Use These Tiny House Basics to Convert a Shipping Container Into a Home

Do you want build and live in a tiny shipping container home?

You’ve seen them on TV. Cute tiny homes, from those on wheels to container homes, are all the rage right now. And why not? Living simply and mortgage-free sounds very appealing right now!

So, you’ve decided to build a tiny home, but where do you start? Use the below tiny house basics to help you turn a shipping container into a minimalist dream house.

Keep reading to get started!

Model One - shipping container tiny house

Model One – shipping container tiny house

Tiny House Basics: Shipping Container Conversion

It might seem like a tiny house comes halfway built for you. The container frame comes pre-made, and it’s ready to go, right? Well, as with all building types, there are pros and cons, and a simple tiny home may not be as simple as it looks.

If you are new to the DIY home building, there are a lot of steps needed before you can decorate and move in.

1) Plan the Design

We cannot stress this part enough! Planning is always essential for house building but especially crucial with tiny homes. If you can, work with an architect or engineer.

He or she will help you layout the home properly, paying attention to all the details like electricity, water, insulation. There are also many sites online that offer floor plans for tiny houses, including shipping container houses.

If you’re brave enough to design it yourself, consider the layout very carefully and triple check your math!

Get creative and have fun with your floor plan, but remember it needs to be functional. For instance, having the bathroom and kitchen on opposite ends of the house may not be realistic for efficient and low-cost plumbing.

2-story container home – click to see plans

Similar to picking or designing the best tiny house on wheels floor plan, a big first step is determining your priorities and needs before you can choose the right container home layout, and of course, size. 

As you might guess, the design possibilities between 20-foot and 40-foot shipping container homes plans vary greatly. And the options dramatically expand once you consider combining and stacking options! 

So if you want a home office, dining table, bathtub, and upstairs deck, you can have it.

But keep in mind, that even with the overall affordability of containers, the larger the house, the more it will cost and the greater the maintenance needs will be.

2) Purchase a Shipping Container

When purchasing a shipping container, be sure to look at how long it will take for delivery and make sure you plan accordingly. Delivery with most shipping containers can take quite a while. You will be able to purchase new, used, and one-trip containers.

There is a container for every budget.

You may even be able to find out what the container was used for shipping. This could help avoid a rusted or a smelly container. Learn more about purchasing your container here.

3) Prepare the Land

Before your shipping container gets delivered, you need to prepare the land. We are assuming that you already found the plot of land where your new container house will rest.

The next step is to level the land, lay a solid foundation, and decide if you want to build on a platform or the ground.

But don’t forget to follow local building codes and get the proper permits!

4) Be Careful How You Spend Your Funds

Our last tip is to be careful about how you spend the funds you’ve saved for your tiny home.

Materials, land and development costs can add up fast!

To finish out the interior of tiny container home, look for salvaged building materials and deals at discount home building stores, like Habitat ReStores.

Remember, you can also add nicer fixtures later. Put the basics in now and focus on the more important things, like proper electrical work.

Container Homes Are Not as Simple as They Look

You can build a tiny house and convert a shipping container with no experience, as long as you’re prepared!  Just remember, tiny home building can look simple but don’t let it fool you.

Besides the initial research and planning, there are a thousand little steps needed to complete a safe build. Start with a solid plan, then take it one step at a time. Also, ask for help if you’re unsure about how to do something— from friends with experience to YouTube tutorials, or a licensed contractor.

Follow the tiny house basics we shared, and you’ll be on your way to the perfect tiny home in no time.


Would you like to more advice for building or transitioning into a tiny home?

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One Response to Use These Tiny House Basics to Convert a Shipping Container Into a Home

  1. Dmitriy Lashkevich July 3, 2020 at 5:32 pm #

    Hey guys and gals, I found that when building a container home and have it comply with CBC / IBC and in seismic zone like CA it can be cost efficient if the home is tiny. But when combining two or more containers horizontally and trying to create a big open space it requires long steel beams and increases the cost substantially. Do you have any tricks for achieving this and building a bigger container home while saying in a budget and staying away from steel?

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