How to Get a
Space has always been a precious commodity. That is why when you want to construct a structure for
your personal or business use, you need to think twice before you go ahead with your plans. Have you
ever thought of using shipping containers? Did you just laugh? Well, go ahead, but at the end of it all,
you will be thanking your ingenuity when you decide to use a shipping container to meet your space
Most people associate shipping containers with transportation. However, these containers are extremely
versatile and can serve different purposes that you may not be aware of. Shipping containers are an
effective and cost-effective way to install additional storage space in your yard; or you also can use the
containers to make unique and quirky rooftop deck, garage for your vehicles, or comfortable housing,
depending on what your needs are. There are endless and creative ways to use shipping containers.
As a layperson, you may find it difficult to lay your hands on shipping containers, but it is not impossible.
However, before we get into how to get a shipping container, let’s check out some of the uses and
standards that you should be aware of. These tips will make you a bit more well-versed on shipping
Usage of Shipping Containers
As mentioned earlier, shipping containers are more than just an inexpensive way to transport goods,
whether perishable or non-perishable.
The architecture of the containers allows them to be used as functional buildings. They can double up
as temporary or permanent housing. They also can be used as workshops and storage sheds for
industrial and commercial purposes. There is even a school in the U.S. that is housed in a shipping
container. Take the example of Costa Mesa Waldorf School located in California. When the school
decided to expand its facilities, it opted for shipping containers. It used these containers to
build an eco-friendly new wing. The wing housed four buildings and was composed of
32 shipping containers. As a result, today, the school has a science lab, a two-story
auditorium, and a library, besides ample classroom space.
With the boom the Internet is witnessing, there is a demand for data centers to house
important and valuable business data. You don’t have to spend thousands and thousands
of dollars building a structure to house your business data. Many businesses are using
shipping containers as their safe and secure computer data centers. These containers are
specialized, but containers, nonetheless.
In the United States, there appears to be a high demand for shipping containers, and
they are being sought after to set up exhibition stands, restaurants, pop-up shops and
cafes, canteens, rack storage for archiving, and security huts. You can even use them
in the great outdoors at campsites and for storing seasonal hunting gear and equipment without
worrying about it all.
International Standards of Shipping Containers
In the United States, containers usually are about 48 feet. The ones transported by trucks and rails are
usually 53 feet. However, you can get containers in five different lengths. These are as follows:
standard 20-foot container capacity.
Getting a shipping container is not that difficult if you know how to go about it. Here are
the steps you should follow if you are interested in knowing how to get a shipping container.
Step 1: Checking the Local Regulations and Codes
It is important you check with the local authorities about the codes and regulations for placing a
shipping container in your yard. There are also rules for transporting containers across state borders. If
you want to use the container for shipping, storage, or housing, make sure you comply with the local
codes and regulations.
The best way to find the codes for your state is to run a Google search, and then narrow it down to your
city. Find out whether you need a permit to own a container and place it in your yard. Remember,
containers are heavy, and the last thing you need is to be asked to remove it after going through the
trouble of placing it.
There also are zoning issues to consider. This will ensure you comply in terms of the height of the
container. This is especially true if you intend to use the container for a rooftop deck. Also, bear in mind,
you would have to place the container a certain distance from your neighbor’s fence.
This initial research will help you comply with the laws prevailing in your neighborhood and prevent any
discord with your neighbors.
Step 2: Determine the Kind of Container You Require
There are many different types and sizes. You need to figure out the size and style to choose for your
Some of the types of containers you can choose include:
If you are interested in keeping the container in your yard or using it as a workshop or office, it is best to
opt for a refrigerated container. Refrigerated containers are expensive, but you will save the time and
money of insulating them yourself. It is best to weigh the pros and cons before you make a purchase
Step 3: Design the Layout
Once you figure out the size and type of the container you want, it is crucial that you plan the layout.
This means figuring out how and where you will use the container. You can sketch out the layout to see
how it best fits into the available space. Alternatively, you can use online programs, such as SketchUp, to
help you design the layout.
Designing the layout helps you conform to the local regulations and laws, and ensures you have
selected the right container for your use. In case you figure out you have made a mistake in your size or
type selection, there is still enough time to rectify it.
