Shipping container homes have become an affordable and eco-friendly housing option in recent years. With their unique look and seemingly endless possibilities for customization, it’s easy to see why many potential homeowners are drawn to the idea of creating their dream home from shipping containers.
However, before you jump on the bandwagon, it’s crucial to understand the potential problems associated with this unconventional housing choice.
As you consider the feasibility of a shipping container home for your personal needs, remember that the process may not be as simple as stacking boxes and calling it a day. Several challenges can arise when transforming shipping containers into living spaces, from structural issues to local building codes.
In the following sections, we will dive deeper into 13 potential problems, providing helpful insights to help you decide whether a shipping container home is right for you.
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1. Permitting and Zoning Restrictions
When planning your shipping container home, it’s important to be aware of the permitting and zoning restrictions that may apply. In most cases, you’ll need a permit for your shipping container home, as it must meet building codes and zoning laws to be placed on your site.
Zoning laws can vary greatly depending on your location and can change regularly, sometimes updated more than once a year. To ensure you comply with these regulations, make sure to research your local zoning laws and check for any updates or changes before starting your project.
On the other hand, building codes dictate the structural requirements and safety standards that your shipping container home must meet. This includes materials, foundation, electrical, plumbing, and insulation systems specifications.
Remember that different regions and even cities can have their own building codes, so it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the specific requirements for your area.
In addition to acquiring the necessary permits and adhering to zoning and building codes, you should also be prepared for building code inspections. Inspectors will visit your site during various stages of construction to ensure that your shipping container home meets the required codes and standards.
This can be a time-consuming process, but it’s crucial to ensure the safety and longevity of your home.
2. Structural Integrity
The unique building materials and techniques involved mean paying attention to your container home’s foundation, structure, and reinforcement is essential.
Shipping containers are designed to be strong and durable; after all, they’re made to withstand the rigors of international shipping. The 40-foot steel containers are engineered to handle heavy loads, including stacking multiple containers on top of each other. This inherent strength can be advantageous for building a safe and sturdy home.
However, there are some potential structural problems to be aware of when constructing a home from shipping containers. Cutting openings for windows and doors or removing entire sections of the container’s steel walls can weaken the container’s structural integrity. You must reinforce any modifications you make to the container by adding steel reinforcing or other structural elements to ensure it remains stable and secure.
One aspect that requires careful consideration when building a shipping container home is the foundation. A properly designed foundation will help distribute the weight of the containers evenly, minimizing the risk of sinking or shifting. It’s essential to consult with an experienced engineer or contractor to ensure that your foundation can support the weight of the containers and meets any necessary building codes.
As you stack containers to create multiple stories or build additions to your home, you must adhere to proper engineering and building standards. Stacking containers requires careful consideration of load-bearing points and reinforcement to prevent the possibility of collapsing or buckling.
3. Insulation and Temperature Control
To maintain a comfortable living environment in your shipping container home, proper insulation and temperature control is crucial. Insulation not only helps with regulating the temperature, but also prevents issues like condensation, mold, and corrosion.
When choosing insulation for your container home, consider your local climate. Different materials and techniques may provide varying thermal performance levels depending on your area’s weather conditions. For example, in a hot climate, you might want to prioritize cooling methods, while in colder areas, heating and preventing thermal bridging will be more important.
Several types of insulation available can effectively regulate the temperature inside your shipping container home. Some popular options include spray-on insulation, ceramic coating, reflective foil insulation, and radiant barriers. Each option has its own benefits and drawbacks, so it’s essential to research which type will work best for your needs.
Cooling your container home can be achieved using passive solar cooling strategies, window overhangs or awnings, and natural ventilation. These methods help reduce the heat entering your home, making it more energy-efficient and comfortable during hot weather. Additionally, consider installing a living roof to improve insulation and provide a unique aesthetic appeal.
