Building a Shipping Container Home Yourself VS Hiring a Contractor



If you are considering constructing a house made from a shipping container and fancy taking on the DIY task, what are the advantages of building a shipping container home yourself compared to hiring a professional to do it?

That’s what we’ll be looking at in this post, plus a few of the cons, as well as some advantages to hiring a company that excels at shipping container modifications.


Why Build a Home From Shipping Containers?

There are many great reasons to consider builder a smaller, sustainable home from one or more new or used shipping containers. These days it’s very common to convert cargo containers for other uses, and alternative home building is one of the booming industries when it comes to these modifications.

One of the biggest advantages by far with containers is a lot of the building has already been done. You have walls, floor and ceiling all in place and shipping containers are built tough out of hardened steel.

A second advantage is modifying them can be fast, given that the basic structure is already there. It’s a bit like renovating a house as opposed to building one from scratch, only a lot easier, as you don’t have to strip out old building materials and fittings, just modify.

Also, because containers have that modular, rectangle design and are designed to be stackable, you could make yourself a 2 or 3 storey home, place them end to end, side by side, or even in an L shape.

The humble cargo container is very versatile.

Another thing to keep in mind is expansion. If you find you outgrow your container home, then all you really need to do is buy and convert another container as a home addition.

Recycling disused shipping containers is also an environmentally friendly idea, as many of these steel hulks just end up rusting away in landfill otherwise. That’s such a waste on a number of levels. A major waste of steel and the fact that containers are so useful for other purposes.


Shipping Container Housing


Before the Build

This all assumes that you have the necessary skills, equipment and appropriate qualifications and licenses to do your own construction, or will at least be getting in licensed plumbers and electricians as part of the process.

Before you can even start the process of converting a container into a liveable home you’ll need a plan. Now you might get together with an architect or designer and formulate a plan, or you could buy a premade plan online. There are quite a few sites that sell plans for container conversion.

You’ll also have to decide on what size container you’ll need and whether one container will do, or several.

One of the most common sizes of shipping container that people convert for other purposes is the ever-popular 20 foot container. You might fancy a longer space and opt for the 40 foot container, or use two 20 foot containers in any format you choose.

Don’t forget to check your local by-laws or zoning laws before embarking on this journey. Just make sure you’re allowed to build a container home on land in your area before so much as even buying a plan.

Also, if the plan is to use second hand shipping containers, choose either an A Grade or B Grade container. C Grade containers likely won’t be in good enough condition to use for container home building. And inspect any containers first before you agree to buy them.


The Advantages of Building Your Own Shipping Container Home

One of the very first things that comes to mind is saving money by doing some or all of the conversion yourself. Buying shipping containers for starters allows you to save a ton of cash on construction alone. Add to that the DIY element and the cost effectiveness of the process really does add up.

When you do the build yourself you also know exactly what’s been done every step of the way. If any shortcuts were taken, then they were made by you.

Most companies that specialise in shipping container conversion will do a fine job, but you never know for certain whether everything has been done to a high standard. When you’re the builder, you know every cut of metal that’s been made and every nut and bolt put into your shipping container home.

Although it’s definitely not recommended, if you decide to make a design change partway through the build, you can. This is harder to do if you’ve contracted a team of professionals to build your house. Not impossible, but harder and likely very costly to make changes at this stage, but less so if you’re doing your own build.

At the end of the project you’ll be left with a real sense of satisfaction as you admire the finished product created by your hand. There are not many sensations that can top that. It’s one of the reasons so many people love DIY.


Shipping Container Tiny Home - Tiny House Blog
Shipping Container Tiny Home – Tiny House Blog


Are There Disadvantages To Building Your Own Shipping Container Home?

There are always pros and cons to everything and building your own container home is no exception. Home downsizing itself can also have its negatives.

The most obvious disadvantage would be taking on this kind of project when you don’t have the knowledge, skills, tools and experience to get the job done satisfactorily. You don’t necessarily have to have actually built a shipping container house before, but some prior DIY and renovating skills are definitely advisable.

You’ll also need the time and commitment required to get a project like this from the design phase to the finished product. If you’re working fulltime, then it’s naturally going to take a lot longer to build your container home than if you could devote all your time to it.

Depending on your experience and skill level, DIY building projects can end up costing more than hiring professionals. This is the case if too many mistakes are made through inexperience or lack of proper planning.

There are no guarantees or warranties when you do your own build. If something is not right or breaks, you have no builder to fall back on to get it fixed and up to standard. There’s only yourself.


The Options for Hiring Professional Help

If you’re planning on going the professional route to get your container home built – either in conjunction with you or the full build – then you have a few options available.

You could hire the individual tradespeople, such as:

  • Metal workers
  • Welders
  • Carpenters
  • Plumbers
  • Electricians
  • And so on…

You could hire a general contractor/builder, who will handle all these trades and get the job done from start to finish.

But a third option, one worth serious consideration, is employing a team of professional container modification experts. You’ll find many companies that hire and sell shipping containers will have a remodelling team ready and waiting to build containers homes, pop up shops, offices, mobile kitchens and more.




The Benefits of Hiring a Professional Shipping Container Remodelling Company

Hiring any sort of professional builder or contractor is going to be a plus when it comes to your shipping container conversion, but the task will likely be faster and possibly cheaper if you enlist the services of a company that specialises in remodelling shipping containers specifically.

Specialists do these conversions day in and day out. They know exactly what needs to be done and the best way to do it. Like I said, this will save time, and very likely money as well.

Another advantage of hiring specialists is they are often a part of a company that hires and sells shipping containers. This gives you the chance to save even more cash if you can strike a deal when buying a shipping container and have the same company handle your home build.

An important thing to consider when building from shipping containers is their solid structure. It’s one of the huge advantages of using containers to begin with. What you don’t want to do is slice up the container so much that it loses its structural integrity.

Container converters will be more aware of this than anybody and will know exactly what’s too much chopping and changing.

You’ll be amazed how much you can cut out of a container – for windows and doors – without it losing its inherent strength and rigidity, but shipping container remodellers know exactly where to cut out the steel and how much they can cut out before your container will lose its sturdiness.

If you don’t have a lot of time on your hands to build your own container home, then it’ll be a huge weight off your shoulders if you have the funds to get the build done professionally. You’ll also be moving into your new container home much sooner than if you were constructing it yourself in your spare time.

Much of the build can even be done off-site, with your container home (or sections of it) then delivered to your property for completion of the project.


Are There Any Disadvantages To Hiring Professionals?

It’s not so much a disadvantage, but an extra expense. Obviously you’ll need a bigger project budget if you’re going to hire the help of container conversion pros, but you may be surprised at the price. Even doing it yourself you would have had to buy materials, fittings and equipment to get it done, plus spend money on bringing in electricians, plumbers, welders and so on.

Your conversion professionals take care of all that in one fell swoop, and they’d be a lot faster. You might find it doesn’t cost much more than it would doing it yourself.

The only other disadvantage I can see is you don’t know exactly what’s been done when someone else has done the build, and you also don’t get that immense sense of satisfaction you experience when doing the job yourself.


The Wrap

Whichever direction you decide to go, it’s well worth building a home from a shipping container, whether it’s top be a shipping container tiny home or a larger house made from several containers.

Shipping containers are cheap to buy, they’re super strong, and the conversion process isn’t all that hard or costly.

Whether you want to do the conversion yourself or not, just take your time in finding a reputable shipping container company to buy from, and make sure you are happy with the design for your new home before you start cutting that container up and beginning the conversion process.