Should I Put My Shipping Container On Blocks?

Should I put my shipping container on blocks? Explore the benefits and drawbacks of raising shipping containers off the ground for an informed decision.

In the realm of off-grid living, one question often arises when it comes to utilizing shipping containers as alternative dwelling units: should I put my shipping container on blocks? This article aims to explore the benefits and drawbacks of raising shipping containers off the ground, providing a nuanced understanding that can help inform the decision-making process for those considering this unconventional approach. By examining the implications of elevating shipping containers, this article seeks to empower individuals with the knowledge needed to optimize their container-based living arrangements while addressing potential challenges along the way.

Factors to Consider

Weight Distribution

When deciding whether to put a shipping container on blocks, weight distribution is an important factor to consider. Shipping containers are typically designed to distribute weight evenly across the floor and corner castings, which makes them suitable for stacking and transport. Placing a shipping container on blocks can potentially affect its weight distribution, leading to uneven weight distribution or point loads on the structure. This can increase the risk of structural damage and compromise the stability of the container.


Proper drainage is crucial for maintaining the structural integrity of a shipping container. When placed directly on the ground, containers can be susceptible to moisture build-up, which can lead to corrosion, rust, and ultimately weaken the structure. By elevating the container on blocks, you can create a gap between the ground and the container, allowing for better airflow and improved drainage. This can help prevent moisture-related issues and prolong the lifespan of the container.

Foundation Stability

The stability of the foundation is a critical aspect to consider when deciding how to place your shipping container. Placing the container on blocks can provide a stable and level foundation, especially if the ground is uneven or prone to shifting. However, it is essential to ensure that the blocks are of adequate size and strength to support the weight of the container. Insufficient or weak blocks can lead to uneven settlement, compromising the structural integrity of the container and potentially causing damage over time.

Ease of Access

Another factor to consider is the ease of access to the container. By placing the container on blocks, you create a gap underneath, allowing for convenient access for maintenance, repairs, and inspections. This can be particularly beneficial if you need to frequently access the underside of the container for any purpose, such as adding or modifying utilities, cleaning, or conducting structural assessments. The elevated position also facilitates better airflow and reduces the likelihood of debris accumulation beneath the container.

Benefits of Putting Shipping Container on Blocks

Improved Airflow

Elevating a shipping container on blocks promotes improved airflow around and beneath the structure. This increased airflow helps dissipate moisture and prevent condensation from building up, reducing the risk of corrosion and rust. Adequate airflow also mitigates the potential for mold and mildew growth, creating a healthier and more comfortable environment within the container.

Reduced Risk of Rusting

When a shipping container is placed directly on the ground, it is susceptible to moisture from the soil, leading to rust formation over time. Elevating the container on blocks minimizes contact with the ground, reducing the likelihood of moisture retention and the subsequent risk of rusting. By taking this preventive measure, you can significantly extend the lifespan of your container and ensure its structural integrity.

Easier Repairs and Maintenance

Putting a shipping container on blocks facilitates easier repairs and maintenance. With ample space underneath the container, you can access the plumbing, electrical, and other utility systems without difficulty. This accessibility simplifies the process of repair or replacement, allowing for swift and efficient resolution of any issues that may arise. Additionally, routine maintenance tasks, such as cleaning and inspecting the underside of the container, become more manageable and less time-consuming.

Minimized Contact with Ground

By lifting the shipping container off the ground, you can minimize its contact with the soil. This is particularly advantageous in areas with high moisture levels or poor soil conditions. Direct contact with the ground can lead to moisture absorption, which can compromise the structural integrity of the container and make it susceptible to damage. By elevating the container on blocks, you create a barrier between the container and the soil, reducing the risk of moisture-related issues and potential damage.

Drawbacks of Putting Shipping Container on Blocks

Additional Expense

One of the primary drawbacks of placing a shipping container on blocks is the additional expense involved. The cost of purchasing and installing the blocks, as well as ensuring they are of sufficient size and strength to support the container’s weight, can add up. Moreover, professional installation may be required to ensure the blocks are correctly positioned and secure, further increasing the overall expense. It is crucial to factor in these additional costs when considering whether to use blocks as a foundation for your shipping container.

Increased Vulnerability to Wind

Elevating a shipping container on blocks can make it more vulnerable to strong winds, particularly if the container is situated in an area prone to severe weather conditions. When placed directly on the ground, the container benefits from the stability provided by its contact with the earth. However, by raising it on blocks, the container is exposed to the force of the wind, which can create additional stress on the structure. Adequate bracing and anchoring techniques should be employed when placing a container on blocks to mitigate the risk of wind damage.

Potential for Uneven Settlement

Uneven settlement is a potential drawback of placing a shipping container on blocks. If the ground underneath the blocks is not adequately prepared or is prone to shifting, it can lead to uneven settlement of the blocks and, consequently, the container. This can result in structural issues and compromise the stability of the container. Proper site preparation, including ensuring a solid and level base for the blocks, is essential to minimize the potential for uneven settlement and maintain the long-term integrity of the container.

