Shipping container homes are made from the same containers used to ship cargo across the world. Shipping containers are incredibly durable and built to withstand strong winds and rain. You would expect a home built from these containers to hold up during severe weather.
So, can a shipping container home withstand a tornado? The frame of a shipping container may withstand the impact of winds produced by a weak or moderate-strength tornado. However, the windows, doors, and some of the exterior features are less likely to survive.
Here is what you should know before riding out a tornado in a shipping container home.
What Is a Shipping Container Home?
As the name suggests, a shipping container home is made using shipping containers. The containers are arranged to create different floor plans and layouts. The containers may be lined up, placed side by side, or stacked.
The interiors are finished with drywall, flooring, and all the features that you find in a standard home. However, the metal frame may offer enhanced protection against tornadoes and severe weather.
How Strong a Wind Can a Container Home Withstand?
The typical steel-reinforced building can withstand winds up to 170 mph. Wood-frame homes built using the latest building codes can withstand winds up to 150 mph. Shipping container homes are a type of steel building. The insides of the containers are reinforced with steel beams and posts. The structural strength of a container home should withstand severe winds without the frame bending or breaking.
Container homes are also incredibly heavy, which prevents strong winds from toppling the frame. An empty 20-foot shipping container weighs up to 4850 pounds. A 40-foot container can weigh over 9000 pounds. When secured to a foundation, a container is unlikely to budge.
While the frame of a container home should withstand winds up to 170 mph or higher, the windows may still shatter. The average window can withstand winds up to 75 mph. Strong winds may also damage siding, doors, roof tiles, and other exterior features.
What Is the Average Wind Speed of a Tornado?
The Fujita-Pearson scale is used to rank tornadoes based on wind speed. Here are the rankings:
- Gale tornado (F0): 40 to 72 mph
- Moderate tornado (F1): 73 to 112 mph
- Significant tornado (F2): 113 to 157 mph
- Severe tornado (F3): 158 to 206 mph
- Devastating tornado (F4): 207 to 260 mph
- Incredible tornado (F5): 261 to 318 mph
F0 and F1 tornadoes account for 80% of tornadoes in the United States. With maximum wind speeds of 112 mph, an F1 tornado should not destroy a shipping container home. The frame and roof may also survive a category F2 tornado.
An F3 tornado produces winds with speeds up to 206 mph, which could cause structural damage and potentially destroy containers. An F3 tornado is powerful enough to flip trains over and uproot most trees.
Dangers of Sheltering in a Container Home During a Tornado
No matter the type of property, a tornado presents a variety of potential risks. Here are some of the main concerns in the order that they tend to occur:
- Damaged roofing
- Broken windows and doors
- Internal air pressure
- Structural damage
- Flying debris
The roof is often the first part of the home to suffer during a tornado. With a standard home, tornado-strength winds can rip off roof shingles and portions of the roof decking, which weakens the roof.
Windows and doors are also likely to break during a severe tornado. After the windows shatter, the inside of the home fills with air from the wind produced by the tornado. Internal air pressure accumulates and presses against the ceiling. Within seconds, the air pressure can lift the roof from the home.
Without the roof, the walls may start to collapse. The walls facing the wind are typically the first to go. The tornado is then free to sweep through the rest of the interior and destroy everything in its path. This entire scenario often occurs in just three to five seconds.
How to Protect a Shipping Container Home from Tornados
When compared to mobile homes and standard wood-frame homes, a shipping container home should offer a more secure shelter during a tornado.
However, you can also take steps to increase the structural integrity of your container home:
- Build on a stable foundation
- Consider building a basement
- Choose DP 50 windows
- Use metal roofing
Two of the biggest factors protecting your container home during a tornado are the frame and the foundation. So if you ask ‘can a shipping container home withstand a tornado?’ you need to ensure that your container home is secured to a stable foundation. You should also ensure that the containers are properly reinforced for increased strength.
You may also consider building a container home with a basement. Container homes are typically built on slab foundations but can be placed on basement foundations as well. Some container homes include basements created from containers placed in the ground.
The windows are often the most vulnerable areas of a home during a tornado. If you want to protect against tornados, choose windows with a high DP rating. The DP rating measures the window’s structural load, water resistance, and air infiltration resistance. DP 50 windows can withstand 75 pounds of pressure per square foot, which is equal to about 200 mph wind.
Choosing metal roofing or asphalt shingles should also improve the security of your shipping container home. Metal roof panels can hold out longer compared to shingles when strong winds hit.
Conclusion: Can a Shipping Container Home Withstand a Tornado?
Most shipping container homes are strong enough to outlast an F0 to F2 tornado. However, a moderate tornado can easily shatter windows, which allows air to rush into the home. If you want optimal tornado protection, remember to install DP 50 windows.