How Long Do Shipping Container Homes Last?

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Shipping container homes are products of the modern era. They were first used by the military as temporary housing. Today, these homes have become a viable alternative to the high cost of real estate.  While there are some pros and cons to shipping containers for homes, they are trending for homes, offices and commercial uses due to their relatively low cost and easy build.

Shipping container homes have become a popular housing solution today. One question that you may ask is “How long do shipping containers last?” The quick answer is they last between 15 to 40 years or more. Here we look into how long shipping container homes last and ways of extending their life.

The Lifespan of a Shipping Container Home

The short answer to this question is that on average they last for 15 to 25 years. However, many factors influence their lifespan like the grade of steel used by the manufacturers, the suitable modifications, the level of maintenance, and the conditions they are exposed to.

Shipping container companies manufacture their containers according to specific ISO Standards. These are a set of rules that make certain procedures mandatory and the manufacturers must follow highly controlled processes. One of the commonest features of ISO Standards for containers is that they can withstand extreme weather conditions.

Rust is a major deterioration factor for a shipping container. It can weaken the metal and make the container unstable. Ultimately, it reduces the lifespan and durability of the container.

Because containers are made of steel, rust is a major concern,  Most manufacturers use COR-TEN steel a corrosion-resistant grade of steel. However, just because a container is made of COR-TEN steel doesn’t mean that it will completely resist rusting.

If a container is in a humid area or is located by the sea and exposed to a saline atmosphere, the rate of corrosion will be higher.  The best atmospheric conditions for a shipping container home are in an area with dry climates and alternatively dry and wet weather.

Other than weather conditions, you can enhance the life of a shipping container by taking preventive measures like using external cladding and regular preventive maintenance.

A house made from refurbish shipping container

How to Extend the Life of Your Container Home

No two shipping containers will wear exactly the same. However, you can prolong the life of your shipping container home by taking certain measures as outlined below:

The Advantages of Factory-built Containers for Container Homes

The best way of ensuring that your container home is durable is to use a factory-built container. The container you procure might have been used just once. Therefore, it would be relatively free of dents, rust, and invisible defects. Such containers can even last up to 40 years depending on the quality.

Use a Reputable Container Modification Agency

You can find competent container modification services in classifieds and on the internet. Such professionals have the competence to help you build your container home regardless of its condition. So, even if rust and corrosion exist they will deal with it competently and efficiently.

Install Insulation Material

Insulation material will not only help with the heat in hot summers but will also keep the interiors warm during the winter. Moreover, you need heat control for enhancing the life of your shipping container home. The insulation in the container walls traps air in its layers. It keeps the internal temperature constant to suit the weather conditions. You can further enhance protection against extreme weather by adding wooden or metallic cladding to the exterior walls.

Apply Rust-proof Paint

Before 2017 the paint used for shipping containers contained toxic ingredients. They were solvent-based, making this type of paint harmful to health.  If you are building a home from a used container it is important to paint the surface both internally and externally to enhance the life of the container.

The best type of paint to use is waterborne Direct-to-Metal (DTM) paint. It contains no harmful chemicals. The best procedure  is to completely clear the surface from rust and then apply a layer of primer and apply an adequate layer of DTM paint.

Add a New Roof

Although the walls and floor of a container are robust, the roof of the structure is the weakest point because it isn’t load-bearing. However, when you build a home from a shipping container, you need a strong roof. Adding an extra roof to your container home is the best way of protecting it from rain or snow.

You should also ensure to include a sufficient overlap to your roof for draining off rainwater. A strong roof plays a particularly important role if you plan to install solar panels.

Close the Dents and Cracks

When you first get your container, particularly a used one, you would do well to give it a thorough physical inspection for dents and cracks. Where the metal is dented, you will often see cracks in the surface of the paint which will lead to corrosion. Cracks in the metal will expose it to the atmosphere.

You need to seal off any cracks to prevent corrosion. The best way of dealing with dents and cracks is to thoroughly sand down the area where you need to remove the paint. After sanding you can add primer and paint. It can certainly be a tedious process but will be worth it in the long run.

residential house made from shipping container

Summing it Up

If you are looking for an alternative from traditional housing, but something that is cost-effective and long-lasting, you might consider a shipping container home. Although they offer multiple benefits, these homes also have limitations which you should be aware of if you decide on this alternative housing solution.


Is living in a shipping container healthy?

Shipping containers may contain toxic chemicals to prevent them from corroding. Also, much of the paint used on shipping containers contain toxic ingredients. Check with the manufacturer to see what materials have been used to treat the shipping container.  Additionally, add a protective layer of DTM paint to prevent noxious fumes within the home.

Can a container home last for 100 years?

A shipping container home can last for up to 25 years and 40 years if maintained properly, buy it may not last for 100 years.

What is the resale value of shipping container homes?

Container homes are highly portable, which gives them a high resale value but value will depend on their age and condition, as well as any upgrades that have been made.

Is a shipping container home a good investment?

Shipping container homes offer multiple benefits like flexibility, portability, eco-friendliness, and cost-effectiveness which makes them a good investment.