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How to Insulate a Shipping Container

04.03.2013 - Posted by Updated On 04.03.2013    

As the popularity of shipping container structures increases, either for housing, shelters, job-site offices, or other uses, the need to insulate a shipping container is a growing concern.  As with most things, there are both correct and incorrect ways to tackle a project.

Logically, most people thing of insulating a shipping container as you would a traditional stick or brick structure.  Fiberglass, wool, or other similar fibrous materials are commonly used in stick frame structures, but are the wrong way to approach insulating a shipping container.  The primary reason for not using these types of materials is moisture retention.  Shipping containers don’t allow a building to breath as a wood or concrete structure would, and any moisture that’s collected inside will be locked there and help closely against the steel wall of the container.  Using fiberglass and wool to insulate a shipping container will almost always guarantee you accelerated corrosion or excessive amounts of moisture on the interior walls.

The correct way to insulate a shipping container is with either a spray-on, or foam panel, insulation product.  Years ago several brands of paint were introduced that were supposed to act as shipping container insulation, but many of them proved to be ineffective for the purposes that we’re discussing.

No matter which type of insulation you choose, it’s recommended to frame out the inside of the container with either standard 2x4 wooden or aluminium studs.  Framing the inside of the container means that there is no need to puncture and holes through to the exterior of the container.  Once the studs are in place it’s an ideal time to run any wiring or other mechanicals that you may want to incorporate into your container modification.

Rigid Foam Insulation

With the interior of the container studded out, you can begin to install your insulation.  Rigid foam panelling is the easiest insulation to install without much equipment and training.  The panels can be cut to fit into with a standard utility knife and you’ll gain R-1 factor for every inch.  Depending on your use, foam panelling can either be left exposed or any type of drywall or panelling can be installed over top of it.

shipping container insulation - foam panels

Spray Foam Insulation

Spray foam insulation provides a greater R factor, and comes with a higher price tag.  Each inch of spray foam provides an insulation factor of R-6 per inch.  Also, since the foam is sprayed directly to the surface of the container there is very little risk for condensation to collect and cause problems at a later date.  You can also leave spray foam insulation exposed, however there are two concerns:  1: After a few days it may begin to yellow, and 2: If exposed to the elements it may decompose faster.

Shipping container insulation - spray foam

Regardless which method you use to insulate your shipping container, it's very important to consider how you will manage the moisture to keep corrosion and excessive moisture to a minimum. Rigid foam paneling and spray foam are the most recommended ways to insulate, and if you'd like more information or details feel free to contact any of our listed sellers or the ContainerAuction.com staff.



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