What is a Container Home Lifespan?

What is a Container Home Lifespan?

Living off grid in a container home is an alternate living style that has become more popular due to its affordability and being eco-friendly.  It’s only natural to be curious about the lifespan of a container home and what can be done to extend that lifespan.  Below are some ways that may help with your container home’s longevity. 

A Container Home’s Lifespan? 

A shipping container in new or pristine condition will last up to 25 years.  A shipping container that has been in service is typically used for 10 years before it is taken out of service and will last another 15 years. 

The most important thing about a container home is to immediately attack any rust or corrosion.

These lifespans are based on containers as they come standard.  There are some great ways to extend that life even longer to where it’s possible to get another 50 plus years out of your container home.

External Factors

Living in a wet climate can rust out metal over time more quickly than a dry climate, meaning that without proper maintenance your container home won’t last the full 25 years.

Adding something like external cladding, i.e.; curtain walling, rain screen, timber, etc., will prolong the life of the container.  Good, quality cladding won’t rot and won’t be damaged by termites.  

Even paint can help prolong the lifespan of a container home depending on the type and making sure to repaint no longer than every five years.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that the better the home is maintained then the longer it will last.

What Are Shipping Containers Made From?

Shipping containers are either made from weathering steel or COR-TEN steel (which is a U.S. Steel trademark name).

COR-TEN is a group of steel made to resist weather corrosion better than other steels.  With it being a metal, it will still rust if left untreated. 

Are Container Homes Waterproof?

Shipping containers are used in shipping across the oceans and are built with heavy-duty rubber door seals to keep water out from damaging the cargo.

When containers are repurposed for use as container homes they are inspected and repaired before they are sold to ensure that the watertight seal is not broken. 

Things like external cladding and paint will help in the waterproofing of the exterior of the container so that the interior stays dry. 

If the container exterior is left as is, then staying on top of rust will help continue to keep the container waterproof.  It is very important that rust be treated immediately.

What Is Cladding?

Exterior cladding is a layer of materials that separates a building’s structure from exterior elements, such as weather and sound.

There are a ton of different materials that can be used as cladding, and often is made up of an assembly of materials that each has its own function and importance in keeping exterior conditions out of the home.

Below is a list of a few types of cladding.  here are a lot of options in this area, and really it depends on climate factors and personal preferences.

Sandwich panels, also known as composite panels or structural insulating panels, consist of two layers of a rigid material that is bonded to both sides of a lightweight core.  The three components become a single composite.

Timber softwoods, such as red cedar, are some of the most popular ways to use cladding. Softwoods are knot-free and have a natural resistance to decay and moisture.  With a bit of sanding they can be easily stained or painted so you can add your own personal touch to it.

Hardwoods, like oak, are also great for using in cladding.

       Natural Red cedar crown cut wood texture background.

Thermally modified timbers like Platowood and ThermoWood can also be used.  These softwoods are treated to high temperature that takes away resins and moisture, which results in a stable and durable material.

Shakes and shingles are made from split logs. Shakes are typically split from a log using chisels and a mallet, while shingles are typically sawed off.  Depending on the type of wood used they can last anywhere from 20 years to 100 years.

Brick slips are thin layers of masonry and look very similar in appearance to conventional bricks. There are multitudes of styles and colors when it comes to brick slips.

What Paint Is Best For a Container Home?

There are a ton of different exterior paints, and the right one depends on things like climate, metal, wood, and oil vs acrylic paints.  It’s always important when buying paint that you pick one that is right for your climate. 

If it’s colder than 50 degrees then the paint won’t dry, unless you purchase a cold-weather paint.  In hot areas or in direct sunlight, the paint might dry too fast.  Things like the elements, wind, rain, and humidity can affect drying time and the final appearance.

It is highly recommended to use a primer when painting exteriors, especially on metal as it will be another barrier between your home and the elements. 

Water-based paint dries much faster than oil-based paint, so if time is against you, or you only have a small window to paint due to weather then water-based is probably a better option. Dry time with water-based paints is from 1 to 6 hours and with less odor.

Oil-based paint will get a better surface penetration, adhesion, and stain-blocking.  Dry time is much longer at 8-24 hours.  Oil-based paints are typically better for metals that can rust.

The type of paint you choose also is dependent on the type of cladding that has been added to the container home.  If you plan on leaving the exterior of the container as is then it is crucial to use a rust resistance paint.

A finish coat will seal and protect the primer and base coat.  There are four choices of finish paint: flat, semi-gloss, glossy, and satin.  The less gloss paint has, the less stain-resistant it is.

Depending on the type of paint used and the material that it is being applied to, it’s possible to go up to 10 years between needing to repaint.  Wood surfaces can sometimes need to be repainted every 5 years.  Things like weather and location also play a factor in how long you can go between needing to repaint.

The Bottom Line

Your container home can have a long lifespan with proper care right from the start!  Make sure that your container home is rust and corrosion free.  Prep your home for its new environment, paying attention to the climate and elements.  Whether you clad, paint or both, you will be surprised that with the right materials, how long your container home’s lifespan will be extended!

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