How To Plan And Design A Shipping Container Home

Shipping Containers

Shipping containers are excellent materials for building your dream home. They’re structurally sound and designed to withstand harsh weather conditions. Plus, they’re more affordable than conventional construction.

Planning and designing are the most challenging stages when building a shipping container home. Since the shipping containers have a restricted shape and size, the opportunity for customization is limited. To help you on your goal, here’s a comprehensive guide to creating an efficient floor plan and design using shipping containers:

1. Choose The Right Container Size And Type

Choosing the suitable size and type of shipping container is crucial to your planning and design. The right size and type determine the dimensions you can work on, such as the ceiling height and total floor area. Knowing all your options is essential to building an efficient and comfortable home. 

Shipping containers commonly come in two sizes: 20-footer and 40-footer. Both are 8 feet wide, and the standard height is 8’5″ or 2.43m. However, high-cube shipping containers, which are 9’6″ or 2.87m in height, are popular options for residential use.

Using an insulated shipping container is also an excellent choice. This type has a 10mm thick insulation, appropriate for locations with extreme cold or hot climates. It’s also ideal for additional home storage for vulnerable items.

2. Determine Your Budget

Your budget sets the scale and quality of your project. Although shipping container homes are more affordable than conventional ones, you’ll still need to spend a significant amount on building them.

On average, a ready-built shipping container home costs around USD$35,000. These types are typically similar to studio apartments. On the other hand, fully customized ones with two or more bedrooms and multiple containers can cost at least USD$150,000. It’s best to talk to contractors to get quotes to find the best deal and maximize your budget. 

Some choose to DIY their shipping container home to save money. Doing it yourself is a wise option, especially if you have a background in construction. However, some parts like the plumbing and electrical are best done by experts to ensure your safety.

3. Prioritize Your Needs And Lifestyle

Most homeowners living the container home lifestyle gave them freedom and flexibility. It has allowed them to focus on their basic needs and spend more time and money on their hobbies and travels. Since there’s no mortgage to worry about, you can live with less stress. 

A shipping container home should suit your needs and lifestyle. Like any dream house, it should fit like a glove. Having everything you’re looking for in one space makes life easier and comfier. 

When planning and designing a home, evaluate your living standards and work around them. Do you love cooking? Then create a large kitchen. If you’re working at home, you might want to include a designated workspace.

4. Maximize Storage

You’ll need to maximize every square foot to live comfortably and conveniently in a limited footprint. Since you’ll have a smaller home, making it clutter free can be challenging. Finding smart ways to store items can solve this problem. 

Building enough storage in a limited space is imperative. Innovative furniture pieces can help you maximize the floor area of your shipping container home. For instance, having an under-bed or couch storage can help reduce clutter. You can also include a toe-kick drawer at the bottom of each cabinet in your kitchen to avoid wasting space. 

5. Create Multipurpose Areas

Another crucial step in planning an efficient shipping container home is creating multipurpose areas. Since you can’t have many rooms in a single shipping container, there are some necessary compromises.

One popular multipurpose area is having a kitchen worktop that doubles as a dining and working space. This design works for shipping container homes for one or two occupants. For a single 20-foot shipping container home, a murphy bed or a sleeper sofa is an excellent option to save space. 

6. Consider Adding An Outdoor Living Space

Most shipping container builders extend the living space to the outdoors, especially in a property with idyllic views. Maximizing the outdoor area is best to enjoy the natural environment and to provide flexibility for hosting small gatherings. 

Building a patio is best for extending the floor area of your shipping container home. You can add outdoor furniture pieces for relaxation and dining. You can also add an outdoor bath or a hot tub if you reside on a secluded property. 

7. Hire A Trusted Builder

Hiring a trusted builder to construct a fully customized shipping container home is a must. Since shipping containers are growing in popularity, finding contractors specializing in this type of construction is now easier. However, many options also mean you have to spend more time deciding which company to choose. 

When searching for an expert container home builder, it’s best to browse their portfolio. Looking at their past projects helps in evaluating the quality of their work. Some companies also offer design and build packages, guiding you through planning, designing, construction, and furnishing.  


Shipping containers are an excellent option for building your dream home. They’re sustainable, flexible, and affordable. When planned and designed meticulously, you can create a house that lets you live in comfort and freedom.