Painting a Rusty Shipping Container

green storage container

Due to their durability and affordability, used shipping containers are a good investment when it comes to storage. But when you buy a used container, there’s a good chance it’s been in use on the high seas for many years, so it’s common to see sections of rust, some dents and other minor forms of damage. Some even feature original shipping line markings.

But fear not: many used shipping containers are still in structurally sound condition, even though they may not look pretty. There’s a solution to that too: a good coat of paint.

Prepping a Shipping Container Before a Paint Job

You can’t just splash a coat of paint on the unit and call it a day. There is some preparation involved in order for it to provide long-lasting protection. Here’s what to expect.

  • Wash the Container: Using a garden hose, wash away any dirt or debris, making sure to get off the caked-on dirt that’s common in these types of containers.
  • Remove Rust ​Spots: Used containers typically have mild to moderate surface rust accumulation, usually at the corner castings and doors. You can easily remove this surface rust by grinding it down with a wire wheel. Don’t skip this step, as rust is corrosive and will continue to eat away at the steel even after a coat of paint.
  • Use “Direct to Metal” Primer: Now you’ll have to prime the former spots using direct to metal primer. This type of primer is resistant to corrosion and is therefore ideal for applying to metal surfaces. DTM primer will ensure the rust doesn’t spread.
  • Paint Over Ship Line Markings: You can either remove the original decals or simply paint over them, as those decals are pretty flat and worn by the time the unit is sold. If you want to remove the decals first, you will need a heat gun and scraper.
  • Paint the Gaskets and Locking Gear: It’s common for people to paint over the gaskets and locking gear so that the container is all one color. However, if this repainting has been done several times, it can get pretty thick and lead to difficulties with opening and closing the doors. If you don’t wish to paint over these elements, cover them up with masking tape prior to painting the rest of the container.

Type of Paint

You can just use a regular exterior latex house paint for your repainting job. It’s likely that the original paint was a marine grade paint for extra protection on the high seas. But if you’re just using your used container for storage, an exterior latex house paint is sufficient.

When it comes to quantity, a good rule of thumb is to use three gallons of paint to paint a 20’ shipping container and five gallons of paint on a 40’ shipping container. You will need to do two coats of paint at least, but if you’re going with a light color, you will need more coats to sufficiently cover up the rust spots.

There are many benefits of painting a used shipping container, leading to a cleaner, fresher, and more aesthetically pleasing unit.

Contact A&M Container Sales

A&M can paint your shipping container virtually any color you want. We offer all the most popular stock colors of gray, beige, dark and light brown, green, and blue. Get a free quote now when you get in touch.