What does it cost to convert a Shipping Container?

We’re converting two recycled shipping containers (a 40-foot container and a 35-foot container) into a 2/1 dwelling.

We started with a budget of $10,000. 

We’ve been able to use many recycled materials on our project. Thus our cost savings may not accurately reflect how much it costs you to convert your shipping container.

In addition, we have done 99% of the labor ourselves. Our budget includes the electrician and some labor, setup costs,  the container foundation and footing, and the added sloped roof. 

In this article, we give you an overview of what it’s cost us up until now.  Granted, we’re not 100% been finished with our project yet. But we’ll continue to update you as we progress on our construction. 

Also, we will list all the items that we’ve recycled to know that those areas may cost you more when you plan your container conversion.

Where did we get all of our recycled building materials? Well, we do call this the Great Recycling Project.

Previously, one of our shipping containers was a livable space. It came equipped with:

  • a shower 
  • Plumbing and fixtures
  • a small kitchen,
  • Lighting and electrical
  • steel studs,
  • and fiberglass insulation (some of which we’ll reuse in our interior walls for sound reverberation)

Items we’ve recycled

We recycled from the original kitchen:

  • the sink, 
  • the countertop 
  • all of the cabinet and drawer hardware
  • We saved some of the drawers, one cabinet, and a few drawers from the closet;
    • we used Carbosota (or creosote) to treat and keep what we could  

The rest of the cabinets, in our opinion, were too far gone with termite damage. But “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”  Our neighbors were willing recipients and were thrilled to receive the cabinets just as they were. 

We did our best to conserve the shower walls intact and in their original position.  However, We removed the subflooring in the shower and toilet area. In the process, we discovered an exciting hive of bees living underneath.

Our original toilet got broken during delivery when the transportation company dropped our shipping container.

The replacement recycled toilet was a high water consumption and blocked by heavy mineralization. My husband spent the whole day with some muriatic acid, and now it’s as good as new, and we have added some bottles inside the tank to reduce the water consumption of each flush. When we get a chance, we’ll add a water-saving toilet handle.

We had to purchase a bathroom sink and vanity because the original bathroom didn’t have one.

There’s lots of paint that we’ll recycle, mostly oil-based paint that we’ll use on the metal and exterior. We’ll need to buy interior paint, but we’re using up what we have. 

All of our plumbing pipes are recycled. We have a water heater we plan to install that we have been given. So we’ve spent very little on plumbing or electrical. The most significant electrical expense is the inverter and batteries we added for off-the-grid power. We’ll possibly install some solar panels as well.  

All of the steel studding and hat track are recycled.  

The two decks we have are recycled shelving units from one of the containers.

We bought and three doors we already had. A pocket door, an accordion door, and the front door. The windows are recycled except for the tiny window for the kitchen we had to buy. We’re contemplating adding a window in the office; however, we’re not sure about that yet since it has a ventilation fan in there. 

The metal we removed to join the containers we’re using as house skirting

Building Materials we’ve purchased

  • 3 new solid core doors
  • Drywall and dens glass sheeting 
  • Styrofoam Insulation
  • Laminate (Pergo) flooring
  • Floor and Kitchen Tile
  • Track light
  • MDF for kitchen cabinets
  • Bathroom Vanity
  • Aluzinc roofing and galvanized metal for trusses
  • Plywood kitchen shelving, brackets, and varnish
  • 30”x 30” kitchen window
  • Water Storage tank
  • Water pump
  • Screws and small tools for working
  • Inverter & batteries
A few money-saving tips:
  1. Whenever we buy something new, we purchase the best quality we can afford and, if possible, sale or clearance items.
  2. If you choose classic colors, designs, and styles, the building materials and fixtures will look elegant for a long time. Whenever you use very trendy designs, they become outdated very quickly.

The Bottom Line

Updated 8/5/21 This is how we’re doing so far. I believe it reflects about 90% of the actual cost. We need to buy a few more flooring ceiling items, and probably some more paint.

You’ll need to include in your budget things like labor costs (a major part of construction costs)  and add more allowance for electrical and plumbing, etc. If you don’t have any recycled materials to use you need to add those too. Don’t forget to calculate for inflation; building materials fluctuate a lot. 

It’s likely to cost you a minimum of $20,000 (twice our original budget) to get a similar container home.  

**We are an affiliate partner of Amazon.com. We get a small percentage of the sale when you buy something through our links. This helps us keep the site running and provide you with great content. Thanks again for supporting us!

Let us know: 
DO you have any money-saving ideas? 
Did you finish a project of your own? How much did you spend?


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