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Want to put three 40foot shipping containers on concrete slab. Presume I need to dig out and level the area, then fill with some gravel/sand? But not clear what depth of gravel and what depth of concrete. Assume to be reinforcing the slab with rebar and/or other as appropriate. Presuming maybe 15 ton max for each container.

  • Hello, and welcome to Stack Exchange. I'm not sure, but I'm guessing this isn't on-topic here as it's a commercial problem rather than a "home improvement" problem. – Daniel Griscom Jun 8 '18 at 22:54
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Assuming your containers are 10’ wide x 40’ long and weigh 15 tons, that creates a bearing load of:

30,000 lbs. / 10’ x 40’ = 75 lbs. per square foot (DEAD LOAD).

Add 50 lbs. per square foot LIVE LOAD (40 is minimum Code requirement for residential construction).

So, TOTAL LOAD is 75 + 50 = 125 lbs. per square foot.

A 4” concrete slab can easily support 125 lbs. per square foot without rebar, but you’ll need “control joints” or the slab will crack. OR, you can add reinforcing steel. This reinforcing steel is called “temperature steel” and is not used for spanning soft spots, etc. I’d use #4 rebar at 12” on center each way in a 4” slab. (I don’t like wire mesh.) I’d also try to keep the slab as “square” as possible. No jogs, etc., because it will crack at the jog.

However, if the containers are going to be used as “habitable space”, you’ll need to install perimeter footings down below the frost line. Depending where you live, the frost line can be anywhere from 12” down to 48”...or deeper if you’re at the North Pole.

Yes, concrete slabs are usually installed on moisture barriers (to keep ground water from coming up through the slab) and on a gravel base (to even soft spots out which cause differential settlement). The size, type and depth of gravel will depend on your location.

If you’re located on a hillside, (you say you have to level the site,) make sure ground water is diverted around your site.

If your soil is mush, like where I live, you can’t use this type of construction (slab on-grade construction). You’ll need to install piers or piling and design a “structural” slab to span from pier to pier.

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  • Why if used as “habitable space” does it need perimeter footings below the frost line? Because code, or because you'll be climate controlling it? – Mazura Jun 9 '18 at 4:51
  • @Mazura Because sheds, etc. fall into a different category in the Code. BTW, offices, institutional, etc. are classified as “habitable” too. It’s not just residential. Yes, the foundation of a shed will be affected by “frost upheaval” but it’s not regulated. (Fun Fact: Actually, if a sheds is small enough, it won’t require a Building Permit.) – Lee Sam Jun 9 '18 at 5:03
  • Thanks so much for the great input. We are on a slight up/down field that has only had livestock on it so that is why it need some leveling out. And we seldom get frost (coastal CA) so sounds like that is not much of a problem either. – DKJ Jun 9 '18 at 23:14
  • @DKJ Hmmm...existing field...ok, be sure to remove about 12” of topsoil. You can install a gravel base to raise the slab to the elevation required, but all the organic matter must be removed first or it will decompose over time and settle. – Lee Sam Jun 10 '18 at 0:49

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