Buying Shipping Containers

Installing Roof Vents on a Shipping Container: Why, What, and How

Shipping containers are built to withstand the worst conditions as they cross oceans between continents. Designed to last for long periods, these shipping boxes are made of steel and have heavy-duty rubber door seals, making them wind and watertight.

However, once their seafaring days are over, airtight shipping containers might be an issue for private service because of poor ventilation.

What You Need to Know About Installing Turbine Roof Vents in Shipping Containers

Apart from striving for efficient insulation, ensuring proper ventilation is equally important if you’re thinking about building your own shipping container home or using shipping containers for storing your stuff. If you’re locking away moisture-sensitive and perishable goods, all the more reason to work on improving ventilation within the container.

The Risks of Poor Ventilation in Shipping Containers

As earlier described, weather-tight containers are great for ocean travel. Yet these containers may not bode well for private use under certain circumstances, especially if you are storing moisture sensitive items, and the container is placed where temperatures fluctuate drastically.

While some newer models are designed with holes for ventilation, these holes are often very small. After all, the last thing cargo owners want is water or moisture getting inside their containers. Most of the time, these pre-installed vents aren't enough to establish proper ventilation within the container.

As a result, containers that are not adequately vented may result in the following:

1. Stored goods can be damaged by moisture.

Condensation inside the container almost always leads to rust and mold. Rust spells disaster if you’re storing electronics while the latter can potentially spoil paper and perishables.

2. Fire or explosion risks.

Shipping containers are inherently made of steel which in turn absorbs heat. In areas where the container is directly exposed to the sun, surging temperatures can lead to the container feeling like an oven inside.

The longer the temperatures rise, the greater the chances of fire or explosion when flammable substances are stored.

3. Health risks like air poisoning.

if you’re considering storing hazardous or toxic chemicals such as thinners and paints inside shipping containers, inadequate ventilation amplifies the possibility of fume buildup and air poisoning.

In hindsight, an inadequately ventilated shipping container puts goods, wares, and possibly even people’s lives at risk. Aside from reducing temperatures, installing vents encourages natural airflow ventilation and keeps bad odors at bay.

What to Consider Before Installing Roof Vents

Before making the final decision to install roof vents on your shipping container, asking yourself the following questions might save you time and funds in the end.

1. Do I really need a roof vent?

For a start, pre-installed container vents may be sufficient enough to encourage air flow throughout the container. Plus, they are usually triple-screened to prevent entry of insects while allowing for pressure adjustments when the weather changes quickly.

Next, not everyone needs to ventilate their shipping containers. If you live in an area with low humidity, you may not need to install extra vents. However, if you live in an area where the day/night time temperature changes are significant, a roof vent may be a good idea.

2. Do I need a side vent or a roof vent? Or both?

Side and roof vents are an excellent way to get the air flowing inside your shipping container, especially if you’re repurposing the container as a liveable space.

Also known as louver vents, side vents are the most economical option between the two and provides an effortless way to get extra airflow into your container immediately. Often, one vent is installed low and the other one's placed high, diagonal from one another. This technique is also known as cross ventilation.

A roof vent, also known as also known as turbine or whirlybird vents, are installed in shipping container roofs. As they spin, these vents suck the air out of the container. Most owners pair the Louvre vent with turbine vents to ensure proper ventilation.

3. Should I install the vent myself or hire professionals to do it for me?

When planning to install a roof vent on a shipping container, you can either go the DIY approach or hire pros to do it for you. It’s always recommended to have professionals make modifications to your containers. However, some people opt to go the DIY route.

How to Install Roof Vents on Shipping Containers

Now that you've decided to install roof vents to promote optimum ventilation and cooling inside your shipping container, these tutorials will help you get started. Before you begin, take note that safety should always be a priority. Wear glasses, gloves, earplugs and other protective paraphernalia.

While they are promoting their own product (a vent mount) in installing the whirlybird roof vent, this video is a good tutorial in installing roof vents: 


You can also check the following step-by-step tutorial in installing side vents (not roof vents) by the Insta Container Modification team to give you an idea about proper techniques: 


Finally, the Gateway Containers team in Australia recommends installing intake vents on either end of the container in addition to roof vents. Intake vents will make your roof vent up to three times more effective in promoting optimum ventilation and keeping noxious fumes at bay. Their step-by-step guide to installing roof vents in shipping containers is super helpful.

Are You Ready to Install Roof Vents in Your Shipping Container?

If you already purchased your own shipping container, do some prior research before getting a roof vent installed. Meanwhile, if you're still shopping for shipping containers, inquire about pricing from different providers. Besides costs, ask about policies on pricing, warranty, delivery, and permits.

At, we provide every customer a certified condition guarantee —you get exactly what you were promised or we replace it. Currently, we do not perform modifications in-house such as installing roof vents. However, we can make recommendations and coordinate with our nationwide network of skilled service providers.

If you're a first-time buyer, and want to be sure you get the best deal, we recommend reading: Buying Shipping Containers 101: A First-Time Buyer's Guide. 

Written by Container Guru / June 27, 2018

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