Shipping Container Home Storage Ideas

Shipping container Garden

Do you have a lot of clutter in your home or apartment?
Are your closets filled to overflowing and no more room remaining in your spare bedroom or garage? Are you nearing the stage where your home might be a candidate for the TV show “Hoarders”?
You are not alone. Millions of Americans are looking to buy or rent self storage space for their possessions.

Could buying a shipping container for self storage be the best solution for you?

Home clutter need storage space?
Home clutter need storage space?

Using self storage units provide a great option for people to hold onto keepsakes with sentimental value and other personal items, while not having to buy a larger property.
The “4Ds of life” – death, divorce, downsizing and dislocation – are facts of life and create a major disruption in our lives.
Changing life situations can force someone to live in limbo for periods. They may need to move households and need a space to store their belongings until they can settle into a new, more permanent situation.

Shipping container self storage may offer them a secure place to keep their possessions until they can get settled into a new place.

In the USA, self storage statistics report that nearly 10% of American households need additional self storage and spends an average monthly cost of $87.89 for a self-storage unit. Nationally, the number of storage facilities ranges somewhere between 45,000 to 60,000.

According to The 10 most in-demand USA cities for self-storage units.
Rank City, State
10 Miami, FL
9 Brooklyn, NY
8 San Diego, CA
7 Las Vegas, NV
6 Phoenix, AZ
5 San Antonio, TX
4 Chicago, IL
3 New York, NY
2 Los Angeles, CA
1 Houston, TX

How much does it cost to rent commercial self storage space vs buying a shipping container?
Of course, the answer to this question depends a lot on your specific needs. At commercial self storage facilities, 10’x10′ is the most popular storage unit size, which measures one-hundred square feet and might compare to approximately half the size of a regular garage. A general guideline is that the 100 square foot space will fit the contents of a two-bedroom apartment.

shipping container storage
shipping container storage

The smallest units average about $50 per month. Much larger spaces cost upwards of $300 per month. Some storage businesses require a 12 month contract to be signed.
When you buy a shipping container for self storage you have a one time cost and you own the container forever. If you don’t have an available space to store your container, you possibly may need to rent a small space on a property that is located at a convenient distance to you.

Are shipping containers your best choice for self storage?
Most of the people who buy an empty Conex container are using it to store furniture and other possessions that take up a large amount of space.
Home based business owners like online sellers who store and ship inventory through websites like EBay, Gumtree and Craigslist find they need somewhere to securely store their products. Additionally, with less storage space (basements and garages) in condos, homeowners are looking for an easy and affordable self storage solution.


Why should we use shipping containers as self-storage units?
A short answer: because of their design, construction, size and affordability.
A little searching will show that you can buy a used shipping container for a really affordable price (we will address the details later in this article). By their very nature, cargo containers are made to be easily transported to whatever site you require. You may be looking for relocate the container for a household move, in which case it can just be picked up and follow you on your move.
Even if you don’t have plans to move the container from one location to another, the containers can be set up quickly and all of your possessions moved inside for safe keeping.

Shipping containers are specifically engineered to be stacked, transportable, and are constructed from corrugated metal sheets that are welded together. The steel boxes are subjected to rigorous quality assurance tests for water resistance, and the ability to withstand moisture, the effects of salt and withstand extreme weather conditions.

shipping container storage
shipping container storage

Why do shipping containers make really great self storage units?
Durability: Made of thick steel walls, strong and capable of storing bulky and heavy goods without damaging the interior of the storage space.

Watertight and Secure: Designed to withstand rains and extreme weather condition conditions during a sea voyage, the containers are in fact watertight against wet weather conditions.
Their main function is to make certain that the contents remain dry and undamaged during their trip. Most shipping containers are made of a particular steel alloy called Corten Steel that is especially suited for outside weather conditions.

Vermin and pest proof. The containers are self-enclosed, with tight seals around the doors which prevents rodent and bugs entering and damaging your goods. This can be a problem in many storage facilities. These features combined offer solid security and added peace of mind with the confidence that your possessions are protected, dry and secure.

Low initial investment and low maintenance: Once you have set up your Conex box self storage, there is next to no ongoing maintenance or accumulating monthly rental costs. Buying a shipping container is a one time investment.

Long life expectancy: Shipping containers have a life expectancy of over two to three decades with minimum level of maintenance.

Security: Container entry is secure with a high quality pad lock on the doors and equipped with a special lock box. A “lock box” is housed inside a steel box welded to the doors protecting your padlock from being broken by burglar’s crowbar. Since your container is stand alone and not connected to other people’s storage units, you also have another protection against unwanted entry.

You can store a variety of goods inside. With a few important renovations (like insulation or the other suggestions later in this article), you can safely store almost anything from boxes, books, furniture, electronics without fear of moisture damage.
Store larger items. With the ability to open the doors at both ends of the container, containers are easily accessible to store large sized objects.

Portability: Containers are designed to be easily movable, making them especially convenient for packing and for mobile storage needs.

Drive-up accessibility: You can pull up and park your vehicle directly at the doors to your container storage.


How do I choose the right container for storage?
There are 2 main factors to consider: the grade or (the condition of how new the container is) and the size.
One-Tripper or New Container
These containers are brand new. Manufactured and shipped directly from China, having carried their first load of cargo. They will cost more and will be outfitted with new features like polyurethane floor coating, a pre-installed lock box, and handles and doors.

