Insulation Methods for Shipping Containers

Veronica R

A shipping container used as a residential or commercial space needs be insulated well if it is not designed in such a way that it cools or heats itself. This is especially true in areas with extremely hot or cold weather. You can properly insulate a container using different types of insulation.

Batts and Blankets

The most common type of insulation are batts and blankets, which are available in different fibers, including mineral wool, plastic, cotton and sheep's wool. Insulation sold in a bundle is called a batt and insulation sold in a roll is called a blanket. Other types are made from fiberglass, which is glass fibers bonded with a thermoset resin. When insulating a shipping container, high-density insulation with a higher insulating value should be used. High-density type of insulation has more fibers per square inch and therefore delivers a higher R-value in less space and has a greater insulating power. Fiberglass batt is inexpensive, readily available and easy to install. However, fiberglass batt has to be properly installed as errors can cause gaps and voids between and around batts, and thereby deteriorating the insulation's performance. Batts and blankets are used not only for thermal insulation, but for acoustical insulation as well. Batts and blankets are fire resistant, handles heat well, and is non-corrosive.


Using SPF, or spray polyurethane foam, is an alternative to traditional building insulation. The spray foam that should be used is closed-cell polyurethane foam, which is virtually impermeable to air and the only insulation material that adds structural integrity. Spray foam can be applied to internal and external walls and underneath the container and painted over. This type of spray foam is available in industrial and hand-operated forms. Spray foam is the quickest method of insulation, ensures a seamless vapor barrier of insulation and also helps to prevent against corrosion and mold. Moreover, it usually provides superior insulation values, is incredibly flexible, can be sprayed to fill up cavities and block any small holes. However, spray foam is expensive and can be quite messy to apply.


SIPS, which stands for Structural Insulated Panels, is another alternative to traditional insulation. This high performance building system of panels consists of an insulating foam core located between two oriented strand boards (OSB). SIPS are extremely strong, energy efficient, cost effective, and can be fabricated to fit nearly any building design. Although easy to install, SIPS may require some training, possibly from The Structural Insulated Panel Association, to be correctly installed.

What do you think is the best insulation methods for shipping containers?

Insulation Methods for Shipping Containers

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Comments (4)

DENNIS, Contractor • 2016

Spray foam all the way. Then frame a wall inside the unit to hang Gyp and contain wires and plumbing. Anything else framed to the wall such as Z studs would transmit heat/cold. Any batts or ridgid insulation would create an airspace between insulation and steel shell which would allow for condensation to form inside your wall. I have little experience with SIPS but I wonder if they could be used as part of a roofing assembly which would cover multiple containers. Perhaps with the right anchorage, ice & Water shield and flashing for the edges you could create a quick and cost effective roof assembly with an impressive R value, especially since it would eliminate and heat/cold transfer through framing.

Mark, Engineer • 2016

Great topic. All are good choices but if you use SIPS, you don't actually need the container. EIFS is another option as well as EPS insulation.

Krzystof, Architect • 2016

SIPS are great for some purposes, eg. where speed/minimal trades/transport is an issue, however SIPS are probably too costly for lining shipping containers and the structural strength is unneccessary in an already very strong container.
SPF is fine, but you still need battens and plasterboard or some other lining, it offers no real advantage over batts for this kind of purpose. Batts are economical but still need some framing and lining to finish.
I would consider insulated plasterboard as a better option, eg. K18 with a vapour barrier.

Mark, Engineer • 2016

Omg. Everything is compromised. Miss Laura please remove yourself from this forum. Other wise ask questions or comment right here. Scammer.