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Why You Should Build a Shipping Container Home in Kenya

If you haven’t considered owning a shipping container home, you might want to think again.

With the current ridiculous surge in property prices in the country, home ownership remains a pipe dream for an average Kenyan. Even so, many still remain optimistic in their quest to owning a private home.

Today, rental apartments bridge the gap between owning a house and spending nights in the cold.  

Recently, a simpler avenue to home ownership has surfaced in form of discarded shipping containers to put up low budget homes in urban, suburban, and even rural spaces.

Consequently, many people are embracing these corrugated boxes as an alternative to the traditional brick and mortar structures. They now own modern, cost-friendly, expertly-designed residential spaces in Nairobi, Mombasa, Nakuru, Kisumu, Eldoret, and countless other parts of the country.

But why use shipping containers as an alternative?

To answer this question, we used our years of experience in building houses using containers. Also, we sought the opinions of some of our clients and other container home owners all over Kenya to come up with a list of advantages of shipping container homes.

Generally, most shipping container house owners in Kenya agree that buying container houses comes with advantages over brick-and-mortar structures since containers offer flexibility in expansion and modification, ease of handling and maintaining, and their aesthetic appeal.

There are definitely many other reasons why you should consider buying or building a container house but we have narrowed down to the most important reasons.

So, what are some of the advantages of building a shipping container home?

Let’s jump straight into it.

1. Shipping Container Homes are Modular/Easily Expandable

shipping container house Kenya

The modularity nature of container houses means that you can easily expand the size of your home structure later on if the need arises.

Yes, you can start small and expand your home step by step.

As you probably know, the Kenyan homes model includes studio apartments or bedsitter units and one and two bedroom homes.

Now here is where it gets interesting.

Bedsitter units can be expertly furnished from 20ft cargo containers. The one and two bedroom units are readily built from single 40 feet long containers.

If you happen to visit a shipping container bedsitter home, you will find an economical use of space to accommodate a kitchen, toilet and bathroom, living room and a bedroom.

Now, picture adding more units to this apartment and how much more functional and habitable it could become.

We have seen home owners starting with single housing units and adding more units as time goes by.

The idea behind modularity is borrowed from the traditional homes most of us were raised in. Typically, most Kenyan families start in small homes, with simple single housing units.

Later on, majority of these families shift to the more complex, multi-functional homes as they grow, expand, and acquire more resources.

This means that as your family grows and changes, your home should be flexible enough to grow with you.

With shipping containers, their modularity creates room for humble beginnings and developing the same to accommodate more members, more functions, and more resources.

Ultimately, complete homes will consist of kitchens, expansive living rooms, foyers or verandahs, two or three toilets and bathrooms (some master en suite), two or more bedrooms, storage section, libraries, dining section, etc.

So yes, you can start small and gradually expand if you opt for a shipping container house.

2. Shipping Container Homes are Flexible and Easy to Modify

shipping container house

Another attractive attribute of shipping container homes is simply the ease with which you can modify it.

After putting up your container home, you may feel the need to change its shape, size or appearance.

You may need to move the kitchen, living room or washrooms to different sections, increase the size of your bedroom window or even replace the ceramic tiles on the floor with vinyl, parquet, wood, or epoxy spray.

This is the basic principle of flexibility; i.e., the capacity to re-design and re-structure. Shipping containers are your best bet if you are the type that desires a new look every other time!

Essentially, flexibility as a highly applicable feature of container homes enables you to recreate the whole or parts of your house to accommodate new adventures, tastes or preferences.

Also, when you think of the typical Kenyan family and how it transitions through the years, you will notice most houses are not what they looked like 20 or 30 years before.

Since Kenyans are known to prefer living in tightly-knit social communities, most houses will evolve with time to accommodate;

  • Young and teenage children
  • House helps and other workers
  • Visitors during social/ religious functions
  • Potential live-in relatives
  • Newly acquired household tools, items, upgraded furniture, and equipment

Let’s just say that homes undergo endless transitions time and again. Hence, by investing in a shipping container home, you are introducing your young family to an environment that will accommodate their growing needs in the years to come.

3. Container Homes are Cost-friendly

Think about it. We live in harsh economic times. And also, in a world where everyone, from Jeff Bezos to the common peasant in Laikipia, love to save on expenses.

In all honesty, building a container house requires small amounts of building materials and minimal labor than the traditional brick or stone houses per capita.

The only thing you need to look out for is the cost of the containers and the space to put them.

Here is how and why.

In preparing the foundation for building a container house, you will only need a few metal rods, pieces of wood, binding wire, and nails.

You will also buy just a small amount of stones, cement, sand, and ballast to accommodate the space for containers to sit on.

Here is how it works.

Normally, containers are offloaded onto concrete pillars/beams. These beams are set up by binding pieces of wood so that they form hollow cuboids.

Next, steel rods are vertically positioned inside the steel rods with binding wires holding them together. Concrete is then poured inside of the cuboids, covering the rods.

