How to Custom a Shipping Container?

How to Custom a Shipping Container

In this you will learn everything about custom shipping container.

Keep reading to learn more.

Types of Shipping Container

A shipping container is a metal container made of industrial-grade steel and originally manufactured to import and export goods.

The types of shipping containers vary to the intended purpose of use.

The following are some of the most widely used types of shipping containers.

General Purpose Container

It is also known as a dry container and is the most widely used type of shipping container.

Dry container is available in ISO standardized sizes and is ideal for transporting dry goods.

General purpose shipping containerGeneral purpose shipping container

General purpose shipping container

Flat Rack Containers

This type of container possesses collapsible sides that can fold to make a flat rack.

They are ideal for transporting oversized and bulky goods since they also have very stable end walls that will safely secure your goods.

Flat rack container

Flat rack container

Open Top Containers

The containers have a removable or convertible top that you can completely remove to ship over-height cargo that won’t load through the container’s door.

Open top container

Open top container

Double Door Containers

Double door shipping container

Double door shipping container

It is also known as tunnel containers and ideal for faster loading and offloading of goods in the container.

High-cube Containers

These containers resemble general purpose containers though taller by at least one foot.

It is ideal for use when you want to transport a slightly higher volume of cargo.

High cube container

High cube container

Open Side Container

This kind of container also resembles a general-purpose container, but the doors can be completely open on their sides.

It offers more room to access the container for speedy loading and offloading of goods.

You can also easily fit goods that are too big to get in through the regular door.

Open side shipping container

Open side shipping container

ISO Reefer Containers

You can use an ISO container to ship goods that require controlled temperature, such as perishable agricultural produce, meat, etc.

reefer shipping container

Reefer shipping container

Insulated Containers

Similarly, this type of container also has a temperature control setup that can withstand higher temperatures.

It uses the ‘thermos’ technology and has a mechanical compressor to heat or cool the air inside to achieve the desired effect.

insulated shipping container

Insulated shipping container

Half-height Containers

As the name suggests, the container’s height is half that of a regular container.

It is ideal for bulky, heavy, and dense cargo transportation because it has a lower center of gravity.

half height shipping container

Half height shipping container

Tank Containers

This container type is ideal for shipping liquid products.

The tank comprises anti-corrosive steel in addition to other anti-corrosive material.

tank container

Tank shipping container

Swap-Body Container

This type of container is ideal for rail and road transportation because they are exchangeable.

You can only use swap-body containers for land-based transportation because they lack the upper corner fittings and are not stackable.

swap body shipping container

Swap body shipping container

Other types of shipping containers include:

  • Drum containers
  • Car carrier containers
  • Special purpose containers

Grades and Condition of Shipping Container

A container’s grades reflect its current condition and thus its suitability for use.

There is no universally standardized container grading system.

Currently, the grading systems in use depend on the structural and aesthetic value of the shipping container.

These two grading systems are independent of each other, and you have to consider them so.

The following are the available grades of containers:


It is a near new container sold to the buyer as soon as it arrives at the destination point.

A one-trip container has been used only once to avoid empty shipping containers at higher transport costs.

One trip containers have minor flaws that arise from a single time use.

F-Food Grade Containers

The container is of high standards and used in the shipment of food products.

It must meet the following conditions.

  • Structural conditions must meet IICL 5 requirements.
  • Must have a valid CSC plate
  • Has never transported or come into contact with any hazardous or toxic chemical
  • Waterproof
  • No visible daylight from the inside when the doors are closed
  • High hygienic and cleanliness standards
  • The depth of scratches must be less than 2 mm.

Grade A

Grade A containers must meet the following conditions:

  • The container can be new, used, or refurbished.
  • Must meet the requirements of wind and watertight (WWT)
  • Must have a valid CSC plate, and the structural condition is IICL 5 compliant.
  • Rusts and dents are very few.
  • The interiors should be at least 80% mark free.
  • It also has minimal surface rust.

Grade B

The grade classifies containers with the following qualities.

