Building Shipping Container Home in 7 Brainstorming Steps [ DIY Instruction ]

Most people consider watching videos tutorials regarding building a shipping container home which is for obvious reason great.

But when it comes to little detailed orientation of building process, then reading an article on – How To Build A Shipping Container Home? even gives you more accurate information as well tiny information.

Whether you’re a beginner or experienced, this article about crafting a shipping container house is informative for both.

What exactly, I’m going to cover is the 7 simple steps involved in building a shipping container house plan. Along with this, some best practices, tips to follow and keep in mind.

What I’m not going to cover is the decoration, cost & expenses, and internal design, which I’ll be covering in upcoming articles. My purpose through this DIY Conex Home article is to help you brainstorm ideas on how to get started and plan everything from scratch.

Here, what we’re going to cover. Feel free to navigate around the topic you are interested to learn about.


Things You Need To Plan For Building Shipping Container Homes

Conex Home : Plan, Idea, Container Home

Planning is extremely necessary, especially when you consider building a shipping container home by yourself. There are so many nuts and bolts that you that it’s quite obvious that you’ll certainly be going to miss something during the container home building journey.

The simple rule is to avoid as possible as you can and you can do that by investing a good amount of time and effort in planning your shipping container homes.

If you are totally a beginner, then these steps become even more important.

So, the objective of planning the whole process is to get yourself ready and have a full understanding of Where To Begin and How To Begin?

Undoubtedly, you’re going to be stuck at many points but the simple solution is to fix it the moment the problem arises.

For example – You had a plan to install an Air-Conditioner, but after done installing and finishing it. You noticed that the air-conditioner machine is vibrating and shaking the shipping container that needs to be fixed without any kind of prior planning.

Your planning process will involve broad aspects like what needs to be done and what’s the requirements. You should include these in detail after proper research.

DIY your container homes, then one needs to know right at the beginning – How Are You Gonna Do That? Only then you can decide to put down all the resources requires for certain tasks, on the planning paper, or even decide the budget.

In some cases, taking the help of experts to accomplish certain tasks is a wise idea, like Electrical Wiring.

For First Timer – Advice

If this is your first time and you wanna do it by yourself because you are determined then, I suggest this –

  1. First of All Learn About The Basic Requirement That Is Needed To Build A Shipping Container Home. Basic Requirement Generally Includes – Setting Up Foundation, Flooring, Framing, Plumbing, Wiring etc.

There are tones of instruction on the web. Research and find out. Learn and take notes. See How To do It? What Are The Requirements? How Much Cost Incurred To Achieve Any Tasks? Where You’ll Be Needing Help?

Once you are done with the learning process, then proceed to build your plan for building a shipping container home.

Architectural Planning For Conex Home

Architecture planning is two types –

  1. Interior Architectural Design Planning
  2. Exterior Architectural Design Planning

Exterior Architectural Design Planning

Certainly, you’ll require both rights at the beginning. And here how.

Exterior Architectural Planning helps in achieving the outer/exterior structure of the shipping container home. It comprises from foundation to the flooring layer. Exterior design is what creates the outer view.

Your exterior design planning will determine how your conex homes going to look from outside and all angles. And while planning exterior architectural planning, one should follow up the best practices to achieve the two things –

  1. To Achieve Intergirty And Strength
  2. As Well As Appearnace As Expected.

For example –

You will design a foundation architecture for shipping containers homes based on integrity and strength, mainly by taking so multiple things into consideration.

Like

  • Number Of Floor Layering
  • How Much Heavy Items You’ll Have Inside Your Container Home After You Finished Building.
  • How Many Persons Will Be Living In A Container Home You’re Planning To Building?
  • Container Quality

These things must be considered and you can easily interpret things like this in several tasks, while you’ll be planning from scratch in detail.

For now, don’t worry at all, you’ll uncover and discover so many new things and problems while detailed planning starts after having theoretical knowledge.

