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Planning a Shipping Container Home

by Container Traders

Planning a Shipping Container Home Planning a Shipping Container Home

What You Need to Know About Planning a Shipping Container Home

The current housing market – characterised notably by unaffordability and a lack of adequate (affordable) development – calls for an increase in cost-effective building and construction solutions. Recently, many individuals, builders and building designers have turned to shipping containers as one of these solutions. Not only do shipping containers boast cost-effectiveness when compared to traditional construction methods, but they are highly customisable, extremely durable, generally low maintenance and abundantly available. If you’ve been searching for an alternative construction method, or if you know you want to use shipping containers to construct your dream home but have no idea where to start, you’re in luck! We’ve put together a comprehensive list of what you need to know about planning a container home. So let’s start at the beginning:


Our first tip is to do your research, particularly when it comes to planning and development regulations in your local area. Although an effective and highly beneficial construction method, some local council areas are hesitant toward container constructions. Moreover, local restrictions and any permission required will vary across each different council, in each different state and in each different country – so it pays to know where you stand in regard to your dream development. Rejection hurts, and nobody wants to spend weeks or months designing their dream home just to find out there is no feasible (or legal) way to construct it on your property. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact our friendly team – we’re highly experienced and always happy to help.

Set your budget, and understand what’s involved!

After researching local restrictions and coming to the conclusion that you’d like to (and it is feasible to) go ahead, we’d strongly recommend setting a budget. Decide how much money you’re comfortable spending and stick to it! Like any build, unexpected costs will (almost) always arise and leave owners shocked and financially stressed. To avoid this, it’s imperative that you set aside a contingency fund. For a generous contingency, take 20% of the money you have available and reduce your budget by that figure in preparation for any unexpected costs. We also advise keeping on top of your budget as closely as possible. If you’re completing the conversion/build yourself, then this shouldn’t be too hard but if you choose to outsource the container conversion, make every effort to keep the finances under control. Chat to our friendly team about pricing options and cost-effective solution today!

Design, and do it well!

Once you know you’ll be able to construct a container home on your site (and you’ve decided on a budget to work with) it’s time to get into the fun part – the design. Look into the different container types and start planning the home of your dreams. There is plenty of inspiration on design sites like Pinterest and Instagram so grab your device and start having a look around – you’ll be surprised how quickly you realise what you like and don’t like and by then, you’ll be well on your way to dream container design. For container home constructions and conversions, there are two types of containers most people choose between; general purpose and high cube. High cube containers offer an extra foot of ceiling height and, albeit slightly more expensive, are great for creating more generously sized living spaces. You’ll also have to choose whether to use new or second hand containers. Each comes with pros and cons so chat to our team about the best option for you.

NB: If you’re planning to combine multiple containers or make excessive modifications including large cuts or wall removal, we would recommend engaging an architect to help with the design. Not only will an architect be able to maximise space and efficiency, but they’ll have a network of engineers and advisors that will most likely be beneficial when it comes time for council submission.

Don’t change your design (or try hard not too)!

If sticking to budget is something you’d like to do (who wouldn’t) then do your best to not change the design once it’s been finalised – and certainly not once construction is underway. Every change you make will result in extra costs and can quickly turn a cost-effective container build into a money pit. There’s no harm in taking a little extra time during the planning process so you avoid silly (and costly) mistakes when it's time for construction. The main changes that cause excessive spending are new or modified openings, which have to be subsequently reinforced and approved by engineers – at the very least, get these right in planning! Obviously, if you have a change of heart and want to modify or add to your plan, do so in consultation with your builder or container supplier. We’ll endeavour to get you the best container at the best price, always – so get in touch today!

Pick a builder and pick a good one!

Whether you’ve decided to engage a builder or build the container home yourself, there needs to be a certain level of experience dealing with similar projects – or an overwhelming willingness to learn. When finding a builder, check portfolios, seek references and make sure you get along with the builder you choose. There’s not much worse than dealing with difficult people during a process that's full of important decisions. Save yourself the hassle and find someone you like! If you plan to build the home yourself, do your research and make sure your build complies with all the relevant codes and protocols. If you need any assistance, don’t hesitate to contact our friendly team today! We’re always happy to help.


If you plan to use your container as a living space, rather than just for storing or shipping your goods then you’ll need to insulate. Not only is this typically a council requirement, but it also increases the comfort for you once you move in and reduces living expenses in the long run. There are a few insulation options available for container conversions – and they come at different price points. The cheaper options include blanket insulation and loose fill insulation, both of which are available in a number of varieties. Blanket insulation is typically applied, like a blanket, over the container surfaces and is then fastened with studs. On the other hand, loose fill insulation typically requires a wall cavity for insertion and can subsequently reduce internal space. The third type of container insulation is the most effective (and also the most costly). It’s called expanded foam insulation and usually comes pre-sized and ready for application. It’s a thin, sheet like product that requires minimal space and can be fastened with glue.

There you have it! The main steps involved in creating a container home. If you have any questions about container conversion or turning a humble shipping container into a dream home, don’t hesitate to contact the friendly team at Container Traders today!

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