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5 Things to Consider Before Owning Shipping Container Homes

Shipping container homes have graced many design magazines, often featured as alternative to expensive home building venture, while providing flexibility typically not found on conventional home designs. Sure, there’s a reason why container houses have gained popularity lately, as response to congested cities, rising housing costs or just a need to feel what its like to live in an unconventional residential dwellings.

From Amsterdam to Copenhagen and from New Zealand to California, the shipping container housing trend knows no boundaries. Eco Watch cites the need to build shelters for homeless, military and student accommodations, as well as chronic housing shortage that town planners and city governments struggle to provide as main reasons why shipping container houses are here to stay.

But in your case, would you consider trading your old established abode to a home built in a box out of innovation, conservation or cost cutting exercise? If so, there are things you should check first before joining this emerging trend in housing construction.

1. Buy the right shipping container 
Since pre-built homes made of shipping containers are not available for purchase, you must be knowledgeable enough to buy the right container to upgrade into your future home because, as you know already, buying a shipping container to convert into a house isn’t like buying clothing or books that you can easily discard if you found out it’s not what you’re looking for. But just like many other purchases, you need to look at the box and inspect it before deciding to buy it. Does it contain rust and corrosion? Is it dusty, did it previously carry hazardous materials or need repainting job? Such considerations are essential to selecting the box. With a reputable dealer, one can get assurance that the purchased shipping container is ideal bet for conversion into a home.

2. Get to know your local housing regulations
Building such unconventional (by today’s standards) housing models are expected to fall under close scrutiny of housing regulators or urban planning office. Depending on where you plan to construct your shipping container home, fire and safety regulations, zoning regulations, building height restrictions and so on may vary. Also, home insurance may even reject your application for coverage if your shipping container house is beyond its standard definition of a conventional residential dwelling. For example many crate houses are too small to even be considered as houses for zoning purposes.

3. Understand cost considerations
Even if shipping container homes are less expensive, prices vary depending on where you are. For starters, used 20-foot shipping containers, cost ranges between $1,400 to $2,800 while used 40-foot containers will cost $3,500 to $4,500. Then there’s the cost of hiring a competent contractor with relevant experience — if they are available in your area — plus custom retrofittings, furnishings, plumbing and electrical installations, costs may exceed a typical two-bedroom unit if no prior cost calculations are made.

4. Consider insulation and long-term habitation issues
Shipping containers are normally built with steel and iron materials which is built for strength and durability when transporting items across long distances. However, long term human habitation on them is a different story. Living in a container house can be unpleasant to human standards as temperatures can fluctuate between chilly and sweltering depending on where you live and the season of the year. Would you rather install air conditioning unit in perpetual operation or extra heating mechanism to increase to stabilize indoor temperature even if it means higher electricity bill and counterproductive to your mantra of living in an eco-friendly environment? Check the local climate and available designs suitable to the changing seasons, and your region.

5. Availability of contractor with experience
If you have no experience nor confidence in building your shipping container home by yourself, hiring a contracting company is most likely your only other option. There are those that specialize in converting shipping containers into homes, while others are experts in interior design, furnishing or architecture. Your decision to build your shipping container house should also lean heavily on this factor. Hiring some construction company with no prior experience could spell disaster, unintended costs and uninhabitable home so make sure this is sorted out before making the go signal.

Buying a shipping container and converting it into your home requires calculated risk. Sure it may cost lower, provide innovation in design or even redefine how you and your family live, but checking the above factors helps you make wise decisions. And if it leads to your newly-converted shipping container home, this decision can be a rewarding experience.

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