Does a shipping container make a good home? Will they sustain for years without doing multiple structural changes? The answer is yes. You can transform shipping containers into aesthetically pleasing houses, and steel construction will only make them strong and robust. These houses are safe, environment friendly, and pretty light on the pocket too.
To transform a solid rectangular piece of steel into a beautiful and livable home, you will have to make certain changes, like cutting spaces to make windows and doors. You may also wish to bury them underground according to the floor plan.
The worry that most people have is whether the containers’ structural integrity be compromised when they make these changes. And if so, then what are the ways to reinforce the shipping container?
Not to worry, we are here to help you reinforce the steel container to give you the house of your dreams.
Steps to Reinforcing a Shipping Container Home
If you plan to bury a shipping container, partially or entirely, to achieve the house you planned, we are here to tell you a few reasons you cannot do that.
A shipping container is built in a way that you can stack one above the other easily.
They have all the strength at the corners, and the sides are weak. Also, there is no horizontal and vertical support in the middle walls. This implies that the walls are not sturdy enough to withstand underground pressure.
If you wish to build an underground bunker to stay safe during hurricanes, tornados, or any other adverse situation, you need to add support and reinforce the container.
There are two scenarios in which the shipping container home will require reinforcement.
When the shipping containers are buried underground to use as a bunker or storm shelter, the pressure on the sidewalls and top becomes massive. They are not structurally designed to handle such enormous weight and pressure. The sidewalls must be reinforced from the inside to withstand this tremendous amount of pressure.
The following steps can ensure the stability and strength of the containers when buried underground.
Step 1 – The addition of steel beams will add strength. You can weld multiple steel posts at equal intervals across the shipping container home. This will reinforce the edges and sidewalls from caving in under pressure.
Step 2 – To ensure the top is well supported, you will have to weld some steel posts from the roof to the floor at regular intervals inside the container. When it rains, the soil and water will add pressure and weight to the top.
To avoid that, you can use cinder blocks or concrete blocks to make a watertight casting. Additionally, I-beams and cross beams can help bear the extra load.
Step 3 – In case of any minute holes on top of the container, dirt and water will start pouring in. For insulation, you will need some extra steel plates on the top of the shipping container.
When you are burying the shipping container underground, avoid using wooden planks or railroad ties for support. These are bio-degradable and will eventually dissolve in the soil.
#2 Above the Ground
Here are a few steps that can be considered while reinforcing the shipping container above the ground.
Step 1 – Always try to make the necessary changes first. For example, doors and windows are the necessities of any home. You can start by laying out a plan and marking the areas you wish to remove. Once you remove the areas, you can add some extra steel support to the windows.
Step 2 – Steel posts are excellent to support the cut-out windows. You can weld these steel posts starting from top to bottom on the respective window openings.
Step 3 – To ensure the top is also supported well, you will have to weld some steel across the opening on the top. To stabilize the structure, you will have to tie it to the newly reinforced steel posts.
Step 4 – You will have to continue this process with all the openings and cut-outs in the entire container.
List of Things to Avoid While Reinforcing Container House
When you are working with container homes, a lot could go wrong. Here are a few points that will help you avoid making such mistakes.
#1 Choosing the Wrong Size Container
You can only choose a container that fits the space. And if it is too large or too high, you will be tempted to cut out the extra steel. That will only make the structure week. To get some extra space, you can stack up the containers and make it a multi-story building, instead of getting one huge wide container.
#2 Onboarding the Wrong Contractor or Builder
They are the decision-makers of safety and comfort in the new house. So, make sure your house is in good expert hands. To cut down the construction amount, most people try to DIY their container houses. But a professional help always adds value. They can suggest and decide on how much steel to add or remove to keep the structure strong.
#3 Procuring A Container in The Wrong Condition
Usually, these shipping containers are kept in the open. Rain and oxygen in the air can rust the steel structure. Often these containers come cheaper, and hence you may get tempted to buy and modify them.
We suggest, you avoid doing that. The corrosion can shorten the lifespan of the containers. And removing the rusted pieces will further weaken the structure. Therefore, ensure you are not buying a container with only a few more years of lifespan remaining.
#4 Removing Too Much Steel During the Modification
The overall structure of steel has its integrity. Removing too much steel can lead to collapse. We understand the necessity of eliminating some steel to enable ventilation, electric wiring, water supply, etc. Ensure that you are not over-modifying and removing all the strength elements out of the already strong container.
How long do container homes last?
Container homes usually last more than 25 years. Rust is the only enemy of the steel structure. Therefore, if maintained well, they can last even longer.
Can shipping container homes withstand a tornado?
The steel structure is strong enough to withstand any adverse climatic conditions like tornados and hurricanes. However, keep in mind though, that the more you cut into and alter shipping containers, the less sturdy they become.
Does it get hot inside shipping container homes?
Steel is a good conductor of heat. During hot summers, the interiors can get hot and sultry. But with a few windows, design changes, insulation, and modifications, you can make the house cool and well-ventilated.
Are shipping containers safe?
The reason why the shipping containers make an excellent home is because they’re so strong. They are virtually indestructible. They are also structurally sound as long as they keep their natural structural integrity.
As noted above, shipping containers are strong enough to withstand natural disasters too. If you are making a lot of modifications though, ensure you add the necessary reinforcements.
Shipping containers are designed to have durability and stability. However, removing a portion of the wall to create a more livable space compromises the strength of the containers.
This is why reinforcing shipping container homes is so important. With the right reinforcements in place, you’ll have the support needed in order to keep you safe and free from potential risks coming your way.
If you have plans to bury the container partially or entirely, you need to make sure the structure doesn’t collapse. Therefore, reinforcement is an essential step that you cannot afford to discard.
I plan on making home out of shipping containers 2 story with 2 ) 40 ‘ containers on each side & 14’ beams in middle for total sq footage 2400 soft with open concept for kitchen & living room but bath & bedrooms I could use some help with . I’d like master bed & bath on first floor & 2) bedrooms with closets, bath & sports room on second . I can do most plumbing & electrical i just need help figuring out a nice looking layout for everything. In front of house I like nice door between living room & kitchen then sliding glass door on second level with windows for bedrooms. Hopefully you understand what I’m trying to do & thanks for your help . Thank you much Butch Josephs
Hey Butch, you should check out the article I did about shipping container home design software. Using one of those to map it out will help you visualize it before you start building it. Otherwise, you might want to look into buying some container home floor plans.