You certainly don’t want disaster while chilling and enjoying Netflix.

Keep an eye on these things and remember to balance them all.

  • Integrity
  • Heaviness
  • Appearance

Interior Architectural Design Planning

Interior architectural design planning comes into play when you are done with the exterior design planning but in many cases, both influence each other.

When you say, you need a two-bedroom, kitchen, bathroom, living room, study room, that means you need to work on interior architecture design planning.

But as I said, exterior design architecture for your shipping container home is not only designed for view appearance. Rather, it will influence interior design architecture too that is how your interior design architecture will be based upon. So, mentioned that.


Software To Use For Designing Architecture Of Shipping Container Homes

This step is not mandatory, as one can manually work on it and prepare a whole design architecture by themselves. But using software to build architecture design for shipping container home is next-level planning which will help in achieving more accurate results, as well as visual presentation is easy for reference.

When it comes to design architecture, there are hundreds of software and web applications available on the internet to design architecture for anything.

If you have experience in building design architecture using software, that is a plus point.

But if you don’t know how to use any software then you still have a few options.

  • Do It Manually By Using Sketch And Larget Size Papers
  • Take Help From Freelancer
  • Use Simple Drag n Drop Features Web Applications

Here are some web applications that you can learn in no time and design architecture planning for shipping container home –

You can find more on the internet. And learn from their resources and find tutorials on Youtube.


Remember the below steps are based on my assumption and research, so it’s not mandatory to follow along. You are free to formulate your own steps, based on your own knowledge, understanding, experience, and need.

The below steps are briefly explained to bring your overall area of knowledge from start to finish. The purpose of discussing steps to cover what are the things that in general involved.

STEP #01 : Drawing A Floor Plan

The first step is to draw a floor plan for good results. Keep the design simple with an efficient floor plan layout in the design initially.

To design and build a floor layout, you’ll need to figure out the size and the dimension of the shipping container.

In case if you are not aware of what size and dimension of shipping container you are going to use building container homes, then planning a floor layout and design is complex and there is the possibility of occurrence of mistake.

So, the advice to is at least identify the size and dimension of the shipping container to be used for building container homes.

A 40-foot container is quite common and is mostly used to build shipping container houses. But you’ll decide based on your proper understanding.

To have an efficient floor plan, reduce indoor circulation by adopting a linear arrangement interior design where all the indoor functions line part of the rear wall creating enough room for open plan living and unobstructed movement to the bathroom and bedrooms.

Calculate The Space Available To Setup Shipping Container Homes

If you are planning to build a shipping container home then I hopping you might have space left where you want to locate your container house.

Now, your job is to calculate and estimate the space available for locating and placing container homes in terms of the actual number.

So, if you are going to take some steps, then before that go and measure the space available and collect some data and information, as this will help in deciding the floor planning, designing, and layout.

. . .

Outdoor Deck Streatching

A generous outdoor deck stretching is quite popular in shipping container homes. Because it adds extra beauty and gives your additional outdoor space attached as a deck to your container houses.

To estimate the size and dimension of the outdoor deck stretching you need to take estimated calculated data regarding the land space available and the size & dimension of the shipping container, into consideration.

For example –

How much land space do I have? And how many containers going to spread out? And what’s left to stretch an outdoor deck?

Measure the available space you have, size & dimension of the container to be used.


STEP #02 : Purchasing Shiping Container

A container a shipping container can be categorized using three parameters. The Size, Type, and Condition of the container shipping.

Shipping Container Size

Containers come in four or more standard lengths of 10 feet, 20 feet, 40 feet, 45 feet, 53 feet long either with a standard height of 8 feet, 6 feet, or 9 feet 6-inch foot high cube.

The 20 foot and 40-foot containers are the most commonly used to build conex container homes.

Shipping Container Type

There are over 10 types of shipping containers most of these containers can be used to build a container house in one way or another however standard dry storage containers and high cube shipping containers are the most commonly used to build containers homes because they are commonly available.

