DIY shipping container home

August 28, 2020

Container Cabin

Kevin Hayden –

Cross-posted at my dedicated blog,

Years ago, I saw a picture of a shipping container house. I knew right then that I wanted to build one myself. Shipping containers are roughly 40 feet long and 8 feet wide, with the smaller conex being 20 feet long. They are wind-proof, fire-resistant, water tight, and provide a perfect “shell” in which to start with. I have some minor construction and heavy equipment experience, along with a basic understanding of electrical systems, so I thought it would be easy to accomplish.

Here I am, years later, and I am just now starting my project. I looked at dozens of different properties for the project. Never could I find one that was within my price range or offered easy financing options. If it did, it had heavy restrictions and covenants attached to the land deed, preventing me from building what I wanted. I discovered very quickly that even in America, home of the free, we are not free to build the size of house we want and can afford. I soon learned that even out in the county-maintained areas, 20 or 30 miles away from the metro, that you could typically only build a standard 2×4 framed home starting at 800-900 sq. feet or larger. On top of all of this, many county governments require you to apply for building permits and have periodic code enforcement inspections – the very thing that I wanted to avoid!

After thinking about it from a “typical home” perspective, I interpreted this restriction as meaning the home site should have 4 walls, a roof and a painted/finished exterior within 9 months. Well, I could certainly do that in 9 months since the containers already come with 4 walls, a stout wooden floor and a nice metal roof. Could I paint a container in 270 days? I was positive I could accomplish that and decided to move ahead with the land purchase. Nevermind the fact that I planned to use a bit of “wiggle room” when it came to the restrictions’ definitions and interpretation. I would leave the shipping containers in place to appear as storage while I slaved away inside to install framed walls, plumbing, and electrical wires, before finally working on the exteriors.

In fact, with the design and layout of the land being so long and back from the roadway, most people would barely notice the shipping container sitting there. Most would assume it was simply a container or shed.


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