Shipping container homes in Canada are popping up all over short-term rental sites and are even being sold as an alternative to traditional homes.
A growing number of enthusiast builders are using shipping containers thanks to the durability and stability they provide compared to a standard wood-framed structure.
Shipping container homes cost in Canada can be anywhere from $25,000 to $500,000 and more. The cost is as variable as traditional housing, depending on the size of the container home, how many storeys it is, the cost of the land it’s on, and how technical the build is.
Below, I’ll outline some of the key factors that will determine the costs of building or buying a shipping container home in Canada. Are you ready to try this alternative living style?
Shipping container homes aren’t quite as popular in Canada as they are in the US. However, the trend is steadily growing. Canada has a number of port cities, which means that there’s no shortage of empty containers for sale.
The empty containers, themselves, can often be purchased for less than $5,000. However, a lot more goes into constructing a container home than the cost of the shipping container. The container merely serves as a solid shell.
The inside structure must be fully constructed, the same as a traditional home would be.
This includes costs such as:
- Building a foundation
- Wood framing the interior of the container
- Drywall and insulation
- Running electrical, plumbing, and gas lines
- Waterproofing the container
- Cutting windows and door frames from the container
- Installing windows and doors
This means that the cost of buying a pre-made shipping container home in Canada is comparable to purchasing a traditional house. In fact, shipping container homes may be even more costly than traditional homes due to higher demand in the niche market.
If you’re searching to buy a shipping container home that’s already on a plot of land, then expect to pay at least $150,000 for a simple build.
There’s also another alternative – purchasing a pre-made shipping container and having it delivered to a property that you already own.
Container home manufacturers like Modhaus Plus can ship you a shipping container home. You simply need to provide a foundation, hire a crane to unload the structure and connect the home to utilities.
As far as building a shipping container home in Canada goes, you’ll have two options:
- Build the home yourself (if you have the skills and help)
- Contract a professional builder
I’d say that the majority of people are going to have to end up contracting professional builders to complete the job. Even with a background in construction, you may still require third-party contractors to handle certain aspects of the job, such as electrical wiring and plumbing.
If you plan on building a shipping container home in Canada, the main cost factor is going to be how complex your build is.
On the one hand, you could buy a $5,000 shipping container, put it on a flat slab of concrete, and go with a super-minimalist build. After all of your expenses, you may be able to build a tiny shipping container mini-home for as cheap as $25,000.
Providing that you already have a piece of land for the container home, this could be a very frugal way to live.
On the other hand, you could go for a more complex build that combines several different shipping containers into one giant structure.
These involve quite a lot of advanced metal work as well as structural engineering and architectural design. Complex container home builds like these can easily cost upwards of $250,000 or more.
There are so many variables that could affect the cost of building or buying a shipping container home in Canada. Because of this, it’s nearly impossible to provide an exact estimate. However, I can give you a list of key expenses so that you can research them according to your own build.
The primary expenses you’ll need to consider when planning for your shipping container home cost includes:
- The cost of the property
- Building materials
- Shipping containers
- Obtaining building permits
- Cost of building a foundation
- The cost of building the home itself
- The cost of setting up utilities
The cost of both land and homes in Canada has dramatically increased over the past five years. If you plan on building a shipping container home, you’ll need to have a plot of land for it. The cost of the land will vary, depending on:
- Its proximity to major cities
- How accessible it is to major roads
- The size of the land
- Whether or not it has existing water main and electrical connections
Building a container home requires a similar amount of materials to building a home of a similar size. You’ll need wood for the floors, interior framing, and likely the ceiling as well. If you expect to live in the container during the winter, you’ll also need insulation and drywall to line the inner walls of the container home.
It’s also common for shipping containers to include a large surrounding patio structure, which provides added outdoor space for the container home.
When building a container home, you can’t forget about the shipping containers! Thankfully, shipping containers are relatively plentiful and can be found on platforms like Kijiji or Facebook Marketplace. Often, local distributors and shipping companies may sell old shipping containers as well.
Shipping containers vary in size. You may be able to find small shipping containers for as cheap as $1,500, while larger shipping containers may cost upwards of $5,000 or more.
The condition the shipping container is in will also affect the cost. Worn-out containers with rust holes, dents, and failing door hinges will be a lot cheaper than newer hole-free containers.
You’ll also need to factor in the cost of delivering a shipping container to the property. You’ll need to hire a large truck capable of carrying such a load, as well as a crane to unload the container on the property. Delivery and unloading alone can easily cost upwards of $4,000 or more.
You can’t forget about building permits. You might be able to get away with building a small shed-like structure in your backyard without a permit. However, if you’re building a full-on container home that’s going to be lived in, then you’ll need to obtain building permits from your local municipal government.
Here, you might encounter some resistance, depending on specific rules and regulations in your province, city, or town. Permits can range from hundreds of dollars to thousands of dollars, depending on the size and complexity of the container home you’re trying to build.
Like any other home, you’ll need to build your container home on a foundation. Here, there are a number of options, depending on the type of property you’re working with.
Most of the container homes I’ve seen use a simple concrete foundation, and some even have a concrete basement built underneath the container.
However, I’ve also seen some container homes built in the mountains that utilize complex suspension systems, stilts, and other levelling techniques. These can be quite expensive and typically require you to hire a professional engineer.
Unless you’re a professional builder, you’ll likely need some help building the home itself. Even if you’re purchasing a pre-designed home, you may still need to hire a construction company to help set it up, build surrounding structures (such as a deck), and install interior fixtures like cabinets and appliances.
Last but not least, you’ll need to plan on setting up utilities. You’ll need to create a plan for the following:
- Sewage and gray water
- Connection to the water main (or drilling a well)
- Connection to electrical lines (or an off-grid solar setup)
These items can easily add up. Septic tank installation can cost up to $5,000, and connecting your home to a water main and electricity can cost just as much as well. For an exact amount, you’ll need to contact your local city as well as local contractors.
As you can see, building or buying a container home in Canada isn’t exactly cheap. Thankfully, you may be able to get a mortgage to finance the cost of building your container home. Applying for a mortgage for a container home is similar to the process you’d follow to get a mortgage for any other type of custom home build.
Want to compare rates? If so, check out my review of Homewise – one of Canada’s top-rated online mortgage marketplaces.
Although the idea of living in a shipping container home certainly sounds exciting, they can also make for an excellent short-term rental property. I’ve seen some really nice container home builds on Airbnb, for example, that rent for up to $500 per night or more.
Assuming that you have a moderate 60% occupancy rate, you could generate up to $9,000 or more per month by listing the container home on Airbnb or Vrbo.
Container homes are legal in most Canadian provinces and municipalities. However, container homes in Canada must be built to the same building codes and standards that traditional houses are.
There’s a lot of variability when it comes to building or buying a shipping container home in Canada. Low-cost builds on land that you already own could be as low as $25,000, while high-end builds could cost upwards of $250,000 to $500,000, not including the cost of land.
That being said, a container home can be a profitable investment if you plan on renting it out as a vacation rental.
Looking for more great business ideas? Keep on reading to see 15 great business ideas that you can start in Canada!