Shipping containers are very durable, made from Cor-Ten steel, which allows them to stand up to the harsh environmental elements while moving cargo overseas. They’re also designed and painted to withstand corrosion along with normal wear and tear. Still, whether using your shipping container for transport or repurposing the container for business or personal use, it is important to perform minimal maintenance to prolong its service life.
How to Maintain Shipping Containers
- Lubricate the Container Hinges — When not in use for a long period of time, shipping container doors may become hard to open and in need of lubrication. Simply apply a little lubricant to restore the hinges and your doors will open a lot easier. Here is a video we put together with a product our customers use to help maintain the hinges.
- Inspect the Ground — If your shipping container was delivered on a softer surface like soil that doesn’t drain properly, gravel, clay or even asphalt, it may settle over time. If this happens, your container may shift on the uneven surface and some of our customers find that a 40 ft. long shipping container will have issues opening and closing the doors. If this happens, some people choose to re-level the container with a jack and put cement blocks or railroad ties underneath it. To prevent this from happening in the first place, we recommend having your container delivered on solid, well-drained surface from the start.
- Inspect & Treat Surface Rust —Cor-ten steel has a high level of corrosion resistance, but only slows corrosion. It doesn’t eliminate corrosion completely. Widespread rust is one of the major factors that can destroy steel shipping containers if not treated properly. If you see the rust forming on your container, the best way to remove rust from shipping container is by wire brushing it and putting a coat of primer & paint made for metal on it.
- Inspect and Re-Caulk Weather Stripping- Over time the weather stripping around the doors can crack or peel. It is important to check your stripping annually to keep the shipping container wind & water tight. You can replace the entire weather strip or use caulk to fill in the gaps.
- Keep the Doors Closed — Keep the storage container doors closed when not in use. This keeps excess moisture from entering the container which can cause the plywood shipping container floor to rot.
- Remove Debris, Water, Ice from Roof —Standing water and debris can create rust on a container roof, despite the Cor-Ten steel protection. After a weather event, it is important to sweep or remove to avoid holes forming in the roof.
- Avoid Excessive Weight on Roof– Containers can hold a lot of weight, but more toward the four corner posts vs. the across the entire roof. To protect your container, ensure that the corners carry the load of the weight and try to avoid storing anything on the roof if possible.
- Inspect and Re-Caulk Weather Stripping- Over time the weather stripping around he doors can crack or peel. It is important to check your stripping annually to keep the container wind & water tight. You can replace the entire weather strip or use caulk to fill in the gaps.
The 7 Most Common Repairs for Used Shipping Containers
- Rust — Shipping containers are susceptible to rust caused by the environment or even small dents from a forklift which causes the paint to be chipped away. Once this develops, the rust can grow beneath the paintwork. Areas that are prone to rust are the welds, seams, bottom parts of the doors, and container sides near the ground. Also flaking of the paint from exposed sea and sun can develop rust patches. This is easily removed with sandblasting, priming, and repainting. Deep rust and holes should be cut out and have a steel piece welded on the container.
- Floor That is Rotting or Damaged — There’s lots of scraping, pressure, weight, and more placed on the container floor. Over time the floor may suffer damage, and this could also come in the form of water damage if the container is not sealing properly and is therefore not watertight. The good news is that this is easy to replace. Carefully remove the flooring section and rivet or screw in the new piece of plywood, depending on how your flooring is attached. Be sure to get the same thickness flooring so your floor stays level.
- Door Seals That Need Replacing — While the rest of the container might be in good condition, the rubber seals around the door may be old and worn and not sealing efficiently. A professional can quickly and easily replace the door seals.
- Ventilations — It is not always the case that used containers are ventilated properly. A container’s vents are designed to allow air to move through them while preventing rain from getting inside. These vents can easily be installed in shipping containers without proper vents.
- Locks / Lockboxes — A shipper’s container can often undergo this procedure as part of its regular maintenance. Used shipping containers are typically purchased by people who want to install the best security features as a means of protecting their contents. Containers are often protected with lockboxes and puck lockboxes.
- Holes — As soon as a container is found with a hole, it needs to be repaired. A moisture-filled container causes a lot of damage because moisture can cause mold to grow. It is possible to patch the hole or weld the hole. If you have extensive damage, however, you need to cut out large sections and replace them with larger pieces of steel. It is not easy to repair these kinds of devices without the skill of a welder, but you can hire one to do the job for you.
- Shipping Container Repaints — A container whose lid has been damaged should be repaired as soon as possible. The presence of moisture in a container can cause mold to grow, which can lead to many problems. The hole can be patched or welded. Nevertheless, extensive damage usually requires cutting away large sections and replacing them with larger steel pieces. In these kinds of cases, you can hire a welder to do the job for you, as it is not easy to repair them without the skill of a welder.
One of the best aspects of purchasing a used shipping container is that it’s easy to find. With so many containers currently in use, they’re all over the place and available for purchase on sites. Whether you need one for business or personal reasons, there are a few obstacles standing in your way when shopping for this type of durable building material. Shipping containers come with their own set of repairs necessary after being put into storage and then transported across oceans, but understanding what these common fixes may be before buying a container will help save time and money down the road!