Shipping container homes are gaining momentum for offering home builders flexibility, efficiency, and affordability in the design of innovative housing.

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While some may consider these freight homes a sublet of the “tiny house” movement, many of them are far from tiny.

In fact, some home builders have used up to as many as 14 shipping containers in the design of these unique freight container homes. But why all the hype?

Well there are a few perks, one of them being that shipping containers can be readily modified, connected, and stacked in creative ways for a fraction of the labor and resources it would take to build these homes traditionally.

As a resource for people interested in pursuing these projects, the people over at compiled the advice from 23 shipping container homeowners, asking them what they wish they would have known before building their homes, a valuable resource for potential shipping container home owners.

We’ve listed 10 of their stories and advice, check it out below!

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10 Shipping Container Home Owners Speak Out: “What I Wish I’d Known Before Building My Shipping Container Home”

Top 3 Most Important Things You Need to Know:

  1. How to purchase the correct shipping containers
  2. The importance of building regulations and planning
  3. Finding a contractor with previous experience

1. PV14 House

Photo: Wade Griffith

© Wade Griffith

More than 14 containers were used in total to build Matt Mooney’s goliath 3,700 square foot home in Texas. It boasts 3 bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms, and an outdoor swimming pool. Here’s what he had to say:

“As far as what I wish I would have known… it is very hard to say since I have wanted to build one for almost 25 years… I have been thinking about and studying it for a long time.  We (thankfully) had very few surprises. 

If I had to pick something, I would say that the actual process of buying & shipping One-Trip containers from Dolphin Containers in Shanghai was an interesting experience… and navigating the used container market here in the region before we decided to go with One-Trips. Other than that, I enjoyed every minute of the experience of building this thing.”

2. Tiny 20 Foot Off-Grid Shipping Container Home

20-Foot-Off-Grid-Tiny-Shipping-Container-Home Hayden Spurdle

© Hayden Spurdle

Brenda Kelly’s new home was made from a single 20 foot shipping container and due to its size it doesn’t require any building permission or council consent.

“In answer to your question, I thoroughly researched prior to embarking on my first container home so I’m not sure there’s anything I wish I knew that I didn’t. However, this was a non-consented model.

If I was building a larger home that requires council consent and I wish I knew more about the application process for a building permit!”

3. Nomad Living Guesthouse

© Luis da Cruz

© Luis da Cruz

Built in 2013 by Arnold Aarssen from Studio ArTe, this Portugal home uses only one 40 foot shipping container which provides over 300 square foot of living space.

“I wish I knew how to insulate the shipping container, we ended up soldering elements on the walls and then sprayed them with a foam anti-fire insulation.

Also I wanted to know how to keep the sun off the roof; in the end we did this by double ventilating the roof.

Finally how could we utilise passive solar energy for the container. We did this by placing large windows in the container facing south west.”

4. Manifesto House

© Antonio Corcuera

© Antonio Corcuera

This house was made using 85% recycled/eco-friendly materials and was designed by James & Mau. Raquel Izurzu, an architect from James & Mau, was asked what they wished they had known before designing the Manifesto House.

“We wish we’d known in cold countries above all, you need to ensure you have proper insulation to protect against condensation.

With Manifesto House in Chile we had good results – The climate is not really cold or hot there. We only needed to put some pallets on the external walls to control the sun and some insulation.”

5. Containers of Hope

© Andres Garcia Lachner

© Andres Garcia Lachner

Designed by Benjamin Garcia Saxe for the Peralta family, this home cost a staggering $40,000 USD to build and provides over 600 square foot of living space. Here’s what the family had to say in retrospect:

“We did not expect so much wind in the site and are now having to screen off the wind with vegetation as the container makes a bit of noise when there are large gusts of wind.”

6. The DeWitt and Kasravi Sea Container Home

© Norcal Construction

© Norcal Construction

This home was designed by Modulus using four high cube shipping containers. The containers were pre-fabricated off-site then delivered to California before they were re-assembled. The very top floor has nine skylights fitted into the roof which provides huge amounts of natural light.

“Find one contractor to help the whole process versus having one for getting and modifying the containers, and another to finish out the interior.

This wasn’t really an option given local familiarity with containers as a structure – but that’s what we would have wished that would have likely made certain things a bit easier.”

7. The Beach Box

© The Beach Box

© The Beach Box

This home was built in the Hamptons, one of New York’s most expensive areas, by Andrew Anderson using shipping containers purchased from SG Blocks.

The containers on the ground level are used to create four bedrooms. The second floor contains the kitchen, dining room and living room. Just in case this isn’t enough, the home also features a 1300 square foot exterior decking and a pool!

“Don’t unnecessarily cut the boxes. Also make sure your contractor understands modular or container finishing. This will impact on the price and quality of your shipping container home.”

8.) Casa Incubo

© Sergio Pucci

© Sergio Pucci

This home was built around an existing cedar tree in Costa Rica and was designed by architect Maria José Trejos. The home used eight 40 foot high cube containers, helping to reduce the construction time by around 20%.

“Since this house is in Costa Rica with tropical weather, I wish I had been extra careful to paint it with the strongest paint to protect against the rain.”

9.  WFH House

© Jens Markus Lindhe

© Jens Markus Lindhe

This shipping container home is one of the first in China and was built by Mads Møller from Aarcgency. The home has a huge sloped roof which is topped with a living-garden. This filters rainwater and also provides the home with additional insulation.

The external walls of the containers are lined with bamboo, which insulates the containers as well as protecting them from the natural elements. Mad’s response:

“Just one thing: Building code! What is allowed?

Every country has its own sets of rules and standards. This means a container house in US does not look like a container house in Denmark.

That is something most people do not think about. The container is a generic product, but climate, fire regulations etc are not…”

10. Nederland Colorado Shipping Container Home

© Braden Gunem

© Braden Gunem

This 1500 square foot home is based in Colorado. The home was designed by Brad Tomecek, from Tomecek Studio, as an experiment to try and reduce the size of the average American home and to also be as environmentally conscious and friendly as possible.

The containers are bolted down into the existing rock and this provides the owners with a gorgeous view overlooking Nederland. Brad’s advice:

“Welding takes a long time and is expensive, so try to keep it to a minimum.

These container projects have been for clients who really like containers or have some tangible need that containers provide such as durability.”

These homes are each so inspiring in terms of creative design. Who knew you could do so much with a large metal box? Surely they offer a fresh perspective for potential home builders looking for a cheaper and more flexible way of designing their home. Hopefully these tips will prevent unnecessary issues during the planning and building stages.

To see more shipping container homes and advice from the people who built them, check out

What are your thoughts on these freight container homes? Would you live in one? Share with us in the comment section below! 

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