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Are Shipping Container Homes Legal in Washington State? (2024 Update)

A shipping container home in the woods

Housing costs have risen considerably across the United States, and Washington is one of the most expensive places to buy or build a house. According to recent market data, the cost to buy a home in Washington state is over $500,000, making it the sixth most expensive state to buy a home. It is data like this that has driven some people to consider non-traditional alternatives to meet their housing needs.

One such alternative is shipping container homes. These dwellings are fully finished homes built out of shipping containers. The most basic homes are built inside of just a single container, while more elaborate homes can have multiple containers joined together. But are shipping container homes legal to build or own in Washington state?

Shipping container homes are legal in Washington state but with a few caveats. Like traditional stick-framed houses, shipping container homes must meet all building, permitting, and code requirements. If you can build a shipping container home that meets all of the appropriate building requirements, then it will be completely legal. Here are some tips for ensuring that your shipping container home remains legal in Washington state.

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Check Local Codes, Permits, and Zoning Requirements

Building codes, permits, and requirements can vary from county to county and sometimes from city to city. The rules for building a home in Seattle might be different from the rules for building a home in Everett or Spokane. Western Washington and eastern Washington have completely different climates and different requirements for building. Before deciding to build a shipping container home, you need to consult your local municipality about the rules, regulations, and guidelines for doing so.

Some areas are zoned for modular or mobile dwellings, while other areas are not. Shipping container homes might be able to gain the label as a permanent dwelling, but you will likely need to add some things to the foundation to make it permanent. In some areas, shipping container homes are considered accessory dwelling units similar to in-law suites and tiny homes. Accessory dwelling units (AUDs) have different building codes than permanent dwellings.

It should be fairly simple to go into your local county office or building permit office and ask about the feasibility and regulations regarding shipping container homes. The local officials will be able to clarify the rules and zoning requirements for your individual area.

construction worker installing sliding glass door
Image Credit: Friends Stock, Shutterstock

Use a Builder

One of the best ways to ensure that your shipping container home meets all requirements, including permits, inspections, zoning, and codes, is to use a specialized builder. Various builders in Washington focus primarily on building shipping container homes and shipping container buildings. These builders will know how to apply for the proper permits and how to build the home to meet all the local requirements.

Try not to use general builders if you are planning on having a shipping container home built in Washington. They might not be as familiar with the process as a specialized builder. A quick online search will reveal a number of these builders in the Washington area. Look up local reviews and check out their work before choosing one, but you should consider using a specialty builder if you want to obtain a shipping container home to call your own. That is the best way to ensure that your new home will meet all codes and regulations and give you complete peace of mind.

How Much Does a Shipping Container Home Cost?

The cost to build a shipping container home can vary from $10,000 to $200,000. The size and finishes will determine the final price. The largest homes with multiple containers and high-end finishes can range from $175,000 to $200,000. The simplest homes made from a single container can be as little as $10,000 to $30,000. Even the most expensive container homes are far cheaper than the average housing costs in Washington.

One thing to consider is the land that your home will be built on. If you need to buy a lot or a plot, it could raise the price considerably. If you are going to rent a plot or build on a friend’s or family member’s land, it could save you a lot of money on taxes or the price of the land itself.

With the average cost to buy or build a house in Washington ranging from $500,000 to $1,000,000+, a shipping container house can reap some massive savings.

shipping container house
Image Credit: Tillo2015, Shutterstock

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Shipping container houses are completely legal in Washington state as long as they meet all building and zoning requirements. The building and zoning requirements will vary depending on what exact location you are planning on building in Washington. Using a professional container home builder can help make the process go as smoothly as possible. As long as you follow all of the regulations and guidelines, your shipping container home will be legal in Washington, and it can even save you a boatload of money if you do it correctly.

Featured Image Credit: ANGELOXWU, Pexels


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