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A enormous trade deficit with china has left the United States with a glut of shipping containers stacked up so high that neighborhoods near Long Beach harbor experience sundown an hour earlier than the surrounding area. But the news isn’t all bad: these standardized 40′ X 8′ X 8-1/2′ boxes are being repurposed by people all around the world into low cost housing, internet hubs, and even workshops.

Pretty much any international shipping hub in the US has a glut of these giant lego blocks piling up around their necks. The most common size is 40′, but they come in lengths from 8′ cubes all the way up to 53′ tractor-trailer types.

Companies like Sea Box, Inc. have seized this opportunity and started to market to small businesses and DIYers. While a smaller cubes can be used as a simple tool sheds, the larger versions are a simple platform to add storage and/or workshops to a yard. And while they aren’t light — at about two tons — they are meant to be moved, and hauling companies will drop them on site for a reasonable fee.

A standard used 40′ container sells for roughly $1,500.00, but if you’re going to alter it by cutting out walls and adding windows anyway, you can often find¬†damaged units for much less. A simple pier-type foundation will give the container a good stable foundation. The possibilities are endless once you get one of these set up.

Sea Box’s Example Workshop [Seabox.com]
Shipping Container Auctions [Ebay.com]
Free Storage Container Price Quotes [B2B-Exchange.com]
DIY Shipping Container Construction Videos [YouTube.com]


10 Responses to Shipping Containers: Your Next Workshop?

  1. joel says:

    I’ve thought about this on several separate occasions, both as a shop and an alternative to conventional housing. Real estate in NYC forces one to get creative…

  2. crashin says:

    We were planning on something like this for mobile photo labs in the Marine Corps. I’m surprised more people don’t do this for long term onsite jobs… Then again I’m a AV guy so maybe I just don’t know how it all works…

  3. Brenda Helverson says:

    I recently saw a Seattle-area plumbing contractor who had a shipping container sitting in a parking lot next to a high-rise apartment. He apparently specialized in copper pipe and appeared to have a complete workshop and a large inventory of copper pipe fittings. For a large project, I’m sure that it beat any amount of working from a panel truck.

  4. olderty says:

    Check ’em for lead!

  5. T says:

    We have about 10 of the 40′ boxes on site at work. We use them for additional air conditioned storage and workshops. All of the “real” structures except the front office have 50 foot ceilings and no AC. If we need climate control for things, it’s a hell of a lot cheaper to go buy a container and slap a window unit on it than try to make an box inside the big buildings.

  6. Some projects using shipping containers as housing, workshops, saunas, restaurants, and more:


  7. Bill says:

    A local shortline railroad built an quickie locomotive shop out of these things. Two high on each side, two long on each end with about a 15′ gap in the middle, which would make it roughly 175′ long.

    They spanned the two sides with wood trusses (maybe 60′ span) with cable ties from the trusses to the lifting tabs on the bottom containers. Then they sided the whole thing with standard steel siding. Looks pretty good.

    The interior ends at the middle are open for forklift access for pallets, etc. and they have finished offices on one upstairs side.

  8. Chuck R says:

    I recently relocated from the Bay Area, which has a lot of these containers, to Phoenix. My family is in the process of constructing a farm in NE Arizona. I decided to move our stuff by buying a used container loading it our self and having it shipped to the site. When all is said and done, I get the move done with a container to spare. All told, with all of the delivery, pickup, shipping, and the container purchase, I am out just shy of $6000, which was far less than highering a moving company and a lot more convenient than hiring a big U-haul (twice for all our stuff) and maybe price competitive with the U-hauls, as well.

    The most important point, loading the container only takes lifting stuff 6 inches verses 3 ft for the Uhaul. Also, shipping price is not by weight. In fact, I loaded it with two 16 inch table saws and a 75 year old planer (don’t ask its either a bad habit or a hobby depending on who you ask). So, in addition to my household stuff, I had 6000 extra pounds worth of equipment.


  9. Will S says:

    The last time I checked the cost of a 35 foot Uhaul truck for a move from California to Oklahoma, they wanted just shy of 6000. And that’s just for one trip.

  10. Sam says:

    The most important point, loading the container only takes lifting stuff 6 inches verses 3 ft.

    Shipping Container

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