What Are Shipping Containers Made Of and Other Fun Tidbits

Behold, the humble shipping container. While it doesn’t look like much from the outside, its potential is endless. With so many people living out of shipping containers now, the question “what are shipping containers made of?” has surely crossed your mind.

If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “how easy would it be to live in a shipping container? Just plop it down and voila, a house!” Then you’ll be glad to know that you aren’t the only one that’s had this idea, and it is entirely doable.

Our top pick for container home designs

If you're looking for the best container home designs, look no further!

Learn More

The best way to start any planning is of course by getting to know the basics. While you may think you know everything you could about shipping containers just by looking at them, you may be surprised. Perhaps you just like shipping containers and are here for some late-night pleasure reading, or maybe you’re here for some schoolwork—regardless of your reason for looking up facts about the shipping container, this article lays down the basics.

Whether you simply get excited over learning random facts, or like the idea of hassle-free shipping container living, or even if you’ve decided to start a café and live out your industrial chic, hipster coffeehouse dreams, then this is a great starting point.

History of Shipping Containers and the Basics

Shipping containers have been around for decades. It was patented and invented by Malcolm Mc Lean, an American, in the 1950s.

Contrary to the popular association now of shipping containers and ocean traversing and shipping, Mc Lean owned the largest trucking fleet in the South of the U.S. and created the shipping container to expedite the process of loading and unloading cargo onto trucks.

After watching the inefficient and slow process of loading and unloading cargo sorted into unwieldy, oddly sized, non-standardized wooden crates for two decades, he decided to develop a standardized method of loading cargo.

After trying many different things, Mc Lean finally came up with something revolutionary in the cargo-hauling world—something durable, standardized in size, easy to unload and load onto different modes of travel, and easy to store: Shipping Containers.

Let us put into perspective just how much this invention changed the way freight hauling worked and cost. In 1956, it used to cost $5.86 a ton to load loose cargo. And by using the new standardized shipping container, that cost was greatly reduced to .16 cents a ton. Due to the ease of loading and unloading cargo and how it expedited the process, the invention and subsequent widespread use of the shipping container reduced the loading freight cost by more than 90%.

And though seemingly simple an invention, the shipping container was truly an innovation that had a widespread effect. As a testament to this, the basic design of the shipping container has remained the same for decades! A reminder that if something works that well, regardless of what other things may come, it is bound to stand the test of time.

As the years went on, of course, the shipping container was used for other modes of shipping outside of trucking. And as humans are wont to do, they didn’t just stop at using them for loading and unloading cargo. Its design and size made shipping containers ideal for many things, including housing, cafes, retail stores, and more!

What Are Shipping Containers Made of?

So, what exactly has allowed shipping containers to last so long with very minimal changes? Their design is one of those things.

With their standard sizing that makes cargo loading as efficient as it is while also allowing for easy storage, it is no wonder very little has been changed in the way shipping containers look. Although they do come in different standard sizes such as 20ft, 30ft, 40ft, etc. nearly all shipping containers have the same basic design: Closed tops, hinged doors, and corrugated walls on the bottom and top which are welded to the end frames and rails.

A simple, effective design that has not grown obsolete as the times change. The next logical reason is, of course, its material. Another widely known advantage of shipping containers is their durability.

If the material it’s made out of cannot withstand both the wear and tear that comes with loading and unloading, traveling on ships and trucks, as well as the strain of being stacked on top of each other during storage, then they wouldn’t be as useful as they were. So this begs the question, “what are shipping containers made of exactly?

Even though there are several types of shipping containers being used on the market, the most common material used is steel. Other components that go into the construction of shipping containers are aluminum, a polymer that’s been fiber-reinforced, and the like.

The Birth of a Shipping Container

  • Big Roll of Steel

Shipping containers started out as a big roll of steel, which then had to undergo a process where it is cut and unrolled. From there, the preparation of the surface of the steel sheets commences—priming and sandblasting are done to remove any contaminants such as dirt or rust.

  • Corrugated Walls

A part of what makes shipping containers durable is their corrugated walls. Other parts of the container such as the roof, floor, braces and the like are made separately and then welded together, with square tubing also welded to the top.

  • Series of Installations

The next step is the assembly. Floor panels are laid out first to build a foundation, next is the installation of the doors and the corner posts which again are welded together with the wall panels. The roof is then assembled, installed, and welded to the top.

  • Priming and Painting

Next, the container undergoes priming and painting. While this is going on, the wooden frames are prepared for the flooring and varnished, after which they are installed to floor, and drilled holes to attach the panels.

  • Waterproofing

Finally, hardware on the doors is installed along with other components to make the container waterproof: rubber seals for the door and waterproofing on the container bottom.

And that is how a shipping container is born.

As mentioned earlier, while they’ve changed the way cargo has been transported for years, it has also become a popular alternative to houses. If you’re interested, looking into purchasing and planning your shipping container house may just be worth it!

Our top pick for container home designs

If you're looking for the best container home designs, look no further!

Learn More

Leave a Reply 0 comments

Leave a Reply: