Close this search box.
Close this search box.

The Complete Guide to Shipping Container Homes in New Zealand

Section 1: Introduction to guide

Section 2: How much do shipping container homes cost?

Section 3: Planning a container homes

Section 4: Building a shipping container homes
4.1: Container Home Foundations
4.2: Cutting Frames for Doors and Windows
4.3: Insulating a container home
4.4: Roofing a container home
4.5: Connecting utilities
4.6: Flooring

Section 5: Designs for Container homes
5.1: Small Container Homes
5.2: Large Container Homes
5.3: Designer container homes

In New Zealand, for shipping container homes to be deemed habitable, they must comply with the stringent criteria of the NZ Building Code. These regulations ensure that such residences are not only watertight but also safe and conducive to healthy living. Notably, the Council regards container homes on par with conventionally built houses, highlighting the significance of adhering to the building code.

If you're considering placing a shipping container on private property in New Zealand, the process is typically straightforward. However, for positioning on public land, Council approval is necessary. It's worth noting that containers can be situated within a road corridor for up to 14 days, so adhering to local bylaws is essential to prevent complications.


Section 4: Building a Shipping Container Home

Container Home Foundations

Once you understand the basics of how to build a container home, the process is relatively simple. There are three main foundations to choose from. The easy and economical traditional concrete block is a popular choice. Alternatively, you can create a crawl space by raising the units off the ground. Finally, a basement is a pragmatic solution for lack of storage room (or those who want a wine cellar). 

Cutting Frames For Doors And Windows

The location, size, and shape of your new home’s windows and doors will need to be cut and framed. We don’t recommend cutting corners, which is why you should employ a qualified tradesperson to complete the job to your satisfaction and ensure that the construction meets the council building code. 


Adequate insulation is essential for an energy-efficient home. Drywall is a common addition to the interior of container homes in New Zealand for both its design and insulating properties. Closed-cell foam is also a standard solution. Slightly cheaper, ceramic-based paints create a water-tight seal and take up less space than traditional layers of thick internal insulation. You can also apply specially formulated reflective paint colours to the exterior surface to mirror UV rays.  .


Shipping containers are ideal for converting into a tiny home as they are already water-proof with solid walls and a roof. However, you will still need to install a new roof to ensure adequate drainage and prevent corrosion. Standard roofing designs include the traditional method with four sloping sides, two sloping sides, one sloping side, or a flat roof. 

Connecting Utilities

Shipping container home plumbing pipes, electrical wiring, insulation, heating, and air conditioning are installed before the walls are erected. This is also the time to connect gas lines if you are planning a gas stove or fireplace. It is vital to contract qualified tradespeople to install these systems.


If you choose to keep the original flooring materials, options for sealing include a layer of concrete, polyurethane paint, or solvent-free industrial epoxy. However, the existing flooring is often treated with toxic chemicals. Look for the container’s consolidated data plate for information about any of the unit’s wood treatments. Additional flooring options include vinyl, carpet tiles, or even bamboo.

Section 5: New Zealand Container Home Designs

Small Container Homes

Finding small shipping container homes for sale in NZ lets you build cosy and easy-to-modify one-bedroom dwellings that can be transported. For example, opening up one side with sliding doors or a fold-down patio will extend the living space outdoors. Innovative open floor living plans and multi-purpose rooms maximise the use of additional space. 

Large Container Homes 

Two-story expandable container homes in NZ are popular, with many multi-story floor plans available. Large units are ideal for a bigger family or hosting visitors. These spacious modular cabins are designed to be stacked on top of one another, creating opportunities for additions such as stairwells and incorporating a balcony. 

Designer Container Homes 

SEA Containers NZ does not have in-house architects or engineers, so you will need to employ external professionals for this service, however we can modify containers into homes using your supplied engineered designs.  Contemporary design ideas include U-shaped, V-shaped, horizontally or vertically crossed, and multiple stories at differing levels. You might also consider adding features such as a garage, a rooftop patio, or a central courtyard. The possibilities for shipping container homes are limited only by your imagination. 

We can transport your shipping container house NZ-wide and have the unit delivered to your door thanks to our extensive nationwide delivery service. For enquiries about supply, don’t hesitate to contact our friendly team anytime. We’d love to talk to you about the best NZ container homes options to suit your requirements.