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Shipping Container Siding: How-to, Cost Breakdown, and More!

Shipping Container Siding
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Do you know that the market of tiny houses is expected to grow by $3 billion between 2021 and 2025?

No kidding; people are opting out of the ridiculous expenses of owning a house and buying shipping containers to live in instead. 

While the idea of living in a shipping container is appealing, you want to make it as comfortable and ‘homey’ as possible. The first way to do that is to install shipping container siding, which we’ll address in detail in this article.

I’ve been exploring siding materials for quite some time now, and I can safely say I reached a conclusion of the best three ones. Wood, vinyl, and metal seem to be the most convenient out there, and I’ll tell you why. 

Here, I’ll tell you the best shipping container siding materials, their cost breakdown, and how to install them.

The 3 Best Shipping Container Siding Options

exterior siding and insulation for shipping containers
Source : bestlaminate.com

With shipping container sidings, you can’t fail with any of these materials. They’ll look sleek on your walls, and they have a multitude of benefits. Their costs may fluctuate, but that’s for you to decide.

Wood

wood exterior siding for shipping containers
Source: Youtube

When it comes to walls or interiors, you can’t fail with wood. It gives a vintage, warm vibe that makes your shipping container homier. Besides, as a natural material, it’s as durable as they get. It’ll stay on your walls for decades before needing replacement.

There are multiple wood types that you can use for siding, including spruce, redwood, cedar, ash, pine fir, and even Siberian larch. Spruce and redwood are among the affordable options, and they’re both durable.

Bear in mind that wood expands when it gets too hot, so you’ll want to consider that when picking a type to go on your walls. Shipping container insulation is always a good idea.

Benefits

  • Wood is customizable, so you can create whatever shapes you want with it, especially if you’re handy with saws. You can also paint it with whatever colors or materials you want.
  • Wood comes from renewable sources, so it’s completely eco-friendly. It’s also biodegradable, which means you don’t have to worry about your carbon footprint on the environment.
  • Wood is readily available everywhere, and you can easily get the type you want if you know where to look.
  • Grainy wood looks attractive on walls and gives off a vintage vibe. It also matches the outdoors well.
  • Wood is wear-resistant and durable. It can withstand weather conditions just fine.

Drawbacks

  • As a natural material, wood can rot under some conditions. You may need to replace a lot of it if that happens.
  • Wood needs regular maintenance to keep it on your walls, and you may need to repaint it every now and then.

Cost Breakdown

The cost of your wood siding varies largely, depending on the wood type of your choice. Here’s a rundown of common wood types and their price per square foot:

  • Accoya: $4–$9
  • Redwood: $4–$14
  • Ipe: $8–$15
  • Cedar: $3–$10
  • Pine: $1–$5
  • Composite: $3–$7

Typically, installation adds to these costs. For each square foot, you’ll add about $2–$4 for installation costs. That’s why many homeowners prefer to do it themselves.

Vinyl

cheap vinly exterior siding to cover shipping containers
Source : Youtube

If installed correctly, vinyl can last for two or three decades. It’s also more affordable than wood, which is why it’s the choice of many shipping container home owners. It may not look as attractive as wood, but it doesn’t require as much maintenance.

Vinyl also doesn’t need repainting because its color is baked-in. You may think of it as a drawback that you can’t change it or scratch it off. However, when you don’t have to repaint the entire siding of your house every two years, you’ll thank vinyl for that.

Benefits

  • Vinyl is one of the most affordable types of siding available.
  • Vinyl doesn’t require a lot of maintenance because it has a smooth surface that slides dirt right off. It’s also easy to clean with a hose.
  • You don’t need to paint over vinyl because it already has a color. You’ll never have to repaint it over the years.
  • You can install vinyl siding yourself without the help of a handyman and without extra expenses. It’s relatively easy to deal with.

Drawbacks

  • Vinyl can lower your house’s value because it looks dull on the exterior. 
  • Vinyl can’t be patched. If one part gets damaged because of weather or an accident, you’ll have to replace the whole blank.
  • Vinyl sometimes traps moisture between the blanks and the wall, which may cause leaks or decay in the long term.

Cost

To buy vinyl siding for your shipping container, you’ll pay around $2–$10 for each square foot. However, the price greatly varies according to the type of vinyl you’re using and its availability in your area.

On top of that, if you get professional help for installing it, you’ll add installation costs. They shouldn’t be daunting for a 40ft container, though.

