Are Container Homes Hurricane Proof?

Since we added our container home line to our business, we have had inquiries about how container homes stand up to the elements and major disasters.  A lot of potential customers out of the South, especially Florida, Louisiana, Georgia, and Alabama, wonder whether container homes can withstand hurricane force winds and storms.

Are Container Homes Hurricane Proof?  Whether a single unit, or multiple units connected, shipping containers can withstand 100 Mph winds if placed on a foundation, or 175 Mph winds when anchored down with pylons. Since they are used to transport goods across the oceans, they are also built to be waterproof.  Placing it on a foundation, especially one raised significantly off the ground, will help to keep standing water or wind-driven rain from entering your home.

Container homes can definitely be used in every climate and area of the world, but there are some factors that play into how and where you should place your new home.

Shipping containers are made from one of the strongest building materials available, Corten Steel.  Corten steel is a weather resistant steel.  It is a copper chromium alloy steel, which allows a greater resistance to atmospheric weathering when compared to other unalloyed steel.

One of the most important things to consider when researching or purchasing a container home is where are you going to place it, and how safe and secure is the location of your land from incoming storms. 

Another thing to consider when purchasing or DIY-ing a container home is that the more you cut out of the walls for windows and doors the weaker and more unstable the container becomes.

 It is very important to make sure that you follow local building codes, and reinforce the areas that have had holes cut into them.

If building in areas prone to heavy storms, hurricanes, or tornados, it is always a good idea to hire an architect to help you plan the most secure way to build a foundation and place your container home.

What are Some Other Precautions I Can Take For my Container Home?

Building a berm can provide you with a little more safety from incoming storms.  If you do decide to build a berm, you will want to orient it in the direction that the majority of the storms come in from.

As long as storm surge is not a major concern at the location you are placing your container home, you could also consider burying your container home, either partially or completely, to keep it out of storm damage.

This is probably a better solution for perhaps Great Plains windstorms and tornadoes, rather than hurricanes and sandy Florida soil, but for some it might be worth considering.  

Of course, by doing so you sacrifice windows, views, etc., but your home would indeed be protected from high winds and hail.  Burying a shipping container isn’t quite as simple as digging a hole and putting it in though.  It is possible and highly likely that if you bury it without reinforcing the walls, then it will collapse on you.

Are There Hurricane Windows Available?

Hurricane windows, or impact resistant windows, are readily available, especially in coastal areas and areas prone to storms.  Before impact resistant windows were available for homes, the automotive industry had been using laminated safety glass for quite a while.

When the glass breaks, instead of glass shards flying everywhere the glass will produce “spider web” cracking, same as when your windshield in your car cracks.  There are different thicknesses of laminate to help stop projectiles and keep the window intact as well.

Not only does it protect you from glass and projectiles, but impact resistant windows and doors also reduce noise, increase security, and block 99% of harmful UV rays.  The windows still allow in natural light during a storm and also improve energy efficiency.

We have several models of container homes at SimpleTerra that offer an upgrade option for a retractable deck. These decks are connected by cables to a motor at the top of the house, and take three to five minutes to retract.  This provides a great option for window protection that is MUCH easier than screwing on plywood before a hurricane hits! Take a look at the Andes, Pyrenees, or Karakoram.

SimpleTerra Dolomites Windows
SimpleTerra Pyrenees w/ Deck

What is the Best Way to Secure a Container Home?

The best way to secure a container home is by mounting it on a concrete slab or pier foundation.  If you’re planning on having a mobile container home, then you will want to bolt the container to the foundation instead of welding it on.

In addition to mounting to a foundation, there are a variety of products available to anchor and strap your home down for some extra protection from strong winds.

Products available include:

  • Steel arrowhead anchors
  • Bullet anchors
  • PE26, PE 36, or PE 46 Earth Penetrator 

Penetrators screw right into the ground; you'll just want to make sure you get the right size and quantity based on the size of your container house.  For the cable anchors you will use a drive rod to drive the anchor into the soil.  The anchor’s cable tail follows it down, and when at depth, the cable is pulled back to rotate and lock in the anchor.

Because every area has different geology, site features, and building requirements, we recommend that you consult with a local architect, engineer, or county official to determine the best method for your home.

Will My Container Home Rust Faster if I am in an Area Prone to Heavy Storms?

Rusty Shipping Containers

Areas prone to wet atmospheric conditions, i.e., fog, snow, or rain, are going to have to be much more diligent about checking for rust spots and will need to check more often than someone who has set up a home in, say, Arizona.

The average lifespan of a container is about 25 years.  Used containers are typically used for about 10 years before they are taken out of service, and, if left as is, will last you another 15 years.  However, there are things that you can do to prevent rust and increase the lifespan of your home.

It is extremely important that if you notice rust spots that you treat them immediately.  The longer that it goes untreated the more damage it will do and the harder it will be to fix or repair the problem area.

Small areas of rust need to be scraped off until you see metal underneath. This can be accomplished by using a thin wire brush, sand paper, and good old elbow grease.

If you catch it early enough, then the wire brush should be all that you need to do to remove rust patches.  If the problem has gone on for too long, then it might become necessary to sandblast to remove the rust.

After all the rust spots are removed and cleaned up the next step is to paint the metal and then seal the paint.  Certain paints are designed to be rust resistant.  Painting the container is a great and easy way to prevent rust and should be done at least every ten years to stay on top of rust issues.

There are quite a few things that you can do to prolong the life of your container home.  External cladding can add decades to the lifespan of a container home.  Good cladding won’t be damaged by rot and termites, and many types are rated to withstand wind up to fifty years.  So, with proper care your container home can survive anything - even hurricanes!