Container homes vs tiny homes

Tiny houses have been growing in popularity with New Zealanders over the past few years. They offer affordable, personalised living that you can take on the road or base on a section of land. They also fit into the increasingly attractive minimalist lifestyle. But are they superior to container homes?

What are tiny homes?

It’s in the name really - tiny homes are little houses designed for compact, minimalistic living, offering residents reduced living costs. They use less materials and resources than standard housing, cost less to build and are usually designed with sustainability and an outdoor lifestyle in mind.
shipping container illustration

How big are tiny homes in comparison to shipping container homes?

While both tiny homes and container homes can be designed to personal taste, container homes don’t need to fit into the term “tiny”. Being modular, container homes can range from being tiny houses to being extended, spacious family homes.
Generally, tiny homes are around 7.2 x 2.4 metres in size, although some may be designed bigger or smaller depending on budget and the number of residents. Shipping containers are usually around 20 to 40 ft long individually, however they can be joined to create a home of any size.
large and spacious container home

Cost comparison between Tiny homes and Shipping container homes

If pricing is your deciding factor you are likely to remain on the fence. Standard tiny homes and container homes sit within a range of approximately $85,000 to $200,000. Prices rise to match additional bedrooms, spaces and specifications.
If you are considering creating your own design and build, your costs will likely vary. Individual shipping containers, sold specifically for container home purposes, can be bought from approximately $3,300+. The design, engineering, materials, consents and labour costs all need to be considered on top of this.

Are tiny homes or shipping container homes more sustainable and energy efficient?

Shipping container homes are a great way of recycling while the sustainability of a tiny home partly relies on the material choices you make. That being said, the smaller space of a tiny home means reduced energy costs and saves on materials used. Both have the potential to be assembled onsite, which reduces the amount of travel time involved and, consequently, their carbon footprints.
Container home NZ

Image courtesy of Look Good Feel Better

Are tiny homes or shipping container homes easier to renovate?

Both have pros and cons. Container homes are more of a specialised building project and roofing work can be complicated, especially for extension work. However, containers are easy to extend due to their modularity.
Insulation is another important consideration with container homes. As steel is not a breathable material, non-porous insulation is required. You also need to ensure the individual shipping containers you use are wind and water tight.
In container home renovations, recycling can mean a lot of extra work. Dealing with rust, removing toxins and undergoing panel beating work is often part of the process. However, it can be worth it.
In comparison, tiny houses do have many benefits. There are a huge amount of materials and designs to choose from, which creates more space for renovating within your budget. Materials do need to be kept light if they are being built onto a heavy weight trailer. Heavy weight trailer builds also require sturdy, supportive framing.
In some ways tiny house living does require more creative planning than container home living. This comes down to the smaller living space and a need to create practical, innovative storage and living areas. This is important for every area of a micro house design, down to the lighting. Hanging lights will take up more space so opt for non-obstructive ceiling fixtures instead.

tiny home design
Container home and tiny house renovations do have some things in common. Neither takes long to build (it’s possible to have either completed in under a month!) and creatives can enjoy the process with either project, as they are both highly customisable and easy to transport

Where to from here?

Get in touch with Refresh to discuss your Tiny home or Container home build!

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