Can you build a house out of shipping crates?

Challenges of Shipping Crate Homes

Any construction project is going to have a few tricky aspects, and container homes present some unique challenges. Since container homes are still relatively new, you may run into issues with materials, permitting and construction.

It used to be difficult to find shipping containers, but tracking them down is getting much easier. In the past, shipping companies weren't likely to sell containers to individual people, but now, businesses have cropped up that are working as middlemen to connect builders with containers. Sea Box offers containers and modified containers for aspiring cargo homebuilders, and while American Mobile Office focuses on work spaces, it also sells unaltered shipping containers.

While there are definitely more builders and contractors willing to work with containers these days, the process can still be tricky, depending on where you live. Most architects and contractors aren't accustomed to working with these materials, so you might want to start by looking for firms that specialize in green construction. If they aren't accustomed to working with containers, they might be able to point you toward someone who is. From initial plans to electrical work, plumbing and structural modifications, things will go much more smoothly if you're dealing with workers who are familiar with container construction. A local general contractor with experience in container homes can also be a big help in the permitting process.

Obtaining permits can be especially tricky if your state has strict building codes. Codes vary quite a bit from state to state, so your best bet is to start by checking out your state's building code Web site and contacting those offices directly. They can walk you through whether your container structure's plans are up to code and, if not, how to get there. Don't know where to start? Reed Construction Data has a handy Building Code Reference Library, where you can find info on your state.

Despite these challenges, shipping container homes are definitely growing in popularity due to their unique look, eco-friendliness and ease of construction.

For more information on green building, check out the links below.

Related Articles


  • American Mobile Office & Container. "Storage and office solutions." (Jan. 25, 2011)
  • The Associated Press. "Unusual house is made out of six shipping containers." Las Vegas Review-Journal. Jan. 17, 2011. (Jan. 25, 2011)
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  • ISBU Shipping Container Homes. "Container Home Myth #2 - Legendary Strength." May 2010. (Jan. 25, 2011)
  • Levenstein, Steve. "How to Subvert Your House: Buying, Designing and Building Cargo Container Homes." WebUrbanist. Aug. 25, 2008. (Feb. 4, 2011)
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  • Reed Construction Data. "Building Code Reference Library." (Feb. 2, 2011)
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