I get asked about once a month about burying shipping containers – either because of disguising them so they don’t stand out in the countryside or for the insulative properies that this will bring. This week, for example, I got asked for advice about building bunker camping shelters made out of 10ft containers that would be buried at various points in the Yorkshire Dales. Whatever the reason it is important that although shipping containers will support an enormous amount of weight directly on top (as we have seen in a previous post when shipping containers were used to support a bridge in Utah), this is only if this weight is placed over the load bearing iso corners. The top and the sides of the shipping containerare prone to flexing otherwise and this means that the roof can, and will, eventually collapse. So at the risk of being boring and giving you more information than you would ever want to know about how to bury a shipping container safely I am going to outline one method of doing this safely just in case you have your own shipping container conversion in mind that would need this sort of information!
Let us take as an example a 40ft container that we want to almost completely bury. First of all dig a hole. This should be 16ft wide, 55ft long and at least 6ft deep. Any hole this large is going to fill with water so a sump or a trench needs to be dug before lining the base and 2ft up the sides with heavy duty foundation plastic. A french drain with an integral silt shield should be put in the bottom of the hole, staked into place so it does not go under the corners or the edge of the container. Secure the plastic within 6″ of the sides with t-posts before covering the base with 6″ of gravel.
If you are not completely exhausted by this stage, the shipping container can now be placed on top of the gravel in the centre of the hole, making sure it is level. To support the sides and top of the iso container a barricade needs to be built all around. This can be in the form of gabion or hesco baskets filled with rocks or sand or, providing that they do not touch the container itself, walls of tyres filled with sand. These need to be built up so they stand proud of the container top and can support heavy timber crossbeams and a false “roof” covered with another layer of plasticso that the container can be completely buried. At the door end of the container protect the doors by building a wooden post frame around them so they can open easily whilst the surround can be appropriately disguised if required.
All of this proves that burying a shipping container for whatever container conversion you have in mind is not a task lightly undertaken. It takes a vast amount of work but, if done properly, is well worth the effort. Should you be inspired to have a go, let me know how you get on.