For heating purposes, proper insulation will keep your home warm during colder months, and thermal bridging should be minimized. Thermal bridging occurs when heat is transferred through the metal container, causing the interior to become colder. You can address this issue by installing insulation on the walls and the container’s roof and floor. This will create a well-insulated shell, helping maintain a stable temperature year-round.
4. Space Limitations
One drawback of shipping container homes is the limited space they offer. As you might imagine, living in a 160 or 320-square-foot space can be quite challenging. Although there’s a growing trend towards compact living, it’s essential to consider whether you’re comfortable adjusting to such a small home.
With shipping container homes, you often face restrictions in customizing your living space due to the container’s dimensions. The standard width of shipping containers usually ranges between 8 and 9.5 feet, which can limit room configurations. While you can stack or connect multiple containers to create a larger space, doing so can add to the expense and complexity of your project.
5. Health and Safety Concerns
When considering a shipping container home, it’s essential to be aware of the possible health and safety concerns. This is not meant to deter you from choosing this eco-friendly, cost-effective housing option but to help you make informed decisions. Here are some factors to keep in mind:
Firstly, shipping containers are often treated with hazardous chemicals to prevent corrosion and protect the wood flooring. These chemicals, like pesticides, can harm your health if not properly removed or treated during the container’s conversion into a home. So, make sure to research, ask questions, and ensure proper precautions are taken when selecting and preparing the container for your future home.
Another concern is the paint used on shipping containers. Some containers have paint containing harmful chemicals such as phosphorous and chromate. When converting a container into a home, ensure the paint is removed, or use a non-toxic paint that is safe for residential use.
Living in a shipping container home can also pose climatic challenges. These units are made of metal and not originally designed for residential purposes. This can make regulating and maintaining a comfortable indoor temperature challenging, especially in extreme weather conditions. You must invest in proper insulation and ventilation to maintain a healthy and comfortable living environment.
Lead is another potential health risk in shipping container homes. Although not used in all containers, some may have lead solder or lead-based paint on their surface. Ensure your container is lead-free and safe for residential living by testing and taking necessary precautions.
Another common issue you might face is corrosion. Shipping containers are designed to withstand the harsh conditions of sea travel, but that doesn’t mean they’re immune to rust and deterioration. Let’s explore some factors contributing to corrosion and ways to mitigate it.
First and foremost, the basic material of most shipping containers is Cor-ten steel, known for its rust resistance. However, it’s not completely rustproof. Over time, especially if your container home is in a damp or humid area, rust can develop on the steel surface. It’s important to be aware of this and monitor your container home for signs of corrosion.
One area where your shipping container home might be more prone to rust is around the doors and windows, where the metal can be exposed to moisture and airflow more directly. Additionally, areas where containers might have been welded or modified during construction can be vulnerable, as these spots may not have the same protective coating as the original container.
You can take several preventative measures to protect your shipping container home from corrosion. First, ensure your container is coated with a rust-resistant paint or sealant. This can help protect the steel surface from moisture exposure and extend the life of your home. Regular inspections for signs of rust and addressing them promptly with rust treatment products can also keep corrosion in check.
Lastly, proper location selection and landscaping around your container home can help prevent corrosion. If you live in a coastal area, consider placing the home away from the coastline to minimize exposure to sea spray and salt. Also, avoid overgrown areas with a lot of foliage, which can contribute to higher humidity levels that can exacerbate corrosion.
7. Lack of Flexibility
While shipping container homes can be an interesting and cost-effective option, it’s important to consider the limitations of flexibility in design and layout. In this section, we’ll explore a few aspects of shipping container homes that may restrict your ability to customize your living space fully.
First, shipping containers come in standard sizes, which can limit the amount of customization available in terms of layout and square footage. The most common container sizes are 20 and 40 feet long, with a width of about 8 feet. This means that you have limited space to work with, and you may need to get creative with your design to make the most of this space.
Another issue is the structural integrity of shipping containers. They are designed for transport and not necessarily for long-term residential use. As a result, any modifications you make to the structure could compromise its stability. For example, cutting too many openings for doors and windows can weaken the container’s overall strength, leading to problems down the road.
