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Is Your Shipping Container Door Difficult to Close? Tips to Resolve the Issue



Customer: Why can't I get my shipping container door to close? It was working OK for a few days, but now all of a sudden it doesn't. Is my container damaged?

Service rep: This is actually a very common issue that can happen with shipping containers of all conditions. The container itself is fine – there is likely an issue with the ground surface the container is sitting on. Don't worry, we can give you some simple suggestions on how to resolve this issue.

While experiencing difficulty closing shipping container doors can be frustrating and confusing, customers should understand that it's not uncommon. And, when it happens, it's very likely that it is NOT because the container is defective or damaged.

Shipping containers are delivered with the doors closed and having already been inspected, so if there was a problem, the shipping container would not have been delivered in the first place.

So what's the issue?

Shipping containers are designed to sit flat on a cargo ship, and for the doors to work properly they need to be on a flat, level and hard-packed surface. If the container sits on an uneven surface, such as directly on the ground (even if it appears level), it can create some challenges when opening or closing the doors.

Here are several factors to consider if you're having issues with your shipping container doors:

Ground Preparation

Prior to shipping container delivery, make sure the ground where the container will sit is level. Shipping containers are large and heavy, and once you fill them with goods, they'll just get heavier. So, you need a stable foundation for the container to limit the amount the container can settle as time goes on. This is especially important if the container is being used as a permanent fixture like an office, home, shed or business.

A surface can be flat, but not level. For example, a basement floor with a drain installed in case of flooding could be flat, but not level. If it was level, then when a big rain sent water flooding into your basement and your sump pump wasn't working, then the water would just remain on the floor instead of flowing slightly downhill into the drain.shipping-container-level-ground

Flat means a single plane that has no raised areas or depressions. A level plane is horizontal to the ground, meaning the plane is completely parallel to the surface of the earth. Homes are built using this principle – the floors in the house are built level regardless of if the ground below it is flat or even. If the floor wasn't level, you'd feel like the house was leaning or you were walking downhill.

If a shipping container is placed on uneven (or not level) ground, the container might flex or twist to one side. This could cause an issue with the door because the door frame and door itself are still square, even though the frame might be twisted or tweaked. If the shipping container is not level, the doors might stick.

For best results, place your shipping container on a level surface on as hard-packed of a surface as possible, like concrete, asphalt or gravel. If the container must be placed directly on the ground, it's a good idea to level the ground as best you can. Keep in mind, however, that despite your best efforts, the ground may settle or be affected by wet weather in the future, which could cause it to become un-level again.

Leveling Your Container


If it appears that your shipping container is not level, you can fix:

  • Use pressure-treated lumber, bricks or concrete slabs as shims to raise a corner or two of the shipping container until the door gasket looks to be lined up all the way across.
  • It might take some trial-and-error to raise the correct corners up just enough to make the container even.
  • Keep in mind that it's possible you'll have to raise different corners by different amounts (left front corner up 1 inch and back right corner up one-half inch, for example) to achieve success.
  • Once you think you're even, try opening and closing the door.

Loading Your Shipping Container Unit

After your shipping container is level, the last thing you want to do is mess it up during the loading process. The most important thing to consider is how you distribute the weight of whatever you're putting in the container.

loading-a-shipping-containerAs you're loading, periodically check the door gasket to make sure it's still lining up. You can also open and close the door every so often to ensure it happens with ease. If not, consider moving things around to better distribute the weight in the container.

If you've leveled the ground, checked the door gasket, shimmed the corners and evenly distributed the weight inside the container and you're still having issues closing the door, don't get frustrated. The issue is likely that one of the corners of the container has started to settle after you added weight. This can happen if the container is sitting on grass, dirt or asphalt. To solve the issue, go back to the shimming process again until you get the container level again and the door is working properly.

We hope that this information has been educational. Please let us know if we can help you further!