shipping container home

Renovate your shipping container home like a PRO

Discover why shipping container architecture has gained so much popularity in Australia, plus learn everything you need to know before you build or renovate one.

Shipping container homes are popping up across the country, in all seven states. This phenomenon is proof that shipping container architecture or ‘cargotecture’ is popular with Australian home owners and home buyers. 

If you are curious about building and renovating a container home, continue reading this guide! 

Let’s look into why shipping container architecture has gained so much popularity in Australia, plus all the things you need to know before you embark on your journey to build or renovate one. 

What are shipping containers and what makes them a great building material?

Shipping containers are an integral part of the logistics industry. These are used to transport cargo efficiently and conveniently both inland and overseas. 

These metal boxes are engineered to be durable and resilient; tough enough to withstand the elements and harsh environmental conditions out at sea.

Renovate your shipping container home
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The sturdiness of the material makes it an ideal material to build residential and commercial structures. 

Here’s a perfect example of of a shipping container dwelling:

Renovate your shipping container home
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Top reasons why shipping container homes are popular in Australia

There are a few great reasons why shipping container homes are popular to homeowners across the country. 

Here are a few reasons to consider them: 

Shipping container homes offer unique designs

Shipping container architecture offers you the freedom to create almost any type of house or building that you want to. It’s an open campus to express yourself with whatever style and layout you want while still fulfilling all of your space requirements. 

Renovate your shipping container home
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Shipping containers are used to build both budget and luxury homes

Shipping containers are being converted into homes that fall under the ‘budget’ up to the ‘luxury’ home category. This makes shipping container housing popular with both the budget conscious would-be homeowner as well as those with a little more to spend.

When designed and renovated right, container home conversions are hard to spot because they look so much like a regular house. It is highly recommended to use beautiful cladding materials to conceal the shipping container’s metal box aesthetics. Plan the interiors well too, so you can have complete amenities such as a designer bedroom, kitchen, bathroom, living room, balcony, and more.

Renovate your shipping container home
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Shipping container homes are durable structures

Shipping containers are made out of corrugated steel, so are exceptionally durable and hardy. They are built to withstand heavy winds and high seas on cargo ships. That makes shipping container homes earthquake, hurricane and tornado safe. Their durability also makes shipping container homes hard to break into.

Shipping container homes can be designed to be environmentally friendly

Shipping container homes are eco-friendly because they’re the perfect example of upcycling. Instead of wasting tons of steel from unwanted containers, they can be turned into amazing homes, saving builders from using new materials.

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Shipping containers are widely available for sale

There are so many reputable companies that sell new shipping containers and used shipping containers from our capital cities to any location across Australia. You can purchase them in three sizes: the standard, extra tall, and the small container.

Shipping container size guide:

  • The standard ISO shipping containers are 8ft (2.43m) wide, 8.5ft (2.59m) high, and come in two lengths; 20ft (6.06m) and 40ft (12.2m).
  • The extra tall ones (also known as high-cube containers) offer more headroom because they are 9.5ft (2.89m) high. The width and length are the same as the standard ISO shipping containers.
  • The smallest ones are 8ft (2.43m) wide, 8.5ft (2.59m) high, and 10ft (2.99m) long.

You can also purchase shipping containers online, however, it is still recommended to shop container homes in person, so you can choose the best containers from each batch.

Renovate your shipping container home
Image credit: Dion Agius’ Byron Bay Forest Bungalow

Popular projects that reuse shipping containers

If you are planning to renovate your property and upcycle shipping containers as a part of it, consider the following projects: 

An above ground container swimming pool

Yes, you may use converted shipping containers to build an above ground pool just like this! The measurements of a single small-sized shipping container are perfect for this project. It is suitable because shipping containers are watertight, meaning it can hold thousands of gallons of water without leaking.

Renovate your shipping container home
Image credit: Modpools

Container home for guests, friends, and family

Maximise your property size by  building a granny flat made from a recycled shipping container just like this one shown below. Use it to accommodate friends and family when they come to visit. 

Adding a granny flat or a separate guest house to your property provides more functional living space which will boost its value (in case you want to sell in the future).

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Off-the-grid container home 

Many property investors add off-the-grid tiny homes and camping cabins made from upcycled shipping containers in their growing portfolios. The strength and size of shipping containers make it the perfect size for a tiny home. Furnish and decorate it so it’s as relaxing as a hotel room.

