You Got a New Used Shipping Container, Now What?
Before used shipping containers are put up for sale for repurposing into building structures like homes and offices by the consumer market, they are exposed to every single measure of abuse from the elements and Mother Nature.
Sun, rain, sleet, snow, ice pellets, tidal waves, salt water, and other neighbouring shipping containers carrying cargo on the same ship all take their turn beating up your used shipping container before it finds its way to your property. Port containers are a tough bunch.
Just about all of the abuse that your used shipping container has faced in its short working life span winds up as rust, holes, and dents. It certainly is not pretty.
All of these abuses put the structural integrity of your used shipping container at risk and there are a number of things you can do before you start construction that will ensure your container has a long second-life as the family home, office, or car port. You can even get refrigerated shipping containers by Port Containers USA for specialised use for your home or business.
But shipping containers are made out of steel and are intended for ocean travel — how the heck can they rust?
Rust is just another word for oxidization which is manifested by an electrochemical breakdown of metals which are iron-based.
Anytime a molecule on the surface of an iron-based metal material reacts with the air outside it, the molecule will produce another molecule named iron oxide. Put simply, that’s all it is. A chemical reaction from exposure to the natural environment and some wear and tear. A scratch or a dent is a perfect way to allow the salty sea air a chance to lick the surface of a shipping container.
It seems a little silly to make shipping containers out of materials that make them vulnerable to the effects of rust and oxidation, but the truth is, they’re made in the most durable way possible, with all factors considered.
There are a handful of different rust types out there; penetrating rust, rust scale, and the worst of them all, surface rust.
How to Identify Each Rust Type
If you have found an area larger than the mouth of a coffee cup where the metal of your used shipping container is either thin, or littered with holes, you’re looking at penetrating rust. Penetrating rust has serious potential to cause problems in terms of your shipping container’s structural integrity. You may not want to build a house with one of these rust riddled containers.
If everything seems fine except for a little surface scarring, then you can probably sand down surface rust and repaint or weather proof your used storage container.
Pro-tip: Rust can also provide opportunities for shipping container home builders; a lot of superficial surface rust can reduce the cost of your used shipping container, while only providing cosmetic issues. Usually people don’t see the surface of the shipping container in shipping container home conversions, and opt for other sustainable woods like ethically grown timber or bamboo. My personal favorite is bamboo!
Other than rust, dents can be ignored or forgotten unless they’re very large, or there are a lot of them.
Let the Maintenance Begin!
Before any used shipping container is repurposed, there’s some love and maintenance to give to it first.
1. Remove Rust
Grind it down, sand it, and cut it out (said like Dave Coulier). Just don’t let it hang around.
Rust is cancer to your future shipping container home, so be sure to annihilate every last trace of it. Grinding down surface rust initially and then smoothing it out is the most effective way to get rid of the bulk of your surface rust. After that, work your way into the corners, nooks, and crannies with your angled grinder or steel wool.
2. Apply a Primer
After all of your used shipping container’s rust has been removed, your next job is to slather on a nice even coat or two of primer. In this case, the primer you’re looking for it called “rust converter”. It converts rust into a hard, solid material again, reinforces it, and makes it paint-ready.
3. Apply a Coat of Paint, or Three
After you’ve given your used shipping container rust converter primer enough of a chance to dry and solidify, it is now time to apply a coat of paint. We recommend an oil-based paint for its protective qualities, and after that dries, a second coat to make it look great. You never know which parts of your used shipping container will be visible when construction is complete, so make it a little pretty.
Do not skip any of these steps. Whether you’re only looking for a somewhat temporary or basic solution, like a pop-up office or a carport, protecting any asset you own should be a priority.
Amply protecting your used shipping container before it is repurposed will ensure it remains structurally sound for generations to come, and keep its resale value high.
The whole emphasis on the trend of repurposing old shipping containers surrounds their eco-friendly attributes. One shipping container house is likely composed of 1 – 3 used shipping containers that are not collecting rust in a port somewhere in America. And we think it’s just the right thing to do.