How To Setup A Shipping Container Home Office

The humble shipping container has often been used for on-site office space on building and construction sites for many years, but these days more and more people are choosing to construct all sorts of things out of new and used cargo containers. Rather than opting for temporary office space, you can create your own home office space with some permanency. They are robust and much of the construction has already been done for you. A shipping container just needs to be modified to suit your personal requirements.

The subject of this post is creating a home office from a shipping container. This is my personal experience and I’ll briefly run you through the process of getting a shipping container modified for the purpose, as well as some of the pros and cons of building a home office from a shipping container.

First Check Local Regulations

There’s little point shopping for a container to use as a home office and having it fitted out, only to discover you’re not allowed to do this in your local area. Always check with the council first. In my case it was all good, but there are different zoning laws for different areas.

Buying A Shipping Container

There are a few options. Obviously there are new and used shipping containers. If you buy a brand new one, then there’s not really much to consider other than the price and the cost of modification. However, if you purchase a used one, which is what I did, then you have to keep in mind a few things.

Firstly, there are a variety of container grades that are designed to tell you what condition a used container is in. The most common grades are A, B and C, with A being the best quality used container. That’s the grade of used container I chose.

You also want to consider the size. There are many different shipping container sizes available on the market. The 20 footer is the most popular, but there is also the mammoth 40 foot container, as well as the small 10 footer. I went with a 20ft container.

Basically my container was still nicely painted, free of rust and dents, and only a few minor scratches marring the finish. All the door seals were good, but that wasn’t really an issue anyway when modifying a container for a home office.

Another thing to keep in mind when buying a second hand shipping container is what’s previously been transported or stored in it. Some questions you want to ask the supplier are things like:

  • Has the container carried or stored dangerous goods?
  • Have any chemicals or pesticides been in the container?
  • What’s the history of the shipping container?

Answers won’t always be available, but it doesn’t hurt to ask and see what you can uncover before purchasing.

Getting My Shipping Container Modified

Fortunately in my case, the company who I purchased my A Grade used shipping container from also specialises in shipping container modifications, so together with their team of experts we came up with a plan and design for my home office and put it into action..

While you can perform all manner of modifications to a shipping container, you also don’t want to overdo it and compromise the integrity of such a sturdy structure. Put in too many windows and doors and the shipping container will lose a lot of its robust qualities.

My aim was to make the office as light and airy as possible without diminishing the strength of the container, and I managed to achieve that result with the help of my container company and their professional design team. Because my container was to be office space, I didn’t want it stifling hot, so insulation was a must. For this you can opt for traditional home insulation, or go for the slightly more expensive “spray foam” option. I chose the spray foam insulation for a number of reasons:

  • It takes up less room
  • It’s very easy to apply
  • It insulates as well as acts as a moisture barrier

Another useful tip is to make sure you’ve settled on your design before modification takes place. Changing anything mid-construction is going to cost more and create headaches.

Shipping Container Delivery And Setup

My shipping container office was to be located in the large front yard of my home. To ensure I had a solid foundation for my new office, I went to the expense of having a concrete slab laid. It’s not always necessary, but I wanted to make sure there would be no issues.

Once the container was delivered and put in place, electricity was hooked up and some minimal landscaping was placed around the container to make it look more like a home office atmosphere. An awning was also constructed over the entrance door for extra shade and protection from the weather.

Some Pros And Cons

One of the biggest positives for myself was the cost. I ended up with a sturdy, modern office that cost quite a bit less than if I’d had it constructed by more conventional methods. Purchasing a used shipping container and repurposing it is also helping the environment by not allowing the container to eventually end up as landfill.

The process of modification and having the office set up on my property was also very quick and efficient. Installation was a breeze really, as there was no plumbing to consider, just the electricity and a small amount of landscaping. If I had one real criticism of my shipping container office, after using it for a while, is that sometimes it doesn’t quite feel wide enough. That’s offset a little visually with several large windows, but sometimes I feel like I’d enjoy just a bit more width.

Overall though, I’m very happy with how the entire process turned out. I’m more than content to work in my new office space, and actually feel quite proud to have clients visit my home office to discuss business. Constructing home office space out of a shipping container is a process I highly recommend. You’ll save time, money, and the results can actually be quite stunning and become a real talking point.

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