Have you got a few cars to store or garage – or maybe you’re just looking for a cheaper alternative to an expensive pergola or awning. When you’re thinking about using shipping containers for a garage, you need to remember to choose the right container – depending on if is for long or short term storage, or if your using the container to drive into or as a building block for a shelter – the container needs to suit your requirements. New or Used, both should work for a garage, again just depending on your circumstances.

Have a long hard think about the design of your garage – is it completely safe and lockable? Weather resistant? Does it need any modification, like a ramp or roller door? The foundation – your container will always need the right foundations to keep the container level and secure on the ground, unaffected by the ground. You can choose from a concrete slab, concrete footings, wooden beam or steel pipe footing foundations.

And last but not least, consider again the modifications needed for your garage – inside and out. Does it need to be painted? What condition is the box in? Does it need insulation or flooring? What about a whirly bird, windows, doors, workbenches, shelving, security or electricity?

Few things suit themselves better to repurposed containers than a man cave garage. You can completely bang out on your ancient Ludwig drum kit or change the oil in your car. It is important to note, however, that there are a few things to consider before building your container garage. This article provides step-by-step details about what you need to consider and how you plan to build it.

Primary Use

How you plan to use your garage will determine the size container(s) to get, along with what kind of floor plan you will need. Here are some common uses and what you need to consider:

  • Car Storage-If you plan to park your car inside the garage at night, then you may want to consider two 9-meter containers set side-by-side. This will give you ample length along with plenty of room to open your car doors.
  • Shop-If you have no need of storing a car inside, you may find that two 6-meter containers, side-by-side, will do, leaving enough room to pull a car inside and work on it out of the weather.
  • Hobby Space-If you need your garage to double as car storage and a hobby space, you may want to consider getting two 12-meter containers and setting them side-by-side. This will allow you room to park the car and have a space for band practice, video gaming, or a not-so-undercover man cave.
  • Storage-If you have a lot of junk family treasures to store, you may want the longest containers, as well. The additional space will provide plenty of room for your beloved hoarders family members.

Building Codes and Permits

Even though you are building your new garage on your property, it is still a good idea to know what the building codes are so there aren’t any unpleasant surprises later on. After getting up to speed on the building codes, it’s time to get all the building permits you will need. Building without permits can be costly, both in terms of money and lost time.

Architectural Planning

There are all kinds of ways to build shipping container garages, from large, barn-like structures to something similar to a typical attached garage. This article is going to focus on building a garage out of two side-by-side containers for a free-standing garage.

  • Structural–You will have a much more comfortable garage space if you opt for a side-by-side design. This will require you to install a weight bearing beam that is wide enough to provide support for the entire length of both inner container walls. Openings in walls for windows, doors, such won’t require additional support unless you intend to install a roof or top side deck structure of some sort.
  • Excavation–To make the floor of your container garage flush with your driveway, you will need to excavate an area deep enough. You will need to factor in the depth of the gravel underneath plus the thickness of the concrete.
  • Drainage–Before pouring the concrete, install any drainage you will need. This includes floor drains and drains for sinks and washing machines.
  • Concrete slab–Lay your gravel at the recommended thickness and level. Pour your concrete to the desired thickness, float and finish, then wait until it is completely cured, usually a few days.
  • Electrical–Make sure to follow building codes and best practices when running electricity to your garage. Improperly wired electrical supplies can lead to appliance damaging brownouts in the home, blown circuit breakers, and even fires.
  • Openings–Openings weaken the container’s structure. You may want to reinforce the open end of the garage to prevent sagging or buckling over time. The top rails of the containers weren’t made for weight bearing stresses such as those found in a garage.

Container Preparation

With all the planning and permits are in place, it’s time to prepare the containers for becoming the building blocks of your new garage.

Prepaint Preparation

Before grabbing the paint gun, make sure you follow all the steps to prepare your container for painting:

  1. Remove Stickers–If you plan to repaint the exterior, you will want to remove the stickers. If a razor blade isn’t doing the job, a heat gun or handheld hair dryer can be used; just heat up the sticker then pull it off with your bare hands. If you are planning to side your house, this step is unnecessary.
  2. Wash–Power wash the containers with an acid wash, then rinse thoroughly. Allow to completely dry.
  3. Inspect Container–Carefully inspect the container’s exterior, including the top, keeping an eye out for moderate to severe rust. You may want to bring along a pocket knife or screwdriver to flake away blistering rust. Use the knife to remove some of the rust. If the exposed rust is bad, make note of it. Complete your inspection of the exterior, then look around inside for signs of water leaks or seepage. Note where all leaks are for patching later on.
  4. Rust–Remove surface rust with a grinder. For heavy rust, you will have to patch it. Small areas of rust can be knocked out ground to clean up the metal. These small areas can be patched with a welder using a low alloy filler. The alloys in the container steel will mix with the filler, giving it the same weathering properties as the weathering steel itself. Areas too large for filling will require a piece of weathering steel cut to fit.
  5. Primer–If you plan to use the container’s exterior as the exterior of your home, it is a good idea to apply primer to the container. This will help the finish coats of paint to stick and last much longer. Be sure to pick a primer that is right for the paint you will use.


Steel structures are notorious for absorbing massive amounts of heat. To counteract this characteristic, use a light-colored, reflective alkyd enamel paint. If you are looking for optimal heat reduction, then you may want to consider coating it with Super Therm®, a water-based ceramic coating that reflects 95% of the heat that hits it.

Paint can be applied in two basic ways: by spraying it on or by rolling. Here are some things to keep in mind when painting:

  1. Spraying–You will have to thin down the paint enough to get a good flow through the sprayer. Apply at least two thin coats using an even back-and-forth motion.
  2. Roller–This method does not require you to thin the paint. Before rolling, use a paintbrush to block in all corners and edges, brushing on a light coat of paint. Roll on a thin coat of paint and let dry. Repeat this process of blocking in and applying paint. Use a minimum of two coats.


With planning complete and all tools and materials on-hand, it’s time to start building. There are a few things you must do setting the container and building:

  1. Drainage–Install all drains you need before pouring concrete. Remember to leave additional length so you can run drainage through the floor of your container.
  2. Concrete Slab–Pouring a concrete slab that is to code will provide a stable, level base for your garage. Before setting the container on the slab, you will need to install a moisture barrier and some kind of insulation. This will help make the garage easier to heat and cool.
  3. Anchors–You may want to anchor the garage to the concrete slab. This is easily accomplished with some concrete anchors, brackets, and bolts. If you plan to anchor the garage, be sure to do that after the container is set but before you start building. That way, you will have an easier time running bolts through and fastening them.
  4. Cut all Holes–Measure off and cut out all holes you will need for windows, doors, heating and cooling, ventilation, electrical supply, water, and sewage.

Building–Framing in walls, wiring, plumbing, and other construction tasks can be completed the same you would if building a regular home. If you happen to get stuck on any of these tasks, there are countless resources online to help you out.