An Auction and Marketplace for Shipping and Cargo Containers

How to Safely Bury a Shipping Container

05.08.2018 - Posted by Updated On 05.08.2018    

First off, it's not structurally safe to bury a shipping container at any depth underground. Many people think that they can build a quick and easy shelter by digging a hole, lowering in a shipping container, and covering it back up. This could not be further from the truth, and quite frankly can be very dangerous.

First off, shipping containers are designed to carry their strength in the rails and corners, which is why they can be stacked several high in container depots and vessels. The sides of container are made from sheets of CORTEN steel, which is strong to wind, rain, and all other elements but since there is no framing other than the rails, that leaves the 20' and 40' sides vulnerable to carrying excessive weight. Backfill piled on the sides of the container will apply continuous pressure, and over time start to push the walls and possibly ceiling of the container in and down. inside of a shippinng container

All this being said, many people still attempt to burying shipping containers and we've collected a few ideas over that years that can be relayed. Note that hiring a structural engineer to design the project should go without saying, but we're saying it anyway. Also, it's also important to note that steel buried underground overtime can begin to corrode and rust. This corrosion will start on the outside and by the time it's noticed inside of the container it will be too late. To help slow this damage, the outside of the container should be covered in asphalt or tar to prevent rust. The thicker the application the better.

Gabion Cages

We previously wrote about using gabion cages to bury a shipping container, and this idea is still a decent practice. The cages provide a barrier between the backfill and the sides of the container and carry much, if not all of the weight. The downside is finding enough large rocks to fill the cages, the actual process of filling the cages will be the other half of the fun.

blue barrells

Barrels Filled with Stone

Similar to gabion cages with rocks, is filling barrels with stones. Stones and those big blue barrels may be a little easier to find, and easier to fill. Bury the container in a wide enough hole to fit the container and a line of barrels on each side and ends, the slowly backfill it in.

Welded Steel Angle Irons

This is the idea that has the least amount of formal information published on it. Since the container has no framing on the inside of the container, it needs to be built. On the outside of the container weld large (2" or greater) angle iron down the sides of the container, spot welding it to the container every couple of feet. Weld a few pieces of angle iron to each side of the container in this matter and this may help to provide the needed strength in the sides.

As we've said, no matter if you're using gabion cages, barrels, or angle iron to assist in burying a shipping container, it's not a good idea. If you insist on doing this, over engineering is the only way to go. doesn't condone burying 20' or 40' shipping containers in any way.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Similar Articles