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Barndominium vs. Container Home: Which is the Best Modern Living Solution for You?

Nina Barango
June 11, 2024
10 mins

As more people seek unique and cost-effective housing solutions, the concepts of barndominiums and container homes have gained significant popularity. Both offer innovative approaches to modern living, but which one is right for you? In this blog post, we'll explore the ins and outs of barndominiums and container homes, comparing their costs, benefits, drawbacks, and suitability for various lifestyles. By the end, you'll have a clearer idea of which option best meets your needs.

What is a Barndominium?

A barndominium, or "barndo," is a type of home that combines a barn and a condominium. Typically built from metal, these structures often feature an open floor plan, large living spaces, and rustic aesthetics. Originally popular in rural areas, barndominiums have become trendy in suburban and even urban settings due to their spaciousness and versatility.

A barndominium, or "barndo," is a type of home that combines a barn and a condominium. Typically built from metal, these structures often feature an open floor plan, large living spaces, and rustic aesthetics. Originally popular in rural areas, barndominiums have become trendy in suburban and even urban settings due to their spaciousness and versatility.

Pros of a Barndominium

1. Spacious Interiors: Barndominiums offer large, open floor plans that can be customized to suit a variety of needs.


2. Cost-Effective Construction: Building a barndominium is often less expensive than a traditional home due to the use of metal and other cost-effective materials.


3. Durability: The metal construction provides excellent durability and resistance to weather, pests, and fire.


4. Versatility: These structures can be adapted for multiple uses, including workshops, garages, and living spaces.

Cons of a Barndominium

1. Aesthetic Limitation: While some appreciate the rustic look, others may find the barn-like appearance less appealing.


2. Zoning and Permits: Building a barndominium may face zoning and permit challenges, particularly in urban areas.


3. Insulation Challenges: Metal buildings require more effort to insulate properly, which can affect energy efficiency.

What is a Container Home?

A container home is built using one or more shipping containers, which are repurposed into livable spaces. These homes are known for their modern design, eco-friendliness, and innovative use of materials. Container homes are particularly appealing to those who value sustainability and minimalist living.

Pros of a Container Home

1. Eco-Friendly: Repurposing shipping containers reduces waste and promotes recycling, making container homes an environmentally conscious choice.


2. Modern Aesthetic: Container homes offer a sleek, modern look that appeals to many homeowners.


3. Modular Design: The modular nature of shipping containers allows for flexible and creative architectural designs.


4. Speed of Construction: Building a container home can be faster than traditional construction methods, as the main structure is already in place.

Cons of a Container Home

1. Space Constraints: Shipping containers have fixed dimensions, which can limit interior space and design options.


2. Insulation Needs: Like barndominiums, container homes require proper insulation to ensure energy efficiency and comfort.


3. Potential for Rust: Without proper treatment, shipping containers can rust, especially in humid climates.


4. Permitting and Zoning: As with barndominiums, container homes can face regulatory hurdles depending on local building codes and zoning laws.

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Cost Comparison: Barndominium vs. Container Home

Barndominium Costs

A small, basic barndominium setup can cost as low as $30,000 to $40,000, while a highly customized and premium barndominium can exceed $200,000. The average cost for a barndominium is around $230,000, with a typical range between $112,800 and $504,000 depending on size and features.


Average Cost per Square Foot: The cost to build a barndominium ranges from $65 to $160 per square foot. This includes both materials, labour and basic finishes. For a 2,000-square-foot barndominium, the total cost can range from $130,000 to $320,000. Adding custom features such as high-end finishes, additional rooms, or specialized structures can increase the overall cost


Average Cost per Square Foot: The cost to build a barndominium ranges from $65 to $160 per square foot. This includes both materials, labour and basic finishes. For a 2,000-square-foot barndominium, the total cost can range from $130,000 to $320,000. Adding custom features such as high-end finishes, additional rooms, or specialized structures can increase the overall cost.


Prefab Kits: Barndominium kits cost between $30 to $70 per square foot for the basic structural components. Labor for assembling a barndominium kit ranges from $20 to $40 per square foot.

Container Home Costs

A single-container home can cost between $25,000 and $80,000. Multi-container homes range from $80,000 to $250,000+, with larger and more complex designs costing more. For example, a 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom container home (1280 sq ft) can cost between $150,000 and $220,000+.


Average Cost per Square Foot: The cost of building a container home varies from $150 to $350 per square foot, depending on the size and features. Prefab container homes range from $120 to $300 per square foot, while custom-designed container homes can cost $250 to $400 or more per square foot. 


High-End Finishes and Larger Homes: According to UpNest, the cost to build a large shipping container home can go up to $175,000. This includes homes with multiple containers and high-end finishes.


Maintenance: Container homes require regular maintenance to prevent rust and ensure structural integrity, particularly in harsh weather conditions.

Key Factors Influencing Costs

Customization and Finishes: Both barndominiums and container homes can see significant cost increases with high-end finishes and custom designs. Customization options, additional features, and high-end finishes can impact the overall cost of both types of homes.


Labour and Site Preparation: Labor costs for assembling kits and site preparation are significant factors. For barndominiums, labour costs for assembling kits range from $20 to $40 per square foot. For container homes, general contractor fees can range from $50 to $150 per hour or 10% to 20% of construction costs.


Material Costs: Barndominium materials include steel framing, roofing, siding, and sometimes insulation, plumbing, and electrical components. Container homes require the purchase of shipping containers, which can cost between $1,200 and $5,000 each, plus modifications and interior finishes.

Lifestyle Suitability

Who Should Consider a Barndominium?

Families: The spacious and open floor plans are ideal for families needing more living space.


Hobbyists and DIYers: The large interior space can accommodate workshops, hobby areas, and storage for large equipment.


Rural Living Enthusiasts: Those who enjoy rural or semi-rural living will appreciate the rustic charm and practical design of a barndominium.

Who Should Consider a Container Home?

Eco-Conscious Individuals: If sustainability is a priority, a container home offers a green living solution.


Modern Design Lovers: The sleek, contemporary design of container homes appeals to those with a taste for modern architecture.


Urban Dwellers: The compact size and modular nature of container homes make them suitable for urban environments where space is at a premium.

Choosing between a barndominium and a container home depends on your specific needs, budget, and lifestyle preferences. Both barndominiums and container homes offer unique and cost-effective alternatives to traditional homes. Barndominiums generally have a lower cost per square foot and can be more affordable for larger spaces. Container homes, while potentially more expensive per square foot, offer flexibility in design and can be more cost-effective for smaller, modular living spaces.


Evaluate the pros and cons of each option, consider the cost implications, and think about your long-term living needs. For high-quality shipping containers that can be transformed into beautiful container homes, visit Boxhub and explore our range of options today!

About Nina Barango

Nina Barango is an experienced content marketer and container expert with a proven track record in the tech and logistics industry. Having worked with various startups and SMEs, she bridges the world of marketing, tech and shipping containers. When she's not creating content that'll revolutionize global container trade, you can find Nina reading a book or mastering her video editing skills.

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