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Shipping Container Dimensions and Creative Uses


Since their creation, shipping containers have primarily been used for actual, well, shipping. Although sometimes they were also just used for storage to keep supplies dry and secure. While these uses are obviously still in play today, there are now almost endless possibilities for the use of the various sizes of shipping containers, limited only by the imagination.

Different sized containers are more ideal for various types of uses. For example, a 10-foot shipping container wouldn't necessarily make for a house, but it could serve well as a garden shed to store a mower and other yard tools. Shipping containers come in all shapes and sizes, meaning there's a perfect shipping container match for whatever use your mind can dream up.

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Here is a look at the various containers Container One sells, their dimensions and some creative uses for each of them:

20-foot Standard Shipping Containers

Dimensions: 8'6" x 8' x 20'20-ft-shipping-container-dimensions

These shipping containers have an exterior length of 20 feet and weigh approximately 4,500 pounds empty. The maximum gross weight is just over 66,000 pounds. The interior dimensions are 19′ 5″ (length) by 7′ 8-⅛" (width) by 7′ 9-⅝" (tall). The door opening measures 7' 8-½" wide by 7' 5-¾" high.

Shipping containers fitting these dimensions are some of the most commonly used and purchased in the market.

Often, the reason customers choose a 20 ft. over a 40 ft. is because they have limited space to accommodate the container. 

In addition to being used as storage sheds or a garage, they can also be used as ticket booths, firework stands, and guard shacks. Other creative use-case examples include:


The most common use for 20 ft. shipping containers (and really all sizes) is for storage. Whether it’s a customer looking for a unique home for their lawn and gardening tools, or a construction site needs a secure location to put their equipment, shipping containers fit the bill.

Mobile offices:

Most construction projects don't last forever. Once the job is done, the crew moves on to the next site. But during each project, it's helpful for the foreman and others to have space protected from the weather to discuss the project, get a cup of coffee or take a break. Shipping containers can be converted into portable offices that can be used at a job site, then loaded up and used at the next site.

Cafés or mobile restaurants:

In some regions, food trucks are a huge deal. It might be a food truck that provides a lunch option in an industrial park that isn't located near fast food, or food truck events where lots of mobile eateries offer some grub. Shipping containers offer the same benefits as these diners on wheels without the disadvantages (possible truck breakdowns, fuel costs). Shipping containers can easily be converted into "steel cafés" used to feed people all over town. And they'll look so unique compared to the typical meals on wheels food trucks that customers won't be able to resist checking you out.

40-foot Standard Shipping Containers

Dimensions: 8'6" x 8' x 40'40-ft-shipping-container-dimensions

These containers have an exterior length of 40 feet and weigh approximately 8,500 pounds empty. The maximum gross weight is just over 66,000 pounds. The interior dimensions are 39′ ⅜" (length), 7′ 8-⅛" (width) and 7′ 9-⅝" (tall). The door opening measures 7' 8-½" wide by 7' 5-¾" high.

Containers this size are typically used as freight shipping containers for big businesses trading overseas.

The 40 ft. standard and the 40 ft. high cube containers are the most cost-effective options because they are usually not much more than the 20 ft. containers, and offer much more space. These containers also offer a lot of space that can be used creatively in many ways:

Office or business space:

Business expansion is a good thing – if you have space. Otherwise, investing in a building expansion project or leasing a new building for more office space can cost a lot of time and money. For companies who already have the land, bringing a couple of 40-foot containers can solve the problem. You can cost-effectively create offices without a ton of expensive modifications. You could even start your own temporary storage business.

Indoor gardens:

Outside gardens are great – as long as the dirt is conducive for growing, the weather cooperates, and the bugs don't chomp on the crops. Converting a shipping container into an indoor garden where you can better control the environment eliminates the gardening guesswork. Not only can you make the garden the size you want it, but you can also have access to fresh produce year-round to feed your family or start that "winter farmer's market."

