Pros and Cons of Living in a Shipping Container Tiny Home

December 4, 2018

When you are considering building with storage containers, you may not be sure if it’s really all it’s cracked up to be. Or maybe your spouse isn’t sure. In this article, we wanted to go over the pros and cons of building with storage containers and living in them. Are they as durable as everyone says? Are they hard to live in or modify? We’ll start by going over the history of the tiny house movement, which spurred the construction of homes using storage containers, and we’ll finish by going over the pros and cons of living in a shipping container.

The History of Tiny Houses/Tiny homes

When you start to talk about living in a shipping container, the internet probably leads you through sites talking about Tiny Homes. This “movement” was started around 1997 and credited to an architect named Sarah Susanka when she published a book called “The Not So Big House”. The people that followed this movement wanted to embrace smaller structures and a minimalist approach to life as a response to the larger and grander homes and lifestyles that were beginning to become more and more popular.

When the Great Recession hit in 2007-2008, the Tiny House Movement gained even more popularity as an affordable, environmentally-friendly, and practical way to afford a home during such a terrible housing crunch. This sent people searching for new ways and new materials to build their Tiny Houses out of. This also lead to many companies that specialize in the construction of Tiny Houses, their issues and their special requirements, such as zoning codes or safety.

While there are a lot of choices when it comes to building materials and builders out there, many people are discovering that living in a shipping container -- especially in a place with harsh weather -- can be affordable and secure in ways that traditional homes can’t match without a giant price tag.

Using Storage Containers in Home Construction

In 1994, a man named Stewart Brand used a storage container for his office to write his book, “How Buildings Learn”. In 2000, the firm Urban Space Management create a project called Container City I in London which housed apartments and studio space for work. People have been using storage containers for a long time, trying to live in smaller spaces and be more environmentally friendly and there’s no surprise as to why: Storage containers are sturdy, made to withstand harsh elements, and affordable.

However, the first time someone started living in a shipping container was actually before the 90’s. The first recorded time someone built a house from a storage container came in the 1980’s. A man named Phillip Clark filed a patent on Monday, November 23rd, 1987. It was called the “Method for converting one or more steel storage containers into a habitable building”. The patent was granted on Tuesday August 8th, 1989, two years later and Mr. Clark was presented with his approved patent #US4854094A.

Since those days, we’ve come a long way in design and construction for people that are living in a shipping container home. So let’s take a serious look at the pros and cons of living in a shipping container.

Pros and Cons of Living in a Shipping Container

While not many people have stepped in and given a great description of what it’s like living inside a storage container, many of offered pros and cons to the construction or working from them. We’ll go over what we’ve found:

Pros to Living in a Shipping Container

  • Modular. You can easily expand if you wish.
  • Trendy. Because they have been made more popular in recent years, you can be in on the trend.
  • Affordable. Most storage containers can be purchased for just a few thousand dollars compared to the many thousands for a traditional home.
  • Environmentally conscience. By reusing a storage container for a home, you are giving it a new life so it doesn’t waste away in shipping yard.
  • Sturdy. Storage containers are heavy duty and made to withstand harsh weather and being beat up in the sea.
  • Moveable. Depending on your zoning codes, it may be possible to move your new storage container home.
  • Customizable. Storage containers can be changed by welding and cutting to suit your needs or expand your shape.

Cons to Living in a Shipping Container

  • Might be noisy. Although they can be insulated, we saw some comments about noise.
  • Needs to be covered/painted. People may not enjoy a used storage container sitting in a lot next door (although painting is an easy fix).
  • Shape. Storage containers are rectangular. There is no real way around that aside from cutting and welding.
  • No Fresh Air. (Although, this is only a problem if you don’t include windows or venting.)

Overall, if you are looking at living in a shipping container, it seems pretty clear that you need to do the proper research and find a reputable builder that is familiar with using a storage container as a building material. Most of the cons can actually be fixed pretty easily with good designing, so we think that if you do the research and plan ahead, living in a shipping container should not be a problem for anyone looking to downsize their lifestyle.

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