I'm thinking of making a shipping container house. Some advice would be good.


My brother lives on 7 acres of land and I'm thinking of building a shipping container home on it.

I'm pretty minimal. I have my PC and TV for making and playing video games , and a bed. I don't really need much more than a single room. Heck, my bedroom now is pretty bare as it is. So, yeah, a small space suits me just fine + we're talking about growing vegetables and raising chickens out at his place and I reckon that'd be pretty sweet to learn how to do.

Looking at it all, we estimate that it'll cost me about 8-9k to do. That includes installing a deck out the front and stuff as well.

Anyway, I'm wondering a few things:

- Is it worth ripping up the floors that come with containers? I can get a container that has only done the single trip for like 4.5k. I know a lot of them get sprayed for pesticides and can be dangerous to live in, but I figure a single trip container should be pretty safe. We're planning on insulating the floor and putting down vapour guard and cement sheets and then lino tiles on top anyway.

- Do you have to de-fumigate these things before fitting them out? For that do you just leave them open and let them air out for a couple of days?

- Do you have to use some sort of sealant on the metal walls both outside and in? The inside will be plastered and stuff, but the outside is just going to be metal for a while until we clad it.

Any other tips or advice would be much appreciated.

Aug 17, 18 10:30 am

2 Featured Comments

All 18 Comments

Non Sequitur

So many questions

  1. Shipping containers are so pasé.  Why bother when you could easily make a nice small house using conventional wood stud framing and skip all the damn container in the first place?  Do you want to live in a stinking warm corrugated steel coffin?
  2. If you answer to question 1 above is: "fuck-off man, I ain't subjecting myself to your world view, I'm a trailblazer and ain't no unknown online forum member going to keep me from my sexy container gaming castle", then you have far more issues to deal with that simply putting down cheap linoleum tile flooring.  Have you considered simple basics like windows and doors?  What about heating and ventilation? Cooling? Power? Plumbing?
  3. How old are you?  This sounds like some ill-thought out junior high-school club house type scheme.
  4. You only need slightly larger than a prison cell to live?  Cool, if that's what you dig, but it sounds just miserable.  At least there are amenities and basic creature comforts available in jail.
  5. Location matters.  Are detached living units even allowed?  What do your local zoning and building codes dictate?
Aug 17, 18 11:11 am

1. We figured the shipping container would be good because it'd handle the basic structure for us.

$9,000? Waste of money. You can get any number of large cardboard boxes for free. All you need then is some good tape. Probably do the whole project for under $100.

Aug 17, 18 11:30 am

Do they come with windows and doors? $100 sounds pretty good.


yeah, you should think through water, sewer, laws before picking your flooring. That stuff costs a lot of money. 

Aug 17, 18 11:34 am

That's some expensive siding!

Aug 17, 18 11:46 am
Featured Comment

'Some advice would be good.'

Here's some advice then:

Don't do it.

Aug 17, 18 12:25 pm

My advice is also: don't.

Aug 17, 18 12:59 pm
Wood Guy

I'm all for small, simple spaces, and have discussed shipping containers with potential clients several times. My advice is always that if cost is a factor, it will be much more affordable to stick-frame a structure of the same size. If you're committed to the idea of using a container, make sure it's an extra-tall type, and hire someone who understands control layers and ventilation systems, or you will have a mold problem. 

Aug 17, 18 2:05 pm

Yeah, we're going to be looking right into mould prevention and everything.


don't listen to these naysayers; not one of them has been as bold as you and pursued their dream shipping container designs; they have no idea how these things work

i say just do it and learn along the way

keep posting updates in this thread with pics, and create a series of youtube vids of the big steps in the process. hashtag as many of the materials and fixtures as possible

your vision is worth pursuing; ignore the experts

Aug 17, 18 2:10 pm
Non Sequitur

I.... I loved every part of this reply


I appreciate the extra effort you went to in order to just say 'don't do it' haha. Love the youtube vids bit.


Oh.... I can see it now....

All joking aside, I agree with the others. It probably won't be as cool, or as simple as you might think.

Save up some more money, do some research on tiny homes if that's your sort of thing, and hire a good architect. They'll design for problems you never even imagined you'd have, and you'll be thankful for it when 5-10 years down the road the design still holds up just as well. 

I'd hate to think of someone living out of one of these things, no matter how nicely renovated, but maybe that's just me.

Aug 17, 18 9:19 pm

Buy an Airstream. 

Aug 17, 18 11:48 pm

I'd either go with a yurt, a nice Romney hut, a greenhouse or build my own Earthship if I were in your position and skip the shipping container all together.

Aug 18, 18 2:11 am

yes indeed

Featured Comment

Do a rammed earth structure and blog here about it. Please. 

Aug 18, 18 9:36 pm

bury it

Aug 19, 18 9:33 am

Guy is a boatbuilder of high-end yachts who travels a lot.

Aug 19, 18 4:14 pm

Finally! Something I actually have experience in.

I would suggest you don't, its extremely costly to set up properly, riddled with energy efficiency issues and its just bloody miserable living in one.

Read this

Aug 24, 18 6:26 pm

Not a single helpful comment on here, and we wonder why “no one values us.”

Aug 24, 18 11:24 pm

plenty of helpful comments on here, I think this has been one of the threads with the most helpful comments in a while.


with shipping containers you need to shade the exterior and insulate the interior (not just the floor but the walls and roof as well) 

 Yes, just told him to bury it, you think your comment is more valuable because it has more words?


So basically with shipping containers you need to shade the exterior and insulate the interior (not just the floor but the walls and roof as well) otherwise it will be an oven. Also the metal siding acts as a diaphragm that provides lateral resistance to the frame. As soon as you start cutting holes in it for windows and doors it loses its structural integrity and you need to reinforce around those openings. Basically in the end you are paying a lot for a prefab tube steel rectangle that needs to be completely retrofitted to work. In no way is it prefab and ready to just have cladding and interiors added. Check out modular walls or units or even just build small instead. Shipping containers are a very unrealistic option that you’ll probably spend more money on just for a look of refab.

Aug 24, 18 11:29 pm

with shipping containers you need to shade the exterior and insulate the interior (not just the floor but the walls and roof as well)


This guy is one of our repeat customers and has built some very cool storage container homes and stores. Tim Dean is the owner and he would be able to give you some tips and advice. http://www.preservationtinyhou...

Dec 17, 18 11:52 am

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