  • Must be cargo worthy, that is, ideal for cargo transportation as per the guidelines of CSC.
  • Possess valid CSC plate
  • Should either be IICL 5 or WWT compliant
  • The scratches and marks on the interior surface must be less than 50%.
  • The floor usually has minor delamination and will be stained or marked.
  • The outer surface usually has extensive dents and corrosion.
  • It may have undergone some minimal repairs.

Grade C

  • Grade C containers are cargo worthy 2, WWT, and must meet all the set initial specifications.
  • Has more extended scratches, markings, and corrosion
  • Has undergone extensive repairs
  • The floor has moderate delamination and markings.
  • Cheaper and also widely available
  • Has extensive wear and tear on the outer surface with numerous, visible dents and corrosion.
  • You can use it to ship goods provided it has a valid CSC plate.

Grade D

These containers are too damaged to be used in the shipping industry and may also be unworthy to store goods.

  • D grade container s also referred to as “As Is Standard.”
  • It has no valid CSC plate.
  • The container’s floor is extensively delaminated and stained.
  • Both the exterior and interior are extensively corroded and may also have holes.
  • Walls and roofs may be leaking, difficult to open doors, and worn out seals.

Feature You Can Modify in a Shipping Container

You can modify almost every aspect of your shipping container to meet your particular needs.

When it comes to modification, you can either purchase already modified containers from specialist suppliers, or contract a specialist to modify them for you on-site.

You can also custom it yourself if you have the relevant skills and experience.

Some of the features you can custom to your liking include:

  • Height, Width, and Length (Size).
  • Shelving
  • Paint color
  • Locking technique
  • Doors and Windows
  • Flooring and Roofing
  • Interior and exterior finishing-out
  • Insulations
  • Partitions
  • AC/Heating and Turbine vents
  • Ramps
  • Plumbing and Claddings,
  • electricity connections
  • Water connections, etc.

Factors to Consider When Selecting a Shipping Container to customize

You should consider the following factors when selecting a shipping container to modify for a specific application.

Size and Type of Shipping Container

You should select a container that is large enough to provide the desired space requirement for your application.

If you want more spacious containers, you can consider high-cube containers.

Similarly, you can select a general-purpose container, tunnel containers, or any other type of container that will suit your application as desired.

Container Condition

Select a high-grade container that is still in good condition.

Lower grades containers may be cheaper but can limit your modification needs and will also be less efficient.

You should personally inspect the container to ensure that it is in good shape and meets your structural and aesthetic requirements.

Supplier Reputation

It is wise to consider buying your containers from suppliers who have a positive reputation and have been in the business for some time.

Though they might charge a little higher prices, they are highly likely to deliver the best quality containers.


You should cautiously select a freshly repainted container.

In most cases, repainting might hide rust spots that might not have been treated with a rust converter.

Rust itself is not a problem, but it will bleed through the paint sooner and demand additional treatment and repaint cost if not properly managed.

Purpose for Purchase

The application you want to use your modified container for will determine the grade of the container you select.

For instance, if you’re going to start a catering service, you must choose a nearly new or food-grade container still in great shape.

Other applications may not require stringent conditions and can be okay with grades C or D.

Installation Space

You have to select a container that suitably fits in your installation space without strain.

Ensure that you won’t be obstructed by the available ground space or obstacle heights.

Delivery Cost

Inquire who will incur the delivery cost and how much it will cost if you have to pay for it.

Select a supplier who has branches near your location to minimize the cost of delivery.

Design Limitation

Ensure that the container you select will be capable of accommodating your design requirements.

Anything short will inconvenience you and the efficiency of your application.

Determining the Condition of a Used Shipping Container

You can determine the condition of a used container by considering the following factors.

  • The age of the container
  • The grade of the used container
  • Mileage traveled by the shipping container.
  • Handling and maintenance history of the shipping container
  • The operational conditions the shipping container has experienced.
  • Shipped containers door quality
  • History of cargo spills on the used container.

The Difference Between New and Used Shipping Container

New Containers

A new container in most parts of the world is known as single-trip containers.

Single-trip containers move from the point of manufacture to the destinations where they are sold off while loaded with cargo.

The cargo is offloaded, and the containers are sold off as new containers.

