Are shipping container homes a feasible option?

July 28, 2015

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For most people, the idea of building a new home from shipping containers is a daunting prospect. But the trend is certainly picking up, and you could be missing out on a potentially affordable solution to building your dream home on a budget.

The allure of shipping container homes

Real estate costs in Australia have been on the rise, leaving buyers to look for cost-effective alternatives. One such solution that is growing in popularity, particularly in cities like Sydney, is the prefab shipping container home. They have a convenient size and shape, with a stackable simplicity that makes for a uniquely stylish final product. They can be used as single rooms or stacked together to create a multiple-room home. Weather resistant and environmentally friendly, shipping containers are already designed to protect you from the elements so they need less weather proofing than other materials. You can pop one up in a matter of days if you choose a knowledgeable contractor, compared to the months that another type of home would take.

Perhaps the biggest benefit in cities like Sydney, however, is the low cost in comparison to a traditional property. It’s estimated that a three-bedroom house would cost approximately $400,000 to build in the city. You could build a three-bedroom structure from shipping containers at a cost ranging from $150,000 to $300,000, including installation costs, council fees, and transport. The cost is even lower for extensions and add-ons like petite granny flats.

Tips for success

  • Inspect before you buy – Like any building material, don’t take the seller’s word without seeing the shipping container yourself if you decide to go used. After years of use, they might be in worse shape than you would like.
  • Know the local regulations – Do you know where your shipping container comes from? Each country has its own set of rules and standards when it comes to fire regulations and materials. The country of origin can influence the final product.
  • Consider a one-use container – If you want a shipping container that’s like new, order one that has only gone through a single trip. Alternately, you can simply purchase a brand new one.
  • Get creative – You can stack as many as nine shipping containers on top of one another, to create a truly unique and eco-friendly detached home!

Finding a knowledgeable contractor

Perhaps the biggest challenge involved with designing a shipping container home is finding a contractor with the relevant experience. Ideally, you should find a contractor who has built this type of home in the past, and who is able to complete the entire project from start to finish. Otherwise, you’ll have to hire separate contractors to secure and modify your container, and another one to work on the interior. A good contractor will understand the structure of a shipping container, including the fact that the long walls are bracing and load bearing at once. This impacts how they can be used in construction. Although these containers already contain some degree of built-in insulation, contractors should also understand how to insulate a shipping container home, and how to protect the property from the elements. So if you decide to follow this new trend, be sure to do your research and find a qualified contractor.

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