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container home design software - cover

6 Best Container Home Design Software (Free & Paid)

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If you’re interested in building a home from shipping container, here we’ve looked at the best container home design software for Mac and Windows of 2024.

Building a home from a 20ft or 40ft shipping container is not only cheap but also a great way to recycle and create some really original living spaces.

Although there’s lot of excellent home design software out there, there aren’t many that specialize in designing homes from shipping containers.

Professional CAD home container software will alert you to structural integrity issues when adding windows or doorways and help you choose the best places for electrical and water outlets.

However, if you’re planning or building your own home from a shipping container, container design software will only take you so far and you’ll have to consult a professional architect and structural engineer at some stage.

And of course, you’ll need planning permission to build a container home so don’t forget to factor that into your plans.

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With this in mind, here then are the best container home design software of 2024.

1. Live Home 3D

container interior design - live home 3d

If you want a 3D rendering of your container home, then Live Home 3D is one of the best home design software for containers on both Mac and Windows PCs.

Live Home 3D allows you to import prefab blueprints and define exact measurements and dimensions of your container to build with.

You can even create 3D walkthroughs of your finished container designs which you can share with others or to social media.

If you don’t have the time or skills to use professional CAD software, Live Home 3D is a great 3D home design software for beginners to container design.

You can try Live Home 3D for free to test it for yourself.

You can check out our full Live Home 3D review for more.

Pricing: Starting at $29.99/license

2. AutoCAD

container home design software - autocad

AutoCAD is easily one of the best CAD software out there and is suitable for professional container home design.

It has many different 3D templates for containers which you can download and modify however you want.

The software however, is too complex for beginners to sketch out a basic interior design for a container but any serious architect or structural engineer will use it for creating container home blueprints.

There’s also AutoCAD LT for 2D design which is cheaper than the full 3D version of AutoCAD but is still complex to learn.

You can download and try AutoCAD for free to try it for yourself.

You can check out our full AutoCAD review for more.

Pricing: Starting at $245/month.

3. 3D ISBU Shipping Container Home Design Software

ibsu container home design software

As the name suggests, ISBU Shipping Container Home Design software is designed specifically for making homes from containers.

ISBU is aimed at amateur designers that want to design their own container home and contains specific tools for the needs of container design.

It has a View mode to give you an overview of your container plan but also a Walk mode so that you can walk through it.

ISBU Shipping Container Design Software is free although it’s only available via request. Once you’ve requested access to the program the developer will send you a link with a sign-up.

At the moment, IBSU Shipping Container Design Software is Windows only as there is no Mac version.

Pricing: Free

4. SketchUp

sketchup shipping container home

SketchUp is one of the most widely used design software out there and is one of the best container home design software for beginners.

Thanks to its huge user base, SketchUp has hundreds of different templates for container homes that have been created by other users of the product.

All you have to do is use SketchUp’s easy to use drag and drop tools to customize it how you want.

Although there is a free version of SketchUp, it isn’t great for drawing technical floorplans however because you have to upgrade to the Pro version to get the actual dimensions for your designs.

You can check out our review of SketchUp for more.

Pricing: Starting at $119/year

5. Chief Architect

chief architect shipping container home

Chief Architect is one of the most user friendly architectural 3D home design software and if AutoCAD is too complex for you then Chief Architect is more accessible.

It features automated building tools for container home design, interior design and kitchen design which make it easy to create construction drawings, elevations, CAD blueprints and 3D models.

This software is one of the best residential home design software for architects, home builders, and remodeling professionals and can easily be used to design container homes.

There are various purchase options for Chief Architect including a rental plan but you can download a free trial to test it for yourself.

Pricing: Starting at 199/month

6. SmartDraw

best container home design software - smartdraw

If you just want to sketch-out a 2D floor plan blueprint of a how your container will look internally, then look no further than SmartDraw.

SmartDraw is the best floor planning software out there and can help you map out a floor plan for a container home in minutes.

It is easy to use and automatically snaps things into place to keep your floor plans, neat, tidy and organized.

Moreover it has thousands of templates for all kinds of floor plans from residential to business and all you have to do is format them they way you want.

You can also easily export SmartDraw container home designs to Microsoft Office, SVG, PDF and even Visio format to share them with others.

You can also check out our full SmartDraw review for more.

Pricing: Starting at $8.25

Is it cheaper to build a container home?

The shipping container and basic materials for a container home are much cheaper than a traditional home.

However, once you’ve factored in the cost of structural engineers and professional architects to build your project, you may find that it’s not that much cheaper than building a home from bricks and mortar.

Is it cheaper to build a Barndominium or container home?

A container home usually costs less than a Barndominium home.

A basic small container home costs around $30,000 on average  but the average Barndominium can cost anything up to $250,000 depending on size.

What is the average cost of a container home?

A basic container home can be as cheap at $10,000 but larger 40ft container homes will cost at least $60,000 or more. This excludes the cost of professional architects, structural engineers and builders.

Can I build a container home by myself?

There are many container homes around the world that have been built by their owners but the main issue you’ll have is planning permission and structural integrity.

Designing your home is the fun bit but a structural engineer is needed to make it realistic and of course, planning permission may be difficult to obtain especially for 40ft containers or containers stacked on top of each other.

What are the drawbacks to shipping container homes?

The main drawback of container homes is insulation. In the summer the metal becomes very hot and in the winter very cold so insulation planning is essential to get right when planning the walls and ceilings in a container home.

Permits and planning permission can also be difficult to obtain because different states, counties and countries have different regulations on whether containers can legally be used as living spaces.


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