Shipping Container Homes -13 Steps To Building An Amazing New Container Home.

What are the set of steps in building shipping container houses?

If you search Australia’s most popular online real estate for sale websites such as:

  3. homehound

you will find very few listings for shipping container homes for sale.  Even private for sale by owner websites have nothing for sale.

From time to time, shipping container homes do come up, but when compared to the traditional housing market in Australia, there are very very few listings.  Having such a thin market makes it difficult to provide sales evidence to form a basis of valuation estimate for the container built housing market.

How do you build a house using shipping containers?

When starting a building project, there are three broad aspects for consideration.

  1. Pre-preparation phase;
  2. Design;
  3. layout and costings.

Stage A – Pre-preparation phase.

In delivering a sea container to your building site, it is better that you pre-prepare the land properly.  This means having the block cleared and ready for the arrival of the container.

Stage B – Designing The Shipping Container Home 

The next step involves creating the shipping container home to have this sited correctly into your overall grand plan.  Searching for interior design ideas for small homes on a budget can be quite a challenge. There are different shipping container sizes that you will need to consider in the overall design scope of the work.

The functional use previously affects the construction of your new shipping container home.  Containers that come insulated, or suitable for carrying dry freight and having an open top can be ideal.   There are shipping container house plans for download online as well which might give design and layout ideas.

Stage C – Design Layout Considerations

For the design, you will need the number of containers and the way that these containers are configured on the layout plan of design.   Shipping container sizes differ but are rectangular and so joining and laying out the containers is an important consideration on how you want to develop your overall home.  There are multiple ways of making different layouts even if the home is a single level; layouts can be L-shape or U-shape or just plain end on end.

Stage D – Costings Out The Shipping Container House 

Shipping containers are incredibly cheap to buy, especially for used shipping containers.  Sea containers will be even more inexpensive if you live close to a port or within a coastal city location.  It is better to approach the companies directly than buy them online.  Shipping containers being sold online tend to be through used container brokers and resellers charging a dealer markup.  You may also consider the possibility of buying container home kits, but these will be expensive compared to fitting out a raw (empty) container shell yourself.

How to locate and buy; Used shipping containers for sale in Australia.

Finding shipping containers for sale in Australia is not hard.  The best containers to buy are the ones that have been used to ship dry goods given that the internal area of the container would not have been exposed to moisture.  Moisture can be an issue and leads to rust forming on the containers.  You don’t want to be caught with a rusting home after building.  Dry containers come in different shipping container sizes, but again, you will have to check with the supplier what shipping container sizes they have for sale at the time.

It is also important to check the age of the container.  An ID number, usually found in the container can give clues, but you can work this out in one way or the other.

Shipping containers can be bought from container manufacturers directly or leasing companies, shipping container brokers and shipping companies themselves.

Shipping container sizes vary, but there are standard sizes you can use.  You will have to research where these companies are and who is selling second-hand shipping containers the sale.

I have listed some container brokers in another article on buying shipping containers.  A good place to start is online for purchasing used shipping containers is but more information is referred to the article I mentioned.

One way or one trip containers for shipping container homes.

If you want to get a relatively new container, there are such things as one trip containers.  Sometimes online these one trip containers can be referred as “one-way shipping containers”.

Most of the one trip shipping containers for sale have arrived from Asia and used only for a single trip before being sold.  The reason these containers have been used for one trip is that it would cost more to return the container empty to the originating port than what its value is, so the containers are stored and or sold.

Corten Steel constructed containers – Remember that the shipping container you buy ideally should have Corten steel.  Corten steel is said to be the best for standing up to weather conditions and rust.

“As-is” shipping containers for sale – Used shipping containers sold “as is” will have the lowest price, but they may be worn or have leaks or some structural damage to them.  These containers may be more trouble than what they are worth if you want to build your home and have peace of mind from rusting or leaks.  One way shipping containers are your best bet to buy.

Always inspect the container on the site before buying.  Don’t do a deal over the phone or buying the container sight unseen from a website just believing it’s a new or a one-way shipping container by the broker.

