Steel shipping containers are an interesting, quick, and cost-effective way to install a robust, portable building in your yard, on your flatbed trailer, or at your business. You can also stack them (8+ tall at sea, in hurricanes), transport them inexpensively, and create an instant rooftop deck.

Like other industrial detritus, metal shipping containers can be a bit difficult to find and move. This instructable will help you find containers for sale and obtain one — or ten.

You can learn more about containerization and its impacts in this fascinating Wikipedia article.

This is the first entry in a (long) series I'll do on converting a shipping container into an off-grid, open-source, affordable house. If you enjoy it please consider supporting my Kickstarter project and/or forwarding it on.


Step 1: Research Regulations

If you're going to go through the trouble of placing a metal box that weighs several thousand pounds in your yard, you should start by making sure your local code enforcers aren't going to promptly make you move it.

As of this writing, I live in Austin, Texas. Codes vary substantially from place to place, so you'll have to verify for your own locale what the deal is.

Here's how I found out I'd (probably) be enforcer-free:

  1. google: Austin city building code
  2. click on first result, go to some Austin city webpage
  3. click on 'frequently asked questions' then 'inspections and permits' then 'permits' then 'do i need a permit?'
  4. sweet! under 'work exempt from permits':

"Building One-story detached accessory structures, provided the floor area does not exceed 200 square feet (18.58 m2). Please keep in mind that although you do not need a permit to build or install the structure you must still abide by any zoning rules and regulations in regards to height, setbacks and trade permits. If you decide to install electricity or plumbing systems into the structure you will be required to obtain those trade permits. Please visit the ‘Zoning’ page to find out what which regulations apply to your home in regards to structure height and/or yard setback areas."

I want to make sure I'm ok on my planned rooftop deck, so on to the zoning page. Yikes: forget it. I'll just do it and take my chances. I think I'm supposed to be at least 5 feet from my neighbor's fences or something.

If you can't avoid zoning issues through an exemption, you're in for a process. Check out what others have done for inspiration/examples. The good folks of The Shipyard, a collection of workspaces consisting largely of shipping containers in Berkeley, California, have been so kind as to publish their use permit details. You can check it out here.


