We’re not here to dash your dreams, but the growing custom shipping container trend has definitely inspired a lot of unique ideas in shipping container homes. And while shipping containers themselves are pretty simple, all those industrial chic additions (retractable walls, floating staircases) can make building with boxes a bit more complicated.
Here are three top considerations we recommend you think through, before deciding if container living is really for you.
At Falcon, we are big fans of upcycling—i.e. repurposing the global surplus of steel shipping containers for broader, long-term purposes. But we’re not setting out to build the world’s most luxurious treehouse (no offense, Pete Nelson), or try to make a Conex box look like the Sydney Opera House. Instead, we create safe and efficient living spaces inside our popular Living Boxes. Living Boxes can be customized to an extent—in terms of stacking and joining multiple containers. But they can’t be made to replicate the Guggenheim. That’s just not what we do.
Contrary to popular belief, shipping containers aren’t dirt cheap. A quality, used, 40-foot container can cost around $4, 000. (There are cheaper units out there, but we wouldn’t recommend living in them.) Four thousand is certainly less than framing and foundation materials for a traditional home, but it doesn’t represent the entirety of a shipping container home’s price tag. Don’t assume that a shipping container frame will allow you to outfit your pad with Brazilian hardwood and gold leaf ceilings. Being able to incorporate nice materials and furnishings into a modest-sized space is one great advantage of a minimalist home. Just be sure you’ve done your homework on standard container costs first.
Already sold your brick and mortar home in the city? Hoping to take advantage of a prime seller’s market, or snag the perfect plot of land you just found for sale? Your plans may not sync with a shipping container home if you’re hoping for 30-foot ceilings and a sunken living room. Custom containers can take months to build. And more complex designs often require onsite intervention (grading the property, compacting the soil, pouring the foundation, etc.) Choosing a new home is certainly a major decision—one that’s worthy of a little wait time. But if you want to minimize unforeseen snags and delays, a custom build may not be your dream home.
The bottom line?
For a lot of container home enthusiasts, opting for a standard Living Box unit is a much better solution than a custom build. For one thing, the “standard” label is a little misleading. Our shipping container home buyers have found plenty of cool, inexpensive ways to modify and personalize container houses. Having fun with exterior paint, patios, window boxes and living roofs are just a few examples.
The other piece of feedback we always hear from Living Box buyers: context. Many homeowners have trouble weighing their full appreciation for a shipping container home until it’s placed in the landscape they love. And yet, the ability to live in a quiet, unspoiled environment is usually the prime reason people chose this type of home in the first place. Living Boxes help to preserve that goal; set-up is fast and minimally invasive.