Stacking Shipping Containers Safely for Efficient Storage

Shipping containers provide a variety of efficient solutions. From their days aboard sea freighters to their new lives as storage containers, cargo containers are meant to protect their contents while using as little space as possible.

What better way to save space than stacking shipping containers on top of one another?

It’s true — stacking cargo containers may not be a common practice, but it can be a huge space-saver for your storage. Curious? Read on to learn more. 

Considering how you could benefit from stacking shipping containers for storage? Reach out to the experts at Rent-A-Container.


How to stack shipping containers


How Shipping Containers Are Stacked

The idea of stacking shipping containers is enticing to the space-conscious, but to do it safely, you have to follow a few simple rules.


Use a Crane or Forklift to Stack Storage Containers

Stacking cargo containers is going to require either a crane or an industrial forklift. Even a standard 20-foot shipping container can weigh more than two tons, so you’re going to need some heavy equipment to hoist one container on top of another.


Stack Containers with Corner Posts Aligned

Stackable shipping containers come with four corner posts designed to bear most of the weight of the containers above them. While sturdy is standard with sea cans, they can buckle near the middle when they are stacked improperly. Even the strongest steel can’t stand up to multiple tons of weight all the time.


Smaller Containers Go Under Bigger Containers

This may seem counterintuitive: You need to stack larger containers on top of smaller containers. Why? Because two smaller containers next to each other have more strong corner posts to rely on to hold the larger containers above.

For example, if you have one 40-foot container and two 20-foot containers, the 40-foot container could give way near its weakest point — its middle — if you had the two 20-footers on top. Meanwhile, the two 20-foot containers have another set of sturdy corner posts near the midpoint of the 40-foot container above, so buckling is much less likely if they’re on the bottom.


Secure Stacked Containers with Twist Locks

Once you have your containers stacked the way you want them, you need to secure them. The way you do that is with twist locks. These locks sit on the corner posts of the containers to secure the top container to the bottom one.


Stacking Cargo Containers: Which Types Are Stackable?

Learning how shipping containers stack is one thing — but can you actually stack the containers you want to rent or buy? 


Most Types of Containers Are Stackable

Stacking shipping containers may sound complicated, but because these containers are so standardized, it’s actually easier than you might think. Most types of containers are stackable shipping containers. That includes 10-foot, 20-foot, 40-foot and 45-foot standard and high cube containers.


Shipping Container Stacking: It’s All About Quality

With that said, note that quality matters when it comes to stacking shipping containers. If you have an older shipping container with a lot of rust or structural damage, it may be risky to stack any other containers on top of it.

Newer containers are more likely to be able to stand up to the weight of one or more fully loaded containers.


How High Can Shipping Containers Be Stacked?

This is one of the most common questions we get about stacking shipping containers. And it matters — stacking cargo containers too high can lead to disaster, and if you’re planning a shipping container office or home, you need to know how many floors you can safely manage. 

How high shipping containers can be stacked depends on the quality of the units and how heavily you plan to load the upper containers. Generally, you can go as high as eight or nine stacked containers. But remember that you need to check with your local government to make sure local regulations allow stacking shipping containers to the level you have in mind.


Looking for Stackable Shipping Containers? Call Rent-A-Container

Stacking shipping containers for storage may be a great space-saving decision, but it requires some planning. For help finding the stackable shipping containers to meet your storage or structure needs, reach out to the expert team at Rent-A-Container.

We are here to answer your questions about shipping container stacking and more. Reach out by calling us at (800) 880-7061 or contacting us online.

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