The Realities Of Buying And Living In Container Homes

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The new craze for small living spaces appears to be living in container homes. And yes, by that we do mean actual shipping containers, 8 ft x 8ft 6in, with around 150 sq feet of space – converted into living spaces.

It sounds bizarre at first glance, so we decided to do some research and find out if there is actually some sense behind this idea, and found that it’s actually nothing new at all.  People have been living in repurposed shipping containers for decades, especially in towns around ports in developing countries

We have looked at the safety concerns, practicality, cost and environmental impact of buying and converting containers into homes and shared our findings below. This should give you an insight into the realities of living in a container box – who knows, maybe you will be tempted to downsize.

container home
container home

Safety Concerns Of Container Box Living

Before we get into the finer details, it is best to begin with the fundamental requirement of a potential living space – is it safe?

Obviously shipping containers are not designed to be human homes – their primary function is to transport goods across oceans for weeks on end. To enable them to keep the goods inside dry during stormy seas and free from infestations they are treated in two ways that make them questionable for habitation.

Firstly, the floors are wooden, and are soaked in pesticides.

Secondly, the walls are coated in a strong paint containing phosphorus and chromate to protect from salt water and storms at sea.

These two aspects are obviously of real concern to individuals considering converting them into homes.

There are of course a few ways to protect yourself from exposure to the chemicals, some more costly than others.

  • If purchasing a new container, you can specify to the manufacturer that you will be using it as a home – and then they won’t have to treat the walls and floor.
  • For the most part second hand containers are used – and in this instance you can  ask the manufacturers what your container has been treated with. They can track the container’s unique ID number.
  • If you find out that yours has indeed been treated there are 2 ways to make the space safe for habitation.
  1. The first option is pretty expensive, but very thorough. The container can be given a full sandblasting to strip the hazardous coating from the walls,  plus the floors can be replaced.
  2. Non breathable flooring underlay can be laid inside the container, on top of the pesticide treated floor – and then tiles used on top. Spray foam insulation can be used on the internal walls to create a vapour barrier.

Other worries about safety of living in a shipping container include concerns over the ability of such a home to withstand hurricanes. The good news is that they are strong and durable, so should be able to bear hurricanes and floods rather well. They have even been chosen as emergency disaster housing in some instances.

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