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Ultimate Truth About Shipping Container Homes In California

Building shipping container homes in California can be an incredible option to a normal brick and mortar home, which can be both challenging and rewarding. However, it can also be slightly inaccessible and costly. That’s why building shipping container homes is a perfect option.

A shipping container home is a home constructed from a reused/recycled/upcycled sea container used for shipping. Sea containers are used to ship goods worldwide on ships, trains, and trucks.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Recover Shipping Containers

The containers are either reclaimed or restored when taken out of commission. Using them for building materials is one way you can recycle the containers.

Shipping containers are usually found easily, and they are plentiful, making it so accessible to build a shipping container home in California. The container homes are eco-friendly and cheaper than traditional homes. You can get a beautiful, unique home and reduce your carbon footprint by using restored or reclaimed materials.

If you have considered building such a home in California, it is crucial to know what to expect. This guide will help you to be ready.

You Need to Know This About Shipping Container Homes in California

As long as the home construction is within zoning requirements and building codes, you can transform the shipping containers legally into a house. The idea behind zoning and codes is to regulate the rate at which homes are built in California and ensure they are built up to the living standards.

Can I build a container home in California? In the United States, California is among the most urbanized and expensive states. As a result, the real estate property value is soaring high. They also have strict land controls.

As can be seen in their land and building industry, California has a unique progressiveness, making it an ideal state to prepare your shipping container house.

As long as your house is within the law, California has a lot of rich visualization for shipping containers — from commercial spaces to hybrid containers.

To understand more about California zoning laws, especially if you know nothing about zoning laws, we recommend this book.

Recently, California Department of Housing and Community Development made changes to its law regarding accessory dwelling units (ADUs), or backyard houses. You can also read about them here.

Does California Allow Shipping Container Homes?

California allows shipping container homes, but you will need to acquire insurance for your container in California. Insurance will help protect yourself, your family, and your investments.

After completion of your shipping container home, you should get professionally appraised. The appraiser will give you your home value, allowing you to find the right insurance policy.

The insurance policy will assist you in finding the proper coverage. Due to the nature of the container homes, it can be challenging to find insurance cover. That’s why you should seek the help of insurance companies.

See also  The Ultimate Guide to Building Container Homes in Florida

Where can I Build Container Homes in California?

It is essential to note that some zoning and coding laws differ according to your area. Some areas in California have more zoning and coding laws than others.

The legal demands set down by the authorities may have detrimental consequences on your establishment, including the cost of buying the land. The north and the inland coast of California would be a perfect fit to build a container home since they are less regulated.

Read More: Ultimate truth on is it cheaper to build a container home?

Building Laws and Regulations you Need to Know in California

There are several building laws and regulations concerning container homes in California that any prospective new homeowner should know about. These include and are not limited to:-

1. Property Zoning

Zoning classifies the urban land into different areas that determine the kind of real estate built there. The county and city governments use zoning to develop and plan the city to keep homogeneous types of buildings in an area. These types are broken down into commercial and residential homes. They are subdivided further and listed as R-1, R-2, R-3, etc.

Similar to housing projects like flats, rental property, mansions, apartments, and other real estate forms, shipping container houses have similar regulations.

You must disclose if you desire a duplex, a solitary residential unit, or more. You should also have a comprehensive project plan for the residential or commercial unit you intend to build. The following are the common standard zoning codes in California.

  • R-1 Zoning. It is a zoning code meant for single-family occupants. It is designed for the construction of a single residential family unit that is not inclusive of traits like cooperative housing. They are found in a solitary legal allotment.
  • R-2 Zoning. It is a zoning code for a two-unit residential house. Also referred to as duplexes. The R-2 is also found in a solitary legal lot.
  • R-3 Zoning. It is designed for numerous residential units.

2. Building Codes and Permits

Building codes and permits are another type of shipping container homes regulations you need to know. A building permit is evidence of your compliance and permits you to continue construction activities to build your house. The rules that regulate how homes must be made are the building codes, for example, the design.

In contrast, permits are compliance codes you should submit to authorities for them to deny or approve your intended project.

  • Home Container Building Codes

In California, the codes are created by the International Code Council, International Building Code (IBC), and International Residential Code (IRC). Since the conditions in real estate are dynamic, the codes are updated and necessary changes made annually.

  • Mechanical Engineering, Plumbing, Safety, and Electrical Codes

Besides the above bodies, IRC and IBC, other coding bodies play a supplementary role. These include mechanical engineering by the International Mechanical Code, International Plumbing Codes for plumbing codes, electrical wiring is done by the National Electrical Code, and the National Fire Protection Association standards for safety from hazards.

In case you need to quickly look for a code and have no idea where to locate it, here’s a book that you will find useful. It’s helpful to also make sure that you’ve done everything right before building inspection.

Compare: Permits For Shipping Container Homes in Florida

3. Deed Restrictions and Homeowner Association (HOA)

The land developers design deed restrictions to ensure the space or the area maintains a uniform appearance, protecting the property’s value.

The HOA rules are similar to deed restrictions. They are standards that can be voted to be amended. The only difference is that deed restrictions cannot be changed and will forever be a part of the land unless a court order eliminates that restriction.