Renovate your shipping container home
Image credit: Pinterest

Container home outdoor office 

For those working from home, you can refurbish a shipping container and turn it into a functional outdoor office just like below. A dedicated office at home makes remote work setups more manageable.

Renovate your shipping container home
Image credit: Mini Pod

Hobby shed made from container homes

There are many homeowners who use shipping containers to create a dedicated space for their hobbies such as the following:

Music room and recording studio

The metal walls of shipping containers plus excellent acoustics give you the perfect place to practice playing musical instruments and record your craft. Soundproof the walls so no unwanted noise can travel through the walls.

Home gym

Refurbished shipping containers can be used to build you a private and personal gym in your backyard. It is big enough to store your workout equipment, and the steel walls keep your valuables secured inside. 

Renovate your shipping container home
Image credit: The Gym Pod Singapore

Projects that require modified shipping containers often require the help or services of design and construction professionals. These projects offer a unique set of challenges and having experienced professionals in your team will help you address them the right way. 

Find the design and construction professionals you need at Dreamspace.

Professionals you need when renovating and building shipping containers

There are quite a few professionals whom you need to work with when you plan to build or renovate a shipping container property. 

Here they are: 

  • Architects or building designers – These design professionals will help you conceptualise your project and create the planning drawings for the builders and local council.
  • Land surveyors – These construction consultants will survey your site and make sure that you will situate your shipping container home on the right spot within your property’s boundaries. 
  • Thermal performance assessors – These construction consultants will help you design a home that’s truly energy efficient and comfortable for the occupants. 
  • Structural engineers – These construction consultants will make sure that the proposed design of the shipping container home is structurally sound, and provide the designer with recommendations to further improve it. 
  • Builders who have experience in container home construction – Of course, you will need the services of builders who specialise in your project. You want to execute the plans the right way to avoid construction mistakes and delays.
Renovate your shipping container home
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Purchase the tall or high-cube cargo container

You have a choice from standard and high cube containers. So far, most homeowners go with the standard 20ft. and 40ft. shipping containers. Go for the high cube container to score additional ceiling height. 

Check the local building codes and work with designers knowledgeable with these

Nothing feels worse than getting your dream project rejected by the local council. Read your local building codes and look for a designer who is knowledgeable and updated with these codes. 

It is crucial to have a project that adheres to the rules and regulations before you submit it to the council for approval. 

Design your shipping container home so it naturally heats and cools itself

Container homes are still metal boxes; these still heat up and cool quickly. You will  need to orient the structure accordingly, apply the right kind of insulation, seal all the openings, install energy-efficient windows,glazing, and more.

Work with professionals who have experience in designing and renovating energy-efficient and passive designed container homes. Do it to cut the costs of running your container home.

Renovate your shipping container home
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Enlist the help of design and construction professionals

Get the help of a professional to ensure that your container home gets approval to build from your area’s governing body, that its design is up to standard, that your methods impact the environment as little as possible, and that you get to save money on construction costs.

Find the design and construction professionals you need in Dreamspace.

Renovate your shipping container home
Image credit: Matt Elkan Architect

Cost of building a container home vs. cost of buying and renovating an existing container home

As mentioned earlier, shipping container home projects fall under the ‘budget’ up to the ‘luxury’ home category.

If you are on a budget, there are container home projects that cost between $200,000 to $300,000. There are container home renovations that cost around $30,000 too!

If you want a three to four bedroom, two-storey container home, prepare a budget of more than $350,000+. This much money will give you a mid to high-range container home design.

It is highly recommended to prepare the same amount of money when renovating shipping container homes. This will give you enough funds in case you discover previous construction mistakes and repairs that need to be rectified as soon as possible.

If you are working on a tight budget, your design options are very limited. You will keep a lot of the structure’s existing layout and design.

Get started with your shipping container home with Dreamspace

Use Dreamspace’s project dashboard to execute your upcoming shipping container project. From one simple dashboard we make it super easy to:  

  • Plan a successful outdoor renovation
  • Find inspiration
  • Monitor the progress of your project
  • Coordinate with the professionals onboard
  • Get quotes 
  • Manage your project from design through to build.

Sign up here or get a free quote.

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