Once these are dry, the container is brought in and properly offloaded. Finally, concrete walls are constructed in between the beams to seal off the foundation as shown below.  

Container house foundation

On the other hand, traditional building methods will require the construction of a complete concrete slab to support the brick and mortar walls.

With building a shipping container house, the need for sand and cement and all that bulky material stops at the foundation level.

Remember, with the container in place, all you need is to develop its interior. The finishing involves the simple steps of welding in place metal rods to hold the polystyrene and gypsum, screwing these in place, installing the electric wiring and fittings and painting.

You can imagine how much time and resources you are saving on weeks of laborers hovering over your house fixing bricks or blocks or whichever materials are in use.

The simplicity is unbelievable, right? Good!

Now, depending on your tastes and preferences, there are countless roofing designs for container homes.

These include gable roof, flat roof, butterfly roof, Dutch roof, as well as grass thatched traditional roofing.

Yes, you heard that! Even then, you can choose to save further by putting up a roofless home. Or get a little creative and design a relaxation space up top. Simply speaking, the choices are endless. It’s all really in your imagination.

Therefore, the affordability of shipping containers as building materials is perhaps one of its most attractive features.

Be it a suburban house, guest house, family house, holiday lodge, or staff quarter, you make savings on finances by choosing to work with used shipping containers.

Everyone on earth needs that one trick that would enable them to make savings.

So, save some money today! Talk to us and check out some of our works.

4. Shipping Container Homes are Fast to Build

Now, swallow whatever it is you are chewing first because this is a surprise.

In a span of just ten days, you can have your studio apartment, one bedroom or two bedroom home ready for use!

As for larger container houses with three, four and five bedrooms, a month is usually enough to complete the project.

This of course includes delivery and installation to your site of choice.

How is this even possible? you may ask.

Well, except for paintwork and foundation preparation, container fabrication does not involve extensive use of materials such as water, mortar, or bricks.

Also, as earlier noted, the foundations are usually ready within a week! Paintwork is done in a day or two. We all know water is the reason brick and concrete structures take months to complete.

Remember that a significant part of container refurbishment involves cutting, installation and fixation of the primary materials.

Here, think of electric wiring and fittings, doors and windows, flooring materials, gypsum boards, polystyrene insulation materials, paintwork, and etcetera. Very little water is used here.

So again, in just a matter of weeks, your shipping container home will be ready for occupation!

5. Unmatched Aesthetic Value

shipping container house

They say geometry is the true definition of beauty. Since they are modeled to meet the industry ISO standards, shipping container structures are usually a sight to behold as far as aesthetics is concerned.

This feature is exhibited both in the general as well as in the specific measurements, relativities, and outlooks of the containers.

Simply put, there is sleekness about shipping container structures you won’t find anywhere else. Now imagine transferring these attractive features into your home.

It means the containers can be arranged into whatever design you desire to produce well structured, geometric living spaces.

These arrangements can be vertical, horizontal, diagonal, lateral, or even conjoined.

Also, the corrugated surface of containers, while designed to enhance strength, also enhance beauty. Often, the interior is covered with suitable accompanying finishes such as gypsum and polystyrene or soft board for the walls and ceiling and ceramic tiles, vinyl, for epoxy for the floors.

Other than aesthetics, these interior finishes also act as insulation to moderate the internal temperatures of a container house.

Contrary to popular belief, you will not be roasted alive in the container house in a hot a sunny day as it is the case with normal mabati structures you see around.

In some cases, wood and cement are integrated. With or without paintwork, the final design, structure and organization of your home will almost always surpass your expectations.

shipping container house interior

6. Shipping Container Homes are Easy to Clean and Maintain

Thanks to the incredible strength of steel containers and the stability of the secondary materials used, damages are extremely rare.

This innate strength is industrially integrated so that the container can withstand the hostile sea and port conditions. In their journeys globally, containers are opened and closed, loaded and offloaded, stacked together in their entire shipping journey.

During these activities, the corrugated equipment experience hits and bends, drops, slips and smashes, storms, as well as the hostile temperatures and the harsh saline environments of the sea.

They have to be the most robust transport equipment to withstand these adversities. They are thus made from some of the toughest steel and metal in the world.

This means that your home will be defined by strength and stability. Once complete, all you will need to do is maintain it.

It is more like purchasing a German car since all you expect is strength and durability.

Therefore, for the many years to come, much of your schedule shall include repainting and cleaning.

Final Word

By now, you have probably made the decision to set up a shipping container home.

We can guarantee you, it’s the wisest decision you’ve ever thought of.

You will be surprised to find even more advantages of using these shipping containers as the base materials for your house because as far as containers are concerned, and from our experience, the evolution is endless.

Share your thoughts, queries, and ideas with us and let us actualize your dream of owning your unique home.

And thank you for being here!

We hope you enjoy that container house once it is done. Also, check out this YouTube video featuring some of our projects.

Cheers!

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