Turning a shipping Container into a Home; How easy is it?

Shipping container into home: it is possible, but they require permits. They are cheaper and quicker to build than conventional houses. So what’s really involved? Read on..


Since the early 2000s, the use of shipping containers in the construction of houses has been increasing. More and more Australians are converting shipping containers into houses. The houses can be made as a DIY project, but more and more people are having them made by companies as it is often still cheaper than building a home from scratch. You can also buy used container homes. If you are thinking about making your own, houses can be made from one container as a tiny house, or a number of shipping containers can be used to make a larger home. Some people even use shipping containers as granny flats or house extensions. 

Can you really turn a shipping container into a home?

More and more people are considering turning shipping containers into homes in order to save costs and there are a lot of companies making shipping container homes. While you are not yet able to see them for sale on real estate websites, you can go to websites like ebay and Gumtree to buy ones that have already been made. If you have building skills, you will definitely be able to turn a shipping container into a home. For more information, see How to Turn a Shipping Container into a Home1.

shipping container home
It is legal to have a shipping container home, but you have to follow the same rules as you would if you were building any other home. It’s best to contact your local council and ask what the laws and regs are.

Where do people source shipping containers?

You can buy a container and modify it yourself or you can buy a container home as a kit or even ready made. You can easily do a google search and find a number of companies that can help you to find or create a shipping container home. If you want to do everything yourself, then the first thing you will need to do is to buy an actual shipping container. Your first place to look is probably the Shipping Containers2 website which will help you to find either new or used ones. It is not always a good idea to buy used shipping containers since you don’t know what they have been used for and whether they have been hit and damaged.

How much do the shipping containers cost?

The price of your shipping container will differ according to the size. The containers come in a number of different sizes. They are measured in feet and the most common sizes are either 20 or 40 feet long. For more information about containers and their new prices, see Shipping Container Prices. Price Guide by Container Traders, Australia3.

Are shipping container homes legal in Australia?

It is legal to have a shipping container home, but you have to follow the same rules as you would if you were building any other home. Before you get a shipping container home, you should contact your local council to find out what you need to do before you make it into a home.

shipping container into home
More and more Australians are converting shipping containers into houses to save money on housing.

What are the rules about having shipping containers as homes on your property?

Every state has different regulations when it comes to shipping container tiny houses. You would also need to check with your local council as the laws could vary in different regions in the same state. Most local governments treat tiny homes of any sort in the same way that they do normal houses, so you would need the same type of permits.

For more information, read Shipping Container Home Prices: Costs, Regulations & Planning For a Container Home | Architecture & Design4

Who do you hire to transform a shipping container into a home?

Nowadays there are a lot of companies making container homes. It’s just a matter of checking out the companies and their designs and choosing the one that you want. Companies like Affordable Australian Kit Home Plans5 can design a tiny home from just one shipping container. But you can also find amazing luxury homes made from multiple shipping containers made by companies like Embark6. You are sure to find a company to meet your needs and your budget with a search in your area.

How easy or difficult is it? What’s involved?

Once you have decided on a design for your shipping container house and you have all of the appropriate permits, you will need to buy a container. You’ll need land to put it on and foundations to keep it stable. Like all houses, you will need to think about plumbing, electricity, and insulation. Most people don’t have the skills to do these things and will need to hire someone to do it. You will also need to cut doors and windows out from the walls of your container. It’s very important to get your design checked by an expert to ensure that the structure of the container is not compromised by cutting holes in it. Once you have done all these things you can start on the interior.

You can read more about the steps involved in converting your shipping container to a house here7.

shipping containers made into home
The cost of converting a shipping container into a home is like asking How long is a piece of string? Could be anywhere from $20,000 up to $250,000 plus!

Shipping Container Home Cost

The cost of your container home is going to depend on the size and style of the home that you build. Some of the homes that are built can be quite large as they use a number of containers. The largest known container house is made from 31 containers and it must have cost a huge amount of money to construct. On the other hand, the smallest ones are more like tiny houses and can be made from just one container. You can read my article on Tiny Houses Australia HERE.

“Prices fluctuate depending on availability, but you’ll want to budget $2,000 to $5,000+ per container and get second hand shipping containers in the best condition you can find. Depending on the size of your container, and taking into account the cost of materials, you can be looking at as little as $20,000 to as much as $110,000”


– For more information, read this article9.

Are there many Australians living in shipping containers as homes?

It seems to be quite the fashion trend to build shipping container homes and they have been available since the early 2000s. As construction costs continue to increase, people are more attracted to them as they can save people both time and money. A quick search online will find a number of different companies making used shipping container homes and even sales of previously owned ones.

Can you buy completed shipping container homes and transport them?

If you look on eBay you will find quite a lot of shipping container homes for sale and many of them include free shipping. Of course, these ones are second-hand. You can also find companies that will build your container house and ship it to you.