Swimming pools:

Forget the expense and hassle of putting in an in-ground swimming pool or shipping-container-swimming-poolbuying a cheap plastic or vinyl above-ground pool at the store. Having your own pool doesn't have to be expensive or a hassle. Shipping containers make for unique and customizable pools. You can make your pool as long and as deep as you want. And if you don't want a 40-foot long pool, convert your container into part pool and part beach or add a nice deck for catching some rays. On top of all that, you'll have the coolest looking pool in your neighborhood.

Vehicle storage:

These containers are a great option to store and secure a vehicle because they provide increased headroom above the vehicle.

Other potential uses for 40-foot shipping containers include storage for farm equipment, feed, and general storage where you don’t need the extra foot of height that comes with high cube containers.

40-foot High Cube Shipping Containers

Dimensions: 9'6" x 8' x 40'40-ft-high-cube-shipping-container-dimensions

These containers have an exterior length of 40 feet and weigh approximately 8,750 pounds empty. The maximum gross weight is just over 68,000 pounds. The interior dimensions are 39′ 4" (length), 7′ 7" (width) and 8' 9" (tall). The door opening measures 7' 8" wide by 8' 5" high.

High cube shipping containers in the 40-foot size are typically used for storage because they are so tall that it's easy to add storage space without taking up more room on the ground. In contrast to the standard 8-foot-6-inch shipping container height, high-cube containers offer an extra foot in height to stack material higher or to hold lightweight, bulky cargo. This allows for more interior storage with installing shelves, false ceiling for insulation and headroom. 

The extra space makes them versatile for portable storage and intermodal transportation. High-cube containers are popular for commercial, industrial and municipal uses, like transporting steel or aluminum. Other creative uses are:

More spacious structures:

Because these containers are taller than standard ones, they are often used when creating a multi-level "building" to create more spacious structures. The taller containers help create higher ceilings, which can increase air circulation and better regulate temperature.

Shipping container homes:

40 ft. high cube shipping containers can hold the equivalent to a two-car garage or about 2-3 rooms. The extra foot of height is used for wiring, duct work and insulation. They are ideal for larger homes that require a lot of storage space and have ample amount of space for shelving. The spacing also allows for some unique design capabilities. Check out some cool examples here.

Other practical use-case examples for 40 ft. high cube shipping containers would be on-site construction storage, commercial building projects and shipping container homes.

53-foot Shipping Containers

Dimensions: 9'6" x 8'6" x 53'53-ft-shipping-container-dimensions

These containers have an exterior length of 53 feet and weigh approximately 12,500 pounds empty. The maximum gross weight is just over 67,000 pounds. The interior dimensions are 52′ 6" (length), 8′ 2" (width) and 8' 11" (tall). The door opening measures 8' 2" wide by 8' 10" high. 

General-purpose 53-foot containers were introduced in the United States in 1989 and are mainly for domestic road and rail transport.

These containers are perfect to use for building any type of residential or commercial building project. Custom homes, apartments, college dorms, living quarters for workers and self-storage units are some of the primary uses of these 53-foot shipping containers. Other creative applications include:


The durability of shipping containers allows them to be stacked to create multiple-shipping-container-hotelsfloor structures – think apartment buildings and hotels when more storage is needed. After adding key necessities like plumbing, electricity, and interior design, 53-foot high cube containers can be customized into hotels with unique architecture.

Large homes:

These shipping containers can be used for making larger homes, but they provide much more space than a 40-footer. The extra area can be used for more bathroom space or give you more living space, like a bigger kitchen or a patio.

Dorm rooms:

Student housing is a problem for universities all over the world. Some colleges and universities have used 53 ft. shipping containers as a solution to these issues. In fact, in Le Havre, France, over 100 student dorms were constructed out of shipping containers making a four-story building, called Cité A Docks.

The handful of examples listed above are just a small fragment of the creative possibilities and flexibility that come with shipping containers. The only limitation you have is your imagination. Want to see some more examples to kickstart your next shipping container project? Check out the top 26 innovative uses here.

Ready to start your project? Get a price on a shipping container for your location here:

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* Delivery is not included with the 10 ft and 53 ft container prices