Planning is the most important part of any project, and container homes are no exception. Building a new home often exceeds the budget and timeline by about 15 to 20%. It is crucial to create a solid plan and stick to it. Let’s take a closer look at how to plan the construction of your container home.
1. Establish your budget
The first step in planning is to establish your budget. It doesn’t make much sense to plan for a 4,000 square foot house if you only have $50,000 available. Determine how much money you have in savings. If you are willing to take out a loan, that amount will be included in the total money available for the project.
This is your budget, and allow for a 20% contingency fund. A contingency fund is a reserve of money used to cover unexpected expenses during the construction of your home.
It is true that most constructions have unforeseen expenses. Here’s how to calculate the contingency fund with a total of $150,000 available. Twenty percent of $150,000 equals $30,000. Subtract the contingency sum of $30,000 from the total value of available funds of $150,000. That remaining amount will be the actual budget to build your container home. Your construction budget is now $120,000, with a contingency fund of $30,000. Your project should be based on this $120,000 value, reserving the $30,000 for any issues that may arise.
2. Plan, Decide, and Finalize your design
Now it’s time to design your container home. It is important to calculate your budget before this step so that you can plan realistically. You can design anything from a small single-container home to a multi-story mansion. The combinations of containers are almost endless and can be perfectly tailored to your needs.
The best way to plan is to start by thinking through logical questions before worrying about all the details, such as how many containers you need or how to insulate your building.
Instead, ask questions like: What will the house be used for? How many people will live in it? Take step-by-step progress. Make decisions on the main things first. Then add more details as you go. Remember, the more specific your answers are, the better your design will be.
Changing your design halfway through construction costs a lot of money. Don’t be like the couple who decided to remove an internal wall from the container. Then they decided they didn’t want the open room after all and put the wall back. In total, the changes cost them $5,000 in wasted materials and time. Better planning would have avoided this expense.
3. Decide who will build
After deciding on the design of your container home, you need to think about who will build it. Many people choose to build their own container home. It is less expensive and more rewarding. If you want to build a container home, consider if you have enough relevant experience and practical skills. If you do, refer to our guide “How to build your home with containers.”
If you don’t have enough experience or lack the time, you should consider hiring a contractor to build the home. Builders often have extensive experience and can construct the home in less time. However, they will be much more expensive. If you are considering hiring a builder, make sure to:
Request references. Do they guarantee their work? How long is the warranty? Do they have liability insurance?
If you decide to hire a builder, read the article on how to find one.
4. Where will you build your container home?
You’ve established your budget, designed your container home, and decided who will build it. Now it’s time to find a piece of land that meets your needs. The reason we advise people to design their container home before finding land is so that they can design the actual container home they want and not be limited to a specific piece of land.
To find land, identify a specific area where you are interested in building. You can search online and use websites, or you can do it the old-fashioned way, by driving around. Sometimes, you can find a great deal! Don’t underestimate the importance of driving around the area you’ve identified. Look for sale signs. Talk to local residents. Local residents may know about land that may be for sale before it even appears in real estate listings.
Once you find a piece of land that interests you, make sure to speak with the municipality or local planning/zoning department. You need to talk to them and determine the likelihood of obtaining a building permit to construct a container in your city.
If, at this point, the local planning department seems firmly against the idea, it may be better to find land in another district where there are usually fewer restrictions and approvals are more common. For more details on how to prepare the construction site on the chosen land, read our article on land preparation.
5. Is building your container home feasible?
Do you really have the skills and resources necessary to build a container home? Building a container home is hard work and requires money, time, and a variety of skills. Clearly, the two most important resources you will need are time and money.
Next, you will need the knowledge and skills as a builder to be able to convert the container into a home or have enough money to hire someone to build the containers for you. It is also important to plan where you will purchase construction materials before starting the build. For example, if you plan to build a container home but live 1,000 miles away from the nearest container depot, it may not be feasible to build a container home. That would cost a lot of money and also take time for the delivery of your containers at that distance.
Lastly, you should consider building permits/planning permission. It’s a sad truth, but in certain areas of the world, you simply won’t get planning permission to build a container home.
If that’s the position of your local planning department, then you will struggle to change their mind. Sometimes, it’s easier to decide to build a container home in a different district with different planning/zoning laws!
How to Plan the Construction of Your Container Home
Now you should be able to plan your container home, from establishing your budget to finding land. When establishing your budget, make sure to allow for a 20% contingency fund, which will cover you in case of unexpected costs during construction.
To design your container home, start by thinking through logical questions. Then work from those questions to the details. Eventually, you will have enough information to calculate how many containers you need. Make sure to decide who will build your container home. Many container homeowners have built their own homes, but that doesn’t mean you have to do the same. Consider if you have the time and construction knowledge required to do the job.
Find suitable land. Talk to local residents as they may inform you about available land before it appears in real estate listings. Lastly, consider if your container home is feasible. Do you have the time, budget, and resources necessary to make it happen?
Do you have any other suggestions for determining if your container home idea is feasible? Leave a comment below and let us know.