How to Build a Shipping Container Home Step By Step

shipping container home build

One of the new trends of building house is container houses. Sounds pretty cool and also saving money, container has a great structure for house building. You can also build your container home with several containers so you can get more rooms. Start with three room container home (requires three containers normally) if you are new to this project, make it safe and steady. You can add more rooms anytime you want. Follow this guide, I will show you how to build a container home step by step. Really nothing complicated, only you passion and patient is needed. You can make your home like me in several steps.

Step 1 – Make your plan

shipping-container-homes-planNothing can be done without planning. So the first step is make your home plan including home design, budget and location. Make sure the house is legal to build in your land (Don’t miss this step). Every country has different regulations and laws, it is best check the rules online or ask a local professional opinion.

If you are building container home make sure you have prepared $110/m² for budget. That’s a rough price, you can calculate the specific shipping container home cost according to your local conditions. Most importantly, workout the space you want, or really need. Because the space you need will determine the containers amount you need. The standard container dimensions are 8’’x20’’ and 8’’x40’’. You normally need 3-4 of them to build a house. If you don’t want to get things complicated, you can line three 8’’x20 container up. If you want to make a special design, you can use Google SketchUp  to draw your own design. Don’t limit your imaginations and this is great tool and easy to use.


Step 2 – Buy Your Containers

20 ft shipping containerThere are many ways you can get container. You can buy it from your local place, including used containers. If you buy from local market, especially for second hand container, make sure you have inspect it by you own eyes. You don’t know how they have used it before, check it and make sure your container is perfect and in good shape.

Another good plan is to buy your container from China, you can buy you containers at Alibaba for new containers. This is a reliable platform I use a lot to import products from China. Make sure you have inquired several suppliers and compared the price. Don’t jump to the cheapest supplier too quickly, the risk is too high. Besides, I will not buy from the most expensive one either. If you buy from China, it will takes you about 3-4 months to receive the products, so make your plan ahead of time.


Step 3 – Find an engineer

construction-engineerIf you are thinking about make some special placement of your container or make big modify to your container, you must consult an engineer. Any remove of the structural components of a shipping container without reinforce them may cause the container dangerous and unstable. Removing walls from a shipping container will severely weak the container structure and you need some steel beams to be welded into the container to make it safe and durable. Don’t get lazy on it, consult to an engineer and you will get a safe house. In addition, we have other steps also requires the help of a qualified engineer, this is a step you can’t miss.

Step 4 – Building Foundations

When building a shipping container home, you need a base that the shipping container can be placed in. The foundation of a container home is various but there are two main factory you should consider – your budget and the environment. You don’t want some foundation cost too much money, neither want a foundation that unfit your land condition which may cause your whole project failed.

I am not going to dig too deep on this issue, this is one of the few problems you need professional help. You have found an engineer now, right? Judging the foundation type by yourself is too risky, let the professional people work on the professional problems. Nevertheless, I will give you a rough idea about this. There are three main foundations:

  1. Concrete Piers is a simplest and cheapest shallow foundation to go
  2. Slab on Grad foundations is more expensive one, which suitable for softer soil types.
  3. Pile Foundation is the most expensive foundation and is used when the soil type is too weak.

I think that would be enough for you, you don’t need to cost too much time on it if you have an engineer, you have a lot of other work to do.

Step 5 – Connect Your Shipping Containers

connect-a-containerBefore you connect your containers, you need a crane to place our containers, this is easiest way to do this. You can rent a crane from the builders, this is easy and fast. There are a lot of ways to connect the shipping containers, including bolts, clamps and welding. But I don’t approve the bolts and clamps unless you need to move your container home often, but what’s the point is moving your home often? Not to mention you have already made the foundation. Welding is the most secure and safe way to connect your containers. It is not too difficult for a person never use it before. But still, you can call for help from your friends, relatives or even hire someone to do this work for you. It’s all depends on you. Also, I have to remind you that if you have not welded before, the welds will not in good look. So let somebody else do the job for you if you are not willing to take the risk.

Step 6 – Reinforce Your Containers

This step need to be done before you have remove any components from your containers, also start it before your roof building. Don’t make the wrong order or you may face in danger. I have no suggestions for the reinforce methods because you need a qualified engineer or builder. This is highly recommended and you had better follow your engineer. Normally you need steel to reinforce, but how to reinforce is requires profession opinion, so I am going to leave this part to your engineer.

Step 7 – Do some cuttings

cutting container wallsBefore this step, you may need a roof if you like. This is not necessary and guide for it. You can build any types of roof you like. Most of people build a roof for appearance, you can build a wood roof if you like.

After reinforce work, removing is safe now. Also removing is not necessary part, only if you want a window or a door between the container rooms. There are lots of ways to cut your windows and doors, including a plasma cutter, cutting torch, grinder, and even a jig saw. Plasma cutter can do all the work for you and it’s clean and neat. If you don’t want to bother, I highly recommend you to use plasma cutter. If you have no experience on this job, please hire someone to do it for you. The cost is not high and the work will be done in just several hours, it means you don’t need to pay them for long time.

Step 8 – Work on the container plywood floors

Why should I worry about the container floors? Yes, and you have to. The shipping container floors are treated with pesticides to prevent insects during sea transportation. These pesticides could harm human beings. So it’s best for you to remove the container floors or at least encapsulate the floor with epoxy and create a building a sub-floor on top it. If you don’t do this step, it is cheaper, but if you want a peace mind, just do it. Meanwhile, for new containers which are entirely new, there are no need to do this.

Step 9 – Add doors and windows

cutting container home door and windowsAfter cutting the containers, here goes the door and windows. You can add whatever the style of doors and windows you like. Add a wood door frame first, then you can place your door. Make sure you have the frame fit your door size. The same goes with the windows. It will be lighter and better looked with some windows. For this part, if you can’t handle it alone, you can also call some friends to help or hire someone. Nothing different with normal windows installations, so this is it.

Step 10 – Power it up

After all the work, you can power your container home up now. It’s will cost you some time to build the power system, but it worth it and inexpensive. Do the work the earlier, the better. Because it would be hard for you to wire your container house later, when your home is full of furniture and other things. The only difficulty of this part is drilling holes through your thick container walls. You can also by bass the wall and stick the wires around the wall.



Above is the main part of building a shipping container homes. The rest parts like doing your furnishings, placing some personal stuff and adding some wall flowers. These are small issues and not difference with ordinary house, right? If I have left something, you can leave a comment and I will add more content where I missed. Thanks for reading and have fun building container home.