Shipping Container Condition

Lastly, shipping containers can be categorized by the state of their condition you can buy a new container a one-trip container, or a used container.

If you are going to buy a shipping condition, then you mainly focus on the condition of the shipping container.

Purchasing A Used Container

The used container has varied goods more than once to various destinations around the globe. I never recommend a to use a used container to build a shipping container home, if you want to build sustainable homes that last longer.

Don’t buy a used container until and unless you inspect properly regarding the strength and sustainability.

Purchasing A One-Trip Container

A One-trip container is used to ship a single cargo of load and sell at their destination. The one-trip condition for the container is quite good to consider.

While purchasing a shipping container, you will be questioned regarding a one-trip container that is less used, and have enough strength to turn into a container home.

You can talk and explain to a salesperson regarding the heaviness level of the home and your expectation.

Price is what differentiates a one-trip container from the new one.

Building with a one-trip container is a better choice on both quality and price. It is advisable to buy the container locally to cut delivery costs.

Purchasing A New Container To Build Shipping Container Homes

A new container has not varied any cargo and can be bought directly at the factory or from a dealer. If you can afford to have a new container then this is no doubt the best option to consider.

. . .

In the upcoming future blogs, I’ll be covering detailed how and from where to buy a shipping container to build a container home.


STEP #03 : Siting And Foundations

Shipping Container Design Sitting And Foundation

The third step involves building the foundation and siting the containers. The importance of having an appropriate foundation is to elevate the container off the ground away from moisture to avoid rust corrosion and dampness.

You might have noticed in almost all shipping container homes that all containers are elevated from the ground. Because there is the reason which is quite reasonable. So, another piece of advice is to work on this.

In addition, the elevated position provides an ideal height to construct the deck to enlarge the limited indoor living space to the outdoors.

There are over five different types of foundations used in building shipping container homes these include –

  • Pier foundation
  • Slab raft foundation
  • Pile foundation
  • Strip Trence foundationor
  • Alternative foundations

Pier Foundation For Container Home [ Cheapest & Commonly Used ]

Pier Foundation is the simplest and the cheapest and most DIY-friendly foundation type, commonly used to build container homes.

The size and Type of the Pier to use are dependent on the load capacity of containers. The piers can be placed at each corner of the container with additional piers in the middle the fourth step is to modify the containers.

Check out some examples in the attached picture below. However, I’m not explaining any steps to set up Pier Foundation in the blogs. But you can find a lot of tutorials on the web and Youtube that you can follow the instruction.

[ Gallery ]

Definitely gives some to learn about the other types of foundation, why, how, and in which scenarios they are used. Compare and find out what best fits your need.


STEP #04 : Opening And Modification

Shipping containers are water-tight steel boxes inherently designed for transporting cargo on ships. To transform a shipping container into a habitable space, the container walls are out to create fenestrations for interconnections window and door openings to provide adequate daylighting cross-ventilation and unrestricted access.

Modification of containers by cutting out openings weakens their structural integrity the structure is reinforced by welding additional steel around the openings to offset the removed metal. So avoid over modification to make the transformation process less expensive.

I have discussed the strength of containers for building a shipping container home.

The steel frame welded around all the openings increases the surface area for the easy anchorage of the door and window frames fix all the window and door shutters to make the house water-tight.

Fill Remaining Gap

When you cut out a fenestration to turn into a window or door, you’ll also notice a gap remaining along the border of the cutout area. And you have fixed this. However, you can use your method, how you gonna fill up the remaining borders.

Generally, silicon or metal filler are used to seal off any remaining gaps around the welded frames to make the opening

Note :

Remember to add a water barrier above all the window and door openings a water barrier is a flat steel bar that is welded on the top edge window or doorframe to divert rainwater coming down the side of the shipping container.


