How To Fit A Roof Onto Your Shipping Container Blog Cover

How to Fit a Roof onto Your Shipping Container

Posted By: March 6, 2015 In How To

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The choice of whether to add a roof to your container or not is made up of both personal preference for the style and also the cost. Clearly not roofing your container will save you money initially, however in the long run installing a roof and insulating it could save you money in energy bills.

Because hot air rises, the majority of the heat lost in your home will be due to it escaping through your roof.

A key point to take into account when making this decision is that having a roof means you can insulate inside of the roof which will help to maintain and keep the containers temperature consistent. Also having a roof which has an overhang keeps the rain from running down onto your windows and removes the need for a drip bar above the windows.

Different Roof Styles

Shed

A shed style roof, shown below, is essentially a sloped roof. The advantages of using a shed style roof are that it is extremely cheap and very simple to build; a roof like this could be made and fitted in a couple of days. Also the long sloping roof lends itself to solar panels if you are considering using them.

Shed Style Shipping Container Roof

 

To install a shed style roof on your shipping container you would first need to weld right angled steel plates across the length of the shipping container on both sides. On each side of the container roof you can then fix a wooden beam into the steel plates; this beam will be used to screw the trusses into. Next, screw your trusses into the wooden beams and the roof’s basic structure is starting to take place. Now you need to fix purlins across the trusses to complete the roof’s structure. For this step you can just fix 20 foot long purlins onto the trusses and you’re done. Next your trusses need bracing to protect you again the wind.

Note: Your structural engineer will be able to advise you about the exact load bearing requirements needed for your roof. This figure varies regionally as it takes into account natural stresses imposed on your roof such as rain, wind and snow loads.

You now need to cover your roof; you can do this using either shingles, galvanized metal sheets or coated steel sheets. Coated steel will be the most durable however galvanized metal sheets are very easy to fit and are also quite durable.

Shed Style Shipping Container Roof Truss

The final stage is ensuring your roof has sufficient ventilation. To do this your trusses should overhang the container as shown below. You can then fix a fascia and soffit board underneath your trusses. The soffit board should have at least an inch air gap in the middle of it covered with wire mesh; this allows air to flow in and out of the roof.

Shed Style Shipping Container Roof Ventilation

Note: Make sure you allow for ventilation at the gable ends. You can do this by simply cutting slots out of the steel using a disc cutter. This will allow air to pass through the roof and avoid heat traps and condensation which causes rust.

Gable

Your next option is to use a gable styled roof as shown below. A gable styled roof is what most people imagine when you think of a traditional home; it has the distinguished triangle look. The advantage of using a gable roof is that it has a sloped roof so provides great water drainage; this makes it less likely to experience any leaks and helps extend the life-span of your roof. It also provides more ceiling space than other roof styles, hence its popularity.

Gable Style Shipping Container Roof

The construction of this roof is similar to the stages detailed above for how to install a shed style roof.

To install a gable style roof on your shipping container you would first need to weld right angled steel plates across the length of the shipping container on both sides. On each side of the container roof you can then fix a wooden beam into the steel plates; this beam will be used to screw the trusses into (shown below). Next, screw your trusses into the wooden beams and the roof’s basic structure is starting to take place. Now you need to fix purlins across the trusses to complete the roof’s structure.

Again like the shed style roof you can either use shingles, galvanized metal sheets or coated steel sheets.

Gable Style Shipping Container Roof Truss

You now need to make sure the roof has sufficient ventilation. To do this your trusses should overhang the container as shown in below. You can then fix a fascia and soffit board underneath your trusses. The soffit board should have at least an inch air gap in the middle of it covered with wire mesh; this allows air to flow in and out of the roof.

Gable Style Shipping Container Roof Ventilation

 

Flat

A flat roof, which the shipping container already has, can be more than adequate for most people’s needs. Although it’s clearly cheaper not to roof your shipping container this does leave you susceptible to pooling on the roof.

Flat Style Shipping Container Roof

If you decide not to roof your containers a quick safety barrier would be to install a variant of tarpaulin sheet onto the roof of the container then overlay this with rolls of asphalt. This would provide you with a layer of defence between the damp and the containers roof.

Note: Whichever roof type you choose, make sure to work with your structural engineer to calculate the load bearing requirements of your roof.

To do this they will calculate the dead, live and transient load of your roof.

  • The dead load includes the combined weight of all the materials which were used to build the roof (i.e. trusses, purlins, roof tiles).
  • The live load is the weight of any equipment and people who work to fit the roof.
  • The transient load is all the natural stresses placed upon the roof such as rain, wind and snow fall.

The load bearing capacity of your roof is the total weight the structure of the roof can carry without the roof collapsing

Each local area will face different challenges, for instance, certain areas prone to high speed windows will need roofs with additional bracing for the trusses. Whereas, warmer climates with a little breeze could use a roof with very little structural capability and more for the insulation benefits.

Also, whichever roof type you go for make sure there is ventilation to prevent condensation.

Let us know if you decided to build a roof for your container in the comments below!


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Comments
  1. Dave

    Tom and friends,

    I already have a home but due to life happening i have a need to expand it. It is a conventional 2 story front walkout built into a hillside in suburban Minneapolis, Minnesota USA, my bizarre idea is to put a 40 ft container or 2 20ft ones adjacent to and connecting them to the existing structure. So as to expand the size of the master suite and/or perhaps to put in a new kitchen allowing the demo of the current 80’s monstrosity to expand the living/ dining area in the space said monstrosity occupies. Is this even possible? The other bizarre idea i had is to add a second one on top of it to maybe make a 2nd story inlaw suite for my step daughter… but all I see here are independent buildings can these be used to expand/extend existing woodframe construction. Also Are there ways to storm proof these so that they don’t act like a trailer in a windstorm?

    Love the site!

    Thanks!

    Dave

    • Tom

      Hi Dave,

      Thank you for getting in touch.

      Yes you can certainly extend a traditional home using containers- I’ve seen this done several times and most recently in the UK in London.

      In terms of storm proofing- you just need to make sure they are welded to the foundation piers; you can use steel plates to do this.

      Tom

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