Building your Own Shipping Container Home

Know Your Container



Finding the right shipping container is one of the most important steps in having your own container home.  Here are some tips from Dwell about how to choose a container for your home:

The first step, they agree, is to find a reputable distributor. “Shipping companies don’t want people calling them for one or ten containers. They prefer to sell to dealers,” says Barry Naef, director of the ISBU Association….

If you do decide to purchase a genuine seafaring container, you’ll need to keep a number of factors in mind. First is size. Although dimensions are generally standardized, your safest bet for projects that join multiple units is to purchase a single brand (perhaps one whose logo you fancy). Houston-based architect Christopher Robertson, who has designed both upscale residential and disaster-relief housing using containers, recommends choosing “high cubes” (HQ), which are about a foot taller than standard, because the smaller size can feel claustrophobic after installing insulation. Lengths vary from 8 to 53 feet, with 20 feet and 40 feet being the most common. Whichever you choose, Robertson cautions that the costs of transportation and modification quickly add up. “There’s a real misconception that building with containers is absurdly inexpensive. Unfortunately, that’s not true at all,” he says.

Assuming you’re still hooked on the many other benefits of container construction, you’ll need to think about age and condition. Options range from virtually unscathed “one-trippers” to eight-to-ten-year-old retired containers, with varying degrees of rust, dents, and warping. Your choice depends on your design goals…..

Although a container’s history is trackable via its serial number, the best way to assess its condition is through a visual once-over prior to purchase. Arrive at the lot armed with a level to check for excessive warping and a checklist of potential problems, such as holes, dents, damaged door seals, and corrosion (a little rust is par for the course). Don’t forget to use your nose, as well. The wood flooring of most containers is treated with toxic pesticides, which you’ll need to seal or remove, and others may have been used to transport unpleasantly odiferous contents.


The McConkey Residence in San Diego, California is a perfect example of converting a shipping container into a stylish yet functional home. One of the first shipping container houses in the area, this 800 square foot house utilizes three shipping containers. In collaboration with the owners Mike McConkey, general contarctor, Shawn, his wife and Chris Bittner from OBR Architecture, they were able to build an environmentally sensitive home with open floor plan, IKEA appliances, materials from local Habitat for Humanity ReStore, and special flame retardant materials.  Take a look at these photos and tell us what you think on our Facebook Page!










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