Shipping Container Homes | Alternative Housing Solutions

Shipping Container Homes | Alternative Housing Solutions

A couple of decades ago, the only people who knew anything about shipping containers were those in the shipping business. Today, however, things have changed quite drastically. Shipping container homes quickly came quite a long way from convenient transportation equipment to becoming a crucial part of alternative housing

alternative housing

But how? And, more importantly, how did they make that linguistical journey in just a few short years?

As many of you are painfully aware, owning a house in the 21st century is more of an unattainable dream than a reality people can work towards. The median price of a home in the US has been steadily rising over the past few decades (and hit an all-time high last year). Therefore, younger generations are slowly but surely accepting the fact that they’ll never be able to own a house. That’s precisely why alternative housing is on the rise.

Alternative Housing — the Transformation of the Housing Market

The housing market, especially in California, is abysmal. The affordable housing crisis plaguing the state for decades is still on the rise. That means that many people rent houses as a long-term solution because they can’t afford to buy them

We’ve already touched on this topic in our Alternative Housing Ideas blog post. Renting is simply more affordable to most people because buying isn’t an option. However, renting also isn’t a walk in the park. Loss of income was an issue many faced during the pandemic, which, for many, led to evictions and forced moving. 

But not everyone was affected by the affordable housing crisis in the same way. During the pandemic, housing became even more expensive than it was before. Furthermore, making payments on time became more challenging. But this affected low-income families the most.

Alternative Housing — the Transformation of the Housing Market

The pandemic caused a lot of population shuffling. In fact, for the first time in recent history, California saw more people leaving the state than coming in. However, some people moved because they wanted to, while others were forced to

Those who were forced to didn’t really have a lot of options. Renting a single-family house in job-rich, affluent areas like San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco is getting more expensive (by the minute).

And that’s where alternative housing comes in. 

The high demand for affordable housing led to people seeking alternative options. We already talked about that extensively because affordable housing is one of the reasons why more and more people are building an ADU in their backyard. No matter their design, layout, and intended purpose, accessory dwelling units can help alleviate some pressure on the communities and people struggling to afford housing. 

Responding to the Increased Interest in Alternative Housing

When there’s an increased demand on the market for something, businesses quickly respond to it. Being the one to provide the supply is a pretty lucrative move. That’s why there’s been a rise in ADU supply lately.

A tiny home such as an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) can serve as a:

Given the versatility, it’s no surprise that people are quick to build granny flats in their backyards. 

However, a proper ADU still requires building material, floor plans and ADU designs, extensive preparations, etc. That’s why many people are opting for building tiny container homes instead.

What Are Shipping Container Houses?

As with many other things, the clue is in the name. A shipping container home is an accessory dwelling unit built out of one or more shipping containers. 

Shipping containers are a readily available resource. They are crucial in the transportation business. But, sooner or later, all shipping containers lose their primary purpose and end up on a container graveyard. Or at least that was the reality until eco-friendly designers and architects came up with a perfect solution — repurposing shipping containers to make affordable, eco-friendly homes, among other things.

Now, if you think that a shipping container is way too small to be a livable housing option, consider this:

  • there are two different sizes of shipping containers available (20×8 feet and 40×8 feet)
  • that means that one container can provide either 160 square feet of space, or 320
  • you are not limited to one container

So, you can combine two or more, which means you can, theoretically, have an extra dwelling that’s as big as a traditional single-family house.

What Are Shipping Container Houses?

What’s more, you can even create a multi-level residence. Of course, adding an ADU of this type to your backyard doesn’t come without hardships. For example, you have to abide by building codes and zoning regulations (just like with regular ADUs), and you also have to consider the integrity of the entire structure.

However, in theory, a shipping container, even the smallest one, all by its lonesome, can make for an excellent alternative housing option. Like other ADUs, shipping containers allow for a lot of flexibility and versatility. But those are just some of the advantages they offer.

The Pros and Cons of Shipping Container Homes

With a shipping container home, you can arrange your living space to look any way you want to. So, the sky really is the limit here. Depending on what you need it for, you can design and create your very own ADU in your backyard. 

Do you need a home office? Then one shipping container should be more than enough. Maybe you need an in-laws suite or a full-size guest house? Then consider building a multi-container unit. 

Either way, no matter what you opt for, the unit will be:

  • Affordable
  • Quick and easy to install
  • Durable
  • Eco-friendly
  • Flexible


If we compare building a container home to building a regular house, we’ll see that container homes are much more cost-effective. Simply put, they are much cheaper. The most significant cost is purchasing the shipping containers that you’ll later renovate and redecorate.

The Pros and Cons of Shipping Container Homes

Of course, that doesn’t mean that all shipping container homes are cheaper than everything else. However, if you consider that, with a shipping container, you already have four walls, a floor, and a roof, you’ll quickly realize that, if nothing else, a shipping container home requires less labor and resources. 

Furthermore, it’s much faster to build a container house. Even with a lot of redecorating, you still don’t need as much time as you would for a regular house. Therefore, again, you’re cutting on labor costs there.

Ease of Build

With a shipping container house, you don’t have to pour out the foundations. You don’t have to build a house from the ground up. What’s more, you don’t even have to build anything, really. The container is your starting point, so all you really have to do is install it.

Once the container is on your lot, in a position you want it to be, you have your foundations. Of course, what you do with it afterward might make the process more complicated. However, it’s still easier than mixing cement and pouring it out, setting up drywall, and praying to every deity it doesn’t rain.

Durability and Flexibility

Shipping containers are built to last. They have to be. Their primary purpose is storing and transporting of goods, many of which are fragile. That means the containers are sturdy. The fact that they aren’t in circulation anymore doesn’t mean they won’t provide a sturdy shelter for you and your family.

Durability and Flexibility of container homes

Shipping containers are meant to endure open seas and all the harsh conditions that come with it. So they’ll be more than capable of weathering California weather.

Aside from that, container homes are also flexible. When you buy a house, you can’t really do much to it. It’s built with a purpose. With a container home, you can play around with the interior any way you want and make the house as functional as possible.


The main idea behind shipping container homes is reusability. More and more people are interested in living an eco-friendly life. They are looking to lower their carbon footprint and live a sustainable life. ADUs, as we mentioned before, are incredibly eco-friendly. They stop the urban crawl and are built with sustainable materials.

Shipping container homes take it one step further. You’re essentially recycling something that would have been wasted. You’re using something that’s already been made instead of creating more costs (and pollution) to make something from scratch. 

What About the Downsides?

Of course, nothing is without its faults. Although overall a great investment, shipping container homes are also:

  • A bit cramped — if you opt for the smallest container, you might find the interior a bit cramped. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t make the space usable
  • Tricky to cut into — once you cut into the container, it loses integrity. That means it can be a bit tricky to create entryways, doors, and windows. All of those require extra reinforcement, which is best done by a professional. 
  • Uninsulated — the metal walls are durable and strong. But they are also thin. That means you have to insulate your shipping container home before you can use it.

Build Your Shipping Container ADU With Cedar Dwellings

Overall, shipping containers offer you an opportunity to build an affordable, flexible, and versatile livable space in your backyard. You can use them in any way you see fit, as they make great rentals, home offices, home gyms, as well as apartments for elderly relatives or boomerang kids. 

Just like the rest of ADUs, shipping container homes allow you to build something that’s affordable and potentially profitable. They are also eco-friendly and can help make a difference when it comes to the affordable housing crisis.

If that sounds appealing to you, give us a call today, and let’s talk about setting up a shipping container house in your backyard. Take your recycling game to the next level with Cedar Dwellings!