Container homes are an attractive option for many reasons. We will explain why shipping container homes are so popular and what you should know before buying or renovating one.

What are the benefits of having a shipping container home? Back to top

Containers can be built off-site and delivered. Once consent is approved, the build time is much less than a traditional build, with less tradespeople on-site. The modern design and look of containers are also attractive.

shipping container transported by truck

An internal timber frame is erected so that plumbing pipes, electrical wiring and insulation can be installed before walls are put in. Heating systems, air conditioning and recess lighting can all be added. 

Container flooring is usually 35mm marine plywood. It can be polished, or new flooring, like carpet or vinyl, can be put down on top.

Odin Madsen from Sea Containers NZ is involved in building a house using nine containers. He says demand for containers runs in waves regionally around the country. Recently he spoke with someone wanting a container for their backyard for the winter months that could be moved to their bach over summer. The transportable element of shipping containers is certainly a drawcard for many.

What should you know before renovating or buying a shipping container home? Back to top

A key to a job well done is to have containers professionally designed and hire professionals to do the renovation. The finish is so much better than when people go DIY with containers.

“When you start cutting into them, like with a large ranch slider, the wall of the container can flex in the wrong environment,” Madsen says.

“It’s so much easier and safer to have it cut properly off-site and covered, away from the elements; a container needs to be kept dry and straight when cut.”

Airflow is important in containers just like any building. He recommends a 20mm space behind insulation. People often opt to install a whirly bird proof ventilator to help with ventilation. 

Use marine paint if the container will be near the ocean, to protect the surface from damage from sea spray and/or sand.

A popular container option is an open-side container, where one whole side pulls out. Most often people fit them with bi-folds and aluminium joinery. Another option is where one wall can be lowered to open the container up and the wall becomes a deck.

container home in nz

Cavity or sliding doors also work well in containers. As do pull-down double beds and anything compact; generally space saving is a focus. Although people are often surprised at how much space there actually is in a container. Containers make a great talking point for people who live in them or work with them.

“There is a really big interest in containers, people often say they have always thought about doing a container build themselves.”

Are shipping container homes sustainable and durable? Back to top

Another reason people go for the containers is the feel good factor, reusing something that is second hand. Others want the rustic look. Madsen says “the strength of containers effectively makes them earthquake proof. They’re so strong, at our depot we load about eight containers high, they weigh about 2.5 tonnes each so the bottom one is taking a huge amount of weight.”

They are also given a purpose, as they are likely to sooner or later be left inoperative. It’s a choice that saves on materials and resources, taking less from the environment. 

Shipping containers are easy to relocate, making them a popular choice for those who want to live off-grid in a sustainable way. Renovating them is compulsory from the start, so adding sustainable features such as rainwater catching systems, solar power systems and compostable toilets is a no-brainer for environmentally minded people. Solatube skylights are a sustainable and practical addition to container homes of any size. 

The durability of container homes is an added bonus to their sustainability. Once renovated, they require little maintenance and are long-lasting.

Renovate your current home, extend it with a container or downsize to a container. What is the best option? Back to top

That depends.

If you want your home to reflect a consistent style you might want to use materials that match it and forgo a container extension. If you are working within a budget, and want a creative and sustainable extension, a container could be the right option for you.

If you do opt for a container extension keep in mind that it will not be possible as a DIY job. Roofing can be complicated in container extensions and roof demolition will be required. The process of extending using a container is quite different to using other materials. It will be beneficial to work with a professional who has experience in the area. 

Downsizing to a container is a lifestyle choice and a few things should be considered before making the leap. You will likely need to cut down on possessions in order to downsize unless you plan on having outside storage. It will also mean less space for indoor entertaining, although you can always add on extra containers.  

The benefits of downsizing are tempting. You will have less to pay in terms of a mortgage and utility bills, there’s less space to maintain and you will have more reason to spend time outdoors. You’ll also have the added safety a sturdy exterior and a home that can be easily transported. 

 

Get in touch

If you have a unique renovation project in mind, we would love to hear from you. Get in touch with a Refresh Renovations specialist to arrange a free consultation and we will help to get your project underway.