The idea of using a shipping container as a shed is gaining in popularity. Some people even purchase them to live in, as they make sturdy homes for fans of tiny houses. They can actually be moved, if need be, as well.
They also make great sheds and are strong enough to support a roof running from the top, either as a patio or porch roof or connecting to another building to make a carport or additional storage.
In this article I’m going to look at 4 shipping container shed ideas and answer some of the many questions being asked on using shipping containers as a storage shed.
4 Ideas for Using a Shipping Container as a Storage Shed
You can dress up your container shed just like any other, putting in windows wherever you want. In fact, a window or two will help keep the container from getting too hot in summer. Some people also get partitions to section off the larger containers with a section for storage and another for woodworking, for instance.
Of course, shelving is always a plus in any shed. It’s fairly easy to install shelving units or racks. They can either be standalone or they can be attached to the container.
If you plan to spend much time in your shed you may want to add a window-type air conditioner. Even if your container is in the shade, it can still get uncomfortably warm on summer days. With the right tools, it’s not a problem to cut into the walls and install what you need.
Number 1] Use as a Studio. You can install large windows for natural light that you need for painting or whatever creative work you plan for your new studio. You’ll have all your materials right at hand, and you won’t have to worry about getting anything spilled on the floor or carpet in the house.
Number 2] Use 2 Containers. Placing them next to each other, take out the adjoining walls and weld them together to make a much larger shed. Some people place several next to each other or even stack them and cover the whole with tin roofing to make an actual barn.
Some people put a roof between the storage container and the house to make a covered carport or outdoor storage area. A container is certainly tough enough to support a simple tin roof or another type.
Number 3] Summer Lounging Area. This can be made by installing a sliding glass door into a long side of the container, or even making most of the wall glass and using the existing door for the entrance. Build a little patio outside, add a table and a few chairs, and you have a great place for outdoor entertaining and grilling.
In fact, you could even install a wet bar inside your container with a little ingenuity. If your summer weather is unpredictable, the container is there so you can move the party inside on short notice.
Number 4] Make a Man Cave or She Shed. With either, you can install French doors on a sliding patio door to let light and air in, and of course, put windows in anywhere. You can even install a porch roof attached to the top of the container for an outdoor seating area. Check out my article How to Make Your Very Own She Shed Getaway for more information on making a She shed.
Is it Cheaper to Build a Shed or Buy a Shipping Container?
In most cases, it’s actually cheaper to buy a shipping container and turn it into a shed. If you were to buy a shed that is as sturdy and long-lasting as a shipping container, it would cost much more. In fact, you really can’t buy a shed that is as durable as a shipping container.
This is because these containers are made of 14-gauge Corten steel. This steel was specially developed not to need any paint covering and is rust resistant. If the paint does chip off, rust will appear only on the surface of the steel and will not penetrate any deeper. You won’t find any shed built with comparable materials.
The only price drawback is the cost involved in getting them delivered and placed in your yard. This will be more than the cost of delivering and installing a pre-built shed, but the container saves you maintenance costs during its lifetime.
These containers typically last 25 years. However, when used as a shed, they may just last even longer. Shipping containers are often used on trans-ocean shipments. They are exposed to salty air and spray during most of their lifetimes.
If they can withstand the damaging effects of the salt, not to mention the handling they get being loaded and unloaded, then loaded and unloaded from cargo ships, they certainly will last a long time in your yard.
How Much Does a Shipping Container Cost?
The containers themselves usually cost between $2,000 and $4,500, depending on the size you choose and the local market. The only other cost would be the materials and work needed for your foundation. Delivery of the container to your property also needs to be figured in. This price can vary widely from place to place.
Can Rodents Get into Shipping Containers?
Shipping containers are virtually rodent proof. They are equipped with cargo doors, with rubber gaskets installed along both sides of the doors to make both a watertight and rodent-proof seal. These doors not only seal your container well but are constructed to open the entire end of the container. This gives you plenty of room to maneuver large items into your shed without a lot of wiggling around or creative steering.
What is the Smallest Shipping Container You Can Buy?
These containers usually come in 10 ft., 20 ft., and 40 ft. lengths. They are generally 8 ft. wide, with the height being 8 ft. 6 inches. Certain ones are built with a height of 9 ft. 6 inches.
They are raised slightly above the ground, so you may need to build a shallow ramp to drive your riding mower into your new shed. However, this will save you the trouble of having to build joists or other construction to raise your container and allow airflow underneath.
What Type of Foundation Does a Shipping Container Need?
These containers do need a foundation. Along with the sturdy construction comes significant weight, and the container will tend to sink over time if placed directly on the soil. A foundation will also eliminate the question of what type of soil you have and if it’s solid enough to support the container.
You can pour a concrete slab just as you would for any shed. If you do, you need to make sure you get stronger than usual concrete. You don’t want your foundation slab cracking under the container’s weight.
All-purpose concrete is usually rated as C15. The C rating is an indicator of the concrete’s strength. What you need for a foundation slab for a container should be around C30. This is comprised of one part cement, two parts sand and three parts gravel.
