Build a living space from a steel shipping container: first steps

Build a living space from a steel shipping container.


Throughout North America, there is a pressing demand for additional housing. Unfortunately, the rate of construction is not keeping up with the need, making it increasingly difficult to find affordable homes. For many, remodeling an existing house is not a viable option.

Why not consider building a living space from a steel shipping container? It only takes a month or two to construct, and you can create a structure that is not only affordable, but comfortable, durable, and practical. Plus, you'll have the added bonus of being able to control your costs financially.

Need something that’s going to last and a large space? Expect to invest $50,000 or more. Need something simple like an extra space or home office? $10,000 is enough budget to build and furnish something simple, mobile, and secure. These living spaces have the potential to last for decades.

In many ways, steel shipping containers make more sense as financial investments than traditional brick and mortar homes. All you need is a plot of land, materials, and the right crew.

restaurant built out of shipping container parts

Step 1: Explore Options for Base Structures

Keep in mind that you’re creating a living space, not a storage facility. It needs to be weatherproof and comfortable.

Here’s what to think about when choosing your base:

  • Air flow. When choosing a shipping container, you need to ensure that it’s safe for people to breathe. If air can’t flow, your shipping container’s inhabitants could get sick. Imagine: problems related to mold, carbon monoxide, or other toxins.

  • Connection to services. Do you plan to have a bathroom in your shipping container? If you’re up to the challenge, you could build an entire house. You can install plumbing, with full washer/dryer and shower features if you want.

  • Materials. The quality of steel and shipping containers can vary. Be prepared to work with a design advisor to choose a Cargo Worthy (CW) container to meet your unique needs. CW graded containers are units that have been inspected and deemed worthy to be used in international maritime shipping. They have no defects or damage that would threaten it's integrity or ability to be used for transporting cargo around the globe.

Take a look at this 20’ modified storage container by Conexwest as an example:



Step 2: Create Your Project Plan

Step one gives you an understanding of the basics. Now, get ready to create a project plan. For inspiration, you can browse:

  • YouTube. Take a look at videos to see what others are building.

  • Interior Design Blogs. Google different spaces for ideas.

  • Take some inspiration from our previous projects.

  • Instagram. Search for hashtags around #tinyhomes, #shippingcontainerhomes, and more.

With a project plan in place, you can buy materials with confidence. We make it effortless to purchase, customize, and refurbish the perfect shipping container for your project. Our wide selection of sizes, from 10 to 45 feet, guarantees that you'll find your new container. Additionally, our innovative fabrication process and unrelenting quality assurance ensures every container we produce is durable, secure and airtight. 

Figure out what you want to build. Then, choose the materials that support that goals. At this point, don’t commit to purchase anything. You need to make sure that your building concepts are up to code.


Step 3: Plan Paperwork and Inspections

It is important to investigate what permits your city requires for building your structure. Co-operate with inspectors and authorities to guarantee that your steel shipping container structure follows all regulations.

If you're looking to construct your own home, it pays to chat with a contractor. Making mistakes can be costly, so why not benefit from the experience of 10,000+ customers? Allow us to provide our expertise and suggest potential solutions. Here's a few things to consider:

  • What permits do you need to build your structure?

  • Are there inspectors or contractors who specialize in building with steel shipping container?

  • Does your structure meet local fire and safety standards?

  • What steps can you take, based on your wishlist or project plan, to improve upon your original vision?

Once you've completed step 3, you may need to tweak your original project plan. Have a little patience and you'll be rewarded in the long run. We're here to make sure you avoid any costly mistakes. When selecting materials, you can be certain that what you're choosing will be effective.


Step 4: Choose Your Fabrication

Custom fabrications are possible for any steel containers. These are essentials you’ll need to make your space habitable and safe:

  • Lock boxes

  • Power vents

  • Roll-up doors

  • Sliding glass doors

  • Flooring

  • Carpeting

In addition to security considerations, you’ll also want to think about look and feel. Will this living space be more desirable with carpet or a steel floor? Do you plan to install a kitchen? If so, what type of ventilation will you need?


Final Thoughts

Although it's tempting to get carried away with decorations and accessories when it comes to a steel shipping container living space, it's important to focus on the basics first.

Saving money on the construction costs can be put towards the finishing touches later. With the right foundation in place, you can create a space that is tailored to your needs. You can add lamps, lighting kits and shelves to make the most of your container home. So don't forget the basics - take your time and build it better!