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Shipping Container Homes vs. Prefabricated Homes

Design Trends, Building Your Home


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 are far cheaper than purchasing a traditional homes. A shipping container home also makes a statement about environmental sustainability, demonstrating how old, industrial materials be 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-build 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!

An overall positive experience with very few hassles.Eric
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  • FAQ

    Where can I get a price list or How come your website doesn’t show pricing?

    Prices vary geographically, depending on where you are building. With the amount of options available, price lists run into thousands of options. Prices change with the options you choose. The best way to get an idea on pricing would be to contact our Design Centre nearest to where you are building.

    What is your average square foot selling price?

    Prices for a complete home, including foundation vary from $200 sq-ft to over $300 because our homes are all custom built, we can design a home to fit your budget.

    Why should I buy from you over a conventional or "Stick-Builder"?

    The advantages of prefab include building in a climate controlled environment, using environmentally friendly products which reduces waste and a CSA monitored quality controlled program. There is less time start to finish, with less disruption to neighborhood. We also sell at a firm price.

    Do your homes include a foundation?

    Yes our homes include full foundation and basement.

    How long does it take to build a Royal Home?

    It takes less than two weeks to build a home in our factory, but the process from start to finish is very dependent on the timing of obtaining a building permit. For most of our clients the process from start to delivery is twelve to sixteen weeks with move in eight to twelve weeks thereafter.

    What size homes do you build?

    As a custom builder we can build any size home but generally the average size range is between 1300 and 3500 sq feet.

    Do you build garages?

    Yes. Garages are built on site after the home is delivered.

    Are the homes energy efficient?

    Building a prefab home in a factory assures the highest attention to sealing the building envelope and ensures that the cold stays out.

    Since your homes are so energy efficient and air tight, how do you get fresh air?

    All our homes have HRV heat recovery ventilator air exchanger to remove stale air, and introduce fresh air.

    Where can I put a prefab home?

    Anywhere in Ontario you like.

    Can I really customize my prefab home?

    Yes, we use state of the art custom design software, today no two homes are built alike.

    Do you finish the basement?

    Yes. We can customize your basement to the finishes you desire.

    Are Royal Homes built to code?

    All Royal Homes are individually designed to meet all provincial and municipal building codes for your specific lot location.

    Do you build stick-built or conventional homes as well?

    We are a custom home builder first and use prefabricated components wherever we can, because it is a better way to build. If you have a remote site or custom home design with large open spaces we would look at what makes most sense for that design and location. This could include prebuilt panels or partially site built specific rooms.

    What makes the building process environmentally friendly?

    Waste in the factory is separated and recycled, reducing the impact on landfills. This has less disruption in terms of noise and time at job site. Building prefab allows for higher energy efficient homes and reduced heating costs.

    How is your home delivered?

    Our home is delivered by way of custom designed hydraulic flatbed trailers and precisely craned onto the foundation.

    Can you make changes or custom design?

    Yes, clients are given preliminary plans to review and changes are welcome and easily accommodated.