We’ve been living in a shipping container home for over six years. Here’s a few things to consider if you are planning on building a shipping container house.

It is not possible to build a container house from every shipping container. With rising construction costs and more people becoming environmentally conscious, the general misconception that any container can be used for a container home is misleading.

In addition to being a sustainable building trend, shipping containers are also becoming a cost-effective alternative for residential home construction.

In this video, we present to you the top seven mistakes to avoid before building a shipping container home. If you love shipping containers or are exploring the possibility of building your own, stay tuned to find out the do’s and don’ts of shipping container building.

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  1. Selecting the Wrong Shipping Container Type

When building a shipping container home, people often make the mistake of purchasing the wrong type of container. Shipping containers are different from each other. A majority of people who don’t know the difference build their homes using regular shipping containers. This is in addition to the twenty foot and 40 foot regular shipping containers that are available in high cubed containers.

High cube containers are nine foot six inches tall, whereas regular shipping containers are eight foot six inches high. The extra foot on high cube containers is ideally suited for insulating ceilings without impairing headroom. The high-cube container costs slightly more than the regular one, but considering its benefits, it’s worth it.

Lifting Shipping Containers

  1. Buying Containers that are Very Old

It may be cheaper to buy an old container, but it will cost you more in the long run to restore and maintain it. It’s true what they say about cheap being expensive. Deformed corners, corroded walls and roof panels, and dampness are all challenges associated with old containers.

Before buying containers, it is advisable to inspect them in person. Although inspecting the container physically is preferred, ask for photos of all corner joints as well as underneath and above the container before paying for it.

Shipping container homes can pose a real health risk because of the possibility of toxic leaks and contamination from cargo products. The risk is multiplied even further by very old containers. To avoid all these problems, consider sandblasting all internal surfaces to bare metal, then sealing and repainting with non-toxic paint. Whenever possible, it is advisable to purchase one-way shipping containers.

Shipping Containers

  1. Insulating with the Wrong Type of Material

It is imperative to control the indoor climate of a container in order to make it conducive to human habitation. Due to the fact that steel is a highly efficient conductor of heat, steel homes need to be insulated better than traditional homes, especially in regions of extreme temperature variances. It is entirely possible for your container home to be absolutely freezing in a cold climate or a boiling hot box in the summer, if you don’t have a thoughtful and comprehensive strategy for controlling the temperature.

The interior walls can also be affected by condensation and dampness, causing rust that can be very costly to remove.

The type of insulation to use should be determined by the local climate. If you live in a cold climate, the insulation used should provide a seamless vapour barrier. In a hot or dry climate, the insulation should be adequate to prevent heat from entering. When it comes to insulation, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution.

The advantages associated with spray foam insulation make it the preferred insulation to use under normal conditions. We went with a fire retardant foam that was high pressure sprayed onto the walls when all the pipes and cables had been laid.

A variety of insulation options are available, including insulation panels, blanket insulation, lightweight concrete plaster, and recycled eco-friendly materials.

  1. The Over Modification of Containers

Shipment containers can benefit from a touch of design flair. When shipping containers are cut down too much, their structural integrity and strength are compromised.

If you intend to remove entire or large portions of a wall or roof, consult an expert, especially if there are multiple stories.

In spite of the fact that the corners have a container module, they are extremely strong. Once they are fully loaded, they can be stacked up to eight high. Roofs and walls are not very strong. The modules are intended to be stacked on corners. By loading in another position or by making openings in the roof and walls, weak points are introduced that require reinforcement with steel sections. The project ultimately ends up costing more and taking longer.

Shipping container home mistakes to avoid in construction

  1. Hiring a Contractor Without Experience

Shipping container homes are a relatively new building method across the globe. When you want to build a shipping container home, finding a building contractor with experience can be challenging. That was our biggest challenge by far.

It is common for people to want to build their own shipping container homes. In some cases, however, this is simply not possible, either because of time constraints or because they lack any previous DIY experience.

Make sure you hire a contractor with experience who will be able to guide you throughout the process and deliver the project on time. For specialised work such as electrical and plumbing, specialised contractors are needed in addition to the general contractor.

Although it was a much small contract, building our shipping container sauna room was a breeze compared to the house, and it was all down to the contractors.

  1. Ignoring Building Codes and Regulations

The process of building a shipping container home can certainly be challenging

It applies to all newly constructed homes built in the United States and other parts of the world regardless of their construction material, not just shipping container homes.

Depending on where you need to build, obtaining a building permit can take months or even years. A delay in obtaining a building permit can lead to time overrun costs. In some cities, however, if your land doesn’t fall under city zoning, you won’t need a building permit to build there.

Make sure you research your local planning laws and obtain the appropriate permits before embarking on any shipping container project.

Container Home - Thailand

  1. Assuming Container Homes are Inexpensive to Construct.

There is no guarantee that building a container home will be more affordable than building a conventional home. It is possible to construct a container home as an alternative accommodation option. However, it will depend on a number of factors, such as the location of the house, its size, its finish, and its cost.

Welding is a significant part of building container homes. Keep welding to a minimum as it takes a long time and is expensive. Additional costs can also be incurred due to over modification of containers.

Due to the load-bearing nature of container walls, bracing cutting openings will require additional steel reinforcement, increasing costs.

In general, cranes or forklifts are necessary to place the modules on location due to their size and weight. In a conventional build, we might not incur this cost.

The cost of insulation should also be considered. If you are building in a tropical climate like Thailand, you have to keep the heat out, but the same cannot be said for temperate climates. The challenge is to keep off the cold while conserving heat. It is worthwhile to investigate this cost variation

It may be too easy to generalise that building with sea cans is a cheaper option when you consider all the hidden costs and extra work involved.

We hope you found our analysis thorough and informative enough to help you begin your container home project. If you have already built one, share your mistakes and how you corrected or plan to rectify them in the future.

Let us know if there is anything we have missed by leaving a comment below.

Be sure to visit our blog for more posts about shipping container homes, off-grid living, and permaculture.

Avoid These 7 Common Shipping Container Home Mistakes

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