Step 4: Find the Container
There are so many different ways to find a container. We have highlighted a few for you:
Container Exchange Programs:
There many reputable
and reliable container
exchange websites that
allow sellers to list their
containers for sale on
these sites, and
prospective buyers to
browse through them.
The website acts as a
escrow that retains the
payment until you
confirm you have
received the container
and are satisfied with it.
Container exchange or
conex websites make it
very easy and
convenient to browse
for shipping containers
and make an informed
Locate a Dealer:
Again, you would have
to do an Internet
search to locate a
dealer. If you want to
use the container in
your garden or
workplace, opt for one
that is not
basically means you
don’t want a container
that is watertight, as
such containers are
more expensive and
usually reserved for
Check Out eBay:
You can perform a
search on eBay to find
local resellers of
containers. If eBay
doesn’t work for you,
use Google to find
shipping containers for
sale. It will bring out a
list of local resellers and
brokers that cater to
Visit the Shipyard:
If you have a lot of
spare time and have a
license, you can visit
your local shipyard to
check out damaged
These containers will
require additional work,
but find out from the
Rent a Container:
Some container sellers
also offer the option to
rent shipping containers
for specific period of
calculate the actual
cost involved and
whether you are
allowed to customize
the container to suit
your needs. If you think
the cost of renting has
more benefits than
owning, go for it.
The price of containers in the U.S. is on the low end of the scale, compared to other nations. This is because
the nation does not export as much as it imports, and it can be expensive to ship back empty containers. The
price of containers can fluctuate, depending on the international price of steel. So, keep an eye out for steel
prices as well, when looking for affordable shipping containers.
Step 5: Prep the Location
Before the container reaches your location of choice, make sure you prep up the area to place the
container. Level the ground and, if you have the time, install a foundation to sit the container on. If you
don’t want a foundation, get sturdy wooden poles. They should be a minimum of 6 inches in diameter.
Place the poles on the ground and ask the container delivery person to place your shipping container
on them. You also can use railway ties instead of wooden poles. Just make sure you have sufficient poles
or ties to accommodate the entire length of the container.
Also, ensure there is ample space for the delivery of the container. You don’t want it to bump into your
home or damage the neighbor’s property! There should be no overhanging branches, power lines, and
tree limbs that obstruct the clearance for delivery.
In case you are looking to move the shipping container yourself, you will have to opt for a flatbed trailer
hire. You can rent or buy one. The purchase option is the way forward if you want to keep the shipping
container mobile and portable.
Invest in electric winches to help you adjust the container later on. Also, think about anchoring your
container once it is put into position. Refrain from using a tree stump to anchor your shipping container. It
should be something more practical and stronger.
Step 6: Enjoy Owning Your Shipping Container
Once the container is delivered and placed in your desired location, you can give yourself a pat on the
back for fulfilling your task. You are now a proud owner of a shipping container and can use it as your
garage, a room to entertain friends and family, or as a rooftop deck.
Depending how you intend to use the container, you can make interior modifications.
These include installing windows, placing marine ply on the floor, installing HVAC, and
installing light fixtures and wiring. You can even paint the outside of the shipping
container to suit your taste.
While these changes cost money, the money spent is worthwhile. You have a secure space that is
extremely utilitarian and functional. The use of a shipping container is limited by your imagination.
Remember when the new World Trade Center was being constructed in New York City? Subway, the
sandwich franchise, opened an outlet in three stacked containers. As the height of the building grew,
the containers kept moving higher and higher to ensure construction workers had convenient and quick
access to their sandwiches during their 30-minute lunch break. This unique Subway outlet had everything
a regular Subway outlet had – a lounge area, full kitchen, and ample storage space.
Thinking out of the box and getting a shipping container could be just the answer to your space and
construction woes. Now that you know how to get a shipping container, go right ahead and find one to
suit your needs. Then you can modify it and use it the way you deem fit. Remember, getting a shipping
container is an investment. That’s why there is a market for them. Homeowners, businesses, and even
artists are hopping onto the shipping container bandwagon.