I need a container
<p>Mike if you still need a container I can help you find one. I have access to several right now. Email me or call me 281-259-8550 email: beckycoburn@gmail.com</p>
<p>Can anyone direct me in how or who might donate a shipping container. I'm a volunteer firefighter/emt for a small Eastern Nebraska town. We are seeking a container or 2 to use for live fire training. Any info would be much appreciated. </p><p>My email is Traumahawk61@Gmail.com</p>
Any luck ?
<p>Can anyone explain why the price of these keeps going up? I live in the L.A. area, and the ports have more of these than they can ever get rid of. I know they have scrap value, yet prices seem to climb regardless of scrap prices. At 5cents a pound for steel scrap, a 5000lb container would only be worth $250 max. And there are so many stacked up at the ports, they can't be worth any more than that,</p>
<p>Only a container with major damage is worth scrap prices. All those containers you see at the port are in route to other destinations. Much like a parking lot has lots of cars that eventually go to other places those same cars are also not worth scrap prices... If you want to see what a real scrap container looks like, <a href="https://shipped.com/buyers-guide-shipping-containers.php#ratings">click here</a> and scroll a bit down to &quot;D grade DAMAGED containers&quot;.</p>
<p>Hi Pa1963!</p><p>I just move to L.A from France and I am very interested in getting a shipping container and use it to build a home. Can you help me with some information on L.A's building regulations regarding the containers? or where I can find those information. </p><p>Did you get your container? how big and how much did you get it? </p><p>Thank you very much for your help.</p><p>D- </p>
<p>I would love to own one to create a storage shed in the backyard. Nobody can resist that additional space to store everything you can find around the house &ndash; from tools to knick-knacks all the way to food products. However, I have done some research and found that shipping just a single container would cost even more than the steel slab itself. Hence, until I can find a willing trailer driver who can help me to haul one container over, I think I would just keep it as an impossible dream.</p>
Prices are very decent on shipping.com verses the places ive researched locally
<p>hello . Anyone that have any good ideas how and where to find a cheap container in Tanzania, or how I can get one and cheap transport???</p>
<p>I recommend checking out Saf-T-Box (especially if you're in Texas). I've worked with them for construction projects in Houston and San Antonio and have been pleased each time. Check 'em out at http://www.saf-t-box.com/</p>
<p>Found at: <a href="http://www.track-trace.com/container" rel="nofollow">http://www.track-trace.com/container</a></p>TRIU1924017 - 20' Dry Van Container (D2) <br> <br> <br>Status : Retired1st move from factory (Local) : 02-Feb-1996Manufacturer : QUICHistoryInterchange Type Retired Direct Interchange Lease OutOn Hire Date (Local) 31-Jul-2006 25-Nov-2002Release # RSELC00194On Hire Port SeoulOn Hire Depot KUKDONG Total LogisticsOff Hire/Retired Date (Local) 22-Oct-2009Redelivery #Off Hire PortOff Hire DepotContract MAEX48-200000 MAEX65-200000Customer Maersk Line A/S Maersk Line A/SInterchange Sequence<p>SPECIFICATIONS:</p> <br> <br> <br><strong>TRIU1924017</strong><strong>Internal Dimensions</strong> <strong>Weight &amp; Payload</strong> <strong>Floor</strong> <strong>Cargo Lashing System</strong> <strong>Ventilation</strong> <strong>External Dimensions</strong><strong>Width: </strong>2438 mm<strong>Height: </strong>2591 mm<strong>Length: </strong>6058 mm
<p>Great tips! The first tip is extremely important since local codes greatly vary. We've never ran into an issue with any of our structures. www.modsinternational.com</p>
<p>Great purchase, and good find. Trust me, you will enjoy it for years to come. There are so many things you can do with an old shipping container that is still in good shape for the most part. I plan on purchasing two in the nearer future so that I can use as a painting room. Of course, some work will have to be done to get it to that point, but I am up for the challenge.</p><p>Eric | http://www.allviccontainers.com.au/sales-and-hire </p>
Ericb12 I may have 2 shipping containers for sale if interested call me (812)568-3755
I may have 2 shipping containers for sale. If you are interested my number is (812)568-3755.
<p>How fortuitous....I have a Class A CDL and have hauled containers for many years.</p>
<p><a href="http://toronto.craigslist.ca/tor/bfs/5024150157.html" rel="nofollow">http://toronto.craigslist.ca/tor/bfs/5024150157.ht...</a></p><p>free delivery $1 each </p>
<p> <br> <a rel="nofollow"></a> <br> </p><p> <br> <strong>Construction begins in Corktown on new housing units made from shipping containers</strong> <br> <br></p><p>We're getting a sneak peak at a project that is using shipping containers to create new housing in Corktown. </p><p><a href="http://www.wxyz.com/news/region/detroit/construction-begins-in-corktown-on-new-condominium-units-made-from-shipping-containers" rel="nofollow">http://www.wxyz.com/news/region/detroit/construction-begins . . .</a></p>
<p>We plan to store our dried Salmon and veggies in them!</p><p>www.wildcaughtfishco,com</p>
How about if you completely coated the metal exterior with something to permanently rust proof it. (Maybe a tar based product) Dig a big hole and bury it. Make an underground house. It wouldn't be an eye sore to the rest of the world then.<br><br>I have a thing for underground houses lately. Insulation is perfect, cool in summer and warm in winter. You would have to put it in a location not prone to flooding. A customarily undesirable sloped lot comes to mind. One that isn't really useful to anyone traditionally building a house.
<p>I read that u cannot bury them cuz the sides will crumple under the weight of the ground pressure.</p>

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Bio: bicycles, gardening, and other important stuff
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