Shipping Container Dimensions Blog Cover

Shipping Container Dimensions

Posted By: January 23, 2015 In Guides

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The world of containers can be surprisingly daunting at times; I mean just considering shipping container dimensions we are met with such a variety of containers: 20ft, 40ft, high cube, refrigerated, open-top, platform, tank … you get the idea! So today we’ve decided to simplify this and document the most common shipping containers and their dimensions so you can make a decision about which type and size of containers you will use to build your home with.

By far the two most popular containers you will come across are the regular 20 foot shipping container and the regular 40 foot shipping container; the majority of this article will focus on these two containers.

20 Foot Shipping Container Dimensions

20ft Shipping Container Dimensions

The standard 20ft shipping container is a popular pick for many people who decide to build a home out of shipping containers. They are easier to manoeuvre and due their size can be easily combined and modified to create exceptional living spaces.

We can see the size of this shipping container below:

  • External Length: 19′ 10″ | 6.06m
  •                 Width: 8′ 0″ | 2.44m
  •                 Height: 8′ 6″ | 2.60m
  • Internal Length: 19′ 2″ | 5.84m
  •                 Width: 7′ 8″ | 2.35m
  •                 Height: 7′ 9 ″ | 2.39m
  • Internal Area of Container: 144 Square Foot | 13.3 Square Meters
  • Door Opening Width: 7′ 8″ | 2.34m
  • Door Opening Height: 7′ 5″ | 2.28m
  • Internal Volume: 1,169ft³ | 33.1m³
  • Weight: 4,840lb | 2,200kg

Advantages and Disadvantages of 20ft Containers

The 20ft containers have a distinct advantage over the 40ft containers and that is that they are significantly easier to transport and manoeuvre. If you’re thinking of building a container home in a remote, difficult to access location, then the 20ft container is probably the best bet for you! They are also cheaper than the 40ft containers to the tune of several thousand dollars per container; so if you are on a limited budget then it’s likely that the 20ft containers will be better for you (they are also cheaper to transport)!

However, the 20ft containers don’t come without their disadvantages. Firstly, each container offers a floor space of around 144 square foot so if you need a larger room your only option would be to combine two containers together which would require additional time, organisation, and expense.  Secondly, although individually they are cheaper than 40ft containers, their price per square foot is actually more expensive. So if you are considering building a considerable sized container home, and your plot of land has good access, the 40ft containers will be better for you.

40 Foot Shipping Container Dimensions

40 Foot Container DimensionsThe most common shipping container is the 40ft container and the majority of large shipping container homes have utilised these containers. They offer exceptional value for money and considerable internal space. We have detailed the dimensions of the container below for your reference.

  • External Length: 40′ 0″ | 12.2m
  •                 Width: 8′ 0″ | 2.44m
  •                 Height: 8′ 6″ | 2.60m
  • Internal Length: 39′ 5″ | 12.03m
  •                 Width: 7′ 8″ | 2.35m
  •                 Height: 7′ 9 ″ | 2.39m
  • Internal Area of Container: 300 Square Foot | 28 Square Meters
  • Door Opening Width: 7′ 8″ | 2.34m
  • Door Opening Height: 7′ 5″ | 2.28m
  • Internal Volume: 2,385ft³ | 67.5m³
  • Weight: 8,360lb | 3,800kg

Advantages and Disadvantages of 40ft Containers

Owing to the 40ft containers size, it offers a fantastic internal space of over 300 square foot. We’ve previously shown in, How Much Do Shipping Container Homes Cost, examples of homes which have been made from using only one of these 40ft containers. Another advantage you have when using the 40ft containers is that they represent greater value for money overall when compared to a 20ft container. Because they are considerably longer you have the option to divide the container up into multiple rooms which you couldn’t do with the smaller 20ft containers. “Heavy Tested” containers can hold over 30,000kg so you shouldn’t have to worry about what ornaments you place inside it!

