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Painting a Shipping Container: Costs, Supplies, and Tips

27.04.2018 - Posted by Updated On 27.04.2018    

Painting a shipping container can be a lot easier, and cheaper, than you may think, especially if you plan it out properly and make sure it's done the right way the first time. There are many reasons to paint your shipping container. The most obvious is aesthetic reasons, if you're going to have to look at it every day for several years you don't want an eye sore sitting on your property that you have to look at every time you pass it. Just as importantly, painting a container can extend its life. By putting on a fresh layer of durable paint it will inhibit rust and corrosion from taking hold of any weak or cracked spots on the factory paint. Before you rush out and start the project, you should calculate the cost and what supplies you'll need.

Cost to Paint a Shipping Container

The cost to paint a shipping container can vary greatly depending on the type of paint and the number of coats. On a 40' container there is roughly 1100 square feet of surface area to cover, around 1200 square feet on a 40' high cube, and around 616 on a 20' container. Double those numbers for the recommended two coats of paint, then divide that number by 350 (the approximate amount of square feet covered per gallon) and you'll have the number of gallons that you'll need to purchase. With regards to the brand of paint, we recommend any marine grade, outdoor paint. Something like Hempel or Valspar brands are the most popular, but you'll definitely need a solvent or water based DTM (direct to metal) marine grade paint. painted shipping container

Supplies to Paint a Shipping Container

Again, the supplies you need varies with how involved the project and how much preparation you want to do. To get the most out of the paint, it's recommended that you clean off any surface rust, decals from the shipping line, and excess grease or other chemical and lubricants on the container. This can be done with a wire brush and pressure washer. If you don't want to make an investment in purchasing or renting other gear, a roller and paint brush will give the container a strong coat, however if you want an even coat of paint (and save some time and energy), a paint sprayer does a very nice job of providing an even coat and fast application.

Tips on Painting Containers

graffiti painted shipping container
  • Use a rust converter to clean any areas of surface rust, not a rust remover.
  • Clean any flaking or cracked paint with a wire brush to allow the new coat to better adhere to the surface.
  • Pressure wash the entire container with a good chemical cleaner, and don't forget to clean the top.
  • The decals may be hard to remove, so a razor blade or some form of heat may make it go faster.
  • If you're in a hot, or cold area you can consider ceramic paint insulation.

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