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Shipping Container Dimensions

Posted in Guides

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The world of containers can be surprisingly daunting at times. Just considering shipping container types and sizes, there are many choices. You have to decide between 20-foot and 40-foot containers, standard and high cube containers, as well as refrigerated, open-top, platform, and tank. To simplify this decision making process, we will cover some of these in more detail.

By far the two most popular containers you will come across are the standard 20-foot shipping container and the standard 40-foot shipping container. Since these are the most common, most of this information will be about these.

20-Foot Shipping Container Dimensions

The standard 20-foot shipping container is a popular because they are most common, easier to maneuver, and due their size can be easily combined and modified to create exceptional living spaces.

We can see the size of this shipping container below:

  • External
    • Length: 20′ 0″ | 6.06m
    • Width: 8′ 0″ | 2.44m
    • Height: 8′ 6″ | 2.60m
  • Internal
    • Length: 19′ 2″ | 5.84m
    • Width: 7′ 8″ | 2.35m
    • Height: 7′ 9 ″ | 2.39m
    • Floor Area: 144 Square Foot | 13.3 Square Meters
    • Volume: 1,169ft³ | 33.1m³
  • Door Opening Width: 7′ 8″ | 2.34m
  • Door Opening Height: 7′ 5″ | 2.28m
  • Weight: 4,840lb | 2,200kg

Advantages and Disadvantages of 20-foot Containers

The 20-foot containers have one distinct advantage over the 40-foot containers. They are significantly easier to transport and maneuver. If you’re thinking of constructing a container home in a remote, difficult to access location, then the 20-foot container is probably the best bet for you! They are also less expensive than the 40-foot containers.  If you are on a limited budget, the 20-foot containers will be a better choice.

However, the 20-foot containers do have some disadvantages. First, each container offers a floor space of around 144 square feet. If you need a larger space your only option would be to combine two containers together. This is doable but will require additional time, organization, and expense.  Second, although individually they are cheaper than 40-foot containers, their price per square foot is actually more expensive. If you are considering constructing a large building or home, and your land has suitable access, the 40-foot containers are a better value.

40-Foot Shipping Container Dimensions

The other common shipping container is the 40-foot container. The majority of large shipping container homes have utilized these containers. They offer exceptional value for money and considerable interior space. We have detailed the dimensions of the container below for your reference.

  • External
    • Length: 40′ 0″ | 12.2m
    • Width: 8′ 0″ | 2.44m
    • Height: 8′ 6″ | 2.60m
  • Internal
    • Length: 39′ 5″ | 12.03m
    • Width: 7′ 8″ | 2.35m
    • Height: 7′ 9 ″ | 2.39m
    • Floor Area: 300 Square Foot | 28 Square Meters
    • Volume: 2,385ft³ | 67.5m³
  • Door Opening Width: 7′ 8″ | 2.34m
  • Door Opening Height: 7′ 5″ | 2.28m
  • Weight: 8,360lb | 3,800kg

Advantages and Disadvantages of 40-foot Containers

Due to the 40-foot container’s size, there is more than 300 square feet of usable space in the interior. We’ve previously shown in How Much Do Shipping Container Homes Cost, examples of homes which have been made from using only one of these 40-foot containers. Another advantage you have when using the 40-foot containers is that they represent greater value for money overall when compared to a 20-foot container. Because they are considerably longer you have the option to divide the container up into multiple rooms which you cannot do with the smaller 20-foot containers. “Heavy Tested” containers can hold over 60,000 pounds, so you shouldn’t have to worry about anything you place inside it! Of course, because they are larger you typically need fewer of them, delivering and laying them in place is quicker.

However, 40-foot containers are more expensive to transport and delivering these to remote locations can be challenging. They are also difficult to maneuver, so make sure you know exactly where you want them placed on your land before they are delivered.

Other Types of Shipping Containers

High Cube Containers

If you are looking for slightly more height for your home, then a great option is a high cube container. High cube containers have the same width and length dimensions as the standard containers listed above, except they are an extra foot taller. This extra height will allow you to place all your electrical wiring, water pipes, etc., near the ceiling and still maintain a ceiling height of eight feet. However, high cube containers aren’t as common as standard containers so they tend to be more expensive.

