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Made of sturdy steel and built to withstand the harshest of environmental elements for months at a time, shipping container units may be the answer to many of your storage or space problems. Some of the novel ways people are using containers these days is converting them into mobile office spaces and storage units. Many people are also buying a shipping container for modifications to create affordable, sustainable living spaces.

Shipping container buildings are eco-friendly and economical choices. They can support amenities like windows, doors, air conditioning, heating, electricity, and plumbing—everything you need for an alternate living or workspace.

With a modern flair and some imagination, a repurposed shipping container may be your next great investment.

What is a Shipping Container?

These containers are made of shipping-grade 16-gauge corten steel and are used for heavy-duty transportation of goods. The rugged containers sit on the deck of colossal cargo ships, especially for oil/gas companies, so they need to be durable enough to withstand the harsh elements. Usually, these steel rectangles are fireproof, flood-proof, and almost indestructible.

Container units are very transportable, making them ideal for mobile work or storage spaces. There are pockets built-in for forklift operation, and the corner castings are made to be moved with a crane. Thanks to the support of their steel floors, container units often need no foundation. However, they should be mounted on wooden, cement, or steel footings if they are to be left in the same place for more than three months.

What Size Container Do You Need?

There are three different sizes you can commonly find shipping containers: 40’, 20’, or 10’. A 40’ shipping container lets you make the most of the internal space, and even these larger units fit easily onto a plot of land and a truck’s flatbed. Depending on your needs and budget, you will find a container size to meet your expectations.

There are also different shipping container types, including one-trip or new, water- and wind-tight, refurbished, and “as is.”

One-trip or New

The units have only taken one (or none) journey across the water. They are generally in excellent condition. However, before you buy, check the locking gear, which can be either high or low, to make sure it suits your purposes.

Water- and Wind-tight

There are different grades of steel containers. Grade A units are in the best condition with few dents, rust, and holes. Grades B and below have progressively more flaws.

The fewer blemishes a container has, the more water- and wind-tight your containers are, so look for Grade A or B containers if you’re planning on using them for alternate purposes like pop-up stores or mobile museums.


A refurbished unit has been buffed and repainted to hide any structural issues. But before you buy a refurbished unit, ask some questions of your potential vendor. Was the unit primed before it was painted? What grade was the container before the redo? A hasty paint job will only last so long before the rust starts to show.


If you need the most economical choice, “as is” containers are a great option. Most of the time, “as is” units have issues like holes or defunct locks. Make sure the doors line up, and the hinges work before you buy.

What Can You Use It For?

There are many unique uses for these eco-friendly steel boxes, from temporary bathrooms, shower facilities, mobile storage, pop-up vendors, libraries, and more.

People have been recreating their spaces using shipping containers as swimming pools and even a Starbucks in Tukwila, Washington.

It’s not just for personal use, either. If you have excess goods in your supply line, especially if they’re perishable, you can use reefers or refrigerated container units to keep them viable.

There are many uses for these durable, substantial, transportable containers. If it can fit into a box, a shipping unit can accommodate them.

Do You Need a Permit?

Before you put a storage unit on your property, check with your municipality, county, or city to learn whether you will need any planning permissions or special permits.

When you’re planning on using container units, with or without plumbing, HVAC, or electric, you will have to pay attention to specific laws and regulations. Ask about zoning laws, building codes and permits, building standard type (residential, industrial, or commercial), and building blueprints.

The Bottom Line

Refurbished storage units are an ingenious and affordable way to stay ahead of the game. If you want some extra retail space, more restrooms, or long-term refrigerated storage, specially adapted container units may be an ideal solution.

Asiana USA has the knowledge and expertise you need to navigate the complex shipping industry. Call us today at (855) 500-1808 or explore our website for more information on how you can reuse shipping containers for your home or business.

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