Difficulty in Leveling

Achieving a level foundation can be challenging when placing a shipping container on blocks. The ground on which the blocks are placed must be carefully leveled and compacted to ensure stability and prevent tilting or shifting of the container. Additionally, the blocks themselves must be accurately positioned and adjusted to achieve a level foundation. Without proper leveling, the container may be susceptible to stress points, uneven weight distribution, and potential damage. It is crucial to employ professional expertise or employ precise leveling techniques to establish a stable and level foundation.

Alternative Methods of Foundation

Concrete Slab

A concrete slab foundation is a popular alternative to using blocks for placing a shipping container. Concrete slabs provide a stable and level platform for the container, ensuring even weight distribution and minimizing the risk of settling or shifting. Additionally, they offer excellent durability and longevity, reducing the need for frequent maintenance or repair.

Pier Foundation

A pier foundation, also known as a pile foundation, involves supporting the container on a series of piers or columns. Piers are driven into the ground, typically to a greater depth than blocks, to provide stability and distribute the weight evenly. This type of foundation is particularly suitable for uneven or challenging terrain and can offer enhanced resistance to settling and shifting.

Helical Piers

Helical piers are a type of pile foundation that involves screwing metal piles into the ground to support the weight of the container. These piers are particularly advantageous for areas with poor soil conditions or in environmentally sensitive locations where minimal disturbance is desired. Helical piers provide excellent stability and load-bearing capacity, making them a viable alternative to blocks for placing shipping containers.

Permanent Foundation

A permanent foundation involves constructing a traditional foundation, such as a concrete footing, that fully supports the weight of the shipping container. This method requires a higher level of investment and expertise but provides the most robust and long-lasting solution. Permanent foundations are often required for residential or commercial structures and may be subject to specific building codes and regulations.

Climate Considerations

Freezing Temperatures

In areas with freezing temperatures, it is essential to consider the impact on the foundation of a shipping container. Placing the container directly on the ground without insulation or elevation on blocks can expose it to frost heaving, where the ground swells and shifts due to freezing and thawing cycles. This movement can cause structural damage and compromise the container’s stability. Insulating the container and ensuring proper drainage can help mitigate the risks associated with freezing temperatures.

High Winds

If the area is prone to high winds, the choice of foundation becomes crucial in ensuring the container’s stability and resistance to wind forces. Placing the container on blocks can increase its vulnerability to wind, as the structure is raised and exposed to a larger surface area. Employing adequate bracing and anchoring techniques, such as wind-resistant straps or tie-downs, is essential to secure the shipping container and prevent damage caused by high winds.

Flood Zones

For areas prone to flooding, the choice of foundation must consider the potential risk of water damage. Placing a shipping container directly on the ground in flood-prone areas can expose it to water ingress, compromising the integrity of the structure. Elevating the container on blocks can help mitigate this risk, as it reduces the likelihood of direct contact with floodwaters. However, special considerations must be made for flood-resistant construction techniques, such as using waterproof membranes and sealing all entry points, to ensure the container remains watertight during flooding events.


In regions with permafrost, the choice of foundation is critical to prevent the ground from thawing and losing its stability. Placing a shipping container on blocks may not be suitable in permafrost areas, as it disrupts the thermal balance of the ground and can lead to ground instability and settling. Consideration should be given to alternative foundation methods, such as insulated footings or specialized techniques that preserve the integrity of the permafrost layer.

Regulations and Zoning

Local Building Codes

When determining the placement of a shipping container, it is crucial to verify local building codes and regulations. Building codes vary by location and may dictate specific requirements for foundation types, setbacks, and structural considerations. Understanding and adhering to these codes is essential to ensure compliance, avoid penalties, and ensure the safety and integrity of the shipping container structure.

Height Restrictions

Height restrictions may limit the options for placing a shipping container on blocks. Municipalities and homeowner associations often have regulations in place regarding the maximum allowable height for structures. Placing a container on blocks may increase its overall height, potentially exceeding the height restrictions and requiring special permits or variances. It is essential to consult local regulations and obtain the necessary approvals before proceeding with the placement of a shipping container.

Permitting Requirements

Permitting requirements vary by jurisdiction and may impact the placement of a shipping container on blocks. Some municipalities may require permits for erecting structures, modifying existing buildings, or performing certain types of work. These permits often involve submitting plans, paying fees, and undergoing inspections to ensure compliance with safety standards. Familiarize yourself with the permitting requirements of your area to avoid any legal complications or delays in the process.

Safety Considerations

Fire Hazards

One safety consideration when placing a shipping container on blocks is the risk of fire. Shipping containers are typically constructed with non-combustible materials, such as steel, which helps minimize the risk of fire spread. However, if combustible materials are stored inside or near the container, there is a potential fire hazard. It is essential to maintain a safe distance between the container and any flammable materials, as well as adhere to fire safety guidelines and regulations.

