How Long Will My Shipping Container Home Last?



A practical concern that most potential shipping container owners have is wondering how long their container home will last.  When people start to seriously consider constructing a building from shipping containers, they also want to compare the cost of constructing with containers compared to constructing with traditional materials. When doing this comparison, remember to take into account how long the building will last. If you build a cheap home that is only habitable for five years, then over several decades rebuilding our home countless times is going to cost a lot more than investing in more expensive materials at the very start and building the home once. Of course, this is an exaggerated example, but you get the point.

Shipping Container Homes

Have you settled in your mind whether you are going to be using new or used containers for your building? One trip containers are a very popular choice because they’ve only been used to ship products once. They are much less expensive than brand-new containers and almost as pristine.

New or one trip containers will normally last about twenty-five years with little to no maintenance.  Obviously, this figure will vary depending on the climate in which the shipping container is located and how the container was prepped.

What if my container is used, how long will it last?

Heavily used containers tend to be around ten years old or so when they come out of service. If you have purchased a used container, you will have about fifteen good years remaining before any major maintenance needs to be done. With used containers, others factors apply such as whether they have any heavy dents or rust when they were purchased.

Extending the Container’s Lifespan

You can take simple but effective measures to extend the length of your shipping container home dramatically. If you use a form of external cladding for your containers it can add decades to the lifespan of your home. A good cladding won’t be damaged by rot and termites and can last over fifty years! Another effective measure that should be used is tackling maintenance issues immediately whenever you notice either rust or corrosion. The longer you leave the rust untreated, the more damage it can do. Treating it early will limit or even prevent this damage.

To conclude, it’s very tricky to place a figure on exactly how long a shipping container home will last since we haven’t been building with them long enough yet to have examples. However, we do know that storage facilities made from steel have already lasted for decades, so there’s no reason why shipping container homes can’t last as long.

Traditional Brick Homes

Traditional brick buildings are very popular in countries such as England, the United States, and Germany. In England, you can find examples of brick buildings that date back to the 1500’s (such as Apethorpe Hall). Such examples are now the envy of countries throughout the world since these buildings provide incredible heritage and culture.

The average length of time a traditional brick house will last varies depending on numerous factors. For the sake of comparison, we will attempt summarize this for you.

Factors Affecting the Lifespan

There are countless factors that affect the lifespan of a brick house, but we will look at some of the most important ones. First, the type of brick that was used and the strength of the mortar used to bond the bricks together should be considered.  Second, think about whether the brick is used as a structural component of the building. If not, what is used for structure? Third, was flashing used around structural openings to keep the building watertight? Finally, what are the weather conditions where the building is located.  Is that location prone to earthquakes, other natural disasters, or severe weather? Any of these will significantly reduce the expected lifespan.

Traditional House Lifespan

So there are a lot of factors, but a well built brick building located in a mild climate should be expected to last at least one hundred years. There are examples of brick houses that have collapsed in less than fifty years and other examples that have last over centuries. A good rule of thumb should be at least one century if not more.

Wooden Homes

The most difficult of the traditional buildings to put an average age on is the wooden buildings. Because the basic material is naturally grown, wood can have variations. Brick and steel, which are man-made, can be produced in an identical manner. Wood has one advantage over both steel and brick. Wood is a flexible material and can literally be sculpted into almost anything imaginable.

Factors Affecting Wooden Building’s Lifespan

Like with a brick house there are a few key factors that can reduce the lifespan of a wooden home severely. First, think about what type of wood has been used to build the home? The two main types of wood are hardwoods (oak, walnut, etc.) and softwoods (pine, cedar, etc.). Hardwood is far more durable but is more expensive and takes much longer to grow. Second, what are the local weather conditions? If the environment is a harsh one, notorious for heavy rainfall and wind, then a wooden house won’t last as long. Finally, how exposed is the home? If it’s surrounded by either a wall or trees then they will take the majority of the onslaught from the weather. However, any exposure to severe weather or climate will reduce the lifespan considerably.

Wooden House Lifespan

We should expect a typical wooden home to last in excess of fifty years, providing it isn’t exposed to harsh weather conditions for a considerable length of time. If the house is kept free of pests such as termites and is well maintained (i.e. rusty nails replaced, painting stripped and renewed regularly) it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect the house to last another fifty years on top of this.

As you can see, it is impossible to give exact numbers for any type of building, whether container home or traditional building. There are many factors that can affect the lifespan of buildings, regardless of the materials used. All types of houses have some advantages and some disadvantages to consider. It is crucial that you make your final decisions based on the location and environment where the building will be located and then choose the best materials based on that information.

Let us know your thoughts on the lifespan of shipping contain buildings in the comment section below

Cheat Sheet:

Is a Container Home right for you?

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