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A Practical Guide to Building a Shipping Container Barn


We have been hearing the buzz about shipping container homes for some time now. They are one of the fastest-growing trends in the housing market. However, a new trend is on the rise…Shipping container barns!

These unique build-outs are the perfect DIY project for your home or farm, and we have all the tips you will need to make your dream of a shipping container barn a reality!

Let’s get started!

What Is a Shipping Container Barn

Shipping container barns are made from new or used cargo boxes. They are made from steel and they generally come in two sizes 40 feet by 8 feet or 20 feet by 8 feet.

There are other standard shipping container sizes available these are the most common.

Many people choose to use these containers because they are less expensive than the raw materials needed to build a barn or a home. In many cases, these units are stacked or put together to create a unique dwelling with ample room.

Where to Start

The inception of any new project can seem daunting, however, with shipping containers much of the work is already started for you. 

These used boxes are affordable, assembled, blank canvases waiting for you to create your dream barn. When choosing the containers for your barn consider things like the following:

  • The size you will need
  • Insulated or non-insulated
  • The weight
  • What you want to house in your barn
  • What permits you will need in your local area
  • How you will prep your foundation

These bullet points are a great place to start when you are thinking of creating a shipping container barn.

Narrowing down your exact specifications will help you choose a container that is right for your needs.

Pro Tips

There are a few things that seasoned shipping containers know well. Being informed before you purchase or build is key to a successful project.

Let’s take a look at some tips from the pros before you get started on your build!

One-Trip Containers

Its name says it all. These containers are used one time to ship cargo overseas and then they are sold.

It might cost a small amount more to purchase this style, however, you will be getting an almost brand new container.

Be Mindful of the Structure

Before you go in and begin cutting walls or making windows you should familiarize yourself with the beams of the container.

Doing this will help to ensure that your layout does not compromise the structural integrity of the shipping container.

Consider a Contractor

Even if you plan on making this shipping container barn a DIY project, working with a contractor can help to ensure that you are not making any detrimental choices during the build-out.

You might find that some projects like electrical or plumbing may be easier with the help of a contractor.

Why Choose Shipping Containers


Besides the fact that shipping container barns are unique and fun to build, there are many other reasons to choose this route for a barn.

Building a barn with quality wood is expensive. Choosing shipping containers is a good alternative for a sturdy barn that is cost-effective.

Animals and equipment are precious cargo (no pun intended) that need to be protected.

Shipping container barns offer a level of safety that all wood barns do not. The metal frame of the barn will make it harder to break into and could deter thieves from even trying.

Container barns are quick to assemble, and depending on the use or style of the barn you are looking for you might be able to have the project done in a day!

The layout of the Barn

Shipping containers can be put together to construct various styles of barns. Their design makes them easy to stack together or link up.

For a traditional barn look, you could link two containers together while adding another on top in the middle.

This two-story design is ideal for farm animal housing as well as equipment. When planning your layout be sure to keep in mind where you want your plumbing chases and electrical fittings to be located.

Taking the time to detail your floor plan before you begin will save you the trouble of having to fix or re-do parts of the barn.

Other Things to Note

Shipping container barns have a lot of benefits such as being affordable and quick to finish.

However, there are some steps that you need to be aware of to ensure that your project goes smoothly.


Shipping containers are made of metal and metal will rust. To ensure that rusting does not occur you must protect the exterior and interior of your container with a weatherproof sealant of some kind.

As we touched on earlier, some areas may require specific permits for your build-out. Before you make your purchase or start to build make sure you have the required permits to move forward.

Preparing the foundation is just as important for a shipping container barn as it would be for a regular barn. Factors such as flooding and uneven foundation can affect the outcome of the final project.

Starting Your Dream Project Today

Building a shipping container barn over a traditional barn is fun and will save you money.

These convenient alternatives are blank canvases to build on any way you see fit! With this handy guide, you will be ready to build a quality and functioning barn in no time.

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