Are Container Homes Worth it?

Container homes are a great option for homeowners who want a compact, energy-efficient, and robust home. This will entirely depend on each homeowner’s space needs, budget, and climate location. Once the home expands to needing multiple containers, the container home becomes less budget friendly. It also pays to have the home built by an experienced contractor or manufacturer, to ensure its compliance with structural safety and building code standards. However, this also raises the price, comparable to traditionally built homes. Some climates are better for container homes than others, say sites by the seashore can weaken the container steel quicker. 

Image from Shipping container homes: from tiny houses to ambitious builds | Australian lifestyle | The Guardian

Are Container Homes worth it for you?

This is the question you need to constantly ask yourself throughout this piece as we present the factors that might make or break your decision.

It most certainly may not be the cheapest housing option, especially if you’re combining two, three, or four containers. It can also be quite the headache to keep costs low as you’d have to act as the general contractor and source the labor and professionals yourself. However, if you’re looking to live in a compact, robust, energy efficient home, shipping container homes can be a great option. (1)

This YouTube channel, Containing Luxury helps homeowners understand what goes into building or owning a container home, and how strong they can be. 

Debunking Container Home Ideas

If you’re buying a container home because of the following features, just rethink and research it a bit more.

Not as Environmentally Friendly

To ensure the container home’s strength and quality, many manufacturers and homeowners are opting for “one-trip containers.” They are in great condition due to the fact that they have only been used once and not maxed out of their shipping use. In other words, they can still be used for transporting cargo and are too early to be recycled. 

Also as a container home contains much more steel than a regular wooden home would need, the same amount of steel could be recycled for parts supplying multiple homes instead of just one. (2)

May Present Some Structural Issues

The steel of shipping containers is definitely stronger than that of regular steel. However, if you do get a container that has reached its end use for shipping, it may have a couple of dents and rust patches that compromise its strength. (2)

Cutting into the corrugation for some doors and windows also weakens the container’s structural strength. Combining multiple containers also entails a lot of welding and adding extra reinforcing members to support the structure.

Containers also hold much of their strength at their corners. Therefore, one would need to add a roof to protect it from rain or snow accumulating on the surface. If pooled this can grow heavy and cause the top face to sag.

Difficulty with Permits and Building Code Approval

If you’re willing to put up with a more difficult than usual permitting process, then you can continue your container home journey. First, find out if container homes are even allowed on your property as some areas and homeowner associations do not even classify container homes as a kind of residential building. 

Some local counties and states have yet to create laws and regulations for container homes. Therefore you may need to undergo a special process to obtain your building permit.  Before going full force into your container home, consult your local planning office for any zoning regulations, restrictions, and building permit requirements. You’ll need to consider these in your design and plans if you want to use a shipping container for a home. (3)

Image from Maison Container by Patrick Partouche 

Necessary Modifications

Besides the alterations needed to be building code compliant, your container home will also need a good amount of insulation. Thermal insulation regulates the indoor temperature of your home to a comfortable level. The right kind of insulation is dependent on your climate and budget. (3)

As previously mentioned, you’ll need to have a separate roof structure installed, as well as any intermediate structural members to support any large cutouts.

Benefits and Truths about Container Homes

Certainly container homes still present some strengths. We just wanted to shed some light on their reality as a whole for you to make a cohesive decision on whether the pros outweigh the cons.

Strong Against Natural Disasters

Of course, this is contextual and not absolute. However, more often than not, container homes pose much stronger than traditionally built homes in the face of several calamities. They are fireproof and being naturally heavier, can withstand hurricanes and tornadoes better.

Shipping containers are used all over the world as emergency shelters and housing. This is not only due to their portability and modular nature, but also their robust build. (3)

Fast and Quick to Build

They may not be the cheapest homes, but they are one of the fastest to build. Mainly because most of the structure is already there, it just needs some refurbishing and reinforcement. Some manufacturers are able to deliver you a complete home in ten weeks. Not only that, but they would also have been inspected to be code compliant. Therefore these are one of the quickest options if you need a home ready to move in.

Predictable Costs and Can Be Energy Efficient

Due to the fact that shipping containers have standard ISO sizes, they can be pegged at fixed costs. Prices may vary slightly depending on the finishes you choose. Higher estimates will be due to your site’s distance from the factory and the difficulty of site preparation in the foundation system and utilities. (3)

The smaller footprint of containers (unless you’re combining a lot of them) means fewer materials to finish the interior and exterior with. A small floor area also keeps maintenance costs low, making them energy efficient in the sense that it uses less water and electricity to keep running. Of course, one can always go the extra eco mile and install a solar panel or rainwater system, which a container home’s structure can surely accommodate.

Image from 8 Factors To Keep In Mind When Insulating A Shipping Container Home – Off Grid World 


  1. Is a Shipping Container Home Worth It? 
  2. Shipping Container Homes – Pros, Cons & Costs 
  3. Pros and Cons of Shipping Container Homes – The Constructor