20-foot High Cube Container Dimensions:

  • Internal
    • Length: 19′ 2″ | 5.84m
    • Width: 7′ 8″ | 2.35m
    • Height: 8′ 8″ | 2.64m
  • Door Opening Width: 7′ 8″ | 2.34m
  • Door Opening Height: 8′ 4″ | 2.54m

40ft High Cube Container Dimensions:

  • Internal
    • Length: 39′ 5″ | 12.03m
    • Width: 7′ 8″ | 2.35m
    • Height: 8′ 8″ | 2.64m
  • Door Opening Width: 7′ 8″ | 2.34m
  • Door Opening Height: 8′ 4″ | 2.54m

Open Top Containers

Open top containers are pretty self-explanatory. They are essentially the exact same as the containers mentioned above except, they don’t have a roof on them. You can get open top containers in both the standard 20-foot or 40-foot size and also 20-foot high cube and the 40-foot high cube container sizes. Open top containers aren’t typically used when building container homes because they need modifying in order to be habitable. They need a roof!

US 45-Foot Containers

The last variant of shipping containers we are going to discuss today is the 45-foot container, which is mostly used in the US. The 45-foot container shares the same dimensions as the 40-foot containers with regards to its width and height however it’s an additional five feet longer. We’d normally say if you aren’t desperate for the room, then don’t go out of your way to look for these. You will spend significantly more money for the extra five feet of space.

Some Concluding Remarks

We hope you are now in the best place possible to think about selecting the container type, or types, that you are going to be using. There are no hard and fast rules when selecting your container. However sometimes your location means only certain types of containers are readily available or it means you can access a promotional price, which makes the decision for you!

Remember that manufacturers have slightly different tolerance levels, normally +/-5 mm,  so make sure you contact the supplier to get the exact dimensions. Uses the dimensions listed above as a general rule. All shipping containers should be made in compliance with ISO 668:2013 – Series 1 freight containers — Classification, dimensions and ratings, so take a look at the standards if you need classification information.


We’d love to know which container type you’ve chosen to use. Let us know in the comments area below!

Comments
  1. Jazz Queen

    Okay, you ROCK. Thank you very much for the measurement information.

  2. Glen

    I am wanting to cut out the ent entire side panel of my high cube 40ft container and use winches to lower the panel and then lift the panel back up when I want to lock it or move it. Could you give me some guidance on how much the side wall weighs.??
    Thanks
    Glen

    • Discover Containers

      The side walls of most containers are 1.6mm thick. You can calculate the weight of just the corrugated paneling (without the structural beams) by multiplying the density of steel (around 8g/cm3) by the volume of steel in the wall (1.6mm x 2.89m x 12.2m) x (~150% to account for the added material in the corrugation profile). This is approximately 680kg or 1500lbs.

  3. Sharlo

    Hi Tom I have a 40ft high cubic container. I want to use it as extra entertainment space. I’m having a very hard time finding people that have worked on shipping containers. I appreciate all the information you are providing because it helps me do some of the work my self. Do you have info on anyone in Oklahoma city yet? Thanks
    Sharlo

  4. JR Namida

    Is there any public build videos on doing the installation of container exterior weather proofing? Was wondering if tack welding steel 2×4 studs to outside and using that for a framework to apply a closed cell foam would provide a satisfactory method to keep the desert heat from making a container an oven.

    • Discover Containers

      We don’t know of any specific videos off-hand, but there may be some out there. Tack welding metal studs to the exterior of a container would provide a good structural support for the spray foam insulation, but it introduces thermal bridging. You want to reduce any penetrations, and certainly any metal-to-metal contact as much as possible between the inside and outside of the building. Ideas include adhesively fastening the studs, using wooden studs, etc. If you do weld them, keep them spaced as far apart as your exterior sheathing will allow.