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Regulating Authorities in California

There are various regulating authorities subject to your residential area. A particular area could have contrasting levels of control when contrasted with another. The set-up has four transparent hierarchical entities arranged in power from the lowest to the highest in California.

Municipal Government Regulations

The body deals with city and town issues. Every area surrounding its border must seek permission and approval from the city wing. All narrow region building codes matter, especially if it is R-1 code in rural areas must be supervised by this committee.

The municipality must manage land buying and leasing to determine the value and extra land matters. At this stage, most building laws will be authorized unless your planned building will be occupied by a large number of folks. In this case, you must seek advice from the next body in the ranking.

County Government Regulations

They are entities in charge of properties out of the city and town. You must obtain permission from this entity if the area you intend to build a container home falls under them.

Generally, people who reside in urban areas will have fewer regulations than those who must abide by the city laws.

The State Government Regulations

The state does not have the mandate to check the construction permits unless there is a national disaster code to be supervised. Disaster codes are things like lightning strike regulations or earthquake directives under the security hazard in California.

Read More: Which states allow shipping container homes in the US?

Federal Government Regulations

The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUB) codes state that the federal government’s duty will only be to supervise permits on constructed houses that are ready-made and placed in an area in a state. The federal government is the only governing body that carries on this mandate.

The reason is that manufactured houses are highly mobile, so they cannot be assigned to a particular state to supervise the modification and construction. The movement across borders and states to the other requires a more powerful and bigger entity to verify its construction permits.

Read More: Mistakes to Avoid While Building a Shipping Container Home here.

Regulated Items in Container Homes in California

The following are items that are looked at keenly by the supervising entities in the State of California:

  1. Outlook
  2. Accesibility
  3. Shape and size
  4. Base
  5. Site offsets
  6. Hazard protection
  7. Eco-friendliness
  8. Landscaping
  9. Egress
  10. Structure compliance


 The container’s appearance is more than the storage-like container appearance; it is what makes the entire container. From the style, shape, coloring, the material used in insulation products, modifications, and other necessary additions.

Accessibility of the Container Home

Does your container home have access in and out of the house? Generally, every homestead should have good accessibility in case of a disaster. Your shipping container house must have an entrance and a back door that supports people with disability or any other body ailments.

Shape and Size

Before your shipping container home can be approved, it must have a considerable shape and size. The body is usually a rectangle, but the container’s volume must be a specific height and square footage to fit particular bedrooms in every applicant.


You have an option to use a concrete foundation for your container home foundation, which should be protective from natural disasters.

Read More: Shipping Container Home Foundations

Site Offsets

It is the distance between your container home and whatever is close to it in the event of an emergency.

See also  How To Get Permits For Container Homes In Florida

Hazard Protection for Your Container Home

The authorities will permit and approve you to build a shipping container home if it has hazard protection or it is hazard-free.


It means the material used in the construction should not pollute the environment or threaten other residents.

Landscaping Your Shipping Container Home

The number of trees destroyed during the construction and plant types allowed in the space.


These are the exterior and interior airways and the container’s open passageways—for example, a fire escape, windows, and doors.

Structure Compliance of Your Container Home in California

Your house must be strong enough to support all that is within the home—for instance, standards for compliance with wind and snow loads.

The Cost of Building Shipping Container Homes in California

The average cost of building a shipping container home in California is around $10,000 to $35,000. The price will vary depending on the type of work to be done on the container home, such as the size and shape of the container, the land where you want to install the container, plumbing, flooring, interiors, and electrical works.

This may be more expensive than constructing a container home in other areas. However, building a container home is cheaper than building a traditional house in California.

The average cost of constructing a traditional home in California is around $387,000. It is much higher than many other states, making it inaccessible to build a house. This makes a shipping container home the most viable alternative.

Read More: How Much Does it Cost to Build a Shipping Container Home?

How to Choose a Builder for Your Shipping Container Home in California

One of the most crucial decisions you will have to make is who you will recruit to build your home. The shipping container home business is varied and can be challenging to navigate.

That’s why you should find a builder who specializes in container homes. It would help if you looked for online reviews to see builders who have an excellent relationship with customers and have delivered quality experiences before.

Floor Plan Designing for Your Container Home in California

The number of bathrooms and bedrooms you will have in your home and the arrangement of the containers will be determined by the floor plan. This makes the floor plan an essential stage in constructing your shipping container home.

To design your floor plan, first, you should write all the things you need in your home. Then forward the list to a professional draftsman who converts your list into a workable floor plan. The floor plan will also assist you in coming up with a budget and a construction process.

Benefits of Shipping Container Homes

One of the most significant advantages of building shipping container homes in California is the cost because it requires low labor and materials.

Secondly, the containers are readily available in California. Another benefit is how stylish the containers can be. The containers are boxy, which gives your house a unique look.

You can also read more on Are Shipping Container Homes Legal in California here.


Compared to other states, California has many regulations to adhere to and follow while building a home which could cause legal problems to you. Their jurisdiction is strict and detailed to ensure everyone follows them fully.

Luckily, this article has helped you understand the vital elements you need to know when building shipping container homes in California.

In case you’re in need to understand even further about California building codes, then this code book below would be of great help.

Read More: Amazing Cost to Build a Shipping Container Home

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