The doors that come with containers are well suited for their purpose of allowing the easy loading and unloading of cargo. When the door handles are at about chest height, this is no problem. Set a container on the ground to use as an office and it becomes apparent that using the container doors isn’t going to work very well. They are difficult to operate, you have to bend over and strain to get them to open, and they can be a real challenge to get closed back up.

The container companies know how difficult it is to operate the container doors. Consequently, most of them offer services to install personal access doors in the container containers they rent and sell. These doors are usually constructed of steel and come with welded door frames. They are available in standard heights and widths, and may be custom painted to match your container. When installing personal access doors, most container companies will weld the door frame in. This is the most secure way to install the door and will also last the life of the container. The container company will also install all door hardware, and install lockboxes or any other locking device you may require.

If your container will be used daily as an office, tool crib, or other area with a lot of traffic, you need a personal access door. Even if you only occasionally use it, there are several benefits to having a personal access door installed:

  • Convenient-With a door handle at the right height, there is no need to bend over and struggle with the container door’s locking handles.
  • Easy to secure-With steel door construction, it is easy to install additional devices to make the door even more secure.
  • Welded Steel Door Frame-The door frame is made from heavy-duty steel and is built to be sturdy and strong. When welded in place, the door frame is impossible to pry out.
  • Heavy Duty Stainless Steel Hinges-These hinges will stay rust free and last many years with normal use.
  • Primed to paint-The doors usually are primed to paint, and the container company will paint the door any color you like.
  • Available in different styles-You can choose several options for your door to change how it looks and how it functions.

Commercial personal access doors are designed to provide convenience, safety, security, and quiet operation. The inside of the steel door is often filled with foam or other material to eliminate the hollow,  drum-like sound it would otherwise make every time the door was opened or closed. The locks in the door handle hardware are intended to be secure, although a lockbox or similar device may provide better security.

If you have trouble finding the right door at a container company, you may want to install the personal access door yourself. If you decide to do that, you will have the flexibility you need to choose the type of door that’s right for you. Personal access doors are available in a variety of configurations, as noted below:

Different types of personal access doors

  • Flush Steel Door–A flat steel door with no panels or windows.
  • Flush steel Door with Window–A flat steel door with a single small window toward the top.
  • Flush Steel Door with Louvre–A flat steel door with a louvred vent at the bottom.
  • Fire-Rated Door–Any door that has an ‘exit device’ (read: bar across door you push on to open). May or may not have a window.
  • Panel Door–A door with recessed panel areas in it. Popular panel doors have two, four, six, or eight panels.
  • Dutch Door–A half-view door that allows the top half to be opened while the bottom half remains closed. This door may have to be custom made by the company.

If you need a door that doesn’t fit the description of any door listed above, you may be able to get in touch with a local company that can make a custom door for you out of a personal access door. If you need a door that is split in half so the lower portion stays secure while the top portion swings out of the way,

For the do it yourselfer

If you decide to install the door yourself, it is relatively easy to do. Before you decide to do it yourself, however, make sure you have the welding skills necessary to properly weld in the door frame. If you don’t know what you are doing, you may only succeed in burning holes through the side of your container. When done correctly, welding is the most secure way to install your door to make it secure. Even if you decide to bolt the door frame in from the inside of the container, you will still have to weld the bolts in place for the door frame brackets.

Here are the steps to installing your steel personal access door:

  1. Plan out exactly where you want the door to be located.
  2. Purchase a pre-hung personal access door and have it available.
  3. Carefully mark off the cutting lines and apply painters tape below the line (it makes the line easier to see).
  4. Cut the doorway out, and remove metal section.
  5. Grind the bottom flush with the container frame rail, then grind any burs of from the cut edges.
  6. With the help of another person, set the entire door assembly inside the hole with the inside door frame facing inside the container.
  7. Even up the door, making sure the gap between the door and its frame is even all the way around.
  8. Tack weld door frame into place, checking to make sure that the gap between the door and its frame are still the same all the way around.
  9. Go back and tack weld with each tack being about 6 to 7-1/2 cm in length, with a length of about 3cm between.
  10. Caulk any gaps to keep drafts out.
  11. Install the door handle and any additional locking mechanisms.


If you lack the tools and equipment, or you lack the skills to install a personal access door, leave it to the pros at the container company. Otherwise, if you have the skills, tools, and equipment, you’ll have an easy project you’ll be proud of.