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2nd Tier Options for Container Self Storage Yards

If you run a container storage yard using shipping containers, making best use of a potential 2nd tier of storage containers is an obvious expansion option. But many of our self storage yard clients find this 2nd tier much harder to rent out.
In this article we discuss some of the 2nd tier storage options that we can offer for client and the pros and cons for each setup.

Firstly – if you are new to self storage yards and considering setting up your own operation, You may like to check out our popular article ‘top tips if looking to set up a self storage yard‘. This article has loads of advice for anyone considering setting out with a self storage business.

Why is renting out the a 2nd tier layer of containers an issue?

Assuming that a typical self storage yard is mainly filled with 20ft ISO shipping containers. A 20ft container can fit a lot of stuff in. People renting self storage units might want to fill this, and in any case they are likley to have a lot of gear to load in and out. Being able to drive your car or van right up to the container to load or empty a container at ground level it is a major bonus.

Having to carry all your gear up a flight of steps to a 2nd tier is a big pain, especially if you  have a lot of heavy gear to store. As such the majority of our self storage yard customers report that renting out a 2nd tier of 20ft containers is difficult. This may be less of a problem if you and any competitors in the local area are at capacity.

Here are some ideas for helping manage a self storage yard setup if you want to develop a 2nd tier, as well as some common ideas that we may suggest aren’t cost effective.

2nd Tier of 10ft containers on  top of a row of 20ft containers

Adding a row of 10ft containers on top of 20ft containers, and having a gangway / balcony access across the front 10ft section seems to make a lot of sense. But this idea has a few major flaws.

Putting a 10ft container on top of a 20ft container, means there is no structural support in the middle of the 20ft container. (at the door end of the 10ft container that sits in the middle of the 20ft). This means any significant weight loaded in the 10ft may cause structural damage to the 20ft container. In fairness it would have to be a very heavy 10ft container to do this (ie loaded with a lot more than an average self storage container would be). The costs for replacing a damaged container would be significant.

The other major problem here is the access. the roofs of shipping containers are extremely slippery when wet, and a  lot of people walking over and carrying goods across lot of shipping container roofs would probably also damage them over time.

The best way to manage a setup like this (without risking damage to the containers over time) would be to support the entire top tier row of shipping containers. You could then provide access ‘decking’ or similar to ensure a safe surface to move over.  The costs to do this would ordinarily be excessive. It could easily cost twice or three times as much to populate your 2nd tier with 10f containers, compared to the price to fill your your bottom row with 20fts. You also have units on your top tier that will command a lower overall rental price.

Cargo Door Staircases

We have a very neat range of cargo door staircases that can be used in a self storage yard to allow customers to access a top row of shipping containers.

These can be wheeled up to the cargo doors on a top layer, and locked into place allowing temporary access to any top level container. These steps can then be moved around the yard to any other containers that need accessing. These come with wheels allowing 2 people to push these around a yard, and once in position the access platform can be locked into place. This can only be used on a smooth, level surface.

This can still be a pain for some customers who don’t want to lug their gear up to a second row, but this setup has been used in area where self storage space is in short supply.

Now available with a fork lift towing attachment as well.

The design shown is out most popular option. this comes with a 2.5 metre square platform at the top, and can be built left or right handed, (ie with the access to the cargo doors to the left or right hand side of the platform as may be required). As these are built to order we can easily modify or customise the design if needed for a specific use.

‘Topper’ Storage ContainersTopper Container Stacked on a standard shipping container in a self storage yard

We have recently introduced our range of topper storage containers. These are new 20ft ISO containers, modified to have 2x circa 8ft x 8ft lockable storage units, with a 4ft central gangway.

These are an ideal way to make the most of a 2nd tier in a self storage yard. A lot of customers renting 20ft units will have a lot of gear and may be put off from carting all their gear up to the 2nd tier. In this case smaller storage units are usually a better fit for clients.

Coupled with our personnel staircases and heavy duty interlocks, we can offer the complete solution to help with your self storage setup.


Shipping containers can very easily be converted into office units, and the 2nd tier of a storage yard may in some cases offer excellent returns. Single 20ft shipping containers can make ideal starter units for 1-3 people. For larger office units walls can be removed to make larger single open spaces.

We can also offer genuine containex ISO modular office units, allowing maximum flexibility as you can re-configure your top deck office setup over time to match demand.

office units shoudl command a better rental rate than storage containers, and they will be better suited to top deck use as it wont’ involve people needing to carry large volumes of gear OT the 2nd tier on a regular basis.

However this idea need to be right for you site. Is there enough demand locally for smaller office units, and you will presumably require more ground floor space for car parking at your site.

Do you need some shipping containers or secure storage?

Budgetshippingcontainers.co.uk offer the UK’s largest online range of shipping containers for sale with a nationwide network of storage and conversion yards and crane equipped delivery vehicles.

If you need a shipping container feel free to browse our online range of shipping containers for sale, which also includes our ranges of flat pack sheds, container canopies and more. You can also call us on freephone 0808 1234 215 any time 9am – 7pm weekdays and our team will be happy to discuss your requirements. Alternatively, you can use our online shipping container quote form or request a telephone callback. In both cases we aim to get back to you within 1-2 working hours (may take longer for more detailed quotes).

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