11 Mistakes to Avoid While Building a Container Home

What to avoid while building a container home

There is a rapid rise in container home construction, and with that, several mistakes you want to avoid while building a container home that we’ll address in this article.

The use of shipping containers for building homes has gained popularity in the recent past. With the ongoing trend, it is expected that the container home market size will hit a value of $73 million by 2025.

Shipping container house under construction by www.zinipi.de

A shipping container home usually features containers over 15 years old that are no longer suitable for transporting cargo, and are hence available for purchase by the public. One of the things that draw people to shipping container homes is that they cost less than the typical traditional homes. Compared to other small homes, container homes tends to hold value longer.

While containers as building materials are ideal for building homes, they have their shortcomings, just like other materials. People often rush into buying containers for building homes without doing background checks on them and evaluating their suitability.

Getting the wrong shipping container could lead to structural issues that you could have easily avoided. Here are some common mistakes to avoid during shipping container home build.

1. Buying Containers That are in bad Condition to Build a Container Home.

As much as the containers used for building are no longer suitable for shipping cargo, it does not necessarily mean they are in bad shape. Therefore, don’t settle for containers that are in poor condition.

It is vital to conduct due diligence before buying one. While containers may be built to endure pressure, continued exposure to water may lead to break down caused by rust. It is important to inspect the container and give it some care before using it for building.

For instance, you may have to cut out damaged metal and replace it. More so, you could give the container some paintwork to give it a fresh appearance. While you may be required to do some repairs, ensure you get all the details you need on the container’s integrity.  

To have a clear view of what you are buying, you can even ask for a video of the container. Buying from a trustworthy seller will also give you some comfort to get a quality product.

2. Getting the Wrong Container Size.

Getting the right container size is key. Unfortunately, most homeowners end up miscalculating the size of the containers. You don’t want a container that is too small for your needs or too big for the available space.

It is important to note that a standard container used for shipping may not be the same or ideal size for building a home. Containers come in different heights. The occupants’ height and extra space to accommodate insulation installation are important considerations to make when looking for a container.

Getting the wrong size of the shipping container will lead to an uncomfortable home and unfavorable living conditions. Ensure you have the perfect length, height, and width for your living arrangements.

Read More: How To Finance Your Container Home Here.

3. Not Using High Cube Containers for Building a Container Home.

Remember that not all containers are ideal for building a home. If possible, get high cube containers. Avoid picking the standard containers if you can select high cube containers. What makes them the best is that they are higher than the standard containers.

They have extra headroom, making a home built with the containers more spacious and airier, and an interior easy to design. As you look to kick off your project, make sure you ask if the high cube containers are available.

High cube and standard height shipping containers
High cube shipping containers. A close observation reveals some of the containers to be slightly taller than the rest.

4. Not Insulating Your Container Home.

For your container home to be liable, it must be insulated. Remember that the containers are originally designed for shipping goods and not for living. They must therefore be tweaked to make them habitable. Insulation is key to maintaining constant and comfortable temperatures in your container.

Failure to insulate will expose you to extreme temperatures. It will be too hot in summer, and during the cold seasons, it will be extremely cold. Your container must meet home regulations such as the minimum ratings for thermal insulation.

Failure to insulate will also affect the energy efficiency of your home. It will be hard to heat and keep your home cool, leading to high energy consumption. It may also lead to a lot of condensation, which will make your container more susceptible to rust and rot.

When insulating, some of the factors to keep in mind include your container home’s climate. Different locations may have varying insulation needs in terms of materials, applications, and design. Strive to get everything right before kicking off the insulation project.

You also have to consider the kind of insulation you need, is it cooling or heating, or both? You could also consider creative ways to insulate the home. For instance, to protect your roof from radiant heat, you could consider planting a garden that will also enhance the home’s aesthetics.

You could also consider painting the exterior with a color that reflects away the heat. You will also be required to pick between external and internal insulation. This will mostly be dependent on the available space. If your interior space is limited, you might have to work with exterior insulation.

Read More: How to Insulate Your Shipping Container Home.

5. Not Being Conversant With the Zoning Codes and Regulation.

Before building any structure, you must understand zoning and building regulations. Making this mistake could lead to you being forced to bring down the building. Getting the right information will protect you from a possible displacement after your project is complete.

Violating building codes and regulations could result in losses and disruption. You should ensure you do some things to apply for the necessary permits and find out if the zoning codes allow the construction of container homes. Find other regulatory bodies that you should get clearance from your local government to proceed with your project uninterrupted and avoid wasting time and resources.

Inspiration on how to build a shipping container home
A shipping container home under construction using 40 feet shipping containers

6. Not Working With a Complete Contractor.

Finding a complete container home contractor can save you a lot of time and money. If you ask container homeowners, they will tell you it is best to work with a complete contractor compared to separately sourcing for a foreman, electrician, plumber, architect, and workers.

