Shipping Container Homes vs. Prefabricated Homes

Finding an affordable home in cottage country can be tough. It’s no surprise that many families are looking for alternatives to traditional, stick-built homes as a way to afford this luxury without breaking the bank.

One unusual concept that has attracted a lot of press recently is the idea of homes built from shipping containers. These so-called ‘shipping container homes’ offer a unique spin on the typical prefabricated home…but are they an option prospective homeowners should take seriously?

With shipping container homes gaining in popularity, we think it’s worth looking at how they compare to a custom prefabricated home ‒ and why you might be better off thinking out of the box.

What Are Shipping Container Homes?

To put it simply, shipping container homes are homes made from shipping containers! The basic structure of the house uses one or more old, out-of-service containers. These boxes can be bought relatively cheaply, thus bringing down the cost of the entire home.

You might not think much of living in shipping containers assembled together to form a house. But there are some impressive and creative home designs out there that use shipping containers.

These container homes are usually shipped to the building site as a bare skeleton, then assembled in place. Any interior work is then carried out on-site either by the homeowner or professional contractors.

Most people who choose to own shipping container homes do it for several reasons. First, since these homes can be assembled on-site in a modular fashion, they are far cheaper than purchasing traditional homes. A shipping container home also makes a statement about environmental sustainability, demonstrating how old, industrial materials are repurposed and made useful again.

How Does a Shipping Container Home Compare to a Prefabricated Home?

A prefabricated home, also known as a prefab, is any house constructed off-site and shipped to the building site to be fully assembled. There, contractors can complete any finishing touches and connect the home to plumbing, electrical and gas utilities.

Technically, all shipping container homes can be classified as prefabricated homes, since most of the manufacturing is done off-site and assembly is done on-site.

Of course, not all prefab homes are anything like a shipping container home. Far from it!

To start, a custom prefabricated house doesn’t need to look prefab or ‘modular’ at all. The distinct design aesthetics of a shipping container home set it apart from traditional homes, while a custom prefab home can be built in almost any architectural style imaginable.

But that’s not all. There are other distinct advantages to customizing your home from the ground up rather than starting from shipping containers.

1. Cost-effectiveness

Compared to a stick-built home, there’s no doubt that building a shipping container home will see you save a ton of money in terms of the overall cost. It’s a relatively simple project and the majority of the costs are related to interior work.

However, custom prefabricated homes are also more affordable than traditional homes, and they can offer significant cost savings in other areas like energy.

2. Eco-Friendliness

Prefabricated homes are built with more energy-efficient materials and designed to be better insulated and sealed.

Shipping containers, by nature, aren’t built to be energy-efficient or well-insulated. They require expensive modifications on-site to be efficient.

3. Quality of Materials and Construction

Echoing the advantage above, our custom prefabricated homes are built to the highest quality standards using top-notch building materials. They comply fully with any municipal by-laws and provincial building codes.

Overall, even the smallest prefabricated home is much more durable than one built from shipping containers.

4. Renovation

Shipping container homes are adapted, not built, as a living space. They’re missing a lot of the structural elements and fixtures of a traditional home. This makes renovation a lot more difficult.

With a prefabricated home that mirrors traditional home designs, this won’t be a problem.

Is a Prefab Home Right For You?

Building a shipping container is a cost-effective and innovative solution, and it’s certainly something that appeals to some people. But a custom, factory-built home will always offer greater freedom to design a house that perfectly meets your needs.

Get in touch with us to learn more about our homes or find the design centre nearest to you!


    Scroll to Top