Our website is supported by our readers. When you buy through links here, we may earn a small affiliate commission.

shipping containers

How To Transform a Shipping Container into a Home (Best Tips)

The use of shipping containers for housing may seem like a fad, but it is actually a strongly developing sustainable option for those who wish to seek a cost-efficient and eco-friendly living space for the long term.

A shipping container home is an affordable, accessible option, and given the right foundation of knowledge, anyone can transform a container into architecturally flexible and stylish housing.

Let’s take a look at the basics before delving into details required to build a container home.

Container Home Basics


  • Initial purchase price averages under $2,000
  • Opportunity to re-purpose unused containers cluttering the globe
  • Materials require very little maintenance
  • Easily converted, transported, and assembled
  • Resistant to fire, mold, termites, and weather
  • Simple design plans with a unique aesthetic

Essential Additions

  • Insulation
  • Plumbing
  • Electricity
  • Foundation
  • Exterior cladding
  • Furnishing
  • Property

It is recommended to work with professional contractors to make your shipping container home into a livable space. If you are committed to building a container home, you need to understand that it will cost more than just the initial purchase price, and that the quality of the function of the finished product will depend on the contract work done.

It is also important to do your own research on local codes and permits since shipping container homes require unique standards that even the most skilled and experienced contractors may be unfamiliar with and that can vary by location.

Floor Plan

You need to prioritize which spaces are the most necessary for your daily function when working with the limited space in a shipping container home. Creativity and ingenuity will play key roles in transforming the basic rectangular shape that you being with into a utilitarian and stylish dwelling. The amount of bedrooms, size of bathroom, and integration of kitchen with living space should be the central focuses of your floor planning.

You also need to always keep storage in mind. When you build a container home, the assumption is that you’re prepared for a much more minimal lifestyle, however, there will always be essential items that need their own designated storage.

A lot of shipping container home builders will add on covered porch spaces to increase the usable footprint of the home. This is a solid way to extend entertaining living space in particular. Loft rooms are also extremely beneficial in adding some dynamic to a floor plan, as well as increasing workable space. The ability to have a loft space in your shipping container home relies on the height of the container you purchase.

The logistics of window placement will affect your floor plan as well. Determining the amount of natural light which you desire can help with spacing, arrangement of appliances and doors, and overall layout of the rooms. When you build a container home, speaking with an engineer will allow you to understand the details of the architectural limitations concerning design plans, and how each small component works together to make a functional space.

Photo by Ivan Bandura on Unsplash

Property Preparation

After confirming the zoning laws in your area and having all of the proper permits in place, you will have to ensure that there is a clear path for delivery of the container to properly build a container home on a permanent lot. Next, you’ll need to have the foundation ready and you have a few different styles to choose from. These styles include

  • Concrete piers
  • Concrete slab
  • Steel plates
  • Concrete strips

Again, move forward with consulting an engineer to determine the best foundation for your shipping container home, judging on the style, overall size, and if you will be stacking containers.

Additionally, it is likely that you will need to hire a crane or forklift to deliver the container. Some shipping container companies will handle the delivery logistics for you, but it is critical that you arrange the details ahead of time.

Core Construction

Once your plans are in place, and the container has been selected, delivered, installed, and thoroughly cleaned out, the next steps that you’ll take are involved in the completion of the overall building process of your shipping container home.

  • Cutting openings for windows and doors, followed by their installation
  • Removing the chemically-treated flooring or covering existing floors with a new subfloor
  • Framing out the walls for your new floor plan
  • Adding the chosen insulation
  • Installing the plumbing
  • Wiring the electric work
  • Furnishing and decorating for moving in

Shipping Container House to Shipping Container Home

When you first set out to build a container home, it might be the low costs involved, the opportunity for positive environmental impact, the draw of minimalist living, or the shirking of tradition that draws you in.

At the end of the day, you are taking a deeply conscious approach to your living situation that few others take. Have some pride in the broad perspective associated with this process and give yourself the freedom to explore all available custom options for your shipping container home. Don’t just stop at the bare essentials, but rather take the opportunity to let this modernistic house express your identity.

Be thoughtful about the materials you use to build a container home on the interior.

Here are some specific areas to thoughtfully customize when you build a container home.

  • Colors and textures of flooring and walls
  • Inclusion of decorative beams or other non-architectural elements
  • Added eco-friendly features
  • Personalized decor that reflects your identity

You have the opportunity when you build a container home to start from a completely blank slate and curate the vibe of your space to be exactly what you want.

If you want your container home to be inspired by a rustic farmhouse, then install hand-scraped hardwoods, shiplap coverings on the walls, and dark ceiling beams throughout the entire space. If you want sleek and contemporary, go with simple cabinetry and sharp visual lines. If you want the container home to be a clear reflection of your commitment to helping the environment, install solar paneling on your roof, and use a composting toilet.

There are endless custom options from start to finish in the building process, all the way through to decorating and moving in, that will speak to your identity as a nontraditional homeowner.

Go forth, and build your container home!

Featured Image Source

Leave a Reply

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