Furthermore, shipping container homes often have less insulation than traditional homes, which can lead to issues with temperature regulation. You may need to invest in additional insulation to ensure that your home remains comfortable year-round. This extra insulation can increase the cost of your project and limit your ability to customize the interior of your home as the insulation takes up space.
Lastly, it’s important to remember that many neighborhoods have zoning regulations that may not allow for shipping container homes. Before diving into your project, research your local zoning laws and determine if such a home is permitted in your desired location.
8. Plumbing and Electrical Installation
When installing plumbing and electrical systems in your shipping container home, there are a few key considerations to keep in mind. By taking proper precautions and seeking professional guidance, you can avoid many potential issues down the road.
First, carefully plan the routes for your plumbing and electrical connections. Your home’s design should ensure that waterlines and electrical wiring are organized, safe, and efficient. Ensure your pipes and wires are protected from damage, like placing water lines underground at the back of the house.
Remember that different shipping container homes may require different plumbing and electrical installation approaches. Depending on the container’s material and your local climate, you may need to consider insulation options to prevent pipes from freezing or to maintain comfortable temperatures inside your home.
Remember that adhering to relevant building codes and obtaining necessary permits is crucial before undertaking any major project like this. Local regulations may dictate specifics about water and electrical systems, so be sure to familiarize yourself with them and consult professionals when needed.
The right tools and materials for the plumbing and electrical installations are also vital. Make sure you have wrenches, plumbing drain cleaning tools, and safety equipment (such as gloves and goggles) on hand before starting any work. If you’re unsure of the full list of required materials, consult a knowledgeable source or professional.
Taking care of your shipping container home’s plumbing and electrical systems is essential. Regularly maintain and inspect these installations to ensure they continue to operate effectively and safely. By being proactive about maintenance and addressing any issues that arise early on, you’ll keep your home in optimal condition for comfortable living.
9. Financing and Insurance
If you were unaware, financing and insurance for a shipping container home can be tricky. You might face challenges in securing a mortgage and finding suitable insurance coverage for your container home. However, with some research and persistence, you can overcome these hurdles.
The first thing you should be aware of is that traditional banks and mortgage lenders may not be familiar with container homes or may see them as a higher risk. This means you might have to shop around for a financial institution that is open to lending for this type of construction. Additionally, you may need to consider alternative financing options, such as personal loans or specialized construction loans.
For insurance, finding coverage for your container home is possible, but it might take a bit more effort than obtaining insurance for a traditional home. Companies specialize in container home insurance, and understanding the coverage and limitations is essential to protect your home adequately. Be prepared to explain the construction process and materials used, as well as any safety features and compliance with building codes.
To make this journey smoother, here are a few tips for you:
- Do your research: Look for lenders and insurance companies that have experience with nontraditional or alternative housing, like container homes.
- Be persistent: Don’t get discouraged if you encounter difficulties. Contact different lenders and insurance providers until you find one who understands and supports your project.
- Prepare documentation: Gather all necessary paperwork, including building plans, permits, and inspection reports. This will help demonstrate the safety and compliance of your container home to potential lenders and insurers.
Another aspect to consider when planning your shipping container home is the acoustics. Since shipping containers are made of metal, the sound can reverberate within the space, creating a noisy environment.
You should invest in sound insulation materials to create a more comfortable living space. These can help reduce the noise levels inside your container home, making it more pleasant to live in. Some popular options for container home soundproofing include adding insulation layers, using mass-loaded vinyl barriers, and installing sound-absorbing materials, like acoustic foam panels.
Another acoustics-related concern is the potential exterior noise. You’ll want to position your container home in a way that minimizes noise pollution from outside sources. This could include positioning it away from busy streets, industrial areas, or other noise-producing factors.