Getting all the services from one contractor will also ensure consistency, and your project is likely to be completed earlier. You will also get a clearer picture of the completed structure and spend less time supervising the workers.

7. Not Planning for Plumbing in Advance.

Mistakes in your plan can be very costly. Plumbing, in particular, needs to be well-thought-out and planned lest your container home construction project fails. If you make mistakes, then you will have expensive mistakes to fix.

You might need to involve a professional to determine the location of the plumbing lines, and the points where water will be entering and leaving your home. Ensure that your contractor cuts the holes for electrical and plumbing lines before finishing is done.

This way, you will avoid having to move some of the fixtures and furniture to pave the way to cut holes to fix pipes.

Read More: How to add Plumbing to Your Shipping Container Home Here.

8. Cutting Huge Pieces Out of Shipping Containers

Cutting huge pieces out of shipping containers to make changes is not the wisest thing to do when building a container home. One thing about containers is that they are strong. They need to be strong to carry the weight of goods being shipped. They also need to be strong for stacking purposes.

However, the moment you start cutting them into pieces, you tamper with the build and interfere with their strength. While cuts for doors and windows cannot be avoided, you need to keep them at a minimum.

Do not create more holes for extra doors and windows. Otherwise, you may be required to install beam reinforcement to keep the container strong. The more you cut, the more reinforcement, and the more you will be required to spend. This may end up beating one of the purposes of building a container home: lowering the cost to build a container home.

Remember, the corrugation on the container is what gives it its strength. Once you interfere with it too much, then you lower the strength of the whole unit.

cutting too much spaces might not lower the cost to build a container home
Cutting too much out of a container might not lower the cost to build a container home

9. Not Preparing the Site.

Much preparation has to go into building a container home, just like traditional homes. Therefore, don’t assume that you need to ship your container to the construction location. Site preparation is the most overlooked stage in building a container home, especially by homeowners who are building for the first time.

Site preparation may be boring but is a very critical step. The site needs to be leveled and debris cleared to create a ready space for the building. More so, marking needs to be done where the foundation is dug.

Site preparation may also involve activities that ensure the property is easy to reach. Hanging branches, sharp turns, and steep slopes need to be dealt with to clear the way to the site. Preparation goes a long way in making the location safe for vehicles bringing materials.

Unleveled land will force the builders to delay the project as they work on it or even give them a hard time.

Tasks such as site preparation should take place even before the container is delivered to the venue. Your contractors will be able to implement the project if things have been worked on easily. On the other hand, you will save time and money as the project will be smooth and completed within the time projected.

Read more: What is Site Inspection here.

Construction worker ready to begin site preparation

10. Not Setting a Realistic Budget.

If you are looking to construct a container home, it is critical to manage your expectations. As much as the cost of a container home is lower than that of a traditional home, the cost savings may not be as large as you expect. Generally, the price of a shipping container home may be between $10,000 and $250,000, depending on the size and finishing.

However, with a solid budget, you should be able to construct a beautiful container home without stretching out your finances too much. Having a budget upfront will ensure money is set aside for the most important things, such as plumbing, insulation, and reinforcement.

More so, having a budget will guide your choice of shipping containers. If you are looking to have a big house, you may need to work with the lower cot containers to fit your budget. If it is a smaller room, you can go for a one-trip container.

Once you have settled everything your home needs, you can start working on the add-ons and luxuries. A budget will ensure that you don’t commit to things that will make you spend too much. As you set the budget, you also need to think of contingencies.

Homeowners are advised to have at least 20% of their budget a contingency allowance. Even the best planning sometimes doesn’t prevent unexpected things from happening. For instance, you might have to rework the design, add more reinforcement or spend on other critical modifications that were not initially part of the plan. This way, you will avoid frustrations and even the stalling of your project.

If the contingency allowance is left over, you can spend it on furnishing, landscaping, or enhancing the interior.

Read More: Ultimate Truth About Shipping Container Homes in California

11. Not Adding a Roof to a Shipping Container Home.

While you have the option of working with the container roof, it may lack the structural integrity to support another container for a multiple-story home or even to handle the weather. While it may mean expanding your budget a bit, it is a worthy investment.

There is a wide range of roof design options that you could try to add to the appeal of your home. For instance, you can consider flat roofs as simple and fast to build. They may also cost less than other complex roof designs. Other considerations include a pitched roof or a living roof.

Having a container home is a great idea as it comes with cost-saving, fewer resources requirements such as land, and many customization options, to mention a few. Constructing a container home requires good planning and budgeting. It is best to involve a professional contractor with relevant experience for a smooth construction process and the best results.

Get a container in good condition and in the right size to ensure your housing needs are met. Create a budget to cover everything important and comply with the zoning and building regulations. This way, nothing will stop you from completing your project.

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