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How to Spray Paint a Shipping Container

Alexander is a professional engineer who specializes in the construction of affordable houses and structures using recycled materials.

Introduction to Spray-painting a Shipping Container

Painting a wall versus the corten steel of a shipping container will pose different scenarios for you. One is that the wall doesn't rust, hence will not require the extra attention. Two, with the wall, there aren't many crevices to watch out for when painting like the spaces and gaps in a container.

So if you're planning to paint a shipping container, here's the ultimate guide of how you can paint.


Supplies You'll Need to Spray Paint a Shipping Container

● Sandpaper

● Wire brush

● Pressure washer

● Washcloth

● Gear

● Roller

● Paintbrush

● Spray paint

Quick Steps on How to Paint Your Shipping Container

Let's have a look at the steps you will need to follow to ensure you get the perfect results;

  1. First, you'll be cleaning up the rust from the shipping container. Most old and used containers will have some rust-proof paint which may seem faded over time due to the consistent use. The first stage will be to remove any rusted areas.
  2. Add a primer or a spotter to the already rusted areas to try and level the painting surface. To refurbish the container, you have to scrape the bad and introduce new paint altogether.
  3. Scrubbing with a wire brush, some sandpaper, and other supplies could be best to get the surface smooth and clean.
  4. A clean up on the inside and out is also needed so as to spit any areas you may have left out in the process.
  5. After the clean down, it's time for the serious part of applying any rust converters to prevent any further damage, then finally;
  6. Adding the colored paint of your choice.

If you're looking to cut the cost down and remove rust and repaint the affected areas, get a wire brush, sandpaper, vinegar, baking soda, and direct to metal (DTM) paint. For a standard 20 feet, you'll need about four gallons of paint. Scrape the entire surface with the tool kit then rub ruby vinegar mixed with baking soda to clean the surface.

The purpose of cleaning the container with a pressure washer is to remove the dirt, debris, as well as loose paint chips. Check on all the areas of the container from the floor to the ceiling to ensure all the areas have been attended to.

If there's corrosion you can use low grit sandpaper, steel wool, or a wire brush to loosen the paint or corrosion If those areas are not treated, they will compromise the paint later on. Spray wash the container again and rub vinegar on the areas you cleaned and that needs special attention.

Now that you have an idea of what you will be doing during the process of painting, let's pick up some supplies and start painting.


The Supplies You'll Need to Paint a Shipping Container

Depending on your project, you may require various tools and equipment but the usual supplies are;

  • Sandpaper
  • Wire brush
  • Pressure washer
  • Washcloth
  • Gear
  • Roller
  • Paintbrush
  • Spray paint

Some of those types of machinery especially mechanical ones can be leased so as not to spend much investment on something that will only be used for a limited amount of time. You could also buy the paint color of your choice by paying a keen eye on the type to avoid using low-quality paint.

The above supplies are not the only ones you'll need, you can choose to get professional or industrial made tools to make your work easier.


How to Apply a New Coat of Paint to a Used Shipping Container

As mentioned above, these shipping containers have already been painted with rust-free paint but due to the work of transportation done using the freight services, there are prone to be rust marks. Exposure to extended periods of water will cause the rust to become even more severe on the container, therefore it needs to be dealt with in the process of repainting.

Below is a step by step guide on how to can paint your shipping container.

1. Picking Your Paint

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If you been doing your research then you know that choosing the right type of paint is crucial to this mission. There are various types of spray paint available and if you want to cut down on the maintenance costs you'll incur to repaint, then you need nothing but durable highball quality products.

You require a paint that is clean, rich in color and has very low levels of VOC. The one that best suited this description is a water-based painting system. Not expensive to purchase yet offered longevity and value for money.

Of course, you can always choose other types of paint including enamel, which had the longest lifespan, or acrylic which is best for artistic painting. That is like carving out a mural or any other designer painting.

Ensure to pick the paint that will suit the intended use, as well as within the intended budget. Select a base coat also known as a primer, the topcoat, and also the insulating paint if you prefer.

2. Preparing Your Container for Painting

Next up is getting the shipping container ready for modifications and painting. You can conduct sandblasting to even out the painting surface if it fits within your budget seeing that it's rather expensive.

You could simply use the supplies above to quickly get the rust off the container gently. you wouldn't want to strip off its protective layer that features a very high-quality marine-grade paint and a zinc coating that protects from further rusting.

Since the have a rust grip primer, after a few scrapings here and there, you can just get down to applying the on top of the previous marine grade paint. In quick and smooth succession, you can just keep painting on top of it.

