All About 53ft Containers

Most shipping container homes are built using either 20ft or 40ft shipping containers, a standard size agreed many years ago, and often described in terms of Twenty Foot Equivalent Units (TEUs). The USA and Canada, however, have been using 53ft long containers for road and rail transport since 1989. A 53ft high cube container has 60 percent more volume than a 40ft container and can make a real difference to a home or office container conversion.

40ft and 53ft Size Comparison

The 40ft standard shipping container is 12.192 metres (40ft) long, 2.438 metres (8ft) wide, and 2.896 (9ft 6inches) metres high. This gives an internal volume of 75.3 cubic metres (2,660 cubic feet). The floor area is 29.724 square metres (320 square feet).

The 53ft container is much larger inside. They are 16.15 metres (53ft) long, 2.896 metres (9ft 6 inches) high, but are 2.59 metres (8ft 6 inches) wide. This gives them a volume of over 121 cubic metres (4280 cubic feet). The floor space is 41.82 square metres (424 sq ft), giving you an extra 12.1 square metres of added floor space over the standard 40ft shipping container – that could be enough space for a toilet and shower room in your container home as well as giving you the other 40ft space for your other living arrangements.

As such, if you’re looking for extra space for your container home conversion, then you should seriously think about a 53ft container. For an idea of how much larger these are, see this video of a family trying to unload a 53ft container from a low loader truck – you will see how much longer it is than a standard 40ft container.

What are 53ft containers used for today?

When they were first rolled out in the USA, 53ft containers were built for road and rail intermodal transport across the US and Canada. Thousands of them transit the US and Canada on the road and by rail and are the container of choice for transcontinental transport because you can fit so many more goods into them relative to the 40ft container.

These were not designed to handle the same rigours as sea containers and the road versions, at least, should not be the ones you seek to use in building a container home. However in 2007, the container shipping line APL started using 53ft containers for the Asia Pacific route between China and the US. These were built to handle the same conditions as their 40ft equivalents, and if converting them you can expect the same long life as you would the 40ft containers used today.

Unlike the 40ft equivalents there aren’t that many sitting about, as in 2013 APL stopped taking the 53ft containers. In 2015 however, two shipping companies started using the larger boxes for routes between the US and Canada and the US and Puerto Rico. More of these containers that have been designed to be thrown about and abused by the weather are coming onto the market all the time. Where it might be difficult to get a container on a container ship, Roll On Roll Off (RoRo) ships are able to transport them around the world, for instance from the continental US to Australia. 

Converting a 53ft container?

As with their 40ft equivalents, 53ft containers can be stacked – as such you can have a multi-storey construction in much the same way as you would a 40ft unit construction. They also come as reefers, so you can deal with insulation with as much ease as you may have the reefer shipping container. They are fixed to a concrete pad or piles in just the same way – the only real difference is in the size and space you get from using them.

The costs of converting a 53ft container into a home will be broadly similar to that of a standard conversion. You can do the same container modifications to them, such as removing walls for a double width home as well as cutting holes for windows and doors.

Got a 53ft container you need modifying?

Here at Gateway Container Sales we have the expertise to modify and deliver your large high cube container wherever you may be! Get in touch and we will give you a free consultation to discuss your needs, as well as putting you in touch with the right people to help you design and build your container home.

Please note – at Gateway Container Sales we do not stock or supply 53 ft containers. If you want to use one for your construction you will be responsible for sourcing and importing the container. We would be happy to discuss modifying it upon request.   

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