Common Problems You May Encounter When Modifying A Shipping Container

Common Problems You May Encounter When Modifying A Shipping Container

So you have your heart set on a shipping container modification. You’ve thought it out, and are now ready to start your container modification project. But before you go off and buy the first container that you see, here are some common shipping container problems that you should be aware of before you bring out the toolbox and paintbrush.


Snug as a bug … or not


One of the most common shipping container problems that people overlook when starting their modification journey is insulation. If you haven’t noticed by this point, shipping containers are very large steel boxes. Steel gets cold in the winter and hot in the summer. Which means, come Christmas, you’re going to be tackling frostbite. Then with the arrival of that week-long British summertime, you’ll be baking inside your container home. Unless you factor in insulation into the modification process.


When choosing the insulation of your container, you need to think carefully about the type that you use. For example, in rainier climates, you’ll need to make sure that your container is protected from water damage and damp, usually through using spray foam insulation. Whereas in warm, dry climates, the design on your container should factor in how to keep your home (or office, or studio) cool. In which case, spray foam insulation would be no good. 


There are lots of other types of insulation that you should consider when designing your shipping container. Insulation panels and blanket insulation are two alternatives. There are also more eco-friendly options out there worth exploring. For those who are fashion inclined and like the idea of cleaning up the fashion industry while building themselves a container home, you can use recycled jeans and cotton as insulation. Sheep’s wool is another green alternative to other forms of insulation. Denim is often treated with boric acid, while sheep wool contains lanolin, both of which are natural flame retardants. Cork insulation is also a great sustainable choice, as it utilises the bark from trees before cutting them down that would otherwise be wasted. You could even add a green roof to the top of your container for decorative and insulation purposes. Talk about two birds, one stone.




Because containers are made out of steel, they can be prone to corrosion and rust if not looked after and stored correctly. When embarking on a container modification project, it’s important to think about how to protect your container from rust damage, particularly if they are likely to be in climates with heavy rain, humidity or frequent fog. Luckily, there are some easy ways to safeguard your container from rust and corrosion:

  • Clad any exposed areas to prevent rusting from exposure.
  • If your container already has heavy amounts of rust, sandblast the rust away. Then seal and paint the container using DTM paint (Direct to Metal) to prevent future rusting occurring.
  • For small amounts of existing rust, use a wire brush and sandpaper to remove, then seal the vulnerable areas and paint using DTM paint (Direct to Metal).


No unwanted nasties


If you are using a pre-used shipping container, it’s important to ensure that it’s free of any residual toxic materials. Shipping containers can be exposed to harmful levels of insecticides throughout the import and export process. When it comes to modifying a used shipping container, it’s crucial to make sure that any remaining toxic chemicals have been removed. When you receive your container ready to be modified, before you get out your paintbrush, make sure to strip it back, including removing the wooden floor (if there is one). You should then cover the inside surface with bare metal and paint the surfaces with nontoxic paint. After you’ve done this, the container is ready to be redesigned to your heart’s desire.


Is that the wind?


Because of their shape, shipping containers are not very aerodynamic. This means that when they are placed in windy areas, strong gusts are likely to hit the walls of the container. Which will cause an awful lot of interior noise – probably not something you want as part of the container design. If you think this is likely to be a problem based on the location of your container, it’s worth considering placing it behind a windbreak or in an area that protects it from blustery weather.


Not calling in the experts


Now, you may be thinking, ‘how hard is it to modify a shipping container?’. The answer is harder than you think. A lot of people think that building their own shipping container home – or office, or workshop – will be easy, and attempt to do it themselves. However, modifying a shipping container is like modifying any other building. It needs expert insight to prevent costly mistakes later down the road. If you don’t have the time or experience to modify your container yourself, it’s worthwhile to bring in an expert to do it for you. This goes beyond simply choosing any old contractor.

Either you’ll need to choose a contractor who has experience building with and modifying shipping containers, or go straight to the experts themselves – shipping container suppliers like us – who also are experienced in container modifications. This will ensure that your container is modified correctly and to an exceptional standard, with the above shipping container problems factored into the design from the onset.

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