How to place a Shipping Container on site for storage use

How you place a shipping container on site is important for easy, long lasting use and, of course, maximum lifespan. This guide explains how to best prepare the ground for a shipping containers as well as how to manage the delivery itself.

We do send out a more detailed guide with our invoices for any customers buying a shipping container.

Preparing the ground for your shipping container

Before delivery we recommend checking and preparing the ground for your shipping container. You want a level piece of ground at least as big as your shipping container and accessible for our delivery truck. This area wants to be free from debris and you want to make sure the ground isn’t very soft. You don’t want the container sinking once its been put into place. Shipping containers don’t necessarily need a concrete base to sit on but this is a great option if available.

Double check there are no overhead obstructions such as tree branches, phone or power cables that might obstruct the lifting process. This is not only above the area your container will sit but also above the area the truck will sit and any area in between. The top of the crane on the truck can easily sit circa 25-30ft from the ground and the drivers will simply refuse to undertake any delivery if they risk damage to their truck. If you are in any doubt over the access we recommend sending us some photos or perhaps even a video walkthrough of the site so we can best understand the challenge at hand and we can usually advise on ways around any issues.

Spend some time initially thinking about where you want to site the container before preparing the site for your shipping container. Which way the doors are going to face? Check you have enough space and room to open the doors to get in and out whilst carting stuff with you? Make sure it’s going to work for you one in position. Sometimes we suggest physically marking out the space with cones so you can understand how the space is taken up and how you will have to work around it, making sure you avoid blocking any fire exits for nearby buildings and that you allow good access to and around the shipping container.

We recommend that the shipping container is raised up slightly from the ground to ensure its not sat in any wet puddles or mud, and to allow an airflow underneath which will dry out the underside of the container between wet spells. All this will prolong the life of the underside of the container.

Refurbished shipping contianers in situ at customers siteTo prepare a site for a shipping container ideally you want a set of supports at each of the 4 bottom corners of the shipping container. All original shipping containers (i.e. new or used ranges and not always our refurbished ranges as explained below) will have a corner casting on each of the 4 base corners which will protrude a couple of mm from the rest of the frame.

These containers are designed to be lifted from these 4 corner castings when loaded with 20+ tonnes of cargo, so unless you’re loading very heavy weights inside you won’t need to worry about additional supports along the base of the container – just in the 4 corners.

These shipping containers need to be kept level. If they aren’t level you may find the doors become very stiff or unworkable, or you may find that the hasp on a lock box doesn’t correctly align with the hole in the lock box on the other door (meaning you can’t close the door correctly). Shipping containers themselves are designed to flex slightly whilst a container boat may pitch in the sea, and this means if you place a shipping container on uneven ground the container itself might flex to one side, but your container doors are still a square shape and won’t fit into the frame.

container siting and levelingThis may sound like a silly little issue but it is a problem for many sites that don’t prepare the ground. If you place a shipping container and it’s not levelled out properly then the doors may stick. The problem itself it magnified by the length of the container and the size of the doors involved. Even our smaller shipping containers are long and have big doors so this needs care regardless of the size of container you’re working with.

Make sure your supports will be able to take the weight of the container plus the weight of your cargo without any risk of moving or settling. Pairs of bricks, heavy duty paving slabs or railway sleepers are common supports used. Any support that’s larger than the corner castings (7 inch square / just under 18cm square), and that can take the weight will suffice. If you use a support that crumbles away with a few tonnes of pressure then this can then lead to the racking issues described above. The same goes if you’re are placing the container on soft ground – the ground may be level to begin with but will one corner sink away over time and potentially cause issues down the line?

Finally this may sound silly but we often come across this problem: If you have 4 equal slabs to use as your corner supports and put them on uneven ground, then the container will still be uneven and you may still get racking problems. We recommend having handy additional smaller or thinner supports in such an instance that can help keep the container level when placed on uneven ground.

Managing The Delivery

Basic Safety Advice

Please take care, any experienced industry professional will have to many stories relating to avoidable and serious injuries – these are not items to take for granted. Quite genuinely we like our customers to live long and happy lives – we also find a much better chance of repeat custom with customers who are still alive. We can run through a thousand safety tips but essentially take care and use common sense at all times Here are our stand out safety thoughts on staying safe.

  • Go slow / take care. any sized empty shipping container weighs more than enough to break or crush bones and cause other serious injuries if care is not taken
  • Always follow a delivery driver’s instructions and stand clear throughout any lifting of shipping containers. Do not try to help the delivery driver connect or disconnect his chains (very easy way to lose some fingers if he hasn’t finished lifting it – quite seriously we have known this happen). Do not rush in to help with the final manoeuvring, ensure the delivery driver can see all of you all of the time. Even if you think the driver has finished the lift there may still be some ‘adjusting’ to do, so please stay clear.
  • Ensure any supports you make for containers are sturdy and good to take the weight of the container plus the weight of goods your likely to load inside
  • Never put your hands or feet (or any other part of you) in a place where you risk injury. Never sit or stand in a place the container might ‘slip’ to. Never put your hand underneath a corner casting to measure distance from the support to the ground or similar, always position yourself in the opposite direction to any potential ‘slip’
  • Never adjust one support whilst someone else is out of view doing the same with another support – (If one of your supports fails, the container could slip crushing the other person) Only one corner should be worked on at any time.
  • Never ever rush. A shipping container will measure its lifetime in decades, you really don’t need to get this job done 10 minutes faster.