Advantages of shipping container homes

  • They can be cheaper. The materials are cheaper and it is also much cheaper to convert a container than it is to build a home from scratch.
  • It is much quicker to use a container as the basis of your home. You can save a lot of time by going with a container since you just need to place the container on the foundations and modify it.
  • Depending on the size, your container home will not require as much land as a normal house. Many container houses are built to be traditional tiny houses, rather than full size ones
  • Container homes and ‘tiny houses’ embrace minimalism, preventing the hoarding of unnecessary household clutter.
  • Shipping container houses are made out of recycled shipping containers so they are sustainable and reduce waste.
shipping container homes interior
You will still need a sturdy foundation under your shipping container home. Any unevenness can result in issues with plumbing and water supply.

You can read my book review of ‘Tiny House’ by Brent Heavener HERE.

Disadvantages of shipping container homes

  • With a lifespan of about 25 years, repurposed shipping containers are not as durable as normal houses.
  • Containers are limited in size and shape. Containers come in standard sizes which may not always be convenient for your purposes.
  • Container homes are subject to the same requirements as normal homes. You will still have to get planning permission for your container house.

FAQs about shipping container homes:

Can I attach a container to my house?

It seems to be quite easy to use storage containers as house extensions, but remember that you will still need council permits.

Do you need a foundation for a shipping container?

Even if council regulations didn’t require a foundation, it would be much safer for you to have a foundation. Foundations keep the structure stable and prevent them from sinking into the ground.

For more information about foundations, read this article8.

“Even though shipping containers have a flat base, they need flat ground to function efficiently. Even a minor discrepancy in the level can mess up the plumbing system and lead to improper functioning. It could cause hindrance in water supply and collection of wastewaters in corners of the pipelines due to the crookedness that could eventually lead to health and sanitary issues.”

Anders Heltzen – prefabie.com/shipping-container-homes-foundation8

Do you have to insulate a container home?

If you don’t insulate your container home, it will get really hot in summer and really cold in winter. Not only that, the temperature can change very quickly and this could mean that condensation forms. You would need to find a way to let the warm air escape to prevent this as it wouldn’t be nice having water dripping on you inside your home.

shipping container home
Yes, you can use multiple shipping containers to make a very large home!

What is the lifespan of a container home?

You would expect your container home to last for about 25 years. The main problem is rust, so if you take care to keep it from rusting, it may last even longer. Some companies suggest cladding the outside of your container home with a waterproof layer, such as wood and that will help to solve the problem of rust.  


For anyone who is thinking of building a house, it is worth thinking about the use of shipping containers to speed up the process. Shipping container houses are no longer just DIY projects and there are a number of companies that will design and build your shipping container home. You can save both time and money by getting a shipping container home and if you decide to go with a used container, you are recycling a large amount of metal and doing your bit for sustainability.

Just like any other house, you will still need to get permits from your local council before you start your build. You might even think about using a shipping container to make a granny flat or an extension to an existing house. You can read my article HERE on whether you should Rent vs Buy a Home.

Have you ever thought about a shipping container home, or do you have experience buying or building one? I would love to hear about it in the comments below!

Reference List:

1.   ‘See How to Turn a Shipping Container into a Home’, Living In a Container. Published: 23 Feb, 2022. Accessed online at https://www.livinginacontainer.com/shipping-container-into-a-new-home/ on 14 Apr, 2023.

2.   ‘Types of Shipping Containers’. Shipping Containers.com.au. Accessed online at https://shippingcontainers.com.au/ on 14 Apr, 2023.

3.   ‘Shipping Container Prices’, ContainerTraders.com.au. Accessed online at https://containertraders.com.au/shipping-container-prices on 14 Apr, 2023.

4.   ‘Shipping Container Home Prices: Costs, Regulations, and Planning for a Container Home’. Sarah Buckley, Architecture and Design. Published: 8 July 2020. Accessed online at https://www.architectureanddesign.com.au/features/list/shipping-container-home-prices-costs-regulations-a on 14 Apr, 2023.

5.   ‘Shipping Container Home Plans’. Accessed online at https://www.affordableaustraliankithomes.com.au/shipping-container-homes  on 14 Apr, 2023.

6.   ‘Container Homes’ Accessed online at https://www.embark.com.au/ on 14 Apr, 2023.

7.   ‘How to Convert a Shipping Container into a Tiny House in 13 Steps’, Ethan, The Tiny House. Accessed online at https://www.thetinyhouse.net/how-to-convert-shipping-container-tiny-house/ on 14 Apr, 2023.

8.   ‘Why Shipping Container Homes Need a Foundation’. Anders Heltzen, Prefabie. Published: 5 Jan, 2022. Accessed online at https://prefabie.com/shipping-container-homes-foundation/ on 14 Apr, 2023.

9. Shipping Container Home Prices: How Much Do Container Homes Cost To Build?, Gateway Containers. Accessed online at https://www.gatewaycontainersales.com.au/shipping-container-home-prices-how-much-do-container-homes-cost/ on April 17, 2023.

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