The port of Houston hit a new record for processed container volume last year. The port handled 2.7 million 20-foot equivalent units. That’s up 10% from the previous year.
With this much volume, there are plenty of containers in the area that are available for purchase. Their affordability and durability make them an attractive option for multiple construction projects.
If you are considering using freight shipping containers for a home building project on your property, you need to read this guide first. It may save you countless hours of frustration, time and money.
Let’s get started talking about some local regulations affecting your container use.
Where to Build Your Shipping Container Home
Texas is known for being one of the friendliest states when it comes to building with shipping containers. They tend to have more relaxed regulations when it comes to construction and zoning in general.
For even greater building freedom, stick to the suburban and rural areas. The closer you get to larger cities like Houston the more regulations will be in place.
Keep in mind it isn’t just the city and state government regulations you have to contend with. Many neighborhoods have an HOA agreement that regulates what can and cannot be built in a particular neighborhood or community.
Using Your Container for Storage
Don’t assume that you can use a shipping container for storage or as a shed on your property. Just outside of Houston the DeerPark City Council members decided they didn’t want shipping containers used for permanent storage within city limits.
If a business wants to use a container, they must obtain a Special Use Permit. Even after approval, there are many other rules you need to follow. For instance, you cannot stack one container on top of another.
You must also build an 8-foot opaque privacy fence to block the public view.
Hotel Made of Containers
Shipping containers aren’t just for storage, homes, and mobile offices in the Houston area. About an hour and a half outside of Houston in Round Top they are welcoming in a shipping container hotel. This shouldn’t be a surprise since the city is known as a mecca for antique and green living enthusiasts. They approved a six container hotel located just minutes from downtown. There are even plans to expand the hotel with more containers in the future. If you are looking to build, this would be an attractive area with container friendly zoning and codes.
Can You Build a Container Home in Houston?
The short answer is yes, you can. There is no law prohibiting you from using shipping containers to build your home. However, there are some restrictions that we will get into in the next section. There is also the opposition you may face from those who do not want a container home in their neighborhood.
Container homes are being successfully built in and around Houston. For example, this colorful home located in one of the many transition neighborhoods uses 4 containers.
Your Container Home Can’t Be Too Tiny
We’ve all seen the tiny home trend where people live in a microscopic floor plan. One shipping container is perfect for this sort of living. However, you won’t be doing it in Houston.
There are minimum dwelling regulations that your home must comply with. For instance, you must have at least one habitable room that is 120 square feet. Then the other habitable rooms must have no less than 70 square feet.
No habitable room in your home can be less than 7 feet wide in any horizontal direction. The exception here is the kitchen. There is also a minimum ceiling height. You need to keep this in mind as it may make the difference between you buying a standard height container or a high cube.
The minimum ceiling height in Houston is 7 feet. A standard cube is 8’6″, and a high cube is 9’6″. Now, this may seem like a lot of room, but you need to factor in your HVAC system, electrical wiring, and insulation. By the time you are done the finished ceiling on the inside of your container could be a foot lower than the height of the container. Then you still need to think about if you plan to install a ceiling fan. So, as you can see, there is a lot to think about when designing a tiny home out of a shipping container.
Use a Certified Fabricator
Make sure you work with a certified fabricator for the other prefabricated building components you will need. If you plan to cut away a large portion of the container, you will need to construct alternative load bearing structures from steel.
If you buy your trusses and beams from a certified fabricator, then individual inspections are not required. A city inspector will check for certification numbers on the structural components during your construction. However, if you have these numbers already, you can make the whole build out go a lot smoother.
Start Using Freight Shipping Containers
Whether you plan to use freight shipping containers for storage, an office, or your home, you need to check with the local and state regulations to ensure that your new structure is legal. You don’t want to invest time and money only to find out that your new building needs to be taken down.
Start by deciding how you want to use your container. Then check to see if that use is allowed. If you plan to build a container home, make sure you follow all of the codes because inspectors will be checking that you are throughout your building process.