Level the Container off

The 2 most common delivery options would be delivery via hiab (a truck with a crane on), or the customer or site provides either a fork lift or other lifting equipment on site to lift the container from the truck and place it on the ground. In either case when you place a shipping container on supports you want to ensure the doors are working well / smoothly.

Hiab Equipped Delivery TruckA Hiab delivery driver may help you level off your container (our delivery drivers certainly do), but it’s important that you’re happy here and not the delivery driver. It is you who has to live and work with this for the next 10 or so years. For this reason, check you are happy with the doors before the driver disconnects his chains and leaves site. Commonly very stiff doors can be fixed by lifting the container up an inch or so, checking your supports are in place and level and putting it down again. Hauliers will usually charge extra to return to site at a later date.

Place your shipping container on the 4 base supports and check the door operation. If the doors are overly stiff or in extreme cases ‘don’t seem to fit’ (or if the lock box doesn’t seem to line up with the hasp) then check the container is level on all angles (front to back, left to right and across any diagonals). If one corner is lower than the others lift the container up, check / change your support in that corner and put the container down again. It may seem that you have a container with funny doors however, in our experience in more than 95% of cases where a customer has an issue closing the doors properly it’s down to the container not being level and supported on its 4 base corners.

Please note the 4 corner castings on the bottom (and top) corners will protrude circa 2mm from the rest of the underside of the container. The container is designed to be lifted and held up from these 4 castings, so you should not need any additional support on the underside unless 1) your container isn’t structurally sound, or 2) you are loading very excessive weights inside (well over 25 tonnes). For the vast majority of customers’ you only need to consider supporting the shipping container on its 4 base corners.

This levelling may at times take a few attempts to get right. Sometimes it may seem like you have to have the container slightly off level for best results – but as this container is likely to be with you for the next 10+ years its worth spending a few minutes ensuring this is good for you. If we have our lifting equipment on site its often easier to do this whilst we are there for you. An extra 10-20 mins spent checking and adjusting your supports when its delivered should set you up for the rest of the containers lifespan. If you tell the delivery driver your happy and sign the delivery note, he (or his haulage company) will want paying again if you want them back to your site.

Sometimes you may measure the container as level and still the doors won’t fit. The most common reasons for this are, there’s an error with your measurements (a perfectly flat surface to measure from may not always be possible to find on a used container), the flex or tilt may be at a funny angle (a container doesn’t need ot be level just front to back, but on every possible angle) or in some very rare cases the container may have already flexed in transit and lifting it up and putting it down again will often fix things.

This process can also be undertaken without truck mounted cranes, using anything from a fork lift to a good car jack can do the job. (Make sure your car jack can take the weight of the container you are lifting, as it failing mid lift may be dangerous) Essentially identify the corner you think is lower than the others, lift it up, try adjusting or adding to the support, put the container down on the support and check the doors again. This may take a few attempts and more than one corner may need adjustment but this can commonly resolve any racking problems. If you can’t identify a lower corner – try any corner. If you lift it up a mm or 2 and the doors are stiffer than before, put it back and try a different corner, if it gets less stiff you are probably on the right track!)

Refurbished and cut down shipping containers

Many of our refurbished shipping containers are made from cutting down a 40ft container to size. In many cases this means you will get a set of original corner castings at one end of the container only and none at the other end.

When you prepare a site to place a shipping container that doesn’t have even sets of corner castings on the underside, you have to take account that the underside of your container isn’t perfectly flat, and as such your supports need to be uneven to then make your whole container level. We’re only talking about 1-2mm of difference over a 10-45ft length of container but this can make a difference.

For static site storage use this lack of corner castings is never going to be a structural problem, you can still safely load and store a very large tonnage of goods, but it does mean that the end with corner casting on has slight protrusions from the bottom, and the end without castings doesn’t

All this means is that you will have to consider when you prepare the ground for a shipping container, the supports at the ends of the container without corner castings will have to be a couple of mm higher than the supports at the other end, in order to ensure the container frame itself remains level.

Of course if you have any doubts, we send out a free guide with every invoice detailing even more information for you, and our team are always on standby to help with any queries. Please feel free to contact us if you need any help.

Still Unsure ?

If buying the container through us we are of course on hand to answer any questions you have at any stage throughout the process. We also send a free guide out with every invoice giving more detail on accepting delivery and positioning your container on your site for best use and life.

Looking to buy a shipping container

Please don’ forget to check our online shop where you can browse the largest range of shipping containers for sale in the UK, and of course you can request a quote online at any time where we can offer the full range of option with delivery costs included. If you prefer to speak to a real human we also have plenty of these on standby 08:30am – 7pm weekdays to help with any questions you may have. Please feel free to contact us with any questions or enquiries. 

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