Most people utilizing a container for a building use a pier foundation. This is comprised of concrete blocks on at least each corner. A container 40 feet long will usually need a couple more placed under the center of each long side. This type of foundation does not take the excavation and work that a slab takes. You only need to excavate under each block, put down a layer of compacted gravel, and make sure your blocks are all level.
If you use hollow blocks, you can pour some concrete into the holes once they are laid. For added strength, pound a rebar rod down through the center of each hole into the ground a few inches before pouring the concrete into the holes. Check out my article What’s The Best Shed Foundation Option For You? to see all the types of foundations and choosing the best one for your situation.
How Do You Run Electricity to a Shipping Container?
This is essentially the same as running electricity to any shed. After all, people do run electricity to regular steel-walled sheds and outbuildings. However, you will need a permit to do this, as you would when running utilities to any shed.
This will also require a code enforcement official to inspect your work, possibly before and after. Be sure to ask what special requirements you may need for the electrical work.
You also may be subject to some special grounding requirements for the electrical installation. A lightning rod may also be required and is a good idea even if it’s not. Of course, you’ll need to take care that none of your electrical components will allow any live wires to come into contact with the steel walls. Get more information on wiring a shed in my article Do I Need a Permit to Wire a Shed?
How Do You Anchor a Shipping Container?
While many people don’t anchor their containers, instead depending upon the container’s weight to hold it down, tornadoes and flooding can move a container. Containers come with corner fittings. You can get steel plates to cement into your foundation piers that can then be welded onto the fittings. Using tie-downs or other anchors typically made for mobile homes may not be strong enough Anchoring a shipping container is basically the same as anchoring a shed, get more information and ways to anchor your container in my article How to Anchor a Shed to a Concrete Slab.
Storage Shed vs Shipping Container [Pros and Cons]
Storage Shed Pros: A storage shed can be any size or shape you wish. Sheds are typically wider than containers, and the extra width comes in handy. They are also more likely to be permitted by zoning regulations than a shipping container.
Storage Shed Cons: Just about any type of shed, whether you build it yourself or buy one, will take more maintenance than a shipping container. They also are subject to moisture problems potentially harming any wood parts on the underside. Even pressure-treated lumber is not indestructible. They are usually not rodent-proof.
Shipping Container Pros: The cost of a container is less than a comparably sized shed. In addition, your container shed will be stronger than a typical shed. It also won’t come with the concerns of possible moisture getting in and rotting any wood and will seal out vermin. It won’t take much maintenance, either, saving the maintenance costs of a typical shed.
Your container shed should outlast a typical wooden shed. The height of the container allows for added storage space, especially if you install rafters and make a loft.
Shipping Container Cons: Containers are long and narrow, and this narrow space may seem a little cramped. There is limited choice in size and availability of the different sizes. If you need a wider space, you’ll need to use two containers welded together side by side and take out the interior walls.
While adapting a container to your needs as far as installing windows, air conditioning or doors is not too hard to do, it may seem daunting if you have no experience with metalworking or welding.
While the cost of the actual container may be less than that of a typical shed, you need to also take into consideration the cost of delivery and installation onto your foundation. They aren’t good for smaller yards, partly because of the space needed to place them.
You’ll also need to check with your local building authority to find out if a container is even permitted in your neighborhood. Some places don’t allow them as they deem the containers to be unsightly. An HOA neighborhood will probably not allow you one.
The heavy metal used in the container’s construction means that you may find yourself with a hot shed in the summer, especially if you have little shade for it. If you intend to use it for a workshop or studio, you’ll almost certainly need air conditioning.
You also will probably need some type of heating in the winter in colder climates unless you install insulation. You may also want to install some sort of auxiliary roofing tilted to let rain run off if much water collects on top or even a rain catchment. Moisture can develop on the inside as well if it isn’t aired out regularly.
Unless you live near an area with shipping activity, you may live far from a source. Since most containers are sold used, you won’t be able to inspect them to choose, and some do have rust and holes that should be avoided. Look for an online source that has a good rating. Some even offer a guarantee.
Maintaining a Shipping Container Shed
While these don’t take much maintenance, you do need to inspect them annually and see to any problems you find. They are resistant to deep rust, but surface rust can form on any exposed parts where paint has flaked off.
Any missing paint should be touched up. Don’t forget to inspect the roof, as water will tend to gather on it and the sun can age the paint on top. Tell your supplier what the paint is for and he can help you choose the right paint to stick to the metal and protect it.
Check around the doors and windows to make sure the weather stripping, caulking and door gaskets are in good shape. The cargo doors come with rubber gaskets, but these do deteriorate over time.
Inspect the level of your shed. Even if you have your shed on piers, frost heave and unstable soil can lead to leveling and settling. The weight of the container makes it more prone to cause settling than other types of sheds may experience. If you notice that the doors are getting sticky or hard to open, your container may be settling, and this will need to be remedied.
With the interest in shipping containers and their availability, they are a viable option to most people. You owe it to yourself to at least check out the possibilities and availability of containers in your area. If you can, go look at some and see just how they are built. You may just find yourself coming up with more shipping container shed ideas.