Container homes can last 25-30 years if properly designed, built and taken care of. If your shipping container is brand new or only went through one trip on sea, it may last for 40, or even 50 years. The necessary steps of protection, reinforcement, insulation and rust prevention are crucial to prolonging its lifespan.
A 101 on the Containers
Corten steel also known as weathering steel was made to protect steel to go through hasher weather conditions. They need to endure long exposure under the sun’s powerful ultraviolet (UV) rays, salty air and seawater sprays for being on ships for weeks to months. Companies typically use containers for 10-12 years this way before they are deemed no longer strong enough for transport. After this, they are thrown. Reusing a recycled container as a home, is estimated to have a lifespan of 25-30 years. Note that it may be less after being subjected to harsh weather as this has significantly weakened the steel. Any protective layers may have been stripped and in logistics handling may have dented. Containers that served most logistics as an indoor storage unit would have a longer lifespan. (1, 2)
Shipping containers are inherently strong. Having to follow standards for international logistics, they test to endure 180 miles per hour of wind speeds, a speed equivalent to tornadoes that can tear down a traditional wooden home. (3)
Shipping container manufacturers follow specific ISO standards. The standards outline common dimensions and design elements, which ensures that all containers are built to deal with the same conditions, including severe weather. (3)
Metal structures are less likely to collapse in fires and steel in particular is also fire-resistant. This makes the home less prone to fire damages.
Steel buildings also attract less pests.The coating on the metal sheets aren’t favored by ants and termites while the continuous steel walls also prevent critters from digging underneath.
Needing to transport commodity goods overseas, shipping containers are more watertight than most steel structures. You can be sure of its quality in welding if no leaks appear at the seams. Less moisture damage means less concern for any mold and mildew buildup, making for a healthier home.
If you opt for factory built container homes that are brand new and never been transported or have only gone through one trip, their structural strength is optimal and the container is clear of any dents or rust. This then gives your new container home a lifespan of 40 years and up. As its first 10-12 years at sea have now been given to your home.
What to Add onto Your Container to Prolong its Life?
With good maintenance and taking the necessary precautions below, you may even have your container home in good shape for 50 years! Be sure to consult your building professionals to ensure this is done well.
Check for Rust Regularly
Container homes that are manufactured in factories are great in ensuring any chemicals have been stripped and all rust is cleared up. Rust is a major component to why shipping containers deteriorate quicker and need to be checked for regularly. Getting rid of the rust immediately gives your container a longer life. (1)
Adding Insulation To Your Container
Probably the biggest step in converting your container for shipping use into a home is adding on insulation. Being a metal box, naturally it will heat up inside very quickly. To turn it into a habitable space, insulation is needed to prevent heat transfer. A metal cube means having insulation on your walls, ceiling and floor. This makes your home more thermally comfortable, maintains it well and also increases your container’s lifespan. (1)
Protecting and Cladding the Container
Paint is the most common way to protect metal surfaces from corrosion. This may need regular repainting for good maintenance. Another approach can be to clad your container home with an additional outer layer. If you choose to add a cladding like wood, this serves as your second skin and protection for your container. Installing siding like traditional homes can also prolong its lifespan. (1)
Protect it with Landscaping
Use your open areas and garden to strategically protect your container from the weather. Plants and trees can act as a buffer from the sun or windbreaker for strong storms. (2)
Proper Care of Your Container
Shipping containers were built for a specific purpose rather than being a home, so we have to keep these factors in mind when trying to prolong its life. For example, containers were designed to stack. Therefore, its strength is mainly in its four corners and none are on its wall surfaces. This means you should not place any weight on the middle of the roof as it will sag and sink. To do this, you’ll need additional reinforcement. (2)
Corten steel only delays the rust from rotting the steel quickly but cannot prevent the metal from rusting entirely. This coating can easily solve non-structural rust that appears on the surface. However, structural rust can still happen in areas where the container experiences dampness. Building out a basement may help prevent dampness underneath.
Also avoid any water pooling on the roof or any dents as this will also lead to rust. Scrape the rust with a metal brush then use sandpaper and sandblasting to remove any signs of rust you detect and repaint. If the rust is severe, you may have to cut out the portion and replace it with another sheet of metal to avoid it spreading. (1, 2)
Do note that in the end, a shipping container can make a great, long lasting home if designed and constructed well. If opting to combine several containers, the welding or bolting will have to be done well. If planning on adding a roof terrace or garden, the structural reinforcement has to be properly planned. Know that its corrugation also adds to its strength so cutting through for any doors and windows also lessen its structural strength and also needs to be reinforced. (3)
After building it well, regular inspection, maintenance and care (like any home) will prolong your container home most.
- Olson, N. (2021, March 3). How long do shipping container homes last? Sulex International. Retrieved August 2022, from https://www.sulexinternational.com/how-long-container-homes-last/
- Promise. (2021, February 22). How long do shipping container homes last? ValidHouse. Retrieved August 2022, from https://validhouse.com/how-long-do-shipping-container-homes-last/
- Rose, G. (2022, August 8). How long do shipping container homes last?: 4 best qualities to ensure a longer lifespan. Container Home Hub. Retrieved August 2022, from https://containerhomehub.com/how-long-do-shipping-container-homes-last/