Shipping Container Customization

Shipping container customization is extremely popular. You can buy a used shipping container in decent shape for a reasonable price globally. Once purchased you have a strong structure with ready made walls and roof and functional locking doors that even without any customization can be a storage shed, garage or tool crib.

Shipping containers are generally made from 3/16" thick Cor-Ten steel. Cor-Ten is a special alloy steel that is rust resistant. This is important for a container that is intended to spend its entire working life in the sea air. The containers have weather seals and locks intended to water out. 


Industrial Shipping Containers

Metal Shipping containers can be adapted to many more uses than basic storage. Industrial shipping containers are widely used on oil rigs and mining camps for offices where windows and doors have to be installed and often spray foam insulation. Other containers are turned into electrical rooms, pump houses and equipment sheds. They may require different kinds of flooring, wash down walls and flanges build into the walls of the container to allow pipes to enter and exit.

Some containers are specialized for use with different industries. Firefighter training is often done in shipping containers converted to burn chambers, mazes and smoke houses. Thick replaceable refractory tiles are used inside the burn chambers so the containers can be burned over and over again. This is much more economical than building a purpose built fire training building since the burn chamber container can be transported to many local fire departments to maximize the number of firefighters getting trained

An example of containerized burn chambers can be found at Flashover Systems website


Shipping Container Homes

Recently Shipping container architecture has really started to take off, If you live in a country thats not etremely cold, or extremely hot a shipping container house is entirely economical. In parts of the world where you have extreme temperatures, you need to do some modifications to make your cargo container more liveable. Usually this means building some type of insulation.

If you plan to connect your shipping container house to city sewer, water and electrical services you most likely will need to deal with local building codes. This means you will have to have a permit drawing made showing your proposed shipping container home project, its location, what foundation it will sit on and referencing allrelavant sections of local building codes that you must obey.

In Rural communities, the building permit procudure may be less stringent. This is why many people build their shipping container houses in the country. In some cases you may decide to build your home "off the grid", with no connections to local services. Instead using solar panels for elctricity and hot water, composting toilets and wood burning stoves for heating.

In any case drawing and design plans may still be required, especially if you plan to insulate and rework the openings in the container. Sheet metal shops will need drawings if you wish to fabricate Z Bars to hang drywall inside the container. A draing will help a spray foam insulation contractor know exactly where insulation has to be applied. Door and window suppliers will need drawings and sketches so they can determine the best way to fit the raw steel openings in your shipping container home.

shipping container housing does has some advantages and disadvantages. Narrowness. A standard 20 or 40 container is 8 feet wide outside dimension. Once inslated and drywalled the raming space is a little narrow compared to a normal home room dimension. This makes the placement of normal sized furniture difficult while still having enough room for humands to move around.

The corrugated steel wall construction is fine if you just plan to paint. But the moment you need to insulate you need to attach bars or wood framing usually on the inside of the container. You cant screw through the metal wall without having screw threads poking outside. So often sheet metal Z bars are welded to the inside walls. The Z bars need enough depth for styrofam insulation or spray foam. As well hols need to be provided in the bars for electrical, plumbing and ventilation if required. The corrugations in the metal exterior make sealing windows and doors a little more challenging

The 3/16" steel contruction means that a plasma torch will be needed to make significant amount of cuts in structure. A hand grinder can be used but this is tough going if you have a lot of openings to cut. The steel is also very heavy with sharp edges and you need to think about ways to safely handle it once it gets cut out. As well, a container gets a lot of its strength fromt he corrugated walls. If a significant amount of wall is cut away, the container may warp.


Shipping Container Dimensions

The most common sizes of shipping containers for sale are 20 and 40 foot containers. 

There are however many other sizes including 10 foot boxes used by the military, 53 foot long extended containers. There are also high roof versions of 20, 40 and 53 foot containers. There are containers built without roofs and walls. All containers are built to standard dimensions dictated by the ISO. This ensures that dock cranes and container ships can pack the containers with the most economical use of space.

Containers are mostly put together with standard components such as corner blocks, doors, locks and hinges. Companies sell the building blocks so that fabrication shops can build custom containers. ISO rules govern many aspects of the container design, such as flush mounted windows and doors. This is to ensure containers can be stacked normally in a cargo hold.



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