STEP #05 : Framing And Partitions

After making the shell watertight. The next step is Framing and Partition. Framing inside a shipping container house is quite different from a stick-built house.

Shipping containers are made from cord and steel and therefore it’s not possible to attach plasterboards directly onto the corrugated steel walls.

If the interior design has several partitions inside 2 or more shipping containers, then framing is the best idea. Framing allows easy installation of plasterboards.

At this step, you’ll be covering the interior framing of the shipping container and it is quite important because it allows several things like wallboard or insulation installed upon. In case if you do not consider framing the interior of the shipping container, then you certainly be drilling directly through the container, which is not a good idea.

So, it is highly suggested to frame your interior. In some cases of the design of a container, interior framing isn’t required or very little.

Furthermore, it’s not advisable to screw the boards directly onto the container wall in order to keep the shipping container watertight.

For your knowledge, pre-treated 2×2 timber studs are generally used to frame out the container walls and install interior partitions.  

Remember to observe optimum spacing and add noggins between the studs for additional support as well as install headers above the windows and doorways to reinforce the openings.


STEP #06 : Electrical Wiring And Plumbing

Once the wall framing and interior partition are complete. The next step is to install the electrical and mechanical components.

Electrical and mechanical services are the most technical works to undertake on. A container house project entails the installation of all the plumbing electrical wiring, air conditioning, and all the cabling before putting insulation.

It’s advisable to hire qualified services experts to execute these tasks professionally to avoid any possible disasters and to make it easy to obtain an occupation certificate once the project.

Installing Air Conditioner Inside Shipping Container Home

If going to use air conditioning, then using a centralized HVAC mini-split system for indoor temperature control is suggested, for ease of use installation as well as cost-effectiveness.

To Install Air-Condition, mount the outdoor ventilation unit outside on the container wall using rust-proofed bolts on rubber washers to help reduce noise and vibrations.

Take Help Of Qualified Experts If Possible

Once the project is complete from a design standpoint. You are advised to maintain the water tightness of the container at all times. It is commonly seen, that that water leakage is the problem.

Instead of cutting through the roof and the plywood floors of the container, install plumbing for the kitchen and bathrooms, the pipework should pass through the bottom of the wall instead. It’s cheaper to cut and restore the container wall rather than the roof or the floor.


STEP #07 : Insulation And Temperature Control

Insulation and temperature control is the most critical stage when building a shipping container house. A container house can be insulated either on the outside on the inside or on both depending on many factors.

Most often container homes are framed and insulated on the inside however insulating the house on the outside helps to preserve the limited indoor living space. When it comes to the type of insulation to use there is no one size fits all.

The most common insulation types are Rock Wool Insulation and Spray Foam Insulation.

Rock Wool Insulation is an excellent thermal insulation material and is a suitable material to prevent noise and fire. In contrary to glass wool, rock wool insulation is the preferred option.

Insulation is then lined with plasterboard throughout skimmed and painted ready for internal fittings and finishes.

When using Batt insulation, which is made up of fiberglass or mineral wool ( also called rock wool ). Earlier, Batt Insulation is manufactured in rolls but now it is manufactured and precut into industry-standard sizes.

Before installing the studs attach a damp proof membrane onto the container wall to serve as a thermal barrier and to mitigate against condensation.

It’s advisable to have sufficient openings for adequate ventilation to avoid condensation which can cause corrosion or become a health hazard if not controlled.

At this stage, the house is ready for fittings and finishes both on the inside and outside.


As I told you in the beginning that, these steps are brief, just to help you get started. So, you should grab your notebooks and sketch and starts planning your steps as per knowledge. And I recommend giving enough time to identify if any steps missing from your shipping container house building plan.

What Are The Challenges Involved In Building Shipping Container Home ?

Council Approval

Getting permit and approval for shipping container home is sometime tricky. But definitely possible.

Before you start planning anything, I highly suggest to learn about the learning about the approval process.