Finally, because they are larger you typically need fewer of them so delivering and laying them in place is quicker.

However, 40ft containers are more expensive to transport, and delivering these to remote locations and be challenging. In addition they are also difficult to manoeuvre so make sure you know exactly where you want them placing on your land before they get delivered.

So there you have it, you should have a good understanding now of the dimensions of both the regular 20ft and the regular 40ft container. However as mentioned earlier these aren’t the only type of container that are available to purchase.

Other Shipping Containers

High Cube Containers

If you are looking for slightly more height for your home then a great option is what’s known as a ‘high cube container’. High cube containers have the same width and length dimensions as the regular containers listed above, except they are an extra foot (0.3m) taller. This extra height will allow you to place all your electrical cabling, water pipes etc, into your ceiling and still maintain a roof height of eight foot. However high cube containers aren’t as common as the regular containers so you tend to pay a higher price-tag for them.

20ft High Cube Container Dimensions:

  • Internal Length: 19′ 2″ | 5.84m
  •                 Width: 7′ 8″ | 2.35m
  •                 Height: 8′ 8″ | 2.64m
  • Door Opening Width: 7′ 8″ | 2.34m
  • Door Opening Height: 8′ 4″ | 2.54m

40ft High Cube Container Dimensions:

  • Internal Length: 39′ 5″ | 12.03m
  •                 Width: 7′ 8″ | 2.35m
  •                 Height: 8′ 8″ | 2.64m
  • Door Opening Width: 7′ 8″ | 2.34m
  • Door Opening Height: 8′ 4″ | 2.54m

Open Top Containers

Open top containers are pretty self-explanatory, they are essentially the exact same as the containers mentioned above except they don’t have a roof on them. You can get open top containers in both the regular 20ft or 40ft size and also 20ft high cube and the 40ft high cube sizes. Open top containers aren’t typically used when building container homes because they need modifying in order to be habitable… they need a roof!

US 45 Foot Containers

The last variant of shipping containers we are going to discuss today is the 45 foot container, which is mostly used in the US. The 45 foot container shares the same dimensions as the 40 foot containers with regards to its width and height however it’s an additional five feet longer. We’d normally say if you aren’t desperate for the room, then don’t go out of your way and spend more money for the extra 5 foot unless it’s an absolute must for you!

Some Concluding Remarks

We hope you are now in the best place possible to think about selecting the container type, or types, that you are going to be using. There are no hard and fast rules when selecting your container, however sometimes your locality means only certain types of containers are available or it means you can access a promotional price which makes the decision for you!

Also remember that manufactures have slightly different tolerance levels, normally +-5mm,  so make sure you contact the supplier to get the exact dimensions. All shipping containers should be made in compliance with ISO 668:2013 – Series 1 freight containers — Classification, dimensions and ratings, so take a look at the standards if you need classification information.

Finally, we’d love to know which container type you’ve chosen to build with, let us know in the comments below!

Images from Tristan Taussac and Glyn Lowe


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Comments
  1. Wawee

    Hi Tom,

    If I buy a 40ft High Cube Container, cut it in half to make two 20ft High Cube Container, reinforce the cut side with steel bars and stack them 3 storeys high, will the structure strength compromised?

    Thanks

    • Tom

      Hi Wawee,

      Yes, cutting the containers in half will have an impact on the structural integrity.

      I would purchase 20ft containers and save the time and effort- you will also find this will be the cheaper approach!

      Tom

  2. Sean

    You don’t mention 53′ containers, why?

    • Tom

      Hi Sean,

      53 foot containers aren’t very common in the US which is why they aren’t covered within this particular article.

      Tom

  3. Steve

    Can I take an open top 20′ and place it upside down on an open top 40′? This would give me 20′ double height and 20′ regular open top (no roof). If welded together, would it be structurally sound? As long a mfg is same, width should be same, will doors still open if upside down?

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