What is a Container House? 


You may have seen the shows streaming about building a house using shipping containers. These container homes have gained popularity as large or tiny house options. One container turned into a home is definitely considered a tiny house as the floor space is only 160 or 320 square feet. While most people think of tiny houses as a home on a trailer, shipping container homes are placed on a foundation for permanent housing. 

A container house is a single-family or multifamily house constructed from a used or new shipping container. Shipping containers are steel structures used for shipping products over the ocean. They are watertight, weather-resistant, and extremely durable—and almost indestructible material to use as a house. 

How can a shipping container house work as an alternative housing option? 


Shipping containers can be used as a tiny house in their one box sizes of 8 feet x 20 feet or 8 feet x 40 feet, giving the homeowner 160–320 square feet of space, and at 8.5 feet tall, they are not big on headroom. However, with the unique construction techniques used for storage, modular furniture, and self-contained plumbing, a container house can be a great alternative housing option. 

Where can I build a container home? 

As with any construction project, it’s best to check with your local housing department to ensure a container home will meet the existing building codes and zoning laws. You might be able to build it but then not have it placed on a foundation inside the city limits. A container home falls under a “non-traditional” building category and is more accepted in rural areas. Currently, only seven states have accepted container homes as an alternative housing option. This does not mean that you can’t build one where you live, but check with your local city, county, and state regulations before you start your project. 

Where container homes are accepted: 

  • Alaska
  • California
  • Louisiana
  • Missouri
  • Oregon
  • Tennessee
  • Texas

This will walk you through the process of building your own dream home. Build your own shipping container home – Everything you need to know and more!

Are container homes cheaper?


Container homes, on average, are cheaper than your traditional three bedroom, two bath, 1600 square foot house, which currently costs between  $155,310 – $416,250 to build. However, you will have to factor in the cost of the land and the foundation you place on the land to have a permanent setting for your container house. You could move the house from place to place, but the transportation for a container home by flatbed truck or rail can be pricey; the typical cost is $2-$5 per mile + possible equipment fees. You may also have to pay loading and unloading costs. 

Are they more affordable than other types of housing? 

Shipping container houses can be more affordable than traditional stick-built homes, but not always. However, even a prefab shipping container home is less than the current cost of building which is around $155,310 – $416,250 plus the cost of land. Still, they can be inexpensive, but many variables influence project costs, such as location, size, design, and interior finishes. 

Container houses range in cost and size. You can buy a used container for $1,500–$5,000. You can also buy new containers starting at $3,500-$5,000. The average cost to build out a shipping container home is around $10,000 to $35,000, depending on your materials. You can put multiple containers together in a multi-story building, but the costs also rise with the number of containers, and you’d be looking at $175,000 to $300,000 or more.

How long do container homes last?

A used shipping container home should last at least 25 years, but like a traditional house, it will last longer if the exterior is well maintained. Protecting the exterior from rust is the most important thing you can do to protect the lifespan of the container home.

How much does a 40-foot container cost?

The average container price of a 40ft container can range from $1,500 to $5,000 used and $3,500 to $5,000 new as just the container box. 


What are the benefits of a container home? 

Containers can be built-out in very little time as the main structure is already there. Depending on your additions like large windows and doors, the type of roof, any energy-efficient accessories like solar panels or rainwater collection systems, you can have a fully functional house in 10 weeks from many container construction companies. 

Shipping containers were not built just for housing. The patent was filed in 1987 and approved in 1989 for the first dwelling to be built out of a shipping container by Phillip Clark. Shipping containers are intended for transoceanic shipping of goods. They are also versatile and durable. As a result, they get stacked eight high on a cargo ship and can put up with hurricane conditions. 

A container home can be very cost-effective for people, especially if they are handy and can DIY interior projects. It’s always recommended to have a licensed plumber and electrician do the work when necessary, but you can save money on DIYing your container home if you have the skills. 

Container houses are customizable. Like a traditional home, you can have luxury fixtures like granite countertops and hardwood flooring or opt for modular furniture and inexpensive fixtures. I like the modern industrial look, which works well in this steel structure and can be less expensive than high-end finishings. 

What are the disadvantages of a container home? 

They are not widely accepted across the United States as viable housing material. If so, there may still be zoning restrictions on where you can place your container home. 

The interior is really small. With only an 8 foot span to start with, once you add your framing and other systems like plumbing and electrical the interior could be only 7 feet wide. For many people, this is just not enough space to be comfortable. However, if you can handle it, you can have a really great home. 

Depending on the construction process you use in your container home, cutting the sidewalls for windows and doors will mean degrading the strength and integrity of the wall. As in traditional construction, headers will need to be put in to frame the windows and doors to provide the necessary support. 

Container houses are an attractive alternative housing option, especially with the 11 million shipping containers just sitting in shipyards all over the globe. Housing is a basic human necessity, and at less than $6,000 apiece, these steel boxes can make great homes for anyone in need. Check out other forms of alternative housing with these 25 ideas.


Eva is a freelance copywriter specializing in all things real estate, B2B, PropTech, ReTech, CRETech. Owning rental property herself, Eva's love of real estate has turned into a passion for alternative housing options and educating people about the different types of housing available.

Recent Posts