One of the most common uses for shipping containers today – apart from transport and storage – is the shipping container home. In other words, homes that have been constructed primarily from new or used shipping containers.
It’s a growing trend that seems to be on the increase year after year, and one of the major reasons why so many Australians (and people across the globe) are choosing to build from shipping containers is the fact that it saves them money. Sometimes very big money on total construction costs.
Another is that shipping containers are made to last. Containers obviously look very strong, and so do the structures built from them, but just how strong is a shipping container home?
That’s what we’ll endeavour to find out in this post.
First, How Strong Are Shipping Containers Themselves?
Before getting into the strength of your average home built out of cargo containers, it’s worth taking a look at some facts regarding the strength of shipping containers.
To start with, every standard shipping container is made from solid steel that’s corrugated to give the panels even greater strength. Containers are primarily designed to withstand the rigours of being out at sea, loaded to the max with cargo. Shipping containers are so tough they can be stacked up to 8, sometimes even 9, containers high aboard container vessels.
Even the rails and framework that hold the panels together are comprised of gauge 7 tubular steel, which is about as strong as you can get.
Modern shipping containers are also designed to be highly resistant to corrosion, to withstand the salty conditions and weather out on the open ocean.
Cargo containers are constructed to resist strong winds, including hurricanes, as well as earthquakes, heavy snow and even mild tornadoes.
So I think we’ve established that the shipping containers themselves are very, very strong indeed, but does that mean a home made out of them has the same strength and capacity to hold up against the elements?
Shipping Container Homes – How Strong Are They?
The ultimate strength of a shipping container home really depends on a lot of different factors. Let’s quickly list a few:
- The age and condition of the containers used in the build
- Just how much the containers have been modified
- Has the container’s structural integrity been interfered with in a major way?
- How much of the home is made from containers and how much has been built with traditional methods?
- Is there are lot of glass present in the final build?
- The home’s overall design
- And more…
Taking a look at the first point on the list. If you choose to build from brand new shipping containers, then these are likely to be a little stronger than even a used container in very good condition. Other used containers might be up to 10 years old and have seen better days. These are not going to be as structurally sound as a newer container, so it’s always best to build with either new shipping containers, or used containers with an “A” grading. You might get away with a B grade container, but definitely steer clear of C grade.
The gradings are the quality and condition of the used container, with A obviously being the best.
Another key point to take note of is just how much the containers actually get modified. The more the structure that gets sliced away, the weaker the shipping container will become.
There’s not really any getting around making modifications, but just keep in mind that the more you actually chop up a container, the more it loses its inherent strength and rigidity.
Even still, you’re essentially building much of your home out of solid steel, which is always going to be a lot tougher than plasterboard, no matter how many modifications you make to a container, or how you slice and dice the walls, floor and ceiling.
As shipping container modifications are made to transform these metal boxes into liveable spaces, certain areas of the build can be reinforced as necessary, just like is done with more traditional building methods.
Like anything else out there, the strength of your home overall will only be as strong as its weakest point, so if you built 80% of your house from shipping containers and 20% from timber to blend everything together, the weakest parts of the house will be that 20% that’s wood and not steel.
Some of the very strongest shipping container homes are those comprised of a single shipping container with just minimal modifications. Basically these homes retain the overall structure of the original container, and are therefore more resistant to the elements and general wear and tear.
Should You Build Your Home From Shipping Containers?
No matter how you design your shipping container home, for the most part it’ll prove to be a more solid and long-lasting construction than more conventional house building methods and materials.
Along with container homes being super strong and durable, there are numerous other positives to building with shipping containers.
It was mentioned at the beginning of the post that people are using modified containers for all sorts of purposes because you save money when building with them. Buying containers isn’t expensive, so when the bulk of the construction is made up of containers, you slice tens of thousands of dollars off the build cost.
Something to consider when trying to decide whether to build out of containers or not is the environment and sustainability.
Multiple millions of disused cargo containers are sitting in ports around the world doing nothing. Many of these shipping containers eventually end up as rusted junk in landfill. You are far better off putting some of these containers to good use by recycling them for building projects.
You’ll be doing your part to help save the planet, as well as building a very unique and stable home.
Shipping container builds of all kinds are the way of the future, and building your home from new or used containers is well worth doing.