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Different Types and Sizes of Shipping Containers Used for Homes

Innovation in housing has seen a remarkable shift towards sustainability and creativity, with shipping container homes leading the charge. Initially used for transporting goods across oceans, these structures are now being repurposed into stylish and functional residences. This guide explores the different types and sizes of shipping containers that can be transformed into your dream home.

Understanding Shipping Container Specifications

Before diving into the types and sizes, it’s crucial to understand some basic specifications that define shipping containers:


Most shipping containers are made from corrosion-resistant steel, which provides durability and strength.

Standard Sizes:

Containers typically come in two lengths, 20 feet, and 40 feet, with a standard height of 8.5 feet. However, variations like ‘high-cube’ containers offer an additional foot in height, enhancing the space.

Design: While most containers are rectangular, there are specialized types for different purposes, affecting their suitability for specific home designs.

Types of Shipping Containers for Homes

1. General Purpose Containers

Also known as ‘dry containers,’ these are the most common type used for homes. They are fully enclosed, weather-resistant, and ideal for basic modifications. Available primarily in 20-foot and 40-foot lengths, they provide a solid foundation for a compact and efficient living space.

2. High-Cube Containers

High-cube containers are similar to general-purpose containers but with an extra foot in height, typically 9.5 feet. This extra vertical space makes them particularly popular among those looking to create a more spacious interior, allowing for additional insulation or creative ceiling designs without compromising headroom.

3. Open Top Containers

Open-top containers are a perfect choice for homes requiring high vertical space, such as indoor gardens or loft areas. They have a convertible top that can be removed to install a glass ceiling or other features, seamlessly blending indoor and outdoor elements.

4. Flat Rack Containers

Flat rack containers have collapsible sides, allowing for the flexibility to create open-plan designs or larger spaces when combined. They are ideal for homeowners creating expansive terraces or integrating multiple containers into one unified space.

5. Refrigerated ISO Containers

Also known as ‘reefer containers,’ these are insulated containers initially designed to transport perishable goods. Their built-in insulation makes them an excellent option for homes in extreme weather conditions, reducing the need for additional thermal insulation.

Sizes of Shipping Containers for Homes

20-Foot Containers

Standard Dimensions: 20’ x 8’ x 8.5’

Usable Area: Approximately 160 square feet

Ideal for: Single resident studios, office spaces, or modular units in larger home constructions.

40-Foot Containers

Standard Dimensions: 40’ x 8’ x 8.5’

Usable Area: Approximately 320 square feet

Ideal for Family homes, spacious living areas, or multiple-bedroom units when combined.

40-Foot High-Cube Containers

Dimensions: 40’ x 8’ x 9.5’

Usable Area: Approximately 340 square feet

Ideal for: Those requiring extra vertical space for loft areas or higher ceilings.

Choosing the Right Container for Your Home

Selecting the right type and size of container for your home depends on several factors:


Costs can vary depending on the type and condition of the container. Newer ones are more expensive but may require fewer modifications.

Local Climate:

Consider the thermal properties needed based on your local weather. Refrigerated containers might be more cost-effective in hotter climates.

Building Codes and Restrictions:

Please always check local regulations to figure out what types of containers and modifications are allowed in your area.

Aesthetic Preferences:

Some prefer the rustic look of older containers, while others might opt for new ones that allow them to easily apply modern design elements.


Shipping container homes are a testament to the versatility and creativity of modern architecture. With various types and sizes available, these containers can be transformed into custom, innovative homes that cater to any lifestyle and budget. Whether you’re building a compact studio or a spacious family home, shipping containers offer a sustainable, cost-effective, and stylish housing solution.

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