One of the most common questions we get asked about container homes is whether or not a container home needs a foundation since it already has a base.
The simple answer is yes. Without a foundation your container home will likely shift, sink and raise as the ground moves. This will cause structural problems for your shipping container home, often leading to damage and major repair costs.
Having a foundation is necessary for your container home, however, not all foundation types are created equally. There are several factors that you need to understand when choosing the best foundation for your shipping container.
Factors That Determine Your Foundation Type
As mentioned above, there are a variety of factors and conditions that will determine what type of foundation you need to use for your shipping container home.
A few of the more important things you need to look at include:
The soil you are putting your home on plays a huge role in the type of foundation you will need.
The structural integrity of your home will vary greatly if you are placing it on soft, loose soil versus putting it on hard, compact clay.
Understanding the soil type is your first step in determining the foundation type.
Let’s face it, the cost will always come into play when determining how to set up your new container home.
Some foundations such as steel piles will cost a lot more than a concrete pier-style foundation.
Knowing your budget and the cost of each foundation type will certainly help you make the right choice.
The foundation literally holds up your house and plays a huge role in its structural integrity. Some people tend to go the cautious route and install a much stronger foundation than they actually need.
This is perfectly fine but it is something to consider. What is your peace of mind worth? If cost isn’t an issue and you just want to make sure that your container home is secure then you may go with the best, sturdiest foundation possible.
These are just a few of the factors that determine the type of foundation you will need for your container home. It is prudent to assess each factor before choosing the foundation type for your building.
The 4 Foundation Types For Shipping Container Homes
We have assessed the various factors that will determine the type of foundation you choose, however, now we need to look at the 4 main foundation types that exist for container homes.
This is the most affordable type of foundation and the one we recommend to most of our customers. The concrete piers are just concrete blocks with reinforced steel, such as metal bars or wire mesh, inside of them.
The typical size of one concrete pier is about 20”x20”x20”, so they are not overly large and are fairly easy to handle and put into place.
In most situations, you will place your shipping container home down on 6 of these concrete piers (may be more depending on the container size, soil type, etc.).
You will have a pier on each corner of the unit as well as two in the middle to offer the support that your shipping container needs.
It is important to note that this is considered a shallow foundation. If you are placing your home on a really soft soil then this may not be your best type of foundation to use.
For most situations though, this is what we recommend as it is cost effective, easy to install and provides good support for your container home.
You have likely seen a concrete slab foundation used for normal homes or garages. These are quite common in the industry. The concrete slab is basically a flat layer of concrete that you rest your entire home.
These slabs are typically 10-24 inches deep. Given the amount of concrete needed and the time required to install it, the cost is higher than the pier foundation.
The slab foundation type is great for warmer climates that don’t have to worry about freezing and for areas with soft soil.
You will likely need to dig quite a bit in order to properly install your concrete slab but once it is installed, it will provide a high degree of foundational support. It is an exceptional type of foundation.
The strip foundation is a combination of the pier and slab types. Essentially, you will create a perimeter of concrete as well as a strip down the middle to offer great foundational protection without having to install a full concrete slab.
Typically people will turn to a strip foundation if their ground is a little softer than normal, however, they don’t want to pay for an expensive concrete slab foundation. It is sort of the best of both worlds.
It is important to note that the strip foundation is considered a shallow foundation and may not hold up great against earthquakes or strong winds. Similarly, this type of foundation is best suited for smaller to mid-sized builds.
The most expensive type of foundation and usually used when the ground is simply too soft to put a concrete slab down.
For this type of foundation, you will hammer in a steel pole as deep as you need to go to hit a layer of ground better suited for supporting a structure (i.e. bedrock).
Once the metal pole is in place, you will fill all around it with concrete. Once the project is completed and the soil filled back in, the pile foundation often looks similar to the pier foundation, we discussed above. For a pile foundation, you will need a contractor to carry out the work for you. This is not one you would want to try on your own.
The Cost To Install a Foundation
We understand the 4 types of foundations and which ones are more expensive than others but what can you expect to actually pay to install a foundation for your container home?
Unfortunately, the answer will vary depending on the size, type and whether you complete the work yourself or hire it out to a contractor. With that said, here are a few expense estimates to at least give you an idea of what to expect.
Concrete Pier Foundation - As your most affordable option, this will typically cost you about $550 for a 40’ container home.
Concrete Slab Foundation - The price for this will vary greatly depending on the depth you need to dig, however, on average the cost is about $6000 for a 40’ container home.
Strip Foundation - On average, the cost for a strip foundation is around $5000 for a 40’ container home.
Pile Foundation - This is a tough one to estimate as you will need to hire a contractor and the depth of your steel pile and subsequent concrete filling could vary greatly. Just know that this is a very expensive option and it is best to contact a local contractor to learn more about the costs associated with this work.
How Much Do Shipping Container Homes Cost?
The price for a shipping container home will vary depending on the size of container and where you purchase it from. At Off Grid Dwellings, you can get a studio container home for as low as $23,995 or a 3 bedroom shipping container home for $99,995.
The price will depend greatly on the size of the container, the number of containers and the custom options you request.
Are Container Homes Hard to Build?
Prefabricated shipping container homes are very easy to set up. Once the container home is delivered to your land, you will likely need a crane or something similar to place the container home on your foundation.
If it is a single container home, then this is pretty much all you need to do. If you have a multiple container home then you will likely need to join the containers together, which is a simple process that most contractors can easily handle.
The Bottom Line
Even though a container home comes with a sturdy base, it should still be placed on a foundation to preserve its structural integrity and prevent any possible future damage. The choice of foundations depend on the factors listed above, do your research and give your container home the right foundation it needs!