How Easy Can It Be to Customize a Shipping Container?

May 18, 2018

In our previous article “Building a Conex Box House”, we mentioned that our Google search for “conex box” returned quite a few results, but our search today produced 1,530,000 results for the same search. This is an increase of 1,009,000 people looking into ways to use or buy a conex box! With so many searches we decided we would discuss them for you in this article, and give you a better idea of how easy or difficult it can be to customize your own shipping container.

How Are Shipping Containers Made?

Amazingly, shipping containers are made by hand and not by machine. As you can see in the video below, the containers start as giant rolls of steel that are cut and then sandblasted and corrugated to give the walls more strength. Then they get welded together to create the walls of the rugged storage container. Tubing is welded onto the top and bottom of the wall to be used later to weld on the roof and the floor of the box.

After the wall, the floor is put together with I-beams. Two larger I-beams are welded and then smaller I-beams are welded on to create a raft-like look. Afterward, the floor is grinded down to remove any rough spots. After this, the doors of the conex box need to be made, so they are cut out like the walls, corrugated, and square tubing is also welded around them. After being sanded down to remove rough spots on them, too, the corners are welded to the I-beams and then each door is attached to the door frame.

Finally, the door frame and walls are welded onto the floor and the roof is welded to the walls, which creates the bare bones of the box. After this, the conex box is primed and painted, and the wooden flooring is fit to the I-beam floor frame. Decals are added and the door handles, locks, and seal are added.

After all of these steps, the newly created conex box must be waterproofed and tested for watertightness. They do this by spraying the bottom of the container with waterproofing sealant and then they dunk the whole box into water to test. If it passes this test, its ready to go!

Is It Easy to Customize a Storage Container?

With the right tools and the right know-how, it can be easy to customize a conex box. While you can use an angle grinder to cut through the steel that is used to create your conex shipping container, it is generally easier -- and faster -- to use a plasma cutter. A plasma cutter works by sending electric arcs through a gas that passes through a very small opening. The gas can be air, oxygen, nitrogen, etc. the important part is that the electrode heats up the gas enough to turn it into the fourth state of matter, plasma (the other three are solid, liquid, and gas). Once hot enough, the electric arc transfers to the metal being cut, and the high-speed gas can cut through the molten steel. That is why it is easier and faster to cut through your conex box this way. However, if you don’t know how to use a plasma cutter, don’t have one, or know someone that can use one, it makes it quite difficult to add your customizations to the conex box.

Beyond this, one issue to worry about is the design of your customization. Where to put the holes or which wall to cut away from the container. And size of the shapes you’ll be cutting out. You’ll most likely need help taking the steel from out of your way, or holding it up as you go, as it can be heavy and awkward to hold up while you are trying to cut it out.

Other issues that might crop up on you will be if your box will meet building codes once it’s complete. Will you add insulation, lighting? What about the exterior of the container? Most of these modifications are easier to accomplish than cutting, removing parts of the container, or changing its overall function. Just be sure that you don’t run yourself into any trouble if you plan to use your conex box for residential purposes by forgetting about building and zoning codes!

Should I Customize a New or Used Conex Shipping Container?

When looking at customizing a new or used conex container, you may wonder if there are any benefits to one over the other, but the answer is most likely not really. Unless you are planning to completely change the container, cutting the steel and welding on it should not be affected by whether you use a new or used conex for your custom project. Although newer containers may present less rust, this should be easily grinded, patched or sandblasted away, if you wish to use an older, used container.

There are quite a few new uses and modifications in the last decade or so, and as long as you have the right people, right tools, and plan accordingly, you can easily customize your conex box to almost anything your imagination can come up with. At Tuff Box, we also offer customization services, for those that can’t do modifications to their own containers. Check out our custom container options and get your quote today.

Related Industries