Don’t ever fall for the trap that it’s the only shipping container size you’re looking for in [cf_geo return=”region”] for sale.  If in doubt get another person who is experienced with buying new or used shipping containers to do an inspection to work out any damage or suitability of the container for constructing your home.  Ideally, you want to work in with your builder who will see the whole process through from purchase of the containers, building of the home to the handover stage of the completed home.


RT @kirsty_kerins: You might live in a shipping container home if it was this amazing. Read.


Ver “Boat Builder’s Incredible 20ft Shipping Container Home” en YouTube – Read.

Steps to building a sea container home.

This article provides a general overview of building a shipping container home from scratch.  You could make life simple and buy a finished shipping container home for sale, but these are costlier for a finished product on a rate per square meter basis than building a shipping container home from a basic shell.

Shipping container home designs, as well as tiny house plans, are available for purchase through our store using the menu above.

References may also be made by googling “alternative house plans” or go by design such as “whimsical house plans” so it’s just a matter of finding the language of the home design and plan you want for sea container homes people go by locally.  As these articles are focused on the Australian reader, names for home plans or designs may differ in the United States by region.

After you have received the local council building approvals and compliance requirements you will have a process of construction of the home.  More articles will be added to this website in the future with specifics including solar electricity and greywater systems.  You need to be 100% clear on council regulations and shipping container homes BEFORE delivery of the containers and commencement of construction.

23 Shipping Container Home Owners Speak Out: “What I Wish I’d … Apr 14, 2015, We receive lots of emails from people asking us- how do I go about building my shipping container home? So to answer this question.

Luxury Shipping Container Homes – YouTubeAug 15, 2016.  Thanks for viewing and sharing our videos.  More information.

Shipping Container Homes | Building Steps.

Step 1
 is to build a foundation

The foundation building process is one of the most important aspects of the whole construction process.  It is no surprise that having proper foundations made will add to the stability of the home, especially when you add higher levels meaning more steel containers on top of each other.

Foundations can range from concrete to wooden support structures.  You can also build a concrete basement.  These foundations are subject to local building codes of your area and what is acceptable in the local town and city council area.

You will also need to get a soil test completed as well which will determine the type of foundation for the home.  We recommend that you get an engineer to look at the foundation building process to design a good base upon which you develop.  The cheapest option is most likely steel peers.

Step 2 is to place the steel shipping containers on the foundations.  Placement may involve using a crane to place the containers on top of the foundations.

Step 3 is connecting the steel shipping containers.  If you are planning to build a larger home as opposed to a one container cabin, then container connection will involve joining containers together.

Some building contractors use large bolts and metal grille plates to connect containers together.  Using bolts and grille plates is a somewhat temporary measure because most other builders will get in and weld the shipping containers together for a permanent fix.

Welding is preferred if you won’t be moving the containers.  If in the future you’re planning to take down the structure, then the best option is to use clamps.  Securing with clamps is easy, and fast as a means only of a temporary option for a future takedown.

Step 4 – The next step is to add reinforcements.

Before you start installing windows and doors and cutting parts of the steel shipping container to accommodate the living areas, you need to make sure that the reinforcements are placed correctly to the container.

Reinforcements are necessary to prevent the structure collapsing due to the heavy weight of the roof or when one container is stacked on top of each other.  It is critical at this point to have a qualified engineer hired and assess the construction requirements.  Examples of reinforcements may include steel RSJ box’s, rafters, and metal pillars.

Step 5 – insulation of your shipping container home,  and roof installation. Once the structural reinforcements are in place, you then install the roof section of the home.

Some people may not use a roof structure, while others think that the roof is necessary to improve the overall aesthetic appeal of the home.

There may be some practical issues that enhance the home with the addition of a roof such as installing solar panelling on the roof.  For those living “off grid” this will be a requirement.

Using an inclined roof will help solar panel set up.  There are different types of roofing systems from tiles to galvanised metal roofing depending on preference and what the engineer or builders suggest to you.  It also comes down to the budget build cost of your home.

