What are Shipping Container Sizes and Types

shipping container types and sizes

Shipping Container Sizes and Types

When you are planning to build a shipping container home, the first thing you need to consider is its size. Here we will discuss shipping container sizes and types.  The container size plays an important role in deciding the living space available to you. We’ll here be discussing the different sizes of shipping containers available for you to choose from. We will also be covering the various types of containers that are available in the market for modification.

What are the available container sizes?

There are two most common sizes of shipping containers available for sale in the market. One is 20 feet long and the other is 40 feet long. Both are 8 feet wide and can be bought in new as well as used condition. A 20-foot container is more popular because of its compact size near to a 1-car garage. A 40-foot container, on the other hand, is the best value per square foot making it more cost-effective. Its size can be compared to a 2-car garage.

You can also find some custom sizes in both extra small and extra-large configurations. Usually, an extra small size includes a 10-foot container. It can be compared to a garden shed in terms of size. It is perfectly suitable for small spaces but isn’t cost-effective like the bigger versions. The extra-large sizes can range from 45 to 55-foot containers. You will find them in a high cube configuration with most container sellers. Since these containers are not of the usual size, you will have to inquire about transportation in advance. Consider contacting a specialist for making transportation provisions before ordering.

40 foot High-Cube-Container

Different types of shipping containers

Let us have a look at the various types of shipping containers available for modification:

Standard dry storage containers

Sstandard containers or dry storage containers are the most popularly used shipping containers. They are general-purpose containers used in transporting different types of dry cargo. Since these containers are made specifically for carrying dry products, these are completely sealed and weather-proof. 20 or 40 Foot

High cube shipping containers

Another type of container excellent for modification are high cube shipping containers. Their structure is similar to the general-purpose containers except that these are taller by one foot. You will find them in sizes of 40 and 45 feet. High cubes are popular in the storage of large-volume cargo. High-cube containers are perfect for building a custom-designed house. These containers are preferred for the extra ceiling height they offer. You don’t have to compromise the headroom of the habitable space with this extra height.

Vented shipping containers

Vented shipping containers are not a popular choice for container home builders. Their structure is similar to standard containers but they offer a little more ventilation. This extra ventilation feature helps in preventing condensation during cargo transportation.

For this very feature, they are used to transport goods that require ventilation. For example, vented shipping containers can be utilized to transport coffee beans or dry grains.

Open-top container

Another great option for customizing is an open-top container. With a removable top, the goods can be loaded or unloaded from the top of the container. You can find them in both a hard and a soft top usually made of steel and canvas respectively. Things that do not fit in a normal container because of their height can be transported in these containers. They are also suitable for cargo that can only be loaded from the top. A forklift is normally used to load the cargo in open-top containers. These containers are a perfect choice for multi-story constructions as they save you a load of cutting costs.


Tunnel container

Another type includes tunnel containers or double-door containers with doors on both the ends of a container. These containers can be used to quickly access the cargo as there are two openings. This dual-opening can reduce the loading and unloading time to 50% making them a good choice for transporting small items. These can also be used for transporting goods like steel and iron that do not fit in the normal containers. Tunnel containers have weather-tight sealing with a good locking system on both the doors.

These containers are perfect for constructing homes with full-height glazing as it saves you a lot on steel-cutting costs. The cargo doors play the role of security doors for your construction once you install the glazing.


Tunnel shipping container

Open-side storage container

Another type of shipping container is an open-side storage container. They are similar in structure to the general-purpose containers except that their door opens at the side of the container. This wider opening allows for quick and easy access to the goods. It also saves time in loading and unloading the cargo. Both 20 and 40-foot open-side containers are perfect for transporting extra-large items that aren’t suitable for normal-sized containers.

An open side storage container would be ideal for constructing a container cabin with a fully-glazed elevation. It saves you from the hassle of cutting the steel. Cargo doors work as security doors for your cabin once the glazing is installed.


Open-side storage container

Refrigerated ISO containers

Refrigerated ISO containers or reefer containers are used for keeping goods at a standard temperature. Since these are climate-controlled, they can be utilized for a variety of purposes. They are best used for transporting perishable items like fruits and vegetables. The inner temperature of these containers is regulated with the help of external power. They are available in standard sizes and made from cotton steel material. You can consider saving the cost of insulating your container house by utilizing refrigerated containers for building your house. However, these are not used for house construction for the challenges they pose during modifications. Some major problems faced while converting refrigerated ISO containers into habitable spaces are:

  • Small living space is left inside the container because of built-in insulation.
  • Complications are involved in installing doors and windows as it is extremely difficult to cut through the insulation.
  • Limited load-carrying capacity of these containers doesn’t allow you to add a lot of weight.
  • Such containers risk catching fire during the welding process.


Refrigerated ISO container

Insulated or Thermal containers

The insulated or thermal containers are similar to refrigerated ISO containers as their internal temperature can also be regulated. This makes them perfectly suitable for areas with high temperatures. Their best utilization is in transporting temperature-sensitive products like food, blood, body organs, chemicals, etc.

Such containers can be made from a vacuum flask or vacuum-insulated panels. Modifying an insulated container poses problems identical to refrigerated ISO containers.

NOTE: Consider using a high-cube container and installing insulation thereon to avoid modifying thermal and refrigerated containers.

Half-height containers

Half-height containers justify their name as they are half the height of a normal container. Usually made of steel, these are perfect for transporting bulk cargo having high density. They are used for transporting coal and stones in the mining industry. A low center of gravity allows these containers to carry heavy weights, unlike other containers. Loading and unloading of goods can also be carried out easily with a reduced height.

A half-height container can be utilized to construct a shipping container pool in your backyard. You won’t need to cut a high-cube container into two as it involves additional work. You will save on cutting costs as well. The sturdy construction of a half-height container holds the pool water efficiently.

Flat rack containers

Flat rack containers are simply collapsible containers used for storing purposes. The end walls of these types of containers are extremely stable and secure the cargo. This makes them a perfect choice for oversized shipping goods. Flat rack containers have limited functionality in building a container home. However, it can be utilized as a platform for your outdoor deck.

Flat rack shipping containers

Flat rack shipping container

Final Words on Shipping Container Sizes and Types

Choosing the right type of container for your needs is a prerequisite in building a shipping container home. You can utilize one for the main living area and another for constructing your home’s outdoor space. Yet another can be utilized for building a swimming pool. This way you can mix and match different types of containers for bringing the home of your dreams to reality.

40 foot Containers

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1 thought on “What are Shipping Container Sizes and Types”

  1. Rebecca Gardner

    It was helpful when you said that high cube shipping containers are generally 40 to 45 feet tall. My brother mentioned he wants to find an equipment provider that offers shipping container modifications for his industrial facility. This info should help him determine if high cube shipping containers would be a good match for his needs.

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