My Home in a Box

Despite several controversial issues with using shipping containers as homes, there are still many people who are interested in converting the ubiquitous metal structures into their own tiny house. My Home In a Box is a blog dedicated to shipping containers and how they can be used as the basis for a small or tiny home. With its various photos, videos, information on exterior and interior design, the blog is a great reference.

The blog covers building with both 20 foot and 40 foot containers, information on insulation, alternative energy, heating and cooling and interior and exterior ideas. The owner of the blog, Dean, has also designed his own conceptual off-grid shipping container home with a composting toilet, a living room with a hidden bed, water storage, a solar panel and wind turbine and a hot water heater on the roof. The design also has a two drawbridge sides that become decks, an aquaponics system and the ability to store up to 6 months worth of food.

Dean has also designed a shipping container model kit that can be used for envisioning your own shipping container home with the correct size proportions. The kit contains two 20 foot shipping container models which are scaled down to 20 cm long (10 cm = 2 feet) and one 40 foot container which is 40 cm long. The kit also includes a blueprint plan so you can design the interior layout of your container house. The kits cost between $19.99 and $34.99.

Photos courtesy of My Home in a Box


By Christina Nellemann for the [Tiny House Blog]


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Lawrence - August 27, 2012 Reply

Just wondering what the “controversial issues with using shipping containers as homes” actually are?

Is there a link to the pros and cons anywhere or an overview of whats not good with shipping container homes?

PS I wouldn’t be asking if I knew the answers…

Paul Adams - August 27, 2012 Reply

If you go to the hobby shop in the model railroad section, there are a wide range of containers available in different scales (N,HO,O) that are already assembled and come in undecorated or painted versions. Less expensive and better looking than this kit.

    Wayne - August 27, 2012 Reply

    For even less expense (as in “free”) and nearly as handsome, try: This is just one of many similar sites. Search for “card models” or “paper models.” An excellent idea for planning purposes. Happy Containering.

Christina Nellemann - August 27, 2012 Reply

Lawrence, some cargo containers have coatings on them that contain harmful chemicals and lead paint. Sanding or blasting these chemicals off can also be dangerous. There is more information here:

Meander - August 27, 2012 Reply

I was curious what the controversial issues were too. I’ve never heard of coatings in shipping containers before, but it sure sounds important to know.

liz goertz - August 28, 2012 Reply

heating(they are ovens if left in the sun) cooling, and condensation. Think about taking a mettle box, closed up and putting it out in the weather,it will be hot as Hades in the sun, cold in shade or at night and it doesn’t breath, so try putting a potted plant in that box and that will start to explain the issues with container houses.

    MJ - August 28, 2012 Reply

    Liz, in any structure without adequate air flow, a potted plant isn’t going to do too well! A container is only a shell but done right (including addressing any ‘coating’ issues properly), it’s a great way to start with an inexpensive, strong shell!

Hendrik - August 28, 2012 Reply

1 foot = 30.48 centimeters

Abel Zyl Zimmerman - August 30, 2012 Reply

I see the general concept. But building from a stack of materials OR cutting up/welding a steel container… which works out better? Just curious. How much have built out shipping container houses ended up costing?

Sandra D - August 31, 2012 Reply

Since I live in a house made of shipping containers, I had to comment. The problems we have faced in our 10 years have been one of needing constant repair. Our floors crack, our walls buckle and our ceiling is currently in need of replacing. Granted, we are living overseas where materials and labor are not what you would find in the US. When the outside temp gets to 80F, it is hot inside. When it drops down to around 60F it is cold. It is also noisy; we have a corrugated metal roof. It is a comfortable place in the middle of rural Africa, but it certainly has issues. I wouldn’t recommend it for anything long term. But for a temporary or limited use structure, possibly.

D Whit - August 31, 2012 Reply

Nothing but profit for the brokers that sell them.

Designed for freight, not humans.
You can lumber frame these same dimensions cheaper or equal to the expense of the purchase, transportation and modification of steel containers.

jeremy - September 1, 2012 Reply

check out i believe the start of something big. factory made homes using new ISO approved shipping container steel cage but made with sip walls. best of both worlds. enjoy

Rob - September 1, 2012 Reply

Perhaps if you did chose to use a sea container, you would still frame the inside, and spray foam for insulation. You could still have ventilation as per regular housing?

Also, by purchasing a sea container with double doors at each end would allow you plenty of ventilation. Framing a sliding glass door at both ends would allow for plenty of air flow. There wouldn’t be a requirement for windows along the length of the sea container, thus the outside doors could be closed for security when not in use. Sounds like it would make a good recreational unit?

Condensation would be an issue as it would be difficult for the metal to breathe. I would personally fix one up to be a storage unit for my mountain bike, kayak, skis and backpacking gear along with tooling. An 8×20 home built on a dual axle trailer would be more cost affective, livable and mobile in my opinion.

Good discussion.

Linda - September 2, 2012 Reply

Shipping containers are CHEAP these days with shipping companies going out of business left and right.

stone supplier - October 1, 2012 Reply

Woooooow! Really interesting post and a great conception.

blooming nest - November 22, 2012 Reply

[…] and exterior ideas. The owner of the blog, Dean, has also designed his own conceptual off-grid shipping container home with a composting toilet, a living room with a hidden bed, water storage, a solar panel and wind […]

Solar Burrito - March 7, 2013 Reply

Is $2000 for a metal box cheap? You still need insulation, windows, flooring and all the expensive finishes. I would much rather build a cabin unless you have a specific need in mind. Bunker or security… not looks 🙂

Shipping containers won’t ever be cheap when the price of steel is high like it is. I pass 1000s on my way to work everyday… I would love one for secure storage shed.

They are painted with Marine paint to withstand ocean transport…

Kent Dyer - March 7, 2013 Reply

As on many shipping container blogs I would have to say most people do not have a clue about these homes. They are fire prof, tornado resistant and if built right will hold together against almost anything nature can throw at it. How do I know this you ask? Well I have done lots of research on the subject. Plus we are over half finished with ours. 22 containers welded together. 3 floors high. 33 windows and sliding class doors. R-75 insulation. 42 solar panels and a 3500 lb. 48 volt battery. A solar powered well we drilled ourselves. 2 of us are doing all the work. I have to say it is a great project but the hardest one I have ever undertaken. I would not trade this for anything. Try one you will love it. 2 or 3 20 footers are a good start.

Basel - March 8, 2013 Reply

My next home for sure

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