As-Is or General Purpose
These are used containers that may have many miles on them. As the name “As-Is” suggests, this is a container purchased in its current, used condition. The cargo container walls may have dents, rust, flaking paint or punctures.
The less than perfect condition will be reflected in a lower price. If you are storing spare mechanical parts on a vacant lot, a sparkling new container may not be important and you can save some money by buying a used Conex container.

The standard sizes of ISO shipping containers are:
8ft (2.43m) wide, 20ft (6.06m) in length and 8.5ft (2.59m) high ceiling
8ft (2.43m) wide, 40ft (6.06m) in length and 8.5ft (2.59m) high ceiling
* Tall shipping containers called high-cube containers are available at 9.5ft (2.89m) high ceilings.

To provide a sense of perspective, a 20 foot long container can store roughly 3,500 shoe boxes. The 40′ “high cube” can hold around 8,400 shoe boxes. Only you can evaluate what size of shipping container will suit your present – and future – storage requirements.

Lastly, if the look of the container is important to you, you might wish to opt for a new container or paint the exterior of a 1-trip container.


What renovations may be required to convert my shipping container for storage?

The first questions to ask are:
1) What is your local climate like? Will your goods suffer damage by condensation inside the container?
If your local climate is high in humidity and experiences extremes of hot and cold temperatures, you may need to install insulation to prevent against the damaging effects of moisture buildup and condensation inside the container. Check out our post on ‘How To Insulate A Shipping Container’ here for more information.

2) What kind of items will you be storing in your container?
Sensitive items like electronics or paper documents could be adversely affected by moisture and some steps should be taken to protect those items. For basic storage of non-perishable items, there are only a few basic conversions that you might want to look into.


Here are a few things you can incorporate into your storage container to make things easier to access and easier to find:

Shelving systems. A shelving system will expand the available room inside the container and improve air flow (discouraging the growth of mold). Most big box hardware stores like Lowes and Home Depot will sell different packages of shelving that you can set up yourself.


shipping container storage shelves
shipping container storage shelves

Filing cabinets, plastic bins will keep smaller, easily damaged items from getting scattered and damaged as things are moved around. Boxes of a standard size will stack more compactly and maximize your storage cubic feet.

Remember to apply box labels for the contents that are easily visible.
A planned, organized layout with space to walk to get to boxes in the rear of the container.
Give some thought to the layout of your storage container so that you’re positioning the items you are likely to need most often closest to the opening of the container.

Lights. A battery-operated light system will make finding things in low light conditions much easier.

battery LED Floodlight
battery LED Floodlight

Simple moisture protection. An alternate and temporary solution to the more complicated insulation suggestions are “Desiccant Bags“.
Desiccant bags are used to absorb the humidity in an enclosed container. The bags may be hung from the ceiling or on the walls to help remove the excess moisture from the air. As the desiccant absorbs moisture, it reduces the dew point temperature, eliminating condensation from forming on the interior walls.
The dessicant bags can be hung off of the cargo lashing hooks and should be replaced every 10 to 12 weeks 0 depending on the season and your local weather conditions.

Locks. What is the best padlock for a shipping container?

You of course can lock your container with any high quality padlock available at a hardware store.
Container Lock Boxes

shipping container lock box
shipping container lock box

A container lock box adds an extra layer of security by having a steel box which is securely welded to the container door and covers your padlock.
With a lock box installed, the lock can only be accessed from the underside. Lock boxes prevent would be burglars from breaking open or cutting through the padlock using crow bars, angle grinders or bolt cutters. Thieves know that lock boxes require a lot of trouble to open, so they act as a deterrent against break and enters.

shipping container lock
shipping container lock


Here are 6 helpful tips on buying a shipping container for home storage
1) Before buying your shipping container, make sure you measure the available space that you intend to park the container. Allow for adequate space around the sides and ensure easy access to the doors. If you require electrical power, can you run a power extension cord from your home or other electrical power source?

2) Arrange the delivery with the company that you buy your cargo container from. They will have their own truck or a relationship with a trucking company that can handle the container delivery to your address.
Your container will likely be delivered on one of two types of trucks: a tilt-bed or roll-off truck or a flatbed truck.

3) Take into consideration the additional costs to have your container delivered, set up on a foundation (if needed) and any renovations that you may require (see earlier section in this post). Your labor and materials costs will be less than building a comparable wooden structure, even if your up front cost of purchasing the containers may be higher.

4) Do you need to set your container on a foundation? Depending on the lot that the container will occupy, you may need to set it on a basic foundation of concrete, wooden rail road ties or other similar materials.
Setting your container on a foundation will help moisture drainage and ventilation and avoid corrosion to the underside of the steel container. A foundation can serve to increase and the life of your investment.

5) Does your locality require any permits to store a shipping container on the property? Local ordinances can vary significantly from state to state and even from county to county. The seller of your container can be a good resource for this information. Let the seller know what you plan to do and they can provide some helpful information.
Shipping containers are different than a regular building (like a garage or shed) in that you don’t need a city building permit for a structure that isn’t built a permanent foundation.

6) Ventilation may be a straightforward way to guard against moisture build up and condensation problems. If your container is not equipped with vents, you may look at installing fixed shipping container vents to aid airflow. You can buy specific shipping container vents from online sellers.

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