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How should I prepare my shipping container for winter?

When the days get colder and darker, its time to get your container ready for the winter.

Shipping containers are designed to keep everything inside safe from the environment, such as sun, snow, wind, and even rodents.

However, there are a few things to consider as the seasons change....

Condensation is often one of the first things people experience inside a container. It can be a big problem, especially in winter. 

With minus 20 outside and the sun shining, the outside of the container is warming up. When the sun heats the steel no longer matches the temperature inside the container. That is when condensation builds up.

If there is a temperature change between the air inside and outside the container, water droplets will appear. Instead of condensation building up on the outside of the container like a water glass, it will appear on the inside, called container rain.

Container rain occurs when water droplets appear on the container walls and ceiling and drip onto the floor or anything stored inside. This rain can lead to big problems in the future, such as mold, mildew and rust.

Make sure the items you’re packing are adequately sealed and aren’t damp. During the winter, unexpected moisture can cause things to warp or crack. During the spring thaw, humidity can attract pests and mold. Storing your items in vacuum-sealed bags, dry boxes, and with desiccants to ensure your items are safe no matter what. 

Condensation is a big issue in wintertime and colder climates, but it can happen anytime of the year and in other climates as well—especially humid ones. So no matter where you live, if condensation could be an issue, you need to install vents. You can install it on the end walls, container doors, and sidewalls. Best is to install 2 vents diagonally, so air can match the outside temperature.

Container Frozen to the Ground
When a container is positioned directly on the ground without blocks underneath the corner posts, it might sink into the ground. Once it sinks into the ground and the ground freezes, your container is now frozen to the ground and can be nearly impossible to winch it out (if needed). If you plan to move your container during winter, ensure you have placed blocks beneath the corner posts so it's easier to move when you need to.

Roof Damage
Another way to prepare for winter is to check your container for damage, such as rust or pinholes. During the winter, we sometimes get inches of snow at a time, and what you don’t want is for a large amount of snow to concave the container ceiling and cause irreparable damage to your container or items inside. Before winter hits, do a walk around of your container—especially the roof— and check for damages. See if there are any areas that hold water or places that are starting to cave in. Push out any dents holding water and silicone or caulk pinholes where the sun is creeping in.

Another problem that can cause issues during winter are rodents looking for shelter. They could sneak under your shipping container through the forklift pockets, or mice/birds could nest in the corner castings. Although shipping containers are rodent-free and they won’t be able to gnaw their way into the container, rodents such as skunks, foxes, rats or bunnies can still make the underside of the container their home during winter. These animals could cause health issues or problems later on.

Maintain moving parts 
Keep an eye on the doors’ joints. By oiling and opening it now and then you can prevent the joint from rusting and fusing together. Make sure joints are clear of mud by rinsing the area with water  and soap. WD-40 or other lubricants can be applied to joints and doors to help with functionality. 

Check that container is sealed
Look for any cracks or gaps in the walls; anything that affects the humidity and airflow can lead to sudden environmental changes within your shipping container.