Metal shipping containers are definitely a popular trend in the tiny house movement. At first glance, a shipping container might seem like the perfect solution for small space living. They are affordable to purchase and are seemingly the complete package with exterior walls, a floor, and a roof. So, what could possibly be the downside? There are a few reasons metal shipping containers are not really as practical as they promise to be. Let’s explore 5 of the disadvantages so that you are properly prepared for this journey.

Transport and Delivery

Shipping containers are quite heavy. Weights can range from 2 to 4 tons. Once you purchase a container you then have to figure out how to get it delivered to your land. You will need to hire a hauling company that has a large flatbed truck that can manage the weight as well as moving equipment that can accurately place the container on a foundation. If you are in a very remote area with insufficient roads, you may need to have the container shipped via air transportation.

Hazardous Materials

The most available containers are ones that have been retired. These are often quite old and may contain lead-based paint, chemical spills from cargo, and significant rust and corrosion. You will need to have the container stripped, cleaned, and patched. The paint may require hiring a company that specializes in remediation of hazardous materials.

Zoning and Building Permits

In most areas, you will be required to obtain a zoning permit as well as a building permit. The International Residential Code mandates that all residences have adequate foundations, plenty of natural light and ventilation, and must meet the minimum requirements of current energy codes.

Specialty Contractor

The “house” will need to be well insulated and weather tight. Shipping containers are often made of metals that conduct heat and cold very well. This can result in warm interiors in the summer and cold interiors in the winter. The insulation must be properly sized and installed to ensure a comfortable interior space.

You will need a contractor who is familiar with working with strong metals that are likely corrugated. He or she will need special tools for cutting door and window openings. They will also need to be able to seal the openings tightly to avoid any leaks of air and water. A residential contractor may not have the tools or skills to work with the material.

Limited Space and Awkward Layout

Given that a shipping container is long and narrow, the interior space will be a challenge to design and build. These containers are generally 20 to 40 feet long and only 8 feet wide. Try to imagine a 7-foot wide bedroom or living room (after insulation and wallboard are installed). It makes sense that you might have to be very creative with customized, built-in furnishings.

Metal shipping containers are trendy and cool housing options. If your budget allows, these can be awesome habitats. Just be mindful that you can’t just place a container on land and expect to live in it. It takes some effort and financial investment to make a shipping container habitable.

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