Shipping containers are used for, well shipping, but did you know that they could also be used as the skeleton of your next self-build or extension project? Shipping container homes are becoming the new eco-friendly alternative when it comes to building or renovating a home in the UK. Why not use one for your next extension?


Why Use Shipping Containers?

Some countries are not trading goods with other countries as much as they used to, the UK being a prime example of this. As a result, empty and unused shipping containers are taking up space on shipping docks because it is too expensive to send them back to their countries of origin.

Recycling these shipping containers by turning them into sustainable homes, offices, stores, apartments or schools is a great way to reuse existing materials and reduce our environmental footprint on the world.

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Large Shipping Container Home


We found some great advice from “Container Home Plans” on the subject, particularly about how to get started on a budget and we’d recommend checking out their site. Here’s a summary of their main points:



Planning is the most important step when it comes to building your own shipping container home or extension. Create a budget and leave a small contingency so you are prepared if anything unexpected happens. Also, research planning regulations in your local area before you begin to build. Keep in mind, it is important to decide ahead of time exactly how big or small you want your home or extension to be because it will save you time and money in the long run.

Avoid Mistakes

First, do not remove too much of the steel on your containers. You are wasting materials that you already paid for and if a mistake is made, there is no way to undo what was already done. Another mistake people have made is using the wrong type of insulation for their local climate. Typically spray foam acts like the best form of insulation but for warmer areas insulation can vary, do not wait until the last minute to find out.

Which Containers to Buy

First, you need to decide if you want to buy a new or used shipping container for your home. If you buy a used container, make sure you see the container in person before you buy it because they could be more worn and rugged than the pictures show. Also, make sure the containers you plan to use are all the same brand. Some manufactures measure the containers differently and some are made with different material all together. If your containers are inconsistent, your home will be inconsistent.

Where to Spend Your Money

With any type of self-build or extension project, good budgeting is knowing where to spend and where to make cuts. Purchase the best containers that you can afford because you cannot replace them at a later date, they are there permanently. When it comes to the paint, floors, or kitchen design, remember that you can upgrade or replace them years after your construction has been completed.





Durable & weather resistant

Shipping container homes are proven to be more durable and longer lasting than conventional housing. A shipping container’s original purpose was to ship delicate items across the ocean, which makes them extremely tough and super weather resistant. They are even tough enough to withstand 100 miles per hour wind!

Design flexibility

When building your perfect home, you project needs to have flexibility. Each steel box can be modified to adjust to your specific needs and tastes, while also giving you the option of stacking multiple containers to create unique designs.

It’s cheap!

Due to the large amount of unused shipping containers and the low demand for them, buying one has become much cheaper than purchasing other building materials such as wood, brick, or stone. Construction time is also incredibly quick! The walls, floor, and roof are already installed in each shipping container; all that is needed is proper insulation. In just a short amount of time, you will be ready to live in your shipping container home!

It’s sustainable

Recycling used containers is also very sustainable. With shipping yards overflowing with unused shipping containers, you are doing your part to help clean up the environment by re-using them. Each container can be re-modeled, cut, or have items added to them to your bespoke design. How about this one below, clad in timber?





You can’t use any old builder

It is hard to make this a DIY project because you need to find a contractor who is familiar with this type of building method and knows how to work with these types of materials. Meeting all of the requirements for building control will also pose as a problem if your contractor is not experienced with this process.

Removing chemicals

Shipping containers are originally used for shipping goods across the ocean, so they were construction with a variety of harmful chemicals to make them water resistant. Some of these chemicals include, chromate, prosperous, and led based paints. You’ll need to spend some of your budget getting them removed.

It’s a lot of work!

Surprisingly, a large amount of energy is required to make a shipping container habitable. Everything needs to be sandblasted, the floors need to be replaced, and openings need to be cut throughout the structure. All of the modifications of each container use a lot of unnecessary energy.

Room sizes

The dimensions of a shipping container can create awkward living and working spaces in shipping container homes. Once the insulation is added, the rooms are very narrow with low ceilings. To expand the space, additional shipping containers need to be added which requires more time and energy.


Cargo container home in Quebec Canada 1


Finding the right architect

The key to a successful self-build is good research and planning and it’s wise to get your architect involved as early as possible to help with this. Choosing the right architect for your self-build is a critical first step,  but we know that finding the right one can be a bit of a minefield. This is exactly why I set up this website in the first place! Register your project below and we’ll help you to find the right person for your project in no time…


Emily  Design for Me

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One Response to “Shipping Container Homes”

  1. Chottu

    I’ve never seen shipping ctenaionr homes like these…where I’m from, construction workers typically live in shipping ctenaionrs near the grounds of their work site, but they don’t look like fancy or comfortable homes at all! The Sunday school class that I went to at my church also met in a shipping ctenaionr!

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