How to Build a Shipping Container Home: Preparation First!

how to build a shipping container home

The first step in learning how to build a shipping container home is to take to heart the first rule of thumb that is applicable to any building project: Prepare first!

A lot of mistakes and unforeseen problems can be avoided if you prepare, prepare, prepare. Even for a small home made from one shipping container, preparation is necessary to do it right the first time.

There are a lot of similar construction issues and requirements with traditional stick built house that go into building a shipping container home. However, there are also issues that are exclusively relevant to building container houses. So, in order to make your container project an absolute success…prepare.

General planning requires that you know your overall budget allowed for the project, what external factors are involved (building codes, site requirements, fees, etc.) and the design elements you want for your house.

Each of these three planning elements help you keep costs down and deal with construction complications in advance. You will be able to keep your costs down, as well, by comparing your interior design wish list with the required cost.

As you prepare, you should focus on the big picture. The goal should be to get a handle on the line item costs of the project. This will help you to realistically design and add or subtract details from your shipping container home.

How to Build a Shipping Container Home Planning Checklist

Here’s a brief planning checklist to help you get started:

Site evaluation – Be sure to properly evaluate your building site as to the soil quality for your chosen foundation, as well as where you will permanently position your container(s). Also, consider any site servicing needs such as electrical, water, or other utilities.

Zoning restrictions – Check with your local authorities about zoning restrictions, if any.

Building codes and permits – Never, ever, invest in building a shipping container house without first checking out your local building codes and permits, especially as it applies to alternative housing and cargotecture. (Unless, of course, you’re off grid…then, who cares?)

Professional construction services – Be sure to list any additional services that you
need to complete your home. (Plumbing, electrical, roofing, flooring, etc.) Unless you are a complete DIYer and handy in all areas of construction, you will probably need at least a few of these services.

Detail all interior design elements – Make detailed list of everything you require in the design of your home. Determine the rough square footage of each bathroom, number of bedrooms, home office, etc.

Develop your plan – A nice schematic plan of your proposed home is very helpful in following your plan. You can even find various floor plans already developed that will generally provide what you need.

Determine modification requirements – Decide how you will make any required modifications to your container(s). An easy way to do this is to purchase your units from companies that provide modification service according to your design, before they deliver. This can save lots of money and time. Otherwise, you will need to locate a local shop or outsource welders, cutters and equipment to make any modifications to the steel box. (Unless, of course, you can do it!)

Prepare budget – It’s a good idea to prepare both a maximum allowed budget (how much you are willing to spend) and the project budget (how much everything costs according to the total of your line by line budget). Always allow a little extra for unforeseen issues that almost always happen in any building project.

Just remember: For those who want to know how to build a shipping container home, preparation is the first order of business…then, execution of your plan!

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