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Painting Shipping Containers: What You Need to Know

painting shipping containers
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Over time, shipping containers may show signs of wear since they are constantly amidst the elements. A fresh coat of paint is the ideal and most efficient method to revitalize your container while also giving it a pleasing appearance. Additionally, a fresh coat of paint adds an extra layer of protection between your container’s steel and the harsh elements. Finally, painting shipping containers provides durability, safeguarding the integrity and strength of the metal by keeping it free from rust. 

Painting shipping containers, on the other hand, isn’t always as simple as it appears. This article will walk you through the basics of painting shipping containers. 

The Right Type of Paint for Shipping Containers 

Marine-grade direct-to-metal (DTM) waterborne paint is the best paint for shipping containers. This industrial paint is an interior-exterior, corrosion-resistant, water-based acrylic coating. Just like the name suggests, DTM paints are specifically made to be compatible with metal to ease many of the issues painters experience while trying to cover the metal with standard coatings. 

DTM paints are composed of multiple resins. The type of resin used in the paint determines the finished product’s durability, color retention, and gloss level. Generally speaking, more expensive is not always better when it comes to DTM paints—make sure to choose a high-quality paint for your shipping container that will stand up against UV rays, heat and moisture. 

How to Prep the Surface Before Painting a Shipping Container 

To prepare your shipping container surface: 

  1. Remove any of the shipping line markings. 
  1. Using a razor blade for this should do the trick, but if the markings are extra stubborn, you can use a heat gun too. 
  1. Wipe the container clean with a cleanser that is appropriate for the material. If you have access to a pressure washer, this gets much easier.  
  1. Avoid sandblasting your container since the original rust-resistant zinc coating, and protective marine-grade paint may be stripped away. 
  1. After it’s dry, clean out the rust. When it comes to removing rust from your shipping container, a wire brush does an excellent job. If necessary, you may also use other rust removal chemicals. 
  1. Finally, you’re ready to paint the container. 

How to Paint a Shipping Container 

When it comes to painting your shipping container, there are two schools of thought – to roll or spray. Industrial paint sprayers can make the painting process go much more quickly. However, if that isn’t an option, a can of paint and a paintbrush will work too. 

If you want to paint the container yourself, here are some tips for painting shipping containers: 

  • Make sure the surface is clean, dry and free of rust. 
  • Use masking tape or paper to mark off any areas that don’t require paint. 
  • To protect your car from overspray, cover it up with plastic sheeting before you start painting. 
  • Avoid spraying in windy conditions since this will cause your paint to dry before it reaches the surface, leaving behind a textured look. 
  • Commercial painters ideally use industrial-strength rollers when painting shipping containers. A roller can quickly apply paint evenly across the steel surface of the shipping container. 

Also, note that there is no need to prime the surface when you’re painting your shipping containers. However, if you do decide to use a primer, make sure it’s suitable for metal. The best primers for painting shipping containers ensure that all rust and dirt are removed from the surface before painting begins. 

What are the best colors to choose? 

While painting shipping containers is a matter of preference, most people choose a paint color that contrasts with the environment they plan to use it. A good rule of thumb is to stick with darker colors if the container is in an area with intense sunlight and lighter colors if the container is in a shaded area. In addition, marine containers are often red to make them easier to see at sea. 

There is a wide range of colors to choose from. Therefore, it’s essential to be aware of: 

  • Lighter colors — typically, light colors need more coats of paint to get the right coverage, and they tend to show dirt or marks more easily. 
  • Darker colors  a dark color might make the interior of your shipping container feel hotter, especially in summer; however, they hide imperfections better compared to lighter colors. 

For these reasons, going for a more neutral shade that requires fewer touch-ups and less cleaning is more recommendable.  

What You Need to Know About Painting Shipping Containers 

With the above information, painting your shipping containers becomes a bit easier. 

Painting a shipping container may be difficult, so it’s best to seek expert help. This is because a knowledgeable professional understands how to best paint a shipping container and which long-lasting materials are most suitable. 

If you still have any questions about painting your shipping containers or shipping containers in general, don’t hesitate to contact us today. We are Oklahoma shipping container experts and are always ready and glad to serve our customers! 

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