Challenge No. 2

Use Of Equipments & Tools

Building a shipping container home is not kid’s job. If you’ll be building by yourself then make sure you know which equipment and tools to be used for what purpose.

And also how to use these tools.

Challenge No.3

Use Of Chemicals

When building a shipping container home, there will be some chemicals related work, like spray painting, polishing etc.

Use mask, gloves, and protection to stay avoid getting in touch directly with skin, eye, mouth.

Take a note on this.

Challenge No. 4

Architecture Planning & Desigining

This can be also challenging as well, especially for beginner. As it require measurement and calculation.

Challenge No.5

Maintaining Strengthness

While building shipping container home, you always have think in terms of strengthness and weakness.

For example – While establishing foundation for container home.

Challenge No.6

Temperature Control

Shipping container homes are made up of steel, aluminum, fibre-reinforced polymer etc or a combination of all.

The thickness is less what’s actual requirement to build a container home. So, controlled temperature is the challenge most people people living in container house.

But there is a way to fix this.

Challenge No.6

Water Tightness

When building a container home, you may require to drill, cut or modify container which bring another challenge,
to make it water tightness.

However, fixing this isn’t a big problem.

Challenge No. 7

Building Foundation

As discussed in this blog, the common type of foundation that is commonly used is Pier Foundation.

Pier foundation is consider most reliable, suitable and stronger. But learn about the other foundation as well for the different architecture.

Challenge No. 8

Corrosion & Rust Prevention

Shipping container is made up of mostly iron, so corrosion and rust is obvious. There are several methods than can be used to avoid corrosion and rust.

But when it comes to sustainability, decide based upon this. Research the internet and you’ll find enough information regarding this.

Shipping Container Rust Prevention Basics

Challenge No.9

Financing

Financing is everything. If you cannot able to manage and collect expanses then certainly things become impossible.

Cost is definitely incurred in building a shipping container home, whether you do it yourself and hire an experts.

Before any of this, think about the fiance and money, that you’ll be investing in building a shipping container home

What Kinds Of Permit & Approval Requires For Prefab Container House ?

This question is obvious and one must think about right in the beginning before anyone starts even planning because you certainly don’t want yourselves involved in illegal works or simply not getting approved by the state or local authority.

It’s not a hack. All you need to go through some process and get approval and permit for the prefab shipping container home.

If you wish to learn then you can refer to this article, well explained about the subject.

What Are The Drawback Of Building Shipping Container House ?

There are some drawbacks to building a shipping container home. Here are some listed below-

  • Not Always Eco-friendly
  • Need Reinforcement
  • Difficulty In Getting Approval
  • Need Proper Insulation
  • Dimension Are Rigid

Sustainability Of Shipping Container House

How much does a shipping container home last long?

Anybody who is thinking or even planning to build a shipping container home might have thought about this. There are several factors that decide the sustainability of shipping container houses.

For example –

What types and kinds of shipping containers are being used in making homes for shipping container homes? Or Opening and modification on the shipping container etc.

With every perspective and action of building a container home, one must think about sustainability while planning for architecture.

The best way to maintain the sustainability of shipping connex houses is that keep an eye open on even little things like drilling holes in containers, cutting out container parts, water tightness, etc.

Using quality products, following up guidelines and best practices really help in achieving sustainability of container homes


Final Thoughts

So,

This certainly may not be the best instruction and guide to follow to build a shipping container prefab house. But I have tried my best to bring your attention to what’s important to consider in the steps while building a shipping container home.

If an individual is new to this, then they require learning regarding all the things that are involved in building container homes. And after that, they can use their knowledge to formulate their own best steps to be taken in order to achieve tasks.

Before you start building, invest plenty of time and effort in planning and designing work. Gather every required thing to achieve the competition of a task in steps.

Check the sustainability from time to time and fix what’s need to be.

There are tons of helpful information shared on the internet. Don’t be afraid to explore and ask for help in the community.


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