7 important things to consider before building your container home | homify
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7 important things to consider before building your container home

Johannes van Graan Johannes van Graan
Rustic style house by 쭈욱 게스트하우스 Rustic
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Container homes are one of the most exciting architectural trends in recent years. Who could have imagined that there’s more to old, used shipping containers than simply transporting goods across international waters? 

It might seem quite straightforward building yourself a cosy (or spacious) home out of containers, but there is lots to consider! And as always, homify is here to guide you along the way.

Let’s look at 7 crucial things to consider before you start dreaming about your new container house…

1. You need to work with its advantages

Exterior facade of a Shipping Container unit by Berman-Kalil Housing Concepts Minimalist
Berman-Kalil Housing Concepts

Exterior facade of a Shipping Container unit

Berman-Kalil Housing Concepts

When building your container home, you want to have a structure that is durable and modular. And the fact is that people who want to live in container homes are attracted to their style, feel and character. 

If you’re smart in your design and usage, your container home could work out much cheaper than a house constructed the more traditional way. For instance, you’ll want to take advantage of the shipping container’s steel structure. If you design your home with the giant steel doors and shutters, you’ll have the advantage of additional security and protection.

2. Have a clear idea about ALL the costs

Modular/ Off the Grid Homes for Sale Modern houses by Umnyama Ikhaya Modern
Umnyama Ikhaya

Modular/ Off the Grid Homes for Sale

Umnyama Ikhaya

Depending on your source, acquiring an old shipping container can be quite inexpensive. It’s what comes next (like the insulation) that can cost a pretty penny. Your best bet would be to speak to a professional in the construction industry, like an Architect or Building Contractor, who can give you more advice on what, exactly, goes into turning an old shipping container into a fresh, beautiful, and practical house. 

3. Peek before your purchase

Would you buy a car after seeing only its picture? The problem is that it’s not always possible to do a complete walkthrough of the structure before buying it, depending on location. But it is possible to ask the seller for detailed pictures and a thorough description of the container.

Always keep in mind that older shipping containers can present various issues like dents, rust problems, or other structural troubles that come with a lifetime of being tossed around on the high seas. One-trip containers can be more expensive, but it’s because they are almost in great shape. That just might be worth the investment if you want to spare yourself some heavy maintenance in the long run. 

4. Study your local building regulations and planning laws

Off the grid house Johannesburg Modern houses by A4AC Architects Modern Aluminium/Zinc
A4AC Architects

Off the grid house Johannesburg

A4AC Architects

Building a structure in one country differs completely from building the exact same one in another country. Thus, be sure that you adhere to South Africa’s local building laws before you start constructing your container home, and keep climate- and fire regulations in mind as well. 

5. Rely on a professional contractor

Shipping container construction is, in relation to North America and Europe, still a relatively new niche for South Africa’s building industry. And although it doesn’t have to be difficult finding a contractor with relevant experience, it is much easier working with one contractor who can oversee the entire process from start to finish. 

6. Ensure protection against dangerous chemicals

Always remember that all containers were designed for a lifetime at sea. The wood flooring on most shipping containers includes heavy pesticides to keep rats and other rodents away. In addition, the paint on these containers often contains chemicals that protect the containers from the ocean’s saltwater spray. 

Should you deem a container perfect for you living quarters, be sure to buy a new chemical-free shipping container or make some adjustments. It might be best to just rip up the pesticide-infested wood flooring and install your own flooring. And resorting to foam insulation on the inside of that container will protect from any off-gassing from harmful chemical paints.

7. Plan ahead for plumbing and electrical

ÁBATON Arquitectura


ÁBATON Arquitectura

Know right from the start where you want those plumbing and electrical wiring to be. Ask your contractor to cut the relevant holes for these wires before finishing the container’s interior design. Doing this can save you a lot of maintenance, like having to move your kitchen cabinetry just so that a hole can be sliced through the metal for an extra pipe you forgot about! 

Next up: 12 inspiring front doors to enhance your home’s kerb appeal

Would you consider using an old shipping container for a home, office, or other functional structure?
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