Wildlife Intrusion

Elevating a shipping container on blocks can deter wildlife from accessing the structure. By creating a gap between the container and the ground, potential entry points for pests, such as rodents or insects, are reduced. However, it is important to ensure that the container is effectively sealed and properly insulated to prevent wildlife intrusion. Regular inspections and preventative measures can help minimize the risk of pests finding their way into the container.

Risk of Theft or Vandalism

The placement of a shipping container, whether on blocks or another foundation, can impact the risk of theft or vandalism. While elevating the container may deter opportunistic theft, it is essential to consider additional security measures, such as sturdy locks, security cameras, or alarms, to protect valuable contents stored inside the container. Assessing the overall security of the site and implementing appropriate measures can help mitigate the risk of theft or vandalism.

Reuse and Sustainability

Recycling Options

Shipping containers have become a popular choice for reuse in various construction projects, as they offer a sustainable and environmentally friendly alternative to traditional building materials. When considering the placement of a shipping container on blocks, it is worth exploring recycling options for both the container and the blocks. Many recycling centers accept steel containers for repurposing or melting down to be used in the production of new steel products. Proper disposal or recycling of the blocks can also contribute to reducing waste and minimizing environmental impact.

Container Lifespan

The lifespan of a shipping container can be influenced by various factors, including how it is placed and supported. Placing a container on blocks can help extend its lifespan by minimizing contact with the ground, reducing the risk of corrosion and rust. However, it is crucial to inspect the container regularly for signs of deterioration or damage to ensure its continued structural integrity. Regular maintenance, including repainting and sealing, can also contribute to prolonging the lifespan of the container.

Repurposing Opportunities

Placing a shipping container on blocks opens up numerous possibilities for repurposing and adapting the container for various uses. Containers can be transformed into versatile living spaces, offices, shops, or even art installations. Their modular nature and relatively simple construction make them ideal for customization and repurposing. By placing a container on blocks, you create a flexible and adaptable foundation that can accommodate future modifications or repurposing efforts with ease.

Personal Preferences and Aesthetics

Desired Elevation

The desired elevation of the shipping container can play a significant role in the decision to place it on blocks. Elevating the container can provide a more commanding presence and vantage point, particularly in scenic or panoramic locations. Additionally, a higher elevation may offer advantages such as improved views, better natural lighting, or increased privacy. Personal preferences and the specific requirements of the project should be considered when determining the desired elevation of the container.

Visual Appeal

The visual appeal of a shipping container, particularly in residential or commercial settings, is an important consideration. Placing the container on blocks can enhance its visual appeal by creating an elevated and distinctive presence. The use of blocks can also provide an opportunity for artistic or creative expression, such as painting or landscaping around the foundation. Considering the overall aesthetic goals and harmonizing the container with the surrounding environment can enhance its visual appeal.

Compatibility with Surrounding Structures

Before deciding whether to place a shipping container on blocks, it is important to consider the compatibility with existing or planned surrounding structures. The elevation and foundation method chosen should align with the architectural style, size, and scale of the surrounding buildings. Harmonizing the container’s placement with the overall design of the site can create a cohesive and visually pleasing environment.

Expert Opinions and Case Studies


Architects play a key role in designing and implementing shipping container projects. Their expertise can provide valuable insights into the placement and foundation options for shipping containers. Architects can assess the site conditions, understand the project requirements, and propose suitable foundation methods that maximize the structural integrity, stability, and aesthetics of the container.


Consulting with structural engineers can help determine the feasibility and safety of placing a shipping container on blocks. Engineers can assess the site conditions, analyze the weight distribution, and calculate the foundation requirements to ensure proper support and stability. Their expertise can also identify potential challenges and provide recommendations for mitigating risks associated with the elevation and foundation method.

Homeowners’ Experiences

Gaining insights from homeowners who have placed shipping containers on blocks can provide valuable firsthand experience and knowledge. Homeowners can share their perspectives on factors such as maintenance, cost-effectiveness, durability, and the overall experience of living in a container. Their experiences can help inform decision-making and provide practical guidance for others considering placing a shipping container on blocks.

In conclusion, the decision to place a shipping container on blocks involves careful consideration of various factors. Weight distribution, drainage, foundation stability, and ease of access are crucial factors to assess. While placing containers on blocks offers improved airflow, reduced risk of rusting, and easier maintenance, it also comes with drawbacks such as additional expense and increased vulnerability to wind. Alternative methods of foundation, such as concrete slabs, pier foundations, helical piers, or permanent foundations, may be worth exploring depending on site-specific factors. Climate considerations, regulations, safety, reuse, personal preferences, and expert opinions should also be taken into account. By thoroughly evaluating these factors, individuals can make an informed decision on whether to place their shipping container on blocks or explore alternative options.

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