Delivering and Siting Your Shipping Containers

Delivering and Siting Your Shipping Containers

Posted By: February 27, 2015 In How To

Want to build your own shipping container home? Start Here.

Getting your containers delivered on site is one of the most exciting parts of building your own container home; this is especially true if you purchased your containers from overseas and haven’t seen them yet.

On the day your containers are delivered there are numerous tasks which need completing, this article will guide you through how to smoothly take delivery of your containers and site them onto the foundation block. We will then look at how you can secure your containers to your foundation and then connect your containers together.

Preparing the Base of Your Containers

It’s best to clean and insulate the underside of the containers before you place them and the bottoms are less accessible.  This can be accomplished by hoisting it in the air with the crane or other offloading equipment you’re using to get the containers off the trucks.

Sand blast the underside of the container to clean it up and spray at least 1” of closed cell polyurethane foam to insulate it.

Note that these steps can be undertaken after the containers have been sited, provided that you have a raised foundation such as concrete piers.  Nevertheless, it’s typically easier to do it beforehand.  The one downside to this is if you plan to have a lot of utilities running underneath the container (such as your water piping and sewer drains), the insulation might get in the way of their placement.  So, be mindful of that to keep from having to scrape off insulation later!

It’s not always possible to complete this step and it isn’t 100% required, but if you can, it’s worthwhile.

Siting Your Containers

If your foundation is accessible to the truck delivering your containers you’re in luck. Assuming the containers are being transported on a tilt flatbed trailer, the driver can back right up to the foundation and let the container ‘slide’ of the trailer onto the foundation; this is by far the cheapest and easiest method.

If the foundation isn’t directly accessible you’re going to need either a crane or a HIAB to lift the containers up and drop them in-place. A HIAB is the cheaper option however it will struggling to lift anything larger than a 20 foot container, so if you are using 40 foot containers you will need to use a crane. Although using a crane gives you a greater amount of control over the exact siting point, be prepared to pay around US$700 | AUD$890 | GBP£450 per day.

Note: whichever method you opted for make sure to put polyethylene damp proof membrane in-between the foundation pads and the shipping container.

Connecting Your Containers

Now your containers have been sited it’s time to connect them to the foundation and to each other.

Most of the time you can site the container on the foundation and the containers weight alone is more than enough to hold it in place. However if you’d like added security you can place a steel plate, for each corner of the container, on top of the concrete before it sets, then you can weld your container to the plates for additional strength.

If you don’t want to weld your containers to the concrete foundation you can bolt the containers to the foundation instead. Once you have sited the containers on the foundation, drill through the bottom corner fittings down into the concrete. Now place the bolt through the container corner fitting and down into the concrete. A 1″ x 12″ bolt would be ideal here, if you’re looking for a brand, Hilti’s ‘concrete anchors’ will be fine. You may need to use a hammer to knock the bolt down, once it’s in place tighten up the nut and remember to use a washer in-between the nut and the corner fitting. One in each corner of the container will keep it secure.

Now you need to connect your containers to each other. You can use a whole host of techniques to connect your shipping containers together including, bolting, welding and clamping.

Bolting Them Together

To bolt the containers together you need to connect the containers at the touching corner fitting points. You would drill through the corner fitting from one container into the other container and then place a bolt in the hole with a drilled metal plate inside the corner fitting (to act as a washer). You can then use mastic around the bolt to seal any gaps. Bolting them together is the easiest method but it certainly isn’t as strong as welding them together.  Also if you decided to bolt them together then you can disassemble them later on which you can’t do if you welded them.

Welding Them Together

Welding containers together makes them much more secure and helps to keep both the containers level.  You need to weld the roofs of the container together in addition to any floors which overlap each other. You can use 3” x 1/8” flat steel using a stitch pattern to secure the containers together.


Now let’s take a look at a real world example so I can talk you through how they delivered and sited their containers. In the example we are looking at the containers are standard height 40 foot container. They were delivered on a tilt flatbed trailer and simply slid off onto concrete pier foundations.

It was decided not to weld the containers down onto the foundations because the weight of the containers alone should hold them in place.

Once the containers were lined up next to each other foam insulation was sprayed between the two containers. This helps to keep the moisture out and also helps to maintain the containers internal temperature through stopping any drafts.

Foam Insulation Shipping Container

The containers were then welded together instead of bolting them for the extra strength. The roof was welded with 3” x 1/8” flat steel using a stitch pattern with a 110 Volt wire feed welder.

In addition to help keep the container completely air tight, the end walls were also welded using 2” x 1/8” flat steel.

Images From Larry Wade

Once all the welding has been finished the steel is painted with latex paint to help preserve it.

We’d love to see some pictures of your containers being delivered and sited! Feel free to send us a email using the contact us page, or leave a comment below!

  1. Liz Shelby

    Hi Tom,

    Thank you for these very informative blogs. I have a question regarding this one and the welding and/or bolting process. You mentioned the sides and the roof do the bases not need to be welded?

    • Tom

      Hi Liz,

      The bases do not need bolting together, however they do need to be welded to the foundation. I cover how to do this in my foundation article 🙂


  2. Luke

    Thanks for the insight into connecting the containers on their top and sides.
    Can you give any advice on connecting 2 containers with regards to the bottom/underside joints.
    I know you covered it a bit in the article but if I’m planning to join 2 containers and use the “natural” walls of the container for Walls of the house. But if I don’t join them I’m worried that there gap between containers could cause condensation to form.


    • Tom

      Hi Luke,

      You can always fill the gap with spray foam insulation to prevent the condensation issues…


  3. Timo

    Here in Costa Rica, people improvise.
    We off loaded the container from a highboy trailer with a back hoe. The back hoe pulled the container to the rear of the trailer and sat the end on the ground. Then the back hoe lifted the front of the container up and the truck and trailer drove off. The container was then lowered to the ground.
    Heavy squared timbers were stacked under each corner of the container leaving enough room to dig the holes at each corner and the middle to pour the footings. When the concrete had hardened in about a week, hydraulic jacks lifted the container off the timbers, the timbers were removed and the container lowered onto the footings. Didn’t need a crane. Much cheaper. Just need a good back hoe operator.

    • Tom

      Hi Timo,

      Thank you for sharing this with everyone!

      Sounds like a cheaper way to do it, however like you said- you need a good back hoe operator.

      Was this done for 20 foot shipping containers?

    • John Ahern

      Hi Timo
      I am planing on moving to CR at the end of this year, I have purchased a plot of land in Piedras and would appreciate any pointers in the purchase of a container there, such as planing permits, transportation, local agents, etc. that you might have.
      If you have the time you can reach me at my e mail address.
      Thanks , sincerely John