No matter if you want a small shed, or one just big enough for the lawn mower and a little work bench, or one big enough to park a tractor in, shipping containers are an ideal solution. You can use this article as a guide to designing and building your perfect shed using containers.

Building Codes and Permits

Before you begin planning, make sure you know if the local building codes allow you to use containers to build a shed. Once you know that you can use a container, you will need to get your building permits. Be sure to include any permits that may be needed for electrical and plumbing.

Architectural Planning

First on the list is figuring out what you will use the shed for. The possibilities are endless, so here are a few ideas to help you out:

  • Small Engine Workshop–You can build a small workshop for repairing lawn mowers, weed eaters and such, complete with tools storage and even a drill press.
  • Repair Shop–A shop large enough to pull a car or truck into with room for a workbench and tools, even a small hoist
  • Equipment and Tool Storage–Space to store lawncare and gardening equipment, fertilizer, etc.
  • Workshop–A space for making things out of wood or even metal
  • Feed Storage–Store livestock feed and related items
  • Man Cave–A personal space you can call a shed
  • Play House–Something for the kids to play in that’s outside of the house
  • Farm Equipment Storage–A space for storing your tractor and other equipment out of the weather

Once you have the primary purpose for the shed, it’s time to draw up some plans for how you’re going to build it. There are two basic approaches, depending on the size you need:

  • Single-level–One or more containers are mated together with a single-level floor plan.
  • Two-level–This approach will be one you can use for larger sheds. This will involve stacking the containers at least two high.

Single-level Construction

What you plan to use the shed for will dictate how you design and build it. It’s a good idea to sit down and draw up plans that are to scale, so you can see how everything will fit together before you start building.

Single-level Side-by-side Construction

When building side-by-side, you will need to remove the walls of each container where they will be joined. This will give you a wide-open space from one end to the other. You may also need to remove the two inside posts on the open end in order to have room enough to drive a up into the shed.

Single-level Plumbing

Before you pour your concrete slab, you will need to install all your plumbing. This includes pipes for running water and all drainage. Be sure to remember to put at least one drain in the floor.

Single-Level Concrete Slab

For maximum stability, it is best to pour footers and a slab for your shed. This provides a solid, stable surface for your container shed to sit on. You may want to dig the area for your slab deep enough to allow the floor of the containers to be flush with the ground. If you have drainage, be sure to slope the floor toward it. If you have no drainage, slope the floor slightly to encourage water to drain off one end of it.

Single-level Full-width Shed Door

You may want to put a garage door on your container shed. This is relatively easy to do, with a little framing and a garage door kit. Once you have decided on the width of your garage door, you can frame in your wall to fit the door. Be sure to install any locking devices to secure it, and you’ll be good to go.

Two-level Construction–Stacking containers requires some special consideration. While you can stack and lock them together, strong gusts of wind may blow them over. You will need to plan for this and make sure the stacked containers can’t be blown over by strong winds. The best way to do this is to dig and pour footers just like you would for any building, then pour a concrete slab to sit the containers on. The ground-level containers should be anchored to the concrete with bolts and steel strong enough to hold the containers, no matter how strong the wind is. The second-level containers must be secured in a way that they won’t be blown off by strong winds. If you plan to unstack the containers at some point, you may want to use twist locks to securely lock the containers together. These are the same locks used to secure the containers on ships for oceangoing passage. They are strong and will hold under virtually any landlocked weather conditions. If you plan to leave them stacked permanently, then it is best to weld them together using plates of weathering steel on the corners, with additional plates along the rails.

Two-level Storage

You will be able to store a lot of whatever you need on the ground level without much worry. However, if you plan to store anything heavy on the upper level, such as hay, straw, and feed, then you need to make sure that you stay within the payload rating for the container. Since they are stacked like they would be on a ship, they will be able to support the weight. Just make sure you don’t exceed the safe payload rating; if you do, it could cause the containers to buckle or collapse.

Two-level Electrical, Plumbing and drainage

Before you pour your concrete slab, be sure you have all your electrical, plumbing, and drainage installed. For a large floor, you may need two or more drains.

Two-level Concrete slab

With a larger shed, it is even more important to pour footers and a slab. You have the choice of pouring footers and one big slab (remember to install drainage first), or you may elect to pur footers and slabs for each stack of containers. Either way, your shed will have a solid, stable surface to sit on. Be sure to slope all slabs toward drains, or if there are no drains, slope all slabs so that water drains off from them.

Two-level Roof

Building a roof on top of your stacked containers will require additional structural reinforcement to prevent the containers from buckling under that additional weight. Before building the roof, it is a good idea to have a structural engineer come out, look at your shed, and make a recommendation as to what you will need to do to ensure your containers are strong enough to support building a roof on them.

Two-level End walls

Chances are that you will want to enclose the ends of your shed with walls. This may require consulting with a structural engineer to see what you need to do to provide the right kind of structure for the walls.

Two-level Shed doors

While designing the walls, you will als need to consider what kind of doors you want. The two basic types are hinged and sliding. Sliding doors are popular because they are easy to open and close, and they take up very little extra room, unlike a hinged barn door. If you need large doors for heavy farm equipment, then sliding doors are your best bet.

Wrapping it Up

After planning the shed, you pick a location and pour the footers. Next, you run all plumbing and electrical. Next, you pour the concrete and let it set. Once the concrete is cured, you can set the container and anchor it. You can then build the walls and add a garage door, shed doors, or whatever will work for you. After that, step back and admire your new shed.