3. Painting Your Container

Finally, the last step; to paint. Here's where the actual task is. You need to prepare for everything including having the perfect warm sunny weather to help the paint dry faster. If you paint on a rainy, damp day, you can prolong the process of drying. Plus, you won't be able to judge properly the richness of the color.

When you're ready, prepare your spray paint, as well as the primer, pigmented layer, and the topcoat. Start off with washing down of the unit. Because some shipping containers always come dirty and smelly, you can use the pressure washer to clean the box before you can start the painting process.

Ensure to clean off all the grease and grime from inside and out of the container. As you clean, you'll notice that some of the rusted areas will have more severe rust spots than others. In fact, there may actually be holes caused by extended periods of rust in one area in the container.

In such a case, you can do some welding to hide the spots. Ensure you completely wash the container from the top to the bottom, the ceiling, as well as the plywood floors. Ensure you are removing the extra chemicals as well, seeing that you'll be modifying it into a shipping container home. It needs to be habitable.

After that, you can take the rust primer and use it to cover the rusted patches as well as even out the surface. Depending on the type you choose, you may need to wait the entire day for it to completely dry to avoid the ugly bubbles that form when it doesn't dry properly.

Once that's over with, we move to the pigmented layer. You can use the spray paint of your choice. Just ensure that it does the job effectively. Most spray guns are inexpensive and don't require experts to operate them. Furthermore, they do a pretty excellent job.

Start spraying in even coats following a single direction to avoid visible streaks on the wall. Once your dorm with the first layer, apply another coat to make it two; double layer means added protection.

What About the Exterior Wall?

So you cleaned the interior of the container and got rid of all the unwanted excess paint from the corten steel. You got rid of the mold and mildew, you fixed the dents, and finally primed and painted. The exterior may need a different approach.

Depending on whether you want to have the outside insulated or not, you can either follow the same procedure or a different approach. The exterior had more visible rigs patches. This, therefore, means you need to place keener detail on the paint application.

Using the brush, gently clean the twisted patches and apply a thick paste of paint on top of it. Wait for into completely dry and then add the pigmented layer; a double layer of course. Ensure they completely dry before moving on to any other task. This will protect it from cracks and forming other pocket-like things on the coat.

Do I need a Top Coat?

That is entirely optional depending on how you want the exterior finish to look. As you read, the enamel finishing is very glossy and perfect for that solid polished look. If you can't spare to have that included in your budget, then the simple double coat will work just fine.

If you check your paints well, you will see that some also act in both capacities. As a top and bottom coat, as well as a pigment color. The option of omitting this stage only relies on the purpose of the paint.


Painting Tips

● Avoid using a rust remover or sandblast as it can cause more damage than good.

● Use the wire brush to scrape any cracked paint.

● Always use a pressure washer to clean the interior and exterior walls of the container instead of actually washing with a cloth.

● If there are decals use heat to remove them.

● Always consider using ceramic paint insulation.

How Can you Maintain the Paint on Your Shipping Container Home?

After all the work is done, you need to protect the paint from chipping off easily and having to incur repairs so soon afterward. Hence, here are some maintenance tips you can heed to help you keep the shipping container in its vibrant color.

Stay on Top of Rust

Rust is the number one enemy of shipping containers. If you can find a way to control how they appear and how you can treat any rust patches, then you're well on your way to saying money in repairs. Just ensure you sand down the areas and prime with the rust converter, the paint should do the rest of the protecting.

Removing Unreliable Paint From Your Shipping Container

The likes of graffiti by enamel-based paints are one mistake you can't afford to make. They don't stick well on the shipping container hence will make the overall appearance seem shady and will cost you repairs, sooner or later. Invest in good quality paint that will last you as long as you need it.


Additional Painting Tips

Here are some tips you can take with you before you start off your next painting project.

  • Avoid using a rust remover or san ballast as it can cause more damage than aid. This is because it tends to strip the container off its much vital protective layer.
  • Use the wired brush to scrape any cracked paint. The scratches from the brush will allow for the paint to stick better to the container.
  • Always use the pressure washer to clean the interior and exterior walls of the container instead of actually washing with the cloth. It saves you a great deal of time.
  • If there are decals on the shipping container then you should use heat to remove as its the most efficient solution.
  • Always consider using ceramic paint insulation. They will insulate and protect the walls of your shipping container home, hence a win-win situation for you.

These above tips should get you the help you need to get ahead of your painting adventures.


Parting Shot

The process of painting a shipping container is actually very straightforward. With the right tools and equipment, in less than a week you can be done with the entire painting. Luckily for you, there are improvised ways to paint that won't cost you much, plus using spray paint is much faster and cost-effective.

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