Shipping containers are popping up all over the place. We’re seeing these self-supporting structures as shops, as cafes, as offices, extensions and even complete homes! In this artcicle, we'll look at why this modular structure has gained so much popularity and what the true cost of building a container home is likely to be. 


Why build a shipping container home? Back to top

Containers Direct’s Mark Bohan has worked on many residential projects using shipping containers. Job budgets vary greatly but he says building with containers is generally not as cheap, or as easy, as people often think it will be.

“Depending on your budget, it could be a container for an office with just a door and a window, while other people want to make a statement with their container,” Mark says.

An extension he was involved in used a shipping container to increase the living space of an old, small villa. A shipping container priced well on this job. The space created was significant to the small size of the house. So overall it worked well.

Three containers, used to build a sleep-out with a glass window wall in the valley of a mountain range
Image courtesy of Containers Direct.

“Those little old cottages are quite small and it can be expensive to extend them, Mark says. “The building extension the client was going to do would’ve cost about $100,000 (approximately $66,660 USD). They were looking for a cheaper option and a container is around $40,000 (approximately $26,664 USD).”

One of the container’s walls was removed so it could join onto the cottage. The other walls were mainly glass and bi-fold doors. The extension was at the back of the house so the area could be kept private, with outdoor flow.

A new roof was built from the peak of the house to align the container extension with the existing building. The new roof was needed regardless of the type of build.

Aside from the cost, another advantage in using a container for the extension was not having to do so much restoration to the existing building. This would have been needed with a traditional extension.

Bottom floor of a modern two storey home constructed out of shipping containers
Infiniski Manifesto House by James and Mau. Photo courtesy of Antonio Corcuera

“The original house has had a lot of issues because of its age and before doing an extension these would have had to be sorted out first,” he says. “It would have been a whole lot of extra work.”

The container was craned in over the cottage.

When building with containers, money is saved around foundations. Piles are done in each corner of each container, much less than what is needed for a traditional build.

How much does a shipping container home extension cost? Back to top

Expect to pay anywhere from $2,500 USD for a used 20ft container, with larger and newer containers being more expensive. On top of that you will need to consider the costs of the design, installing foundations, consents, insulation costs, hiring an engineer, labor costs and more.

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Shipping container sleepouts are a cost-effective way of giving guests or teenagers their own space. Most container sleepouts can be constructed off-site and delivered. Standard, pre-designed sleepouts can be found within the $40,000 USD to $60,000 USD range.

Interior view of a shipping container granny flat, with living area above bed, small kitchenette and wood flooring throughout.

How much can I expect to pay for a container home on a budget? Back to top

Many people turn to container homes as an option to help them live within their means. If you are on a budget there are container homes, designed for singles or couples, starting from around $40,000 USD. If an affordable family container home is what you are after there are larger container house options available, starting from $100,000 USD.

How much will a container home cost on a mid to high-range budget? Back to top

If money is not an issue, you have far more options and can design your container home to your needs and taste. If you are designing your home from scratch, discuss your ideas with a container home expert to ensure they are viable and to receive a quote

Get in touch

If you have a unique renovation project in mind, we would love to hear from you. Get in touch with a Refresh Renovations specialist to arrange a free consultation and we will help to get your project underway.