Shipping Container Homes: What to Know Before Building

Cargo or shipping containers are now being used all over the world as alternative building options. These empty, unused containers end up in shipping docks because it’s too expensive for many countries to ship empty containers back to their original location. A surplus of containers has opened up a market to be used for tiny homes.

Cargo containers can be turned into amazing tiny homes like this one from

There are both advantages and disadvantages to building with shipping containers. They are  strong, ready-made, durable and cheap or sometimes free. A cargo container can be purchased for around $900 and made into a home nearly right away. Some of the disadvantages include harmful effects from the coating used on containers to make them more durable. These coatings contain chromate, phosphorus and sometimes lead-based paints. Some wood floors on the bottom of cargo containers contain pesticides like arsenic. Cargo containers also are limited when it comes to space. Of course, they can be combined to create a larger tiny home, but they are limited in head room and width, while giving you a tunnel-like length. A cargo container will also need to be insulated against the heat and the cold, which will also reduce the size of your living area.

The shape of a cargo container is nearly perfect for a tiny house.

If you are thinking of building your next tiny house out of shipping containers, you can purchase them used from the Buyer Zone. Cozy Home Plans has a current plan for using two 40′ containers (Intermodal Steel Building Unit or ISBU) to build a home that is 640 square feet. The home contains one bedroom, a bathroom with storage and a large living area and kitchen.


Photos courtesy of

2 Responses to Shipping Container Homes: What to Know Before Building

  • Its just fantastic to see the continued interest in Container based Construction.

    I have a free book featuring the 30 most influential Shipping Container Homes ever built that you might like to review.

    Feel free to download your free copy here.



  • Thanks Victor! I am a huge ISBU fan, actually long before I even knew what they were. You have a great site an I am a member. Cozy has several plans that could be compatible with shipping containers so far. All the 320 sq ft ones are 16’ x 20’ on purpose… just in case. We also have several that accommodate a pair of 40’s or 640 sq ft. Even one 53’ design that I call the dream, hopefully a reality in the next couple of years.

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