Shipping containers are easily becoming one of the most popular tiny home options. It’s easy to see why; they’re economical and environmentally friendly. There’s also over 300 million empty shipping containers sitting at ports around the world. That’s 300 million potential houses.
However, turning a shipping container into a home can be tough. There’s a lot to think about. This article will walk you through how to insulate a shipping container home and what to use!
Looking to buy a shipping container? Check out our comprehensive buyer’s guide!
What Are Common Challenges When Insulating Shipping Containers?
The biggest obstacle when insulating shipping containers is the thin walls. Although the metal walls of the shipping container are strong and long-lasting, the lack of thickness makes proper insulation difficult.
You must decide how you want to construct the walls before choosing what you insulate the shipping container with. Additionally, how you insulate the container will decide how much square footage you have inside the home. Therefore, if you’re using heavy or thick insulation, you may want to combine multiple containers.
Here’s What You Can Use To Insulate A Shipping Container:
Spray foam insulation is among the simplest and quickest ways to insulate a shipping container home. This insulating compound can be sprayed directly onto a shipping container’s interior and exterior walls.
In addition, many shipping containers are treated with hazardous chemicals for their life at sea. Spray foam will trap most of these chemicals and make the container habitable.
However, there are negatives to using spray foam. For example, the foam is made by the petrochemical industry, which is not known for its commitment to sustainability. The EPA has also recognized asthma, lung damage, and other respiratory conditions as potential health risks associated with spray foam.
Not all spray foam is created equal. I recommend using an eco-friendly brand. Loctite is a great option for small jobs, but you might want something larger for an entire shipping container.
Cotton insulation is a classic when insulating homes. I highly recommend cotton insulation because it’s often highly eco-friendly and reuseable. Today, several businesses provide natural insulation made of recycled post-consumer denim and cotton from old jeans and other clothing items.
The R-Value of cotton insulation is 3.5 per inch, comparable to the R-Value of more conventional fiberglass insulation. Boric acid, a natural fire retardant, is frequently used to treat the insulation used in commercial denim.
On the downside, vapor barriers are necessary when using denim insulation. If your cotton insulation gets wet, it won’t work very well. I recommend using reflective insulation, as it adds to the ability to heat and cool a home.
Wool is a natural insulation substitute for renewable and all-natural ingredients. Similar to fiberglass, denim, or other fibrous insulation kinds, this high-performance and eco-friendly insulation solution has an R-value of 3.5 per inch. It’s also a great option because it doesn’t need to be treated with chemicals to be flame resistant—it is natural.
Before your shear a sheep yourself, consider the several businesses that specialize in selling insulation made from sheep wool. Businesses like Lynn Manufacturing offer different variations; some even have natural condensation control.
Another natural insulation option for container homes is cork insulation. Cork is both renewable and biodegradable (it comes from trees). Amazingly, bark from cork trees is harvested every nine years from living trees. It doesn’t even kill the tree! Since the cork wood absorbs carbon from the atmosphere during harvest, cork is “carbon negative.”
Another advantage of cork insulation for shipping containers is its acoustic qualities. This organic insulation will act as an acoustic barrier between your house and the container’s metal walls. I recommend using a product from Cougar Cork, as they specialize in cork insulation.
How To Insulate a Shipping Container?
Your process of insulating your shipping container depends on the layout and design of your future home. It also depends on what materials you are using.
For most people, I recommend framing the shipping container with wood. Use a similar method that you would use to frame a normal house (just with walls already in place). You can add most of the insulation between the framing and cover it with drywall (or another material).
Seriously, it’s up to you how you build your shipping container home. For more information on shipping container homes, check out our library of free resources!