Usually, a new container has less than 5% markings and very little use evidence.

New containers also have the best aesthetic appearance and usually come in a single solid color.

They are free of shipping logos and can serve you sufficiently for up to 30 years with good maintenance.

Used Containers

A used shipping container is one that has been used for multiple cargo shipments over the years.

They are usually wind and watertight and ideal for specific purposes.

Unlike new containers, used shipping containers have rusts and dents and carry logos of various shipping companies or other brandings.

A used container can serve you for up to 20 years when you handle them carefully with sufficient maintenance.

You can always refurbish used containers through repairs and paintings.

Available Sizes of Shipping Container to Select From

Shipping containers come in a wide range of sizes.

However, a standard ISO container is either 8.5 feet high by 8 feet wide by 20 feet or 40 feet long.

High-cube containers are bigger and measure 9.5 feet high by 8 feet wide and either 20 feet or 40 feet long.

There are other diverse sizes of shipping containers that may vary between manufacturers and industry of use.

Ensure to consult your supplier if you need any custom sized container.

Applications Suitable for Custom Made Shipping Containers

You can use modified containers for almost any application that requires temporary storage or shelter.

Different applications require different types of container modification.

Below are some of the common areas and the corresponding applications that suit the use of modified containers.

Conversion for Catering Needs

You can use modified ISO containers to build restaurants, coffee outlets, pop-ups, mobile catering units, mobile event bars, etc.

Modified containers suit the needs of erecting mobile or semi-mobile catering units to serve in different occasional events.

Conversion for Retail Business

Modification for retail conversion depends on a range of factors.

Key among the elements is the size of your business, required internal space, and size desired.

You will pay cheaper rent and taxes for modified retail outlets compared to concrete houses.

Some of the most retail applications include:

  • Barbershops
  • Event merchandise stalls
  • Household goods stores
  • Motor vehicles spare part retail shops.
  • Mobile and pop-up retail shops

Conversion for Office Use

You can use modified office containers in almost any industry.

Consequently, you can use office containers in the following fields.

  • Trade show and exhibition offices
  • Construction site offices
  • Sales offices

Conversion for Industrial Use

Modifying shipping containers for industrial use is ideal in the manufacturing, engineering, and construction environments.

You can easily convert these containers and use them in a diverse range of applications listed below.

  • Generator store
  • Workshop containers
  • Biomass containers
  • Control rooms
  • Chemical store

Conversions for Self-storage

You can custom make the standard shipping container and transform it into a dynamic self-storage facility.

The following applications will come in handy:

  • Chemical store
  • Self-storage office
  • Pharmaceutical stores
  • Container multistore
  • Mains electrical storage units
  • Dual function storage/office
  • Other uses of modified shipping containers can also include:
    • Educational purposes: Storing books, records, documents, and athletic equipment
    • Agricultural purposes: Storage for farm equipment, supplies, products, and machinery.
    • Government services: Temporary shelters, military supplies, security and custom offices
    • Residential use.
    • Medical: Mobile clinics and laboratories.

Advantages of a Customized Shipping Container

shipping container house

Shipping container house

Conversion of shipping containers into diverse structures with multiple uses harbor with it numerous benefits.

The following are but the selected few in the list.

Very Spacious

There are different sizes of shipping containers to select from.

Usually, these containers are always too spacious and have plenty of room to store as many goods as you can.

Maximum Security

Modified shipping containers are manufactured using steel, which is very secure and difficult to break into.

In addition to the standard locking mechanism, you can customize the locking systems to give you the peace of mind of safe goods.

Highly Durable

Steel is known to highly durable metal that can withstand the harshest of environmental conditions.

You can use your modified shipping containers for up to 20 or 30 years, provided you take great care of them through regular maintenance schedules.

Easy to Transport

When your business or work is mobile, then using a custom made container is the best way to go.

You can either put your products in a shipping container, load them up in a truck for transporting them to another point or use a container with fixed wheels.

Faster Construction

You will construct your desired infrastructure faster in comparison to the conventional brick construction methods.

You can perform some of the less crucial modification in your production site before transporting it to the final destination.


