Pros and Cons of Shipping Container Homes
Greener building – after companies ship products in shipping containers, it typically costs more to ship back the empty containers than to discard them and buy new ones. Tons of containers are left unused and are often melted down, which pollutes our planet and uses a vast amount of energy. Repurposing the containers can make a big impact.
Affordability – because of the abundance of these containers, container homes are very affordable. The containers themselves provide the main structure for the housing. While there are a lot of other costs involved (discussed below), container homes still represent huge savings as compared to typical housing. Even those with limited architectural experience have a good chance of building a container home because of the lack of structural work. The potential mortgage-free living is also nothing to be scoffed.
Sustainability – if you build small and insulate well, a container home can be a very sustainable way of living. A properly built container home can save energy and lots of money down the line. Because of the tough exterior, these homes may also last much longer.
Transportability – One of the benefits of container homes is their mobility. Depending on how the home is built it can be transported during its lifetime to another location.
Structural Strength – containers are built to last. They are made to withstand enormous weight loads, harsh ocean winds and being handled by cranes. They can be easily stacked to create multi-story homes. Due to their structure, containers can be earthquake and hurricane proof, which could benefit those living in natural disaster-prone areas.
Quick Construction and Building – building the structural part of the house is very time-consuming. Since container homes don’t require it, the construction can be completed much more quickly. Also, container homes tend to be smaller in size, which also helps efficient home building.
Heat and Insulation Control – a plain shipping container is essentially a large steel box. A steel box that absorbs and transmits heat and cold very well. Temperature control becomes imperative when building a shipping container home. This is usually solved by using the appropriate insulation and paint. However, if not done correctly, this could result in the energy-hogging heating systems and reduced home space.
Health Hazards – One of the less discussed cons of the shipping containers is that since they were not built for humans to live it, necessary precautions may not have been taken to build a safe environment. Paints, insulation materials and solvents to control the temperature within the container may have been used that may be hazardous to human health long-term. Some of these include phosphorus, chromate, and lead-based paints on walls. Arsenic and chromium may also be used to deter pest infestation on the wooden floors of a container. Finally, prior shipping contents may also be a concern if toxic or radioactive cargo was previously present. However, all this could be avoided with proper research or talking to the manufacturers of the container.
Deterioration – Scratched, dented, or containers made out of Corten steel may rust quickly. Some of the containers may have a lot of mileage and wear in them making them much closer to their end of their lifespan. Worn containers may be sold to you as ones with a more “industrial look”, however, this could lead to rust in the very same areas. Proper inspection is important when buying a used container.
Ecological Footprint – Let’s face it, a container home is not a home until it is built. That means, the container must first be completely sandblasted bare, the flooring needs to be replaced completely and the openings for windows need to be cut. Transportation and assembly will produce carbon emissions as well. A multi-container home can produce a good amount of carbon emissions and hazardous waste before it becomes habitable. Efficiency when building, transporting and assembling a container home is crucial to its impact on our planet.
Permit Obtainment – Using shipping containers for homes is not new. However, for those issuing building permits in your area, it may very well be. The process of obtaining the proper permits in your area can take a long time so you should research and factor in that cost and wait time for your building.
Proper planning and research can help avoid most of the issues associated with building a container home.
Building a Shipping Container Home Cost
Shipping container homes can cost anywhere from $40,000 to $350,000. It’s a wide range because of numerous variables that make up the cost. Location of the home, size, construction costs, material costs, and other factors play into the final cost of a container home. But to understand how much a container home could cost you, take a look these examples below.
Buying a Custom Made Shipping Container Home
One option is to order a custom-made shipping container that will be built according to your exact needs and budget. This is the most expensive and less effort intensive way to get your hands on a shipping container home. There are two options when buying a custom made home. You can buy one that has an existing base model to pick from (which you then customize) or you order a completely custom made home. The price range for this can be pretty wide but you can still save a ton of money when comparing to a typical home and you can also avoid some of the pitfalls of building a home if you don’t have the experience. Some mistakes made by those building the homes themselves without proper research can offset the initial savings of doing it themselves. However, if cost is your primary concern, read on.
Buying an Existing Shipping Container Home
The second way to get a container home is to buy something that already exists. This is typically a lot less than a custom ordered home and more than one that you can build yourself. It is also the least effort intensive way because you know exactly what you are getting in advance. You won’t be disappointed when your container home is not built the way you ordered it. This also provided less flexibility to make it your own. However, if you can find a sustainable shipping container home that you love within your budget, this may be your best bet.