A practical question that most potential owners of container homes have is: What is the lifespan of a shipping container? And consequently, how long will my container-made house last?
When people seriously consider building a structure from shipping containers, they also want to compare the cost of container construction versus traditional building materials. When making this comparison, remember to take into account how long the building will last.
If you construct a cheap house that is only habitable for five years, then rebuilding our house countless times over several decades will cost much more than investing in more expensive materials from the beginning and building the house only once. Of course, this is an exaggerated example, but you get the point.
Single-trip containers are a very popular choice because they have only been used to ship products once. They are much cheaper than new containers.
New or single-trip containers will typically last about twenty-five years with little or no maintenance. Obviously, this number will vary depending on the climate in which the container house is located and how the container was prepared.
What is the lifespan of a used shipping container?
Heavily used containers tend to have about ten years left in them when they are retired from service. If you have purchased a used container, you will have about fifteen good years before any major maintenance is needed.
With used containers, other factors come into play, such as whether they had heavy dents or rust when they were acquired.
Extending the lifespan of a shipping container
You can take simple yet effective steps to dramatically extend the lifespan of your container home. If you use some form of external cladding for your containers, you can add decades to your home’s lifespan.
A good cladding will not be damaged by rust and termites and can last for over fifty years! Another effective measure to take is to address maintenance issues immediately whenever you notice rust or corrosion.
The longer you leave rust untreated, the more damage it can do. Early treatment will limit or even prevent this damage.
In conclusion, it is challenging to pinpoint an exact figure for how long a container will last because construction with them is relatively new and there hasn’t been enough time for examples to emerge. However, we do know that storage facilities made of steel have already lasted decades, so there is no reason to believe that container houses will last any less.
Traditional Brick Houses
Traditional brick buildings are very popular in countries like England, the United States, Germany, and around the world. In England, you can find examples of brick buildings dating back to the 16th century (Apethorpe Hall) that use durable materials like slate, brick, and hardwood.
Such examples are now the envy of countries worldwide, as these buildings provide incredible heritage and culture.
Just like with shipping containers, the average lifespan of a traditional brick house varies depending on numerous factors. For the sake of comparison, I will try to summarize this for you.
Factors affecting the lifespan of brick construction
There are countless factors that affect the lifespan of a brick house, but let’s look at some of the most important ones:
- First, consider the type of brick used and the strength of the mortar used to bond the bricks.
- Second, think about whether the brick is used as a structural component of the building. If not, what is used for the structure?
- Third, were flashing used around structural openings to keep the building watertight?
- Fourth, the climate – what are the weather conditions where the building is located?
- Finally, is that location prone to earthquakes, other natural disasters, or severe weather?
Any of these factors will significantly reduce the expected lifespan of a house.
Traditional Brick House Lifespan
Therefore, there are many factors, but a well-constructed brick building located in a moderate climate should last at least a hundred years. There are examples of brick houses that have collapsed in less than fifty years and others that have lasted centuries.
A good rule of thumb should be at least a century, if not more, provided it’s not in earthquake-prone areas.
Prefabricated Wooden Houses
The most challenging of traditional buildings to age are wooden buildings. Because the basic material grows naturally, wood can have variations. Brick and steel, manufactured by humans, can be produced identically. Wood has an advantage over steel and brick. Wood is a flexible material and can literally be sculpted into almost anything imaginable.
Factors affecting the lifespan of a wooden house
Just like with a brick house, there are some key factors that can severely reduce the lifespan of a prefabricated wooden house.
- First, what type of wood was used to build the house? The two main types of wood are hardwoods (oak, walnut, etc.) and softwoods (pine, cedar, etc.). Hardwood is much more durable but is more expensive and takes longer to grow.
- Second, what are the local weather conditions? If the environment is severe, known for heavy rain and wind, a wooden house will not last as long.
- Finally, how exposed is the house? If it’s surrounded by a wall or trees, then they will take most of the weather attacks.
However, any exposure to severe weather or climate will considerably reduce the lifespan.
Lifespan of a Prefabricated Wooden House
We should expect a typical wooden house to last more than fifty years, as long as it is not exposed to adverse weather conditions for an extended period of time.
If the house is kept free from pests like termites and is well-maintained (i.e., rusty nails are replaced, paint is stripped and renewed regularly), it would not be unreasonable to expect the house to last another fifty years.
As you can see, it is impossible to provide exact numbers for any type of building, whether it’s in containers or traditional construction.
There are many factors that can affect the lifespan of a house, regardless of the materials used. All types of houses have some advantages and disadvantages to consider. It is crucial that you make your final decisions based on the location and environment where the house will be placed and then choose the best materials based on that information.