Modifying shipping containers are also cheaper compared to traditional brick construction methods.

Though an empty container may be cheap, complex modifications may skyrocket the costs significantly.

Siting Your Custom Shipping Container

Siting your custom shipping container properly goes a long way to ensure its longevity, safety, and efficiency.

Place the container on a dry, flat and level surface, either tarmac, concrete, or paving, to enable the doors to open correctly.

Avoid placing containers on soft, uneven, and dump surfaces.

Though it will survive under such conditions for several years before wearing off, wear and tear will significantly reduce its life cycle.

Place timber and paving under the corners of shipping containers to act as spacers and balance them even under extremely uneven surfaces.

Designing the Plan for Customized Shipping Container

You can manually design your container by brainstorming for ideas, presenting them as sketches, and then combining them as a design drawing into a final product.

You can also use a variety of container design software to design your modified container as desired.

Basic Materials for Customizing Shipping Containers

Shipping containers are versatile, strong, and heavy structures that require some specialized and ordinary equipment and machinery to modify.

Some of the basic machinery and equipment that you must have include:

  • Forklifts and Hysters
  • Welding Machine
  • Propane heaters
  • Spray foam insulation kits
  • Cutting discs and Grinders
  • Assembly materials
  • Safety equipment

Step by Step Customization of a Shipping Container

The following are necessary steps that you can consider for customizing a shipping container for any application.

You can seek professional help from a specialist for more complex modifications or carry on yourself if you have some artisan skills.

  • Design and sketch your desired structure.
  • Workout all the arithmetic and architectural competence of your project to see if it fits well with available shipping containers.
  • Consult an engineer for the structural safety of the structure you intend to construct, especially if it involves removing any parts.
  • Incorporate the expert’s opinion in your design and finalize it.
  • Prepare the site where you will lay your modified container. Involve an expert when making the concrete stands, slabs, leveling, etc.
  • Select and purchase a shipping container of a higher grade. Ensure you factor in the delivery time to avoid unnecessary inconveniences.
  • Receive and connect your containers appropriately if you are using more than one container. Add all other structural inclusions correctly.
  • Cut the openings and install the add-ons as desired. Seal the gaps created during cuttings.
  • Remove the floor or add a subfloor as appropriate, given that the original floor might have chemical residues.
  • Add frames, sheath, insulation, and floor as desired.
  • Install electricity and water system as appropriate.
  • Conduct final plumbing and furnishing to complete your structure.

Insulating a customized Shipping Container

You have to insulate your modified shipping container to protect you from the surrounding outdoor environment’s temperature extremities.

There are diverse options that you can choose from when insulating your modified shipping container.

The choice of a particular method will depend on your application and the desired structural properties.

You can use either of the following types of insulation t broadly classified into five major groups:

insulated shipping container

Insulated shipping container

Blanket Insulation

These are open-celled, fluffy, blanket-like materials fabricated by fitting long fiber meshes in smaller spaces.

Blanket insulation is commercially available as insulation batts and rolls.

They include fiberglass, Rockwool, mineral wool, slag wool, sheep wool, denim, and cotton.

Blanket insulator offers cheaper insulation options.

Unconventional Insulation

The materials used are cheap and unconventional though more environmentally friendly.

They have a low R-value, thus also lower insulation properties.

You can use them in environments without extreme temperature fluctuations.

They include materials such as straw bales and hempcrete.

Loose-fill Insulation

You can also construct wall cavity containment chambers then apply pieces of macroscopic insulating materials.

However, loose fills are highly permeable to vapor and may cause problems with moisture retention.

Some of the materials you can use are loose-fills of cellulose, fiberglass, perlite, vermiculite, etc.

Spray Insulation

You can use spray insulation, a mixture of several liquefied materials that harden when sprayed.

Spray insulation expands to seal the cracks, nooks, and crannies and ideal for conserving heat in the shipping container.

Types of spray insulations that you can use include:

  • Open- and Closed Spray Polyurethane Foam
  • Cementitious Foam
  • Damp-Spray Cellulose

Expanded Foam Insulation

These are self-supporting insulation panels, and boards fabricated off-site and pre-sized to tailor fit a standard wall height.

