Before attempting to build a DIY container home, it’s a good idea to get all your questions answered before jumping into your project. Fortunately, building a shipping container house or cabin is becoming more mainstream. In fact, it’s becoming downright cool!
So, there are plenty of people who have already completed a project like this and there’s also professionals are knowledgeable in this type of home design.
Below, you’ll find some typical questions from DIYers and expert answers from experienced builders or from professionals who understand cargotecture.
Common Q & A about DIYContainer Homes & Cabins:
Here are some common questions that have been asked and answered by people who are interested in building a container home or who have already done so.
Q: Why use shipping containers to build a home anyway?
A: Here are some the best reasons given by professionals:
- Prefab – The bulk of the structure is already built, unlike stick build homes.
- Strong – Steel is obviously stronger than wood, concrete and other typical building materials.
- Eco-green structures – They are made from 85% recycled steel and are recyclable if destroyed.
- Recycled to good use – Reduces surplus of containers stored near ports, beaches and harbors across the country. Puts them to good use in a variety of designs.
- Energy efficient – The steel containers can be highly energy efficient in various climates if insulated correctly.
Q: How much does it cost to build a shipping container home?
A: The price has been estimated anywhere from $10,000 for a single unit home to over $50,000 for multiple module homes.
The price will be dependent upon purchase price of container(s), shipping to building location, equipment needed, cut-outs for windows and doors, and interior floor plan.
Most who have built these homes say that the most expensive part of the interior is always the kitchen and bathroom areas.
There are also conversion kits from a few suppliers, which can make building a container home easy. One kit on the market goes for $3,500 for a 20′ container. These are often used for simple offices or additional rooms.
This, of course, does not factor in a lot, foundation, septic, building permits, etc. It is conceivable, however, to build a tiny container home for $10,000-$15,000 if you build it yourself and have access to a lot.
One professional container builder suggests that a mid-range, decent home built from 2 containers can be built for about $32,000. It’s wise to plan well and do your research in order to avoid any unforeseen building issues that can cause the price to rise.
Q: Are intermodal units stackable?
A: Yes, they are stackable. However, be aware that additional support will needed if you alter the containers such as cutting out windows and doors. They are “uni-body” structures in which the top, bottom and sides are all built as one unit.
Any structural changes can impact the load bearing of the walls and cause them to collapse. They are originally manufactured to be water tight, float and resist cracks or breaks. Generally, container units offer many terrific uses, but be sure to check with an engineer if you plan on altering them in a big way
Q: Are they especially susceptible to lighting since they are made completely of steel?
A: You are just as safe in a container home as you are in aircraft which gets hit by lightening! All that has to be done if to ground the home to a rod in the ground and insulate the floor.
The metal building will act as a Faraday shield and if lightning strikes, it will be directed around the container to the ground.
Q: How do these homes hold up in very warm climates?
A: One container dweller actually lived in a converted shipping container in hot, sweltering Iraq. He states, it was “properly insulated, it didn’t get warmer than any other structure and it was very economical to cool with an air conditioner. They make surprisingly good housing.”
Q: Will containers rust over time?
A: Shipping containers are manufactured with ocean shipping, humidity and saltwater in mind. They are built with special, non-corrosive Corten steel.
Many professionals recommend to sand blast shell and coat with a special paint, Ceramic Insulation paint. It then becomes virtually rust proof, prevents mold and mildew, and is antiseptic. This ensures no rust problems.
Q: What can you use them for?
A: There are almost limitless uses for container modules. Not only can you use them to build residential homes, but they are wisely used as offices, storage, weekend cabins, prepper bug-out shelters and even swimming pools!
The public use of these units has been growing worldwide and they have been designed for use as college dorms, homeless shelters, hospitals, shops, hotels and more.
Q: What kind of insulation should be used since containers are solid metal and can sweat, depending on climate changes?
A: The preparation of the units are important as well as the interior insulation. This is the one very important area that must be addressed properly in order to ensure good indoor air quality and safe interior living free from mold and mildew.
The four most common insulation materials used are:
- Ceramic Insulation Paint (on exterior to give interior space) – Cheaper than foam or fiberglass; about $700 per 40′ unit (NASA technology)
- Eco-green insulation – Sprayed on interior shell (NASA technology)
- Foil bubble wrap
Each has it’s own pros and cons, depending on your area of the country and your home’s purpose. Be prepared to do your research on each method.
Remember, you must allow for the containers to breathe and remain moist free within the living envelope.
Q: What about complying with building codes in your area?
A: Yes, since usually building codes require an 8′ ceiling in residential homes. However, the typical unit is 8.6′ tall inside. For higher ceilings, you can buy containers which are about 12″ taller than the standard unit. It’s always wise to check ahead about the building codes in your area as you plan your project.
Q: Are they structural sound to withstand hurricanes and other natural disasters?
A: Even though containers may roll around a bit in a hurricane, they will not be demolished. They are at least 100 times sturdier and safer than conventional home structures. They are also the safest in an Earthquake.
Q: What type of foundation is best?
A: It depends on where you’re building and what configuration of containers you are using. The easiest, cheapest DIY foundation is a pier or piling foundation.
They also have much less impact on the site. It’s probably best to consult with a qualified builder or engineer to design a proper foundation for your container home or cabin, unless you have expert knowledge.
Q: Can you build a container home yourself?
A: If you are a DIY’er and have some building knowledge, it is definitely possible to build your own shipping container home from start to finish. You will need to rethink any conventional building expertise you have since container building is a technique in and of itself.
However, with preparation and planning, you can build your own DIY container home.