Lastly, consider the layout of your container home. For example, if multiple containers are stacked or lined up, consider placing bedrooms or other quiet spaces away from communal areas or adjacent containers to minimize noise transfer.
11. Community Acceptance
Consider how the surrounding community will receive your new home when considering a shipping container home. Many people are still unfamiliar with the concept of container homes, so their reactions may vary.
However, you can overcome these potential challenges by approaching the situation with a friendly and open-minded attitude.
You may encounter neighbors who are unsure about your new shipping container home, as it may be seen as unconventional or even an eyesore. To help ease any concerns, you can offer to share the benefits of this type of housing with your community.
Explain how container homes can be both sustainable and affordable, helping to conserve resources and reduce waste. Additionally, consider highlighting the unique architectural aspects that make your container home a visually appealing addition to the neighborhood.
Another challenge to consider is that homeowners associations (HOAs) and local building regulations might have restrictions against shipping container homes.
Before planning your build, research the rules and regulations in your area to determine whether your container home project is allowed, and if so, whether you need to obtain any special permits or approvals. You could also consult with local authorities and professionals to ensure that your container home design meets any necessary requirements and safety standards.
Finally, be prepared to face some resistance. Sometimes no matter how much you try to educate and demonstrate the benefits of your shipping container home, certain individuals may still hold prejudices.
In these cases, it’s important to remain patient and diplomatic while maintaining an open line of communication with your community. Developing positive relationships with your neighbors can go a long way in overcoming any initial resistance to your unique and sustainable home choice.
12. Resale Value
When considering a shipping container home, it’s important to be aware of the resale value of your investment. While these unique homes can be cost-effective and environmentally friendly, they may not always have the highest resale value in the real estate market.
This is because shipping container homes are still relatively unconventional, and some potential buyers may not appreciate the unique design and construction. This can lead to a smaller pool of interested buyers, making it more difficult to sell your container home at a premium price.
However, this doesn’t mean that you’ll necessarily lose money on your investment. By carefully considering factors such as location, design, and amenities, you can still attract the right buyers who are willing to pay a fair price for your property. It’s crucial to build a home that suits your needs while keeping in mind the preferences of potential buyers in your area.
To improve the resale value of your shipping container home, consider the following tips:
- Location is crucial: Choose a location that’s in demand and suits the demographics that might appreciate a container home. Developing your property in a highly sought-after area can help increase your chances of attracting interested buyers when it’s time to sell.
- Design for aesthetics and functionality: Be creative with your home design and prioritize functionality. By developing a well-designed and spacious living area, you can increase your container home’s appeal and resale value.
- Highlight the eco-friendly aspects: Environmental sustainability is an increasingly important factor for many home buyers. Emphasize the eco-friendly features of your container home, like using recycled materials, energy-efficient appliances, and water-saving systems. This can set your home apart from traditional properties and boost its resale value.
13. Aesthetic Appeal
When considering a shipping container home, aesthetics plays a significant role in decision-making. These structures’ unique design and appearance can be both a selling point and a potential drawback, depending on your personal taste and preferences.
Shipping container homes offer a modern, industrial look that may appeal to those who appreciate minimalist and unconventional architecture. The geometric, modular design of the containers allows for interesting and creative layouts, combining multiple containers to build a variety of configurations and sizes.
Additionally, you can customize the exterior with various finishes, paint colors, and cladding materials, further enhancing the overall aesthetic.
However, just as some people are drawn to the distinctive design of shipping container homes, others feel they lack the warmth and charm of more traditional housing types. While customization options can help soften the industrial appearance, the inherent characteristics of a steel shipping container often limit the range of design choices available to you.
For instance, container rigid, rectangular shapes might not cater to everyone’s taste and may not seamlessly blend with surrounding architecture in certain neighborhoods or communities.
Remember that local zoning regulations and building codes can also impact the design of your shipping container home, as some jurisdictions can impose strict requirements on architectural styles and appearances. Be sure to research your area’s regulations and restrictions just in case you need to adjust your design accordingly.