These forms have a higher R-value and can offer sufficient insulation in extremely demanding climatic conditions.

They include material such as:

  • Open and Closed Cell Polyurethane Foam
  • Polyisocyanurate
  • Expanded Polystyrene Foam
  • Extruded Polystyrene Foam

Preventing Condensation in Your Shipping Container

Condensation is typical of any metal surface.

Container condensation occurs when the container wall’s temperature drops below the dew point temperature of air occupying the container.

Changes in the internal container temperature can re changes in external weather and other external factors.

When the internal temperature falls below the dew point of content moisture, the air inside the container will no longer be capable of holding moisture.

This leads to condensation.

Condensate can collect into large drops of water and drip down, causing damage to your goods and corrosion on the shipping container’s interior.

You can manage condensation in a modified shipping container using different methods as dictated by your application.

These methods include:

The use of Desiccants

These are vitals when using your modified shipping containers for product storage.

They absorb excess water from the air and reduce the dew point.

Install Ventilators

A sound ventilation system eliminates the air temperature differences between the outside and inside of the container by sucking in cold air and expelling warm, moist air.

However, ventilation may fall short of meeting your needs in humid and wet conditions because it will suck in cold air.

Improve Insulation

Installing insulators in your container walls will significantly lower condensation by maintaining higher internal temperatures above the dew point.

Use Dehumidifiers

Dehumidifiers are fundamental in applications that use a modified container for the storage of moisture-sensitive goods.

They suck off excess moisture from the air as the dew point falls.

Other useful practices that will also minimize condensation in modified shipping containers include:

  • Avoid placing your containers on cold and dumpy surfaces like exposed soil.
  • Use containers with corrugated roofs.
  • The roof can be slightly bowed in an arc form to prevent the collection of external water.
  • Store your products in the container using pallets

Installing Doors and Windows in Your Custom Shipping Containers

You can install doors and windows anywhere on the container for your convenience and ease of access.

Follow the steps below when installing doors and windows.

  • Measure and mark the location where you want to install the door or window.
  • It should be inclusive of space for steel tubing.
  • Use an angle grinder to cut the opening, then let it settle and cool.
  • Grind the sharp edges using angle grinders.
  • Construct the door frame using three tubing pieces, that is, for the top and both sides. In the case of a window, you will use four tunings.
  • Square the frame, then clamp it into position. Weld the corners
  • Fix your frame into the opening created earlier and level the header to square it. Secure the frame into position by tack welding its top and sides.
  • Remove any sharp corners using an angle grinder.
  • Seal all openings between the door frame and container shell by applying silicon. Remove the excess silicon and prepare a smooth finish.
  • Install your window and door as per the instructions provided by the manufacturer.
  • You can tack weld a rebar piece across the open or bottom end of your frame to ensure that your frame remains square.

Adding Wheels to Your Shipping Container

You can use either removable or permanently fixed container wheels to move it around.

The choice of container wheels to use depends on how often you move it around.

Your wheels should be strong enough to handle the weight of a modified shipping container and big enough to roll over uneven surfaces.

Use adjustable wheels that you can winch to square them up with the truck or trailer you use to pull them.

You can also use a permanent container caster to move your modified container around.

Each of these container movement methods has its benefits and drawbacks, which you must consider thoroughly before settling for a given option.

Safety Concerns of Customized Shipping Containers

Security Concerns

The original shipping container is usually airtight and impenetrable, making them some of the most secure storage facilities available.

However, modification and add-ons such as windows may lessen the security levels, and therefore you should install more security enhancers.

Health Safety Concerns

The primary health safety concern is floor contamination with potentially harmful chemicals and hazardous materials in the coated paint.

If you have ordered brand new shipping containers from the original manufacturer, you can instruct them not to treat the floor with hazardous chemicals.

However, if you are using an already used container, there are high chances that the wooden floor was treated with chemicals to protect it against pests and mold.

If you are not sure of the chemical content, it will be wise to either completely remove the wooden floor or place a carpeted floor above it.