Metal

attaching metal exterior siding using fasteners
Source : alicdn.com

If you’ve always fantasized about houses built on industrial design concepts, you may want to consider metal for siding. It has a lot of benefits, but durability is the most obvious one. 

Aside from that, it looks sleek and modernistic. If you’re going the contemporary route with designing your shipping container house, metal is the way to go.

When choosing your metal siding, you can choose either aluminum, copper, or whatever metal you prefer. Copper turns green after a while, so you’ll have to consider adding a protective layer.

Benefits

  • Metal is very low-maintenance. Other than the yearly checkups, you won’t have to do anything to maintain it. It doesn’t grow mold or trap moisture as other materials do.
  • Metal is the most durable out of these three options. It doesn’t budge under tough weather conditions.
  • You can save energy by installing metal siding because it reflects the sun’s rays instead of absorbing them. So, your house won’t feel as hot in the summer.
  • Most metal types available for siding can be recycled, so it’s a relatively eco-friendly choice to have on your walls.

Drawbacks

  • The biggest drawback to metal is its price. You’ll have to allocate a high budget for the siding if you want metal on your walls.
  • Like vinyl, you’ll have to replace the whole metal panel if one part gets damaged. This will cost you a lot and put you through the hassle of trying to find a replacement.

Cost

Metal siding can cost anywhere from $2 per square foot to $35 for the same space. Of course, the lower prices are for low-quality options that’ll likely need replacement soon after you install them. The good options start at about $10.

Aluminum, for example, will cost around $3–$6 per square foot. Other types like steel will cost more.

In addition to that, if you want insulated metal, you’ll add around $1–$3 per square foot to get the advantage.

Container Siding Cost Breakdown

cheap spray foam insulation ideas for container house sidingsave costs installing plywood siding to cover insulation
Source : Youtube

To calculate the cost of your shipping container siding, you’ll have to calculate the total area to be covered first. To consider the roofing structure, we’ll add two feet to the height of the container. So, if your container is 9.5 feet tall, which is the standard measurement, we’ll use 11.5 feet for calculations.

Wood panels are expected to cost around $1.5 per square foot if you use an affordable type like cedar or pine. That accounts for a total of $1500 for siding the whole container, excluding the doors. 

Meanwhile, vinyl costs an average of $4 per square foot, so it’ll cost around $4000 to install siding for the whole container. 

Likewise, metal will cost around $10,000 for the whole container because it costs an average of $10 per square foot.

If you get professional installation, you’ll need to add around $2—$3 per square foot.

How to Install Shipping Container Siding

Intalling shipping container siding
Source : Youtube

Here, I’ll lay the simplest steps to install shipping container siding. Of course, the method varies according to the material you’re using, but I’ll address wood here. Here are installation steps considering the wall has no previous cladding, and you’re not using insulation.

  1. Buy all tools you need and choose the wooden planks you want to work with
  2. Cut your wooden plans into smaller pieces to fit the height of your container, which should be around 9.5 feet
  3. Apply premium adhesive material on the wooden planks, and start sticking them to the container’s walls
  4. When placing the wood, start by placing it on the valleys on the container’s walls
  5. After you’re done placing all the wooden planks, screw them through the metal from both the top and the bottom

Frequently Asked Questions

How thick is the metal on a shipping container?

Metal panels used for sidings on containers are often 0.075 inches thick. However, it may vary according to the type of metal and its thickness.

Can I use a shipping container as a garage?

Yes, you can use your shipping container as a garage if it’s legal in your state. You’ll have to make some modifications to it, but you can use it nevertheless.

Can I use a shipping container as a shed?

Yes, you can use a shipping container for anything as long as it fits. You can use it to store your garden equipment such as lawnmowers, tractors, and so on. Firstly, you’ll need to make sure that using a container in this context is legal in your state.

How much does it cost to convert a shipping container into a house?

The cost largely varies according to your needs. However, the general cost should be around $10,000—$25,000 if you’re only installing cladding and basic furnishing. 

The Takeaway

If you want high-quality shipping container siding, you may opt for wood, vinyl, or metal. The three materials are reliable, vinyl being the cheapest and metal the most expensive. They also all have benefits and drawbacks; it’s up to you to decide which you want to deal with

Ryan Stetson

Ryan Stetson

Currently own two 20' and 40' containers converted into an office/workshop. Having worked in the shipping industry for 6 years, my goal is to share my personal experiences as well as connect potential container buyers with suppliers around the US.

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