Step 6 – Container cutting stage

This stage involves cutting the openings of the shipping container to accommodate the internal living areas of the home.  The openings may include spaces for windows, roof area lighting to let more light into the living areas, or the passage connecting with other containers in the living area.

Building contractors may weld portions of the container using a plasma cutter or cutting torch.  If you cannot do this yourself, you need to hire a welder to make the necessary cuts.  Again it is important that you consult an engineer on where to cut the container as consideration needs to be had to preserve the strength of the structure of the container.  Just cutting without any knowledge of structural integrity can be hazardous.

Step 7 – Installation of the Flooring. 

The standard flooring that comes with shipping containers can be wood treated.  Treatment has been done with chemicals used to ship the goods by sea.

Sometimes pre- treatment’s are done.  These pre-treatments are using pesticides.

Sounding pretty nasty, isn’t it?

I cannot recommend strongly enough that you replace the “original” flooring because it may hold chemical (pesticides) that have leeched into the wood.  There may be some methods at which to seal the flooring to guard against any vapour from chemicals used.

Step 8 – Seal any cracks. 

No matter what size home you are building, large or small – during the cutting process cracks and holes in the container may develop.

Checks are needed to identify cracks as a measure of keeping moisture away from the interior of the home.  Sometimes sealing is done by welding steel strips over the gaps, but there may be other products on the market in the form of sealants that can do the job a satisfactory sealing job as well.

Step 9 – Fixing windows and doors.

Fixing can be sliding glass doors or French doors.  I have seen old doors for sale suitable for container homes on websites such as but bare in mind that it is necessary to strategically place the windows and doors in a way that can get enough light and air inside.  The window should be large enough to let light into the living area and at the same time keeping airflow going around the home.

Step 10 – Internal framing of the home

Framing stage involves framing the interior of your home.

Internal framing is necessary.  In addition to providing extra structural support, framework secures the drywall and insulation on the interior wall.

Step 11 – Installation of services in the home

At this point of the construction process, the electrical installation will be required.  Installation of electrical wiring, light fittings and switches; this is where you install electrical componentry around the home and may include working  with the steel and drilling holes to allow wires to pass

Step 12 – insulating the home. 

We mentioned in another article written on the topic of insulation the drawback with shipping container home construction. Drawbacks are that container homes can get hot during summer and cold during winter.  Heat and cold variations result in the fact of the container are made of steel. Temperature changes in extremes of hot or cold can be reduced with insulation. Some builders find it easier to use spray foam insulation as a method of insulating shipping container homes.

Insulation serves to improve the living area temperature inside but also to avoid condensation on the steel structure which may lead to mould and rust.

Step 13Finishing stage  

The finishing stage is the last stage where you are applying paint or masonry to the walls of the container.  This step also includes plumbing work.  Air-conditioning may be installed to help control temperatures inside the home.  Sometimes ducted aair conditioningie. vents will be installed earlier when the ceiling construction phase is being done.  If you are after cheap supplies for building materials such as carpet, kitchens, timber etc – you might want to check this article that I wrote on building material auction companies.

Final Note 

Building a home out of a shipping container can be a fun process and rewarding at the same time.  Selecting the right builder that knows what they are doing is key to having a happy building process and seeing a good result at the end.

The last thing involved is to include a “fit out” stage.

Finding interior design ideas for small homes and on a budget can be challenging and will be the focus of another article within this website.

There are numerous interior design websites with photographs – For more ideas and photos why not visit our Pinterest page.  To get pictures and ideas, you can also google terms such as “interior design ideas for small flats”, studio units, etc. on for more information.

If you want more information on designing and building a shipping container home from scratch, including ways to save money and costly mistakes to avoid, check out this product information link on building a shipping container home.

Shipping container architecture California Architect Peter DeMaria designed the first two story shipping container home in the U.S. as an approved structural system under the strict guidelines

Peter DeMaria  – DeMaria designed the Redondo Beach House, the first two story shipping container home in the U.S.

shipping container homes

Steel shipping container homes come in various designs offering comfortable, modern and stylish accommodation options.

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