  5. Kathleen Seabrooks

    Hi I would like to.build courtyard container home with eight 40 ft high cube container two right behind each other for more width. With floor ceiling glass windows NB and doors that open out to courtyard from eve room. Will the windows compromise the strength of the structure

    • Discover Containers

      Kathleen, yes anytime you cut out a portion of the steel container, the structural integrity is affected. Whether you need additional support, and how much, is very specific to your design, so we recommend consulting with a structural engineer in your area who can provide further guidance.

  6. Alex

    Do you have to weld units you stack 2 containers on top of each other, or can they be bolted at the ends?

    • Discover Containers

      Welds are generally used as they provide a stronger hold; however, they can be bolted if necessary.

      • Nik

        Hi Tom, when welding, do they have to be welded both sides, inside and out or welded outside is more than enough. Also how you would weld it underneath?
        Thanks, Nik

        • Discover Containers

          Assuming you’re talking about connecting two containers together, we recommend welding both around the periphery of the cutout section (what you refer to as inside) and also at the corners/edges of the container (what you refer to as outside). You don’t necessarily need a continuous weld bead in both places, but you want enough welded to prevent any movement or flexing between the two pieces. You also want to ensure adequate sealing after welding to prevent moisture intrusion. As far as underneath, you’ll need to lift the containers if they are not already elevated on piles. If you choose to lift them with a jack, forklift, or other method, ENSURE you use solid pieces of material as ‘jack stands’ to hold the containers in case the jacks fail while you are underneath!

  7. Kaylie

    I’m trying to plan out a house made of shipping containers and I have a quick question:
    Are there any smaller containers out there or is there a way to cut one and reinforce one? What is the best option?

    • Discover Containers

      Hi Kaylie,

      The smallest mainstream containers are the 20 foot ones. Anything smaller than that is very hard to find, or you’d have to cut a longer one.

  8. Patrick

    I think I read that you can get containers with one side removed, is that correct? If so, wouldn’t that be the best purchase for joining two containers together rather than cutting?

    • Discover Containers

      Hi Patrick,

      Yes that is correct- they are known as side doors.

      It depends on the price- in our experience, they are much more expensive and it’s cheaper to do the work yourself…

  9. Mas

    Hi Tom,
    Im doing a project by using 20′ containers and stacking them into 7x5x3 ((LxWxH), removing almost of the side panels to create a large space for 3 storey motorcycle parking building. Have you seen the similar treatment to these containers like that by stacking them horizontal & vertically that lot, and no reinforcement structure added. is that possible? how do you think? you could imagine the center containers would had no both side, front and rear panels.
    Thanks ^^

    • Discover Containers

      Hi Mas,

      We haven’t seen an exact layout like this before, but it can certainly be done. However, it probably isn’t possible without reinforcing if you’re going to remove all the side panels.

      Send us an email with any diagrams you have and we can go through it.

  10. Steve

    Can I take an open top 20′ and place it upside down on an open top 40′? This would give me 20′ double height and 20′ regular open top (no roof). If welded together, would it be structurally sound? As long a mfg is same, width should be same, will doors still open if upside down?

    • TexasGeek

      That’s an interesting concept. I’d like to see what you learn. I have been speaking with a container broker about also using open frame boxes to extend or elevate containers and tank containers for water reclaimation and storage. Question is how do you find ones that were used for food grade transport and not toxics. Still these are pretty rare and costly, stay in service longer. I wanted to recycle all grey water to irrigation use.

  11. Sean

    You don’t mention 53′ containers, why?

    • Discover Containers

      Hi Sean,

      53 foot containers aren’t very common, but we may add some of these less common sizes in a future update.

  12. Wawee

    Hi Tom,

    If I buy a 40ft High Cube Container, cut it in half to make two 20ft High Cube Container, reinforce the cut side with steel bars and stack them 3 storeys high, will the structure strength compromised?

    Thanks

    • Discover Containers

      Hi Wawee,

      Yes, cutting the containers in half will have an impact on the structural integrity.

      We recommend purchasing 20ft containers and save the time and effort…and probably money.

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