Costing Out a Shipping Container Build – What Does It Involve?
Thinking about building your own shipping container home or building? We know you have, otherwise you wouldn’t be spending all your time on a blog focused exclusively on shipping containers. But one thing is curiously missing from many shipping container websites – and that’s the actual costs when it comes to building a shipping container home. And there is a reason for that – it’s hard to put a price on many shipping container projects due to a wide variety of variables! Manufacturers of prefabricated shipping container homes sell them for anywhere from $15,000 USD – 200,000 USD plus, depending on layout, fittings and other variables. As with any building project, the sky is the limit.
This guide is by no means something that should be relied on for accurate costings – as with any project, almost anything can result in a project increasing (or decreasing) in costs, such as a higher end bathroom, engineering, architects or other compliance costs when dealing with local councils or problems with the construction site.
Let’s assume you already own the land you are building on, and are able to do your own construction work, with that in mind – let’s consider some basic costs.
Estimating the Costs of a Shipping Container Build – What You’ll Need to Consider:
We’ve read articles online about those who have built shipping container homes for just a few thousand dollars on top of the initial costs of purchasing a used shipping container (which might sell for anywhere from $2000-5000 depending on quality and location). Unless you are doing all of the work yourself, are not concerned about quality or appearance, and are using 100% free or recycled parts – this price is unrealistic for the average person, and probably won’t be legal or meet building codes either.
Here are some of the costs you’ll need to consider:
Compliance costs, fees and taxes from local government
As this varies from place to place, it’s impossible to predict what these might be. In rural areas they may be non-existent, while in urban areas these will likely run into the thousands.
Unless you plan on building a completely off-grid shipping container home, you are going to want to have a connection to the power grid, water supply, sewerage and a phone line. Once again costs will depend on location and pre-existing infrastructure. It might be as simple as connecting a few pipes and wires, or as complex as building an expensive substation to provide electricity. Make sure you do your research and accurately cost this out to prevent any surprises.
Architect and Engineer Costs
This is something you don’t want to cut corners on. Make sure you have a qualified engineer and architect go over your container house plans with you. Sure there are plenty of plans available for free online, but how do you know that the person who created them actually knows what they are doing and that they are structurally sound and will last as long as you do? Find someone who is qualified and registered locally who understands local building codes (and environmental conditions) who can ensure that your shipping container plans are suitable for your needs. Shipping containers are exceptionally strong, but once you cut them they will need to be reinforced to retain their structural integrity, the engineer will ensure this is done right so that you don’t run into problems in the future.
Second Hand Shipping Containers
The amount of shipping containers required for your build will depend on the size of the shipping container home you wish to build. The average shipping container home you will see pictured online generally consists of two or more 20-40 foot second hand shipping containers that are in good condition. Prices fluctuate depending on availability, but you’ll want to budget $2,000-$4,000 per container and get second hand shipping containers in the best condition you can find.
Once you have your containers, you are going to want to modify them to make them habitable. This means cutting holes in them for doors and windows, and reinforcing these areas. If you are an experienced builder, this is an area that you might be able to save money on by doing it yourself, otherwise – it’s probably best to have these modifications done by the people you are purchasing your containers from to ensure that they are done to professional standards. Most importantly, it will be up to the business to ensure that all modifications are up to standard.
Remember that many examples of shipping container projects come from the United States, where the cost of labour is significantly lower than that of qualified Australian tradespeople and overseas articles tend to drastically under cost the price of modifications when writing about shipping container projects.
Interior Walls & Insulation
Each shipping container is approximately 8 x 40 foot, making them around 320 square feet in floor space. A home constructed from two to three containers is going to require anywhere from $500-1000 worth of batting style insulation. You will also need to add wooding framing and interior walls to your shipping container home before plastering and painting. Budget anywhere from $3,000-$5,000 plus the cost of labour to do interior walls and insulation. Once again, by the time it’s all done – it could work out far more cost effective to have the professionals do it during the container modification stage.
Electrical Fitout and Plumbing
This will depend on the size of your shipping container house, how complicated your kitchen and bathrooms are, whether it is being cabled for IT equipment or any other variable. Gateway has years of experience modifying containers for both residential and commercial uses. We can install power points, lighting fixtures and air conditioning on site.
Kitchen and Bathrooms
Again, this cost is a huge variable. Are you going to use a simple flat pack kitchen and bathroom from a company such as Ikea, a second hand kitchen or something more extravagant? These tend to be the two most expensive rooms in any home with kitchens costing around $7,000-$20,000 and bathrooms costing around $4,000-$10,000 depending on amenities.
Windows and Doors
The moral of the story is – every single shipping container building is going to be different, a Tiny House costs less than a 3 bedroom family home. A DIY building is going to be drastically different than a shipping container building that has been designed by an architect, with top of the line facilities. There have been off grid buildings constructed for a few thousand dollars by a skilled tradie, while we’ve also supplied containers for a shipping container mansion consisting of 31 containers and selling at auction for over 1.5 million dollars.
When planning a shipping container building its important to do all the budgeting before you start your project. Your home could cost anywhere from $30,000-$200,000 by the time you’ve finished it. Take into account every single aspect of the job and then add in some extra budget for any unforeseen expenses. Do this, and you’ll have an amazing shipping container home, without any surprises – one that meets and exceeds all of your requirements.
Are you ready to plan your shipping container home?
Are you ready to start planning your own shipping container project? Give the team of experts a call at Gateway Container Sales to discuss your dream build. We’ll help you out to decide exactly how many shipping containers you’ll need, what sizes to use and the sort of modifications that you might want. We’ll find out if it can be done in-house, or point you in the direction of qualified tradespeople, architects or engineers who can put you on the right track to building an amazing container home. You’ll be able to work out a realistic budget and get your container home project underway in no time!