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Cargo Containers Vs. Steel Buildings

Improvement Project:

How to consider choosing between cargo containers and steel buildings.

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Cargo containers are increasingly being relied upon to do more than just transport cargo from overseas, but also function as standard, often permanent storage containers for not only commercial purposes but also residential purposes.  Such cargo containers become storage containers in one of two ways: 1) People buy new cargo containers direct from overseas—called one-way containers—to be used as storage containers from the very beginning upon only one transport stint coming from overseas; or 2) People buy used cargo containers that have traveled back and forth overseas that finally ended up at a cargo-container dealer site, where such containers are up for either sale or lease.

In either case, cargo containers used as storage containers have revolutionized the storage industry.  As cargo containers have increasingly become common as storage containers in communities throughout the country, people have come to compare such containers to the standard metal storage building/metal building products available on the market, concerning aesthetics, flexibility of uses, government regulations, all of which you should consider before investing in the purchase or rental of such containers.

  1. Aesthetics

Cargo containers vs. steel storage buildings as far as aesthetics:  Compared to steel storage buildings, cargo containers were never originally designed for storage on land, and certainly not stationary storage on land.  Thus, the cargo containers available now for storage were built with transportation in mind, requiring a rugged, steel-skeletal-finish kind of structure—not necessarily something you would readily see of a product originally designed for on-land storage.  If you are not the fortunate ones to get a brand new cargo container for storage purposes, do not be surprised to get a used cargo container that has been beaten up or otherwise damaged as a result of the many prior years of being used to transport goods via semi-truck, train and ocean liner.  If you don’t inherent physical imperfections of used cargo containers, your neighbors might, or there may be local ordinances in place by your government that already prohibit such kinds of containers.  In this light, you might seriously consider buying a brand new cargo container, and, in any event, research your rights and the legal limitations set by your local government as to the use of cargo containers as storage units in your area.

Comparatively, steel storage buildings have always been designed with the intention of having such be located on land.  Unlike cargo containers, depending upon how much money you want to spend, steel storage buildings can be built to look like an addition to your house, complemented with finished doors and windows, outside siding of virtually any kind of material, etc.  Such steel storage buildings are specifically made to aesthetically fit within your neighborhood, and to meet applicable local codes from the very beginning; again, cargo containers are not originally manufactured to meet such neighborhood aesthetics or local codes, but the codes of oceanic transportation, etc.

2. Uses

Cargo containers vs. steel storage buildings as far as uses:  Before purchasing a cargo container, you might first want to consider the limitations of its use compared to that of a steel storage building.  Of course, cargo containers are great storage options—they’re usually made of corteen steel, allowing it to be very resistant to any burglary and water outpour.  Thus, relatively fragile sheds are no match for the fortress-effect of such cargo containers.  So, in this respect, cargo containers would be a great purchase.  However, if, down the road, you will want to use the cargo containers for other purposes, steel storage buildings might look a lot more attractive.

Steel storage buildings are usually available in a variety of designs, depending upon one’s needs.  It is usual for such buildings to be built to include finished doors, automatic-opening garage doors, windows, outside paneling to exactly or closely match the physical scheme of your house, and even come wired for interior use of electricity, lighting, etc.  In this respect, a steel storage building can easily be used as an office, workshop or just an extra room.  That’s the primary purpose of a steel storage building.  Arguably, a cargo container can be made to be used as an office, workshop, etc., but this involves a lot of custom fabrications, which can be quite costly, and more so than what you would be expected to pay for a steel storage building.

3. Regulations 

Not all governments have enacted, let alone considered developing, regulations or prohibitions of cargo containers just yet.  However, many governments—local governments—have.  Before you investing any further time or money into the purchase of a cargo container, it would be wise to learn about any regulations or total prohibitions that may exist in your area.

Some local governments have prohibited the use of cargo containers completely, and have even fined those who have violated such a prohibition.  Other governments may require you to obtain certain permits to have a cargo container.  Other governments may embrace your initiative of using a cargo container now as a storage container as part of the increasingly popular practice of “green thinking.”

Do your research—as to the legality of having a cargo container in your backyard and as to shopping for a good price.


Ed the Handyman


Your Handyman Zone Team


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