Used Shipping Containers: The Latest Trend In Tiny Homes

The tiny home movement is going strong! The definition of a tiny home is not set in stone. While many will describe tiny homes as units ranging from 100 and 500 square feet, a growing number of people are using the term to describe any home that is relatively compact and modest. By choosing tiny homes, residents hope to live sustainably, waste less, and be free from the constraints of more traditional, high-cost living–or things like home association (HOA) fees and sky-high electricity bills.

Not only are tiny homes just as popular as ever, but people are also discovering new, more efficient ways to build them. Find out why more Americans are repurposing several used shipping containers to put together their very own tiny home.

Why Shipping Containers?

First, what exactly is a shipping container? Shipping containers describe 20 foot or 40 foot shipping containers used to ship dry or perishable goods across oceans. Most are made out of durable, weather-resistant steel and may be used to ship items for up to 20 years. After, these storage containers often go unused. In fact, out of 17 million containers worldwide, just 6 million are being used for shipping. That leaves 11 million up for grabs–and more homeowners are recognizing the value of recycling a storage container or several storage containers to construct their homes.

Here are just a few of the benefits of living in a shipping container home.

  • Weather- and climate-resistant. Shipping containers are built to endure. While crossing international waters, containers may face 50 foot waves and 100 mph winds. With a track record like that, you can be confident that–even during particularly nasty storms–your house will be just fine.
  • Cost-effective. Building a home out of used shipping containers can amount to tens of thousands less than houses currently on the market.
  • Pest proof. Unlike traditional houses with cracks and crevices for pests to get in, shipping containers are made out of metal and steel. This frame resists moisture and mildew, things that typically attract bugs.
  • Fast construction. Build times vary. However, on average, construction on a shipping container home is much faster than construction on a house. Building a house may take six months or more. It is possible to put up shipping container homes in as little as eight weeks.
  • Energy efficient. True, the act of recycling used shipping containers to build a house is environmentally friendly on its own. The energy efficiency and sustainability of a storage container home does not stop there. Because storage container homes are relatively small, it takes less energy to heat and cool them–and your energy bills will be lower, too!

What To Know Before You Build

Used shipping container homes pack many benefits. Even so, it is wise to do your research before you start construction.

Before purchasing, ask to see containers in person or ask for thorough photo documentation. It may be easy enough to cover up any imperfections with a fresh coat of paint, but look at photos or inspect containers beforehand to help determine if this will be necessary. Familiarize yourself with building codes and fire codes. Used shipping containers are highly customizable. Still, it is wise to avoid too many cuts in a single container for insulation and durability purposes. Plan ahead for plumbing and insulation when designing your shipping container home.

Are shipping container homes the way of the future? They certainly seem to be on track to become a lasting part of the tiny home movement. Others are thinking beyond tiny homes, too. Salt Lake City is even experimenting with its first multi-story apartment building made out of used shipping containers.

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