View Full Version : Cargo containers

Greg M.
02-23-2007, 09:48 AM
I have found cargo containers on Ebay and have wondered about their uses. I thought about getting one for a storage unit, but then wondered about how they would work as a root cellar. What would happen to a cargo container if it was buried? Would the steel rust through? I have no idea how thick the steel is on cargo containers.

Down here in Texas, the soil is not compact enough for a traditional basement/cellar. My wife and I have been thinking about different ways to create a root cellar environment.

02-23-2007, 02:05 PM
That's odd Greg. For the first time, I was searching Ebay for shipping containers, last night. ($1300 for a 40' isn't too shabby)

I believe they are pretty darn heavy gauge steel. (They have to tolerate a lot of abuse over their lifetime) A few searches turned up 14 gauge steel. (between 1/16" and 3/32". pretty thick stuff)

They are also meant for sea going operations, so I imagine they hold up pretty well to corrossion. (not sure how often they need repainting) If it were me, and I was burying one, I'd have it completely sprayed with hot application bedliner coating before doing so, but I imagine a good paint coat (and perhaps a pitch coating like used on foundations) and a careful backfilling could make one last for many years.

Being able to drain away water from around the container would be pretty important.

02-23-2007, 08:55 PM


You do not want to bury a cargo container. These boxes are meant for stacking. Only the corners are structual. I have a 40' high cube box for storage on my property. I put a couple of spinning roof vents up on the roof. It is very flexible. The steel is strong, but only a skin. You would have to place beams over the top to make it safe. Most boxes are pulled for age and rips in the steel.

I have seen modern bomb shelters, and they use large scale drainage pipe. You can bury that pipe. They weld plates over the ends, and build an elevated walkway.

class 01-15-05

Greg M.
03-08-2007, 09:28 PM
I will probably get a cargo container this month shipped to my location from Houston. I had concerns about sitting it directly on the ground vs. building some kind of foundation for it to be set upon. Here is the response from the seller:

While containers which are 10-15 years will have some limited amounts of rust and obsolescence, they are more than capable for an after life on
ground. They are designed to withstand the rigors of salt air and life
at sea. They are constructed of rust resistant corten steel. The interior wood floor has 6" or so of clearance off the ground overlaid on steel cross members. So even if moisture is under the container, the floor is elevated over it.

03-09-2007, 06:21 AM
I think I'd still be inclined to toss a few timbers or someting under it. I'll probably put down a decent stonebed just to keep it from sitting directly in water or damp soil.

I used that method for my hanger. Atop the stone, I had a couple sheets of visqueen, and two layers of 1/2" plywood. (so I could screw it all together to form a single piece floor) After ten years, and selling the plane and hanger, I tore up the floor (quite a job) and the bottom plywood looked good as new. (the top sheet was fine too, just normal wear over the years) The only place there was any sign of rot, was where I had consistant roof leaks in some localized places.

Stone is cheap, far cheaper than a rusted out cargo container. :wink:

03-09-2007, 11:39 AM
I have had a 40' for 2 years. The trucker who delivered it stated the easiest and most common support is a couple 2 ft. pressure treated 4"x4" in each corner. We placed as the truck off loaded the container. Took about one minute. Simple, cheap, fast and has kept the container dry and rust free. My property is extremely wet. We live at the bottom of a hill on the water in Mason County Washington. We get everyones runoff from above. Has remained dry inside and underneath.

05-20-2007, 11:59 AM
Most areas of TX can't have basements/cellars because 6" or so under the top soil is rock. It takes a lot just to get an inground pool. If you have to blast forget about it, the Edwards people won't let you do it because of the potential damge to the aquifer or some branch that feeds it. Getting a company to come in and dig with a jackhammer would be cost prohibitive and is the reason some 95% + homes in TX are built on slabs. East TX is too wet and west TX is too sandy, but both suffer from the same rock problems to some extent.

Burying a container would be bad, as has been pointed out, only the corners are structural. Get a couple of railroad ties, you can find them for about $17 each, cut them in half and use them at the corners.

Also do some more research. Shipping containers can be had for the cost of the shipping to your location, ebay is far from the best resource for finding them. If you are in the Houston area, you have shipyards, and most containers are a one-way use trailer, that's why you see stacks of them, nobody wants them back. The ones you see on ebay are just bringing them too you from the closest place that wants rid of them.

07-29-2007, 10:54 AM
Railroad ties are great, but be very cautious handling them--they're a favorite habitat of black widow spiders. (My family used to have quite a few being used for landscaping, and I saw black widows on a weekly basis. There, and nowhere else.) There are also concerns about the substances used to treat almost all railroad ties, such as coal tar creosote. A lot of the concerns are a bit hysterical, but considering the precautions used by people who work with creosote, I'd hate to see someone put one of the things inside their house where they might come into contact with it every day.

Here's a link to an <a href="http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/Epidemiology/PublicHealthToxicology/documents/pdf/creosote.PDF">OSHA report</a>.

08-07-2007, 11:50 AM
Why, yes you can. But, heed Noblenight's cautions to you.
You can't go so deep that the forces of nature overtake the load capacity.

here in WA State, a few years ago, the largest pot bust of the century (for the state) brough to light several sea going containers burried with a small stair/access way to the surface. Plants along with lights and hydroponic equipment kept a very large crop. The police found and raided it the day they were to be harvested.

These burried chambers were deep enough that the DEA and Police never found them in previoius searches of the property---only an eyewitness tip lead them to the containers.

But, unless you have a very intensive monetary pay-off, I think it would be more hassle than helpful to use one as a root cellar---it would take a pretty big and deep hole---not the safest thing to dig alone either--even if you know how to shore-up as you dig.


09-01-2007, 03:08 PM
Dare to Prepare by Holly Deyo has a section about buried
cargo containers. Here's some info I gleaned from reading
her book, and talking with someone who actually buried a
couple of containers:
You can place about 5' of soil on top if:
*You place large concrete pads (16" x 48" x 48"?) under each corner.
*Fully foam insulate the outside of the container and protect the
insulation from bugs who like to eat insulation.
*Reinforce the sides with railroad ties.
*Lay ties across the top, and then cover the ties with 6" of concrete.

A lot of time and expense but it is still less $$ than an insulated
concrete box or dome...about 1/3 le$$.