You can insert a non-breathable polythene bag before carpeting with a new floor system.

Similarly, some cargo transporters paint their containers with potentially harmful paint coating for protection against saltwater.

Such paints can be dangerous when they come into contact with human skin.

You can mitigate the risks of toxic chemicals by either encapsulating the harmful coat with non-toxic paint or insulating with spray forming insulator.

Alternatively, you can eradicate the coating.

Enhancing The Security of Your Custom Shipping Container

You can consider either of the following measures to enhance the security of your modified shipping container.

  • Installing a perimeter wall
  • You can install an alarm system.
  • Using crossbar locks
  • Installing inner bolts
  • Welding or bolting container lockboxes
  • Using heavy-duty padlocks
  • Installing keypad entries
  • Using latch guards
  • Using burglar bar windows
  • Install security lights

Inspecting a Shipping Container

Shipping container inspection starts at the design stages and continues through the entire service life of the container.

The International Convention of Safe Container (CSC) has outlined specifications on the requirements for safe and secure containers.

If you can physically visit your suppliers’ yard, you should conduct a pre-purchase inspection and a post-purchase inspection at the delivery time.

Inspecting a container intended for modification or on-site storage is usually not as stringent as inspection for sea, rail, or truck transit.

The process is entirely visual and does not require any special equipment.

You should inspect the following areas.

  • Underside
  • Structural frame
  • Walls
  • Roof
  • End doors
  • Interior
  • Floor
  • CSC plate
  • Database

Cost of a Shipping Container

The cost of a shipping container significantly varies to the container’s grade and condition at the purchase time.

Other factors that also influence a container’s cost include; location, supplier, age, availability, delivery fee, size, and features.

Among all these factors, the container’s condition is the most important when bargaining for prices.

Second-hand containers can cost as low as $1400, while new shipping containers can cost up to $5000.

Factors Influencing the Price of Shipping Containers

Parts of shipping container

Parts of shipping container

The following factors will influence how much you pay for your container.

Age and Condition

Newer containers that are still in good condition will cost you more money than older containers with a higher wear and tear percentage.

A single-trip container is usually considered ‘new’ by industry standards and is the most expensive.

Container Sizes

You can opt to buy standard or high-cube containers.

Whereas standard containers are ISO certified for quality, consistency, and safety, high-cube containers are taller and sometimes wider.

However, the extra size comes with an approximate 20 to 30% increase in the product price than a standard-size container.

Delivery Fee

You have to inquire from your supplier whether the delivery fee is inclusive of the purchase price.

If not, let them inform you how much it will cost you to get the container delivered to your doorstep.

Generally, the more mileage to the final destination, the higher the delivery fee.

You will also have to pay a premium fee that is 20 to 30% higher than the standard delivery fee if you want your container delivered the same day or the next day.

Ensure the site for laying down your container is ready by the time the delivery truck gets to the destination

If the driver has to wait, then you have to pay extra money billed per hour.

Your Supplier

Buying your container directly from a large supplier helps you pay minimum prices for quality products.

Middlemen usually add 20 to 30% to the original price, thus making the containers more expensive.

A middle man is also likely to pressure you into buying an aged container for a premium price.

Maintaining The Customized Shipping Container?

Maintaining a shipping container is a task that you can easily accomplish by considering the following:

  • Periodically clear the roof off heavy snow and debris.
  • Clean out dust to prevent damages to paint
  • Keep the interior floor clean and intact.
  • Periodically inspect the roof and fill available dents using a commercially available sealant to avoid further damages.
  • Inspect for leaks on doors and windows and seal appropriately.
  • Check for possible settling of the container in the foundation and re-level as appropriate.
  • Inspect to see if the paint has been damaged and repaint the rusty area to prevent further corrosion.
  • Always check and confirm that all installations, including the unit filters of A/C, are function appropriately.

The Service Life of a Customized Shipping Container

A brand new container can serve you for up to 30 years when you maintain it well.

However, a second-hand shipping container can last between 10 and 20 years with good maintenance practices.

At BanSar, we will help you choose the best shipping container manufacturers in China.

Contact us now for your shipping containers from China.

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