Pros and Cons of a Container Home Guest House?

Pros and Cons of a Container Home Guest House?

Looking for a way to bring in some extra income?  Need a space for guests staying with you but your house is already crowded?  If you have the space in your backyard then one idea would be to put a shipping container home back there.  The cost of using a shipping container home as a guest house will save you a lot of money when you compare it to a traditional built home. 

There are some pros and cons that you may come across as you look into adding a guest home to your backyard.  Some zoning laws may not allow any kind of guest house in your area.  But there are a lot of benefits as well, such as low cost to build.

Pros Of a Container Home Guest House


Price is going to be a big factor that is on the buyer’s side.  With the cost of a shipping container home being a fraction of the cost of a traditional built home, you would be able to quickly make a profit if your goal is turning the guest house into a rental.

In general, a shipping container home is at least 30% cheaper than a traditional built home.  It is possible to build one cheaper, if you were to DIY one yourself or get a basic finished container home and DIY the interior.


Reusing shipping containers can be environmentally friendly.  There are millions upon millions of shipping containers currently around the world that have no use and are being wasted in various ports.

This is especially true of the one use containers. There are millions of containers that are only used for one trip across the ocean. 

Only a fraction of them end up getting used.  A 40 ft. shipping container has 8,000 pounds of steel.  

By reusing a 40 ft. container, you are not only using that 8,000 pounds, but it also saves roughly 8,000kWh that it would take to melt it down. Repurposing a shipping container and using it as is, uses only about 400 kWh.

By using a shipping container as a guest house, you are reusing and repurposing material that would otherwise be wasted or require a lot of energy to melt down to repurpose it.

Some people take time to research areas to stay when they go on vacation that are green or going green.  A shipping Container Airbnb is very green and would be an added benefit to mention in rental listings.

Quick Construction

A traditional home can take 4-12 months to build. In comparison, Off Grid Dwellings shipping container homes take 8-10 weeks to build and deliver. 

Most of our units will be finished, you would just need to add features for the bathroom and bedroom/s.  Once furnished you are ready for guests to arrive.

Cons Of a Container Home Guest House

Building Permits and Zoning

Different cities and counties will have different codes, permits, and zoning rules and regulations. Those will affect where you can and cannot build a guest house in your backyard.

The first step in looking into a shipping container guest house is to check with your local officials to determine if it is feasible to place a shipping container on your property.

The issue that you could run into here is that container home living is fairly new and is slightly harder to obtain permitting for than a traditional constructed home is.

You may have a good chance of being the first one, or one of the first ones, in your area to apply for permitting for a shipping container home.  You may want to do some research before going to your local building planning office.  Our container homes do require a foundation, and that will help with the process of permitting if it hasn’t been done in your area.

Ecological Footprint

Although you would be repurposing a shipping container there are some environmental concerns that go along with them. 

They aren’t 100% eco-friendly.  Even a one trip container needs to go through a rigorous cleaning and refinishing process.

The shipping container needs to be sandblasted before it can be lived in.  The flooring needs to either be replaced or sealed.  All of the openings need to be cut using a torch, which uses a lot of energy and emits CO2.

Then there are the carbon emissions that come from having it transported to you, as well as any assembling required.


Because container homes are still in their infancy, not a lot of contractors have had experience with building one.

If you’re the first one in your area to build a shipping container guest house, you may need to do a bit of research about local contractors to find the right one to help you with your guest house.

Finding a contractor that has worked with shipping containers would be ideal, and if you have one in your area you are a step ahead.

If there isn’t one in your area, then a contractor who has built steel structures would be the next best option.  They would know the codes and regulations for building steel structures, which is what the shipping container is.

One very important thing to keep in mind with a contractor is to ensure that they are disposing of the waste from the build correctly.

The Bottom Line

Considering the cost savings, the potential for reclaiming steel and going green, and the investment possibilities, you could have a guest house in your backyard in a relatively short amount of time.

There are some concerns when building a shipping container guest house, but with some planning and careful safety precautions, it can be built with minimum impact in your backyard.

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