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I'd like to buy a shipping container (something like the picture below) for my plot of land. However I heard some people saying that it can't go directly on the lands earth (don't know if it is true or not). So what should I use between the earth and the container?

Just making it clear, I don't want to build anything (no cement please) and its weight is 3.8 ton. Its measure is 12 meters x 2.59 meters.

maritime container

  • I use 2 4x6 treated posts 10’ long one at the end with doors one at the other if there is any slope it is best to make it slope toward the doors so if any water gets in it will drain out. During a recent hurricane my 40’ floated across the lot with 30 inches of storm surge water. I wish I had anchored it to the ground somehow – Kris Nov 20 '18 at 23:43
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Containers are designed to be supported in 4 corners and span the rest.

If your container is longer than 40 feet (12 metres), you will find 8 support points, not 4. The most important ones are the middle ones that are 40' (12m) apart.

Left in contact with the ground, they will rust uncontrollably, with rate wildly depending on the soil type, pH and wetness.

The contact with the earth will also be a haven for critters. what kind of critter will depend on the height, so you get to decide whether the underspace is fit for scorpions, cats or horses! Choose a height that will attract the least dangerous or most desirable critters.

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Interesting. Not exactly "DIY Home Improvement" though I have heard of people using containers to make small homes.

These are not "maritime" - this is really a standard 40' intermodal container. They are designed to move easily on ships (maritime), roads (as truck trailers) and stacked on rail cars.

There are two issues I can think of:

  1. Ground contact - If they are on concrete (like the picture) then they are quite stable. But on dirt they may shift a bit and there may be a concern about corrosion, particularly if water can pool under/next to the container.

  2. Level - If you are using this for anything like a workshop, you will want it to be close to level.

The solution that I have seen most commonly is to use wood to hold it up. Since it is 8-1/2' (aka 2.59 meters), 10' pieces are plenty long enough and don't cost that much. I think pressure treated wood makes sense for ground contact if the container will be in place more than a few months.

I would probably go with (US measurements) 2x4 (standard building lumber) or 4x4 (standard posts). I'm not sure how many you would need, at least one every 2 feet or so. As Harper points out, the critical points are the main corner supports - that's how containers are stacked on ships.

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    I agree. It'll rust marginally quicker if left in direct contact with the ground, but it'll last decades regardless. I'd use treated wood or it'll rot away before the container. – isherwood Nov 19 '18 at 22:06
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    The containers are double stacked only on North America, India and Russia. Nobody else has the bridge/tunnel/trolley wire clearance to get 2 stacked containers under them with the railcar (and North America has them very low in a well, barely a foot off the rail, and it took an international campaign of undercutting and notching tunnels to do even that). – Harper Nov 19 '18 at 22:26
  • I read a fascinating book about this - I think it was amazon.com/Box-Shipping-Container-Smaller-Economy/dp/0691136408 but I could be wrong (it was a couple of years ago). Even though rail we only do double-high, ships now stack them many levels and hold thousands, and in Australia the trucks can pull 3 or more. – manassehkatz Nov 19 '18 at 22:37
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    It was unnecessary to mention Australia, because of course. I'm surprised their trains don't triple stack em. Australia is where Texans go to be impressed with size and wildness! – Harper Nov 19 '18 at 22:41
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What is your concern with contact with earth? My company has maybe 40 of these containers for storrage. Some are are on timbers some are on gravel. My office and the other electricians and millwrights are on asphalt, some stacked 2 high with stairs to the upper levels. In my case I have multiple power sources both single phase and 3 phase power. I know of these containers sitting on dirt for over 20 years yes the base is rusted but the wood deck is strong enough to handle a 50hp diesel tractor. So it would help to understand your concerns, galvanic corrosion, rust, uneven settling?

  • As far as I could read, some people don't recommend laying it down on the ground due to it rusts, other say that they are prone to have water flood and some other people say that due to the rain, they might slide down (I don't know if it is true). As said, this is the first time I have a container, so I have no idea how it really works. – Hola Soy Edu Feliz Navidad Nov 20 '18 at 19:19
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    If you have high water they could flood but the water level would have to be ~8" above the ground. The steel in the base of these is thick it will take many years if not decades to rust through in direct contact with earth. Some gravel in the supports would make it last longer. As far as timbers we only temporarily support them in most cases as the timbers will rot faster than the steel. When you mention slide down are you saying it will sink? They may settle a few inches but I have not seen one go more than a couple of inches into the mud even filled with heavy equipment. – Ed Beal Nov 20 '18 at 19:43

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