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Is a Shipping Container Home Right for You?

A new home construction trend is repurposing shipping containers to create standalone tiny homes, multilevel single-family homes, and even multi-family dwellings. Millions of shipping containers are sitting unused worldwide, which provide ample supply for thousands of container homes. Supporters of container homes tout them as cheaper and more sustainable than traditional homes. However, shipping containers aren’t an easy solution for Illinois’ housing crunch.

Container Home Basics

Shipping containers can be repurposed as a tiny home, granny flat, or coach house. Multiple shipping containers can be combined into a larger home with multiple rooms and bathrooms. Some developers remove interior walls to open up space and stack them to make multilevel and multi-family dwellings. Shipping containers come in four sizes:

  • Standard-20 by 8 by 8.5 feet
  • Extended-40 by 8 by 8.5 feet
  • High Cube Standard-20 by 8 by 9.5 feet
  • High Cube Extended-40 by 8 by 9.5 feet

Permitting and Regulation

Container homes are new; therefore, local permitting rules may not account for them. In some cities, container homes are expressly addressed or lumped into “alternative” style housing. Furthermore, not all housing associations allow container homes in their areas. In general, container homes are more likely allowed in less-trafficked areas and further from densely-packed neighborhoods.

Building a Container Home

Shipping containers provide many benefits, including sturdy construction. Some are wind and waterproof, and the metal frame can double as a foundation. However, shipping containers still need a lot of work to turn them into a home as some containers ship chemicals or are treated with chemicals for their cargo. Shipping containers aren’t sold with human occupation in mind. Therefore, some container descriptions might be vague, like “as is” or “one trip.”


Container homes can be cheaper and more sustainable than traditional homes, but it isn’t guaranteed. For example, while shipping containers come with metal frames, exterior walls, and a sturdy roof, insulation is not easily added to the steel walls. The containers range in price from $1,400 for a used small model to $6,000 for a new large model. However, there are additional costs to transport the containers to the home site and add interior (and possibly exterior) finishes. Container homes are also more adaptable. They can be used on rocky or steep plots that are less suited for traditional homes.

Stacked color cargo containers over the blue sky with clouds

He helps clients resolve issues relating to family law, including divorce, parenting time and parental responsibilities, paternity, and child support. As a skilled real estate attorney as well, Scott also provides advice and legal representation to clients who are purchasing or selling residential or commercial property in Illinois. 

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