Cheap shipping containers

May 31, 2024

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This will probably be the most controversial post I make on this blog. I’m actually going to make the case AGAINST building with shipping containers. Over the past several years I have corresponded with a fair number of people wanting to build a home or cabin out of shipping containers and, believe it or not, many times I try to talk them out of it. It’s not that I regret what I’ve done (I don’t), it’s just that I only see a limited number of reasons to build with shipping containers.

There are only two good reasons, in my mind, to build with shipping containers. The first is for security, which was my sole reason for embarking on this project. The second is to make an “architectural statement”. At one time I thought there was a third, such as a situation where you could get containers for free, but now that I’ve run the numbers that scenario doesn’t pan out. I’m sure you might find other unique situations, such as wanting to build a cat 5 hurricane-proof structure, but in most cases it doesn’t make economic or practical sense.

You may have noticed that I didn’t mention the environment. The vast majority of cabin builders are more concerned with practicality and cost than green construction. It’s not that they don’t care about the environment, it’s just that they don’t want to spend more than they have to for the latest, sometimes dubious, green building technology. I also don’t see re-purposing containers as a great environmental panacea in most circumstances. Shipping containers are best used for what they were originally designed for – the shipping and storage of goods. By the time a container is no longer able to do that effectively, I’m not sure I’d want to build with it anyway. If you feel the need to reduce your environmental impact, build small and insulate well.

I know I’m going to get comments like “I can build a container cabin for $20/sq foot” or “your cabin is overbuilt and too expensive”. Both of these comments are true if you don’t mind living in a shack more appropriate for a third world refugee camp. I’ve seen shipping container “cabins” with no insulation, the wrong insulation, raw plywood flooring, no wallboard or paneling, no roof, no foundation, and no utilities. If all you want is a metal box lying on the ground then yes, shipping container construction can be both easy and cheap. To be fair, those in warmer climates can get away with much more than I can in the northern US, so let’s just consider this discussion applicable to temperate climates only.


1. Security. In my opinion, this is the greatest strength (no pun intended) of shipping container construction. I can’t think of an easier way to incorporate passive security in an above ground structure. The only other reasonable option would be a concrete building with a similar style metal door.

I’m under no illusion that I’ve built some kind of Fort Knox. There are several relatively easy ways to break into my cabin; it’s just that it will take a far greater level of effort to do so than compared to a conventional structure. My old cabin could be broken into in approximately 10 seconds with nothing more than the boot on some miscreant’s foot. This one would take about 10-20 minutes with a cutting torch or the right power tools. If someone is going to go to that level of effort, they’re going to be disappointed by what they don’t find inside.


shipping container house - insulated, cheap and super quick
shipping container house - insulated, cheap and super quick
Cheap Shipping Container Homes.mp4
Cheap Shipping Container Homes.mp4
Mobil Container Solutions : Cheap Shipping Containers in
Mobil Container Solutions : Cheap Shipping Containers in ...
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