Do Shipping Container Homes Need A Roof?

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The shipping container on its own without a roof will be inadequate to protect the house from weather elements and thermally insulate the home. Having a roof for your container home ensures the structure is protected from moisture damage by diverting rainwater. It also regulates the indoors to a comfortable temperature through heavier insulation. Homeowners typically choose between installing a Shed Roof, Gable Roof or Flat Roof for their shipping container home.

Image from This Tiny Home Was Built Using Three Shipping Containers (contemporist.com)

It is arguable that shipping containers already come with a roof. Technically, yes there is a roof over your head when you enter the box. However, a proper roof system not only shades your head, it also protects the structure from weather elements, manages stormwater and snow shedding and regulates the temperature indoors.

Therefore, for the longevity of your home, it is preferable to opt for a roof as much as your budget allows.

“It adds structural support to the home by making it more rigid. It adds an extra layer between the interior of your home and the outside world, which improves efficiency by keeping the hot air in during winter. It helps protect your belongings (furniture, electronics, and clothing) from exposure to moisture.” (1)

Not roofing your container home will save you money at first, but may suffer the added costs over time in maintenance and cooling or heating from lack of insulation.

Having a roof could give you cost savings in energy bills, as it would manage the hot air that rises. Instead of just escaping, it could’ve heated the home. It can also prevent the hot air from condensating to vapor causing the container to rust. (2)

Roof systems protect the inside as much as the outside. Overhangs allow the snow and rain to drip away from your walls, doors and windows to prevent moisture damage. Imagine if it were a plain container home box, the water would continue to run down the walls and around the crevices of your doors and windows. (2)

It’s highly recommended to get a roof for your shipping container home. There are also plenty to choose from that can greatly change the feel of your home!

Types of Roofs for Container Homes

Shed Roof / Sloped / Pitched

  • Less expensive
  • Simple, easy maintenance
  • Quick to Build
  • Great for Solar Panels
  • Good for rainwater harvesting
  • Many varieties: Lean to, Butterfly, Saltbox, Sawtooth
  • *Problematic for high wind speed areas, needs great anchorage (3)

Gable Roof

  • “Traditional look” – Triangle
  • Greatest slope – best for snow
  • Most water drainage –  less leaks
  • More ceiling volume/height
  • Good for rainwater harvesting
  • *Alternative “hip roof” that has four sided slopes

Flat Roof

  • Existing for shipping container (“cheapest” initially)
  • Quickest
  • Increase living space by creating terrace
  • Best for green roof/living roof
  • Can install solar panels (on angle bars)
  • *Needs gentle slope to prevent water pooling
  • **Expensive in maintenance being most susceptible to puddles.

Images from Container Home Roofs: How to Choose – Discover Containers

If your budget really does not permit a whole roofing system, install a safety barrier above your container:

“Lay a tarpaulin sheet onto the roof of the container and overlay this with rolls of asphalt. This will provide you with a layer of defense between the dampness and the container’s roof.” (2)

For more details on the types of roofs you can choose from, their advantages and conditions, check out this informational video! Top 5 ROOF TYPES Used on Shipping CONTAINER HOMES and Buildings by SHELTERMODE HOMES – YouTube

Key Details to Know and Watch Out For

Regardless of the method or roof style you choose, you need to consult an engineer. They will analyze the material and style against your climate. For example, a flat roof will not do well in an area that receives a lot of rain. A high pitched slope is susceptible to being blown away where there are strong winds. Colder climates will need that steep pitch to shed off the snow. Hotter climates need good insulation. All roofs need good ventilation to avoid condensation rusting the structure.

Engineers will also calculate the roof load your structure can carry. This includes the dead load (all the materials used), the live load (equipment and people that move around) and transient load (weather load such as rain, wind and snow). (2)

The corrugation of CorTen steel gives the containers their rigidity and strength, however being a continuous weld all around also poses some weather challenges. This makes it difficult for multi-container homes attached side by side. The water can easily slip in between the modules, eventually creating moisture damage like rust. (4)

All the more reason to invest those savings on the overall structure toward a roof that will protect your investment. Besides, you can get creative with it and install a green roof that will cool your space or give you free herbs. You can also convert it into a terrace or patio and double your usable floor area!

Image from Why You Need A Green Roof on Your Container Home – Sulex International

References

  1. Bryhal. (2022, March 13). Do shipping container homes need a roof? Container Authority. Retrieved August 2022, from https://containerauthority.net/do-shipping-container-homes-need-a-roof/
  2. Discover Containers. (2019, December 21). Container Home Roofs: How to choose. Discover Containers. Retrieved August 2022, from https://www.discovercontainers.com/how-to-fit-a-roof-onto-your-shipping-container/
  3. Sheltermode. (2017, November 28). Top 5 roof types used on shipping container homes and buildings by Sheltermode Homes. YouTube. Retrieved August 2022, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9idGXS0N37w
  4. i Container Home. (2020, June 1). Container Home Roof Design Ideas. iContainerHome.com. Retrieved August 2022, from https://icontainerhome.com/container-home-roof-design-ideas/