Living in a Container Home: The Pros and Cons

Johannes van Graan Johannes van Graan
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You have to be living under a rock these days to not know what container homes are. But in case that memory’s not what it used to be, container homes are structures made from steel shipping containers (the kinds that carry goods on trains, boats and trucks). And thanks to these giant building blocks, people are building themselves an assortment of spaces ranging from residential houses and coffee shops to hair salons, offices, schools and more.

But could a container home (which can offer at least 9 square metres of floor space for one shipping container home) really be your dream home? Let’s consider the pros and cons to find out…  

Pro 1: They’re prefab houses

As many shipping container homes are available as prefab modular houses, that means shorter construction (and waiting) time for you. As building code inspections are completed at the factory, this simultaneously simplifies and speeds up the process, with some companies even advertising delivery in under 10 weeks (and as any professional architect or builder will tell you, it takes way longer than 10 weeks to build a house the traditional way). 

Pro 2: Quick transportation

As shipping containers have been around for a while, there’s been adequate time to set up a worldwide delivery system to help move containers around. And once your container reaches your site, it’s a quick and simple matter of erecting it on a perfectly prepared foundation. 

Pro 3: Fixed costs

Most of the building work (which happens in the factory) is set at a fixed price. The other costs (like delivery to the site, site preparation, assembly and utility connections) are the only variable ones. However, how much you save will depend on the estimates (some save between 5 – 10 %, depending on what they compare against), how detailed you want your container home to be, etc. 

Pro 4: Great for recycling

In essence, you are reusing an existing structure and breathing new life into it. This gives shipping containers a universal environmental appeal as you’re effectively recycling – and as we all know, recycling is one of the best and ‘greenest’ things you can do in today’s age.  

Con 1: High internal temperatures

Without insulation, your shipping container’s steel interiors can become unbearably hot. Thus, not only do you require proper insulating material to transform an old container into a modern home, but the more insulation you use, the less space you have for décor and furnishings. 

Con 2: Possible structural problems

Although quite strong at the corners, a shipping container’s roof is not that sturdy. In addition, if you cut out any of the corrugated steel walls (for windows or doors), you’ll need new reinforcement as the steel is crucial to the structure’s strength. 

That’s not all – stacking containers together to design larger homes requires welded (and costly) reinforcement wherever the containers meet at a spot that’s not a corner. And any future renovations will be subject to significant engineering and welding. 

Con 3: Safety concerns

From harmless consumer goods to hazardous industrial materials, that old shipping container could have been used to ship numerous products around the world. And remember that the paints and finishes used on containers are industrial and not necessarily meant for residential spaces. Thus, there’s always the chance that you first need to take care of some lead- and toxic pesticides before starting to work on your dream container home.

Speaking of finding your dream home, have you seen these 7 Clever Ways to Boost the Value of Your House

Can you design your dream home from container homes or not?

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