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  • Writer's pictureMatt Solis

Build with Containers

Things You Should Know Before Building With Shipping Containers

Constructing a shipping container home is an exciting and rewarding endeavor, but it can also be a challenging experience. One of the main things to keep in mind is, shipping containers are unique as far as building materials go.

Not All Containers Are Equal

This is a very important aspect you’ll need to keep in mind before purchasing your container. The most common types used for buildings are high cube, standard and refrigerated. In addition to determining the type of shipping container that will be best for your situation, you will have to decide on the condition of the container that will be most appropriate. Shipping containers are available to be purchased as new, used and one trip containers.

One aspect to keep in mind, is that a high cube container will give a smaller space a deceivingly roomier feel, an aspect that many container home owners say is a game changer. The high cube containers are approximately 50% more expensive than standard containers, but most agree that the extra foot of height is indispensable.

Know Your Local Zoning Laws and Building Regulations

No matter whether building a shipping container home or a traditional building, it is extremely important to know the local regulations. Failing to do this research in advance can spell disaster. It is especially important when constructing a shipping container home, since your local zoning commission may not be familiar with this type of construction. Once you’ve finalized your plans, but before construction has begun, go to your local planning office. At this meeting, you can determine how receptive they are to your plans. Without prior experience with shipping container homes, some may need some persuasion prior to accepting your ideas. The only time you don’t need planning permission is when you’re outside your city’s zoning laws. In this case, you generally have the freedom to construct whatever you want, providing the structure is safe. We still recommend speaking with your local planning office to confirm you are truly outside the zoning limits.

Don’t Change Your Design During Construction

One of the biggest reasons why all types of homes take longer to build and cost more than expected is because the design gets changed while the building is under construction. The time to change your design is during the planning stage. It is very important to commit to your final design before you begin construction.

Don’t Cut the Containers…Too Much

Like most building materials, shipping containers can be used to build anything from inexpensive homes to multi-million-dollar mansions and everything in the middle. However, most people decide to use shipping containers because of the cost savings benefits. Maintaining as much of the container’s structural integrity as possible will save money. Any time you cut steel out of your container it costs you both time and money. Not only will you have to pay to remove the steel from your containers, you will also need to to reinforce the opening.

If you look at the cheapest container homes built, one thing they have in common is that they have not modified the original structure extensively. Of course, opening for doors and windows have been cut, but they haven’t removed large sections from the walls of the container.

Finding Contractors Can Be Difficult

People use contractors because they don’t have either the time or the skills to construct the building themselves. This applies to traditional building as well as shipping container homes. Since shipping container homes are a relatively new building model, the number of contractors who specialize in this type of construction are somewhat limited. (

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