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What Kind of Paint is Best On a Cargo Unit?

Shipping containers can start to show signs of wear and tear over time, especially when they are being used to transport heavy cargo over long distances. Giving your container unit a fresh coat of paint is a quick and effective way to revitalise it and give it a new appearance.

Perhaps you are using modified containers in a conversion project and want to paint them to match your colour theme. This is a great example of where repainting your container can be an easy way to enhance and personalise your unit.

That said, painting a unit is not always straightforward and you need to ensure that you achieve a quality outcome. With that in mind, we’ve put together a useful guide on everything you need to know about painting a shipping container.

Why paint a shipping container?

A used shipping container could have been in use for anywhere from 5 to 15 years. In this time the container will have moved to a number of locations and loaded on and off vehicles for transport. It goes without saying that, due to this, the container will likely have scratches, dents, and paint damage. A container repaint refreshes the unit’s appearance and covers any unsightly scratches.

Not only does painting your container improve the aesthetics of the unit, but it also adds an extra layer of protection from harsh weather and can significantly slow down corrosion or rusting on the steel.

An additional benefit is that you can have a repainted container in almost any colour. When you buy a new container you may be limited on the colour you can have as they usually come in green or blue, and a used container could be whichever colour is available. A container repaint means you can specify any colour to match your needs.

What paint is recommended for shipping containers?

Marine-grade paint should always be used for shipping containers. This paint is exceptionally durable and provides quality protection from the elements.

Typically, an acrylic marine-grade paint is used with a satin finish. A gloss finish should be avoided as it is more prone to damage and also makes blemishes more obvious. At the same time, the nature of matte paint means that it attracts dust and shows dirt more clearly. This is why a satin finish is the preferred option when being painted.

What colour should I choose?

You should consider more than just your colour preferences when picking what shade to paint your unit. Different shades can have a dramatic impact on the quality and longevity of your unit.

Keep in mind that lighter and darker shades will require more intensive upkeep to keep them looking in a good condition. For that reason, many individuals and businesses choose to paint their unit in neutral shades that require less cleaning and fewer touch-ups. You should also be aware that the shade you choose can affect the temperature of the interior of your unit. For instance, a darker shade will absorb heat and increase the temperature inside your unit, especially during the hotter months, whereas lighter shades will reflect light and help keep your unit cooler.

How to paint your shipping container

Before you start painting a shipping container, you need to make sure the unit is prepped and ready to paint. Clean and remove any contaminants such as dirt, rust, paint flakes, and so on. Make sure to read the usage guides provided with the paint to make sure you are applying it safely and effectively.

To start, a primer must be applied to the areas of the unit being painted. This will help to ensure a smooth finish and extend the lifespan of the paint. Once the primer has dried fully, you can start painting the unit with a paint brush or paint sprayer (we would recommend spraying as the preferred method). Alternatively, you can use a paint and primer in one. The shipping container should receive a substantial of paint to ensure that the exterior is protected from damage, for example during extreme weather.

How much paint is needed to paint a container?

The amount of paint you need will depend on the size of the container and how you apply the paint. Generally, the amount of paint required would depend on colour and condition of container, but approximately 35 litres for a 40ft shipping container and approximately 20 litres for a 20ft unit per coat is a good benchmark to work from. To spray the paint on, you will need to add thinners to the paint. With this in mind, you won’t need as much paint per coat.

Also bear in mind the original colour of the container. If you are just refreshing the appearance of the container and repainting it in the same colour, then you won’t need as much paint as if you were to completely change the colour. One coat of container paint is usually enough for most projects, but it’s likely you’ll need to do at least a couple of coats if you’re applying a lighter colour over a dark colour.

Still have questions about painting a container?

Painting a container is not as simple as you may think, as it is advisable to seek professional assistance if you have minimal experience.

We have our own purpose-built paint booth at S Jones Containers where we offer an expert painting service for containers and bespoke units. Our specialist booth, along with the use of high quality paint, provides customers with professional painting of containers that are finished to an excellent standard. We offer various painting options to suit your budget and the durability needed for the intended end use. We can also give expert advice on the most cost-effective method of painting your new or used container.If you have any questions about painting or containers in general, then feel free to get in touch. Our specialist team are experts with over 40 years of knowledge and experience in the shipping container hire, sale and conversion industry and they are always happy to help with your queries.

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0800 1954 538