Are Shipping Container Homes Safe?
Dec 2019

Are Shipping Container Homes Safe?

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Shipping containers have become increasingly popular across the globe as an easy and cost-effective way to provide prefab housing. Shipping container modifications are trendy, not only because of their pretty and amazing designs, but also because they provide an efficient, effective, and superior green solution for sustainable living and trade.

Prefab containers provide highly functional and affordable housing solutions for modern-day minimalists and off-the-grid living, as well as commercial applications such as pop-up stores and technology centres. Indeed, shipping container modifications are an innovative, affordable, and low-maintenance way to address many shelter and construction needs. The speedy installation means that you can move in quickly, plus you can save on the cost of materials, and also re-use the units in new locations with ease.

But can these highly adaptable and portable units be considered to be safe for everyday living?

Containers are Inherently Strong and Sturdy

Shipping containers are manufactured from steel, which makes them tough and durable. They are designed to withstand extreme weather conditions both at sea and on land for optimal protection of the cargo within.

At sea, these containers are exposed to powerful winds travelling at 100 mph and high waves of up to 50 feet. If they can survive such harsh conditions, then they should stand through most storms that your home can endure.

Although some of the steel is removed from the shipping container to create openings for doors and windows, manufacturers employ creative methods to strike a balance between adding glass doors and windows and maintaining optimal structural integrity. Depending on your area’s climate and weather conditions, the container can be designed with the doors and windows positioned behind the original doors of the shipping container. This implies that the original container’s structural integrity and durability remain intact. Moreover, you can retain the locks in the original doors as your main locks for optimal security, especially when you’re away for extended periods, like for a secondary home.

Modified shipping containers can withstand storms and high winds even when they’re not bolted. Although unsecured, standalone containers can handle strong winds of up to 100 mph, and fastening them to a foundation can increase the safety and security of your prefab home significantly to withstand wind speeds of up to 175 mph. This makes shipping container modifications a great option for people residing in areas with extreme weather conditions, such as tornadoes and hurricanes.

As Secure as a Traditional Home

Shipping containers were designed to provide airtight, impenetrable solutions for transporting cargo around the world. They are one of the most secure structures for storage that you can get. But when you modify the structure of the container to create door and window openings, cutting away the metal reduces its security value to some extent. That said, installing quality doors and windows makes the prefab container home just as secure as any traditionally built home. You can even enhance the security using conventional means such as alarm systems.

That said, if you want to enjoy the full security benefits of a container, perhaps because it will be placed in a remote site, then you should maintain the original structure of the container as much as possible. This means fitting the door and windows behind the original doors of the shipping containers so you can lock them when leaving to seal up the container. But when using your container cabin, you can keep the doors open to let in light through the retrofitted door and windows.

Processed for Safe Living

If you’ve done your research on the safety of containers, you will find a couple of potential health concerns over using shipping containers homes, including:

  • The toxic chemicals supposedly used to treat wooden floors in many shipping containers.
  • The harmful chemicals such as chromate and phosphorus contained in paints used on shipping containers.
  • Contamination from chemical spillage of toxic substances handled or stored in the container previously.

These hazardous chemicals can pose a health risk to the occupants of contaminated containers. In order to eliminate these risks, many containers converted to residential shelters use either new containers that are not treated or coated with hazardous paints or used containers whose history is well known and were not used to handle toxic substances.

For used containers, you can apply a non-breathable flooring underlayment to protect yourself from harmful chemicals sprayed on the wooden floor. Then, place tiles on top of the underlayment as your new flooring. Alternatively, the original wood floor can be removed entirely and replaced with marine plywood.

Many shipping containers use toxic paint coatings to protect them from saltwater. But the problem comes when you get in physical contact with the paint. In such cases, the paint coating can be removed when converting the container into a residential shelter. Alternatively, the container can be encapsulated with non-toxic paint or spray foam insulation to ensure the safety of the occupants.

Impenetrable to Pests

With their steel construction, prefab container homes are highly resistant to pests and insects. Even when you choose to install an exterior wall covering or wooden floors, the internal frame of your structure is still made from steel, which is impossible for any pest to penetrate. While termites can damage the interior finishes or exterior siding, they cannot get past the steel material, which means that your home’s structural integrity remains intact.

Modified for Heat and Cold Control

Many are concerned about containers being a dead heat trap that may make dwelling there uncomfortable. But with proper and professional ventilation and insulation, your prefab container home should be more comfortable and energy-efficient than a traditional home. Most containers use foam and fibreglass insulation.

Final Note

One of the main reasons for using a modified shipping container for your home or office is because of its sturdiness. They will protect you and your property from severe weather like tornadoes, and provide a safe shelter in the event of natural disasters like earthquakes. The container is also impenetrable to intruders and pests, so you’re safe. However, you should ensure that the used container has no structural faults or toxic materials in its construction that may harm your health.

This means working with reputable companies that deal with shipping container modifications to ensure that they incorporate all best practises in their selection and fabrication processes to eliminate any health concerns for residential shelters.

For more information on shipping container modifications, call Sigma Container Corporation (SCC) at (855) 228-1993 or contact us here.