwide when building a container home.

Such containers would have been piled up in a junkyard instead.

Additionally, choosing a recycled container saves the additional building materials you would have used to build a conventional house.

The Drawbacks of Shipping Container Homes

Shipping container homes aren’t without their issues.

Here are some of the problems you may face with them.

Permits and Building Code Issues

Building permit paperwork next to rolled up blueprints, a white hardhat, a ruler, a pen, and a hammer
All the permits you may need to build your shipping container home can be troublesome to acquire on your own.

Shipping container homes are a relatively new concept. Therefore, the building regulations and permits required are less well-established in some places than in others.

Therefore, you must do your homework before initiating a container home project in such places.

You’ll likely need to hire professional help to guide you through these legislative hurdles, and this comes at an extra cost.

May Need Reinforcement

Sure, corten steel is an incredibly sturdy material. However, it will still succumb to wear and tear over the years.

Shipping container homes’ roofs have been known to sag when consistently exposed to heavy snowfall.

Therefore, you may need to pay for reinforcements to your container home’s load-bearing walls.


Building a home is no easy task. However, building a shipping container home is considerably easier than a conventional brick-and-mortar one.

After you’ve purchased the land you’re going to build on, you’ll need to hire a reputable shipping container home builder to guide you through the rest of the process.

This process will include buying the shipping container, installing the insulation and amenities to make it move-in ready, and laying the foundation for your new home.

There you have it. Now you have all the information you need to start your shipping container home project!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *