5 Methods to Insulate Your Shipping Container Home

Posted By: March 23, 2015 In How To

Want to build your own shipping container home? Start Here.

Before we look at the five methods you can use to insulate your shipping container home, the first question we need to address is whether you should insulate your container home. I can’t stress enough the importance of insulating your home. Although the option of not insulating might seem an attractive, cheaper alternative, in the long run it simply isn’t cost effective.

If you don’t insulate your container, not only will your home be either scorching hot or arctic cold, your home will also be susceptible to condensation, which can cause corrosion or mold.

Now you realize the importance of properly insulating your home, we hope you decided to insulate!

Climate, Climate, Climate!

When it comes to the methods used to insulate your home, the one thing to bear in mind is that it all depends on your climate!

For example, if you are in a very cold climate, you will need lots of insulation to keep your home warm and also, more importantly, to protect your containers against condensation. If this cold environment is also prone to lots of rain and is very moist, then you would need to use spray foam insulation to create a seamless vapor barrier.

If you are in a very dry, hot, climate, you certainly won’t need as much insulation and you should focus on designing your insulation around keeping your container cool (for more information, read How Do I Keep My Container Home Cool?).

When reviewing the methods of insulation below, keep this issue about climate differences in your mind and feel free to ask any questions in the comments below!

When it comes to the types of insulation you can use, there are five major considerations: foam, blankets (rolls), insulation panels, Eco friendly and finally, design (more about this later).

Foam Insulation

If your budget allows, I would choose to use spray foam insulation. Using spray foam insulation ensures you get a seamless vapor barrier of insulation, which helps to prevent against things like corrosion and mold.

Spray foam is by far the quickest method of insulation, and in most cases provides the highest R rating (the R rating is how well the insulating material can resist heat flow; the higher the number the greater the resistance). In addition, spray foam is incredibly flexible and can be sprayed into gaps of any size.

The only downside of using spray foam insulation is that it’s more expensive and a lot messier to use than most of the other insulation methods which we discuss.

For the spray foam, something similar to the DOW Froth Pak 600, would be ideal. This is a two-part mixture, and each inch of foam applied provides an R value of 7.5. If you aren’t looking for an industrial solution you can purchase hand operated spray foam such as Dow Great Stuff foam insulation. Whichever spray foam solution you choose, make sure it’s closed cell polyurethane foam.

Spray foam insulation can be applied on both the external and internal walls of your containers. It can also be sprayed underneath your container to stop any moisture from the ground creeping into your containers.

Shipping Container Home- Spray Foam Insulation

Image From Larry Wade

Once the foam has set, you can then decorate straight onto the foam with paint to finish off the external appearance of your containers.

Insulation Panels

Panel insulation is a very DIY friendly type of insulation and like blanket insulation, it is attached to studs. You can buy the panels in predefined sizes and simply fit them in between the gaps in your stud walling. Panel insulation is quicker to fit than blanket insulation; however, you normally find panel insulation is slightly more expensive.

One thing you should bear in mind, however, is that panel insulation has a high insulating value for its relatively small depth. Depending on the brand and specification, for every inch thickness they normally have an R value of 7.5. So, if you don’t want to spend a lot of money for foam insulation, panel insulation will allow you to keep the thickness of your insulation to a minimum while being moderately priced.

Blanket Insulation

Blanket, or roll, insulation is DIY friendly and is the cheapest of the insulators discussed here. It must be attached to studs, but once the stud walls have been installed, the insulation can be placed in the gaps very quickly. The most common blanket insulation is rock wool.

Blanket Insulation

Image From Larry Wade

The only difficulty you will find with this type of insulate is attaching it. Some types of blanket insulation are made from fiberglass so need to be handled with care. If you are using this type of insulation, make sure you wear the correct personal protective equipment (i.e. dusk mask, gloves, and safety glasses).

If cost is your primary concern, choose this insulation. However, if possible, we still recommend using spray foam insulation to create a seamless vapor barrier.

Eco Friendly

Previously, we discussed the question of Why Do People Live In Shipping Container Homes. A common reason people give is that they want to build homes in a sustainable, environmentally friendly manner.

So what better way to continue this theme than to use Eco friendly insulation to insulate your home?

Over recent years more and more Eco friendly insulation has become available. Some of our favorites include wool, cotton, mud, and a living roof.

Wool Insulation

Wool insulation is similar to the blanket insulation discussed above. Instead of using controversial materials such as fiberglass, it uses natural sheep wool, which can be made for a fraction of the energy requirements used to make its synthetic counterpart.

Cotton Insulation

Like wool, cotton insulation is a type of blanket insulation made out of recycled cotton clothes.

What makes cotton so environmentally friendly? Well, it’s a natural, renewable resource which can be grown extremely quickly. The only obvious downside to cotton insulation is that it costs double that of normal fiberglass insulation.

Living Roof

Creating a living roof isn’t a direct replacement for your insulation, but it can certainly be used to help reduce your indoor temperatures during the summer.

During the rainy seasons, a living roof offers no insulation benefits, however during warm summers, indoor temperatures can be reduced by up to eight percent. Not only that, they look really cool! They are much more interesting to look at than a traditional sloped roof.

Mud Walls

Mud can be used as an insulator or it can be used to build entire houses on its own. Much similar to the living roof mentioned above, mud can be used in dry and hot climates to keep heat out.

Mud has been used for centuries in places like North India, where entire homes are clad with mud.

With shipping containers, mud can be used on the containers roof and also on the containers walls. If you are using mud on the containers external walls, you will need to use slats which will allow the mud to stick to the container.

Using mud is only recommended in places where rainfall is rare.


Your final option is to actually design your home in such a way that it cools and heats itself. The best example we have seen of this is Vissershok Primary School in South Africa.

Vissershok Primary School decided to extend their school by making classrooms out of shipping containers.

During the summer, external temperatures in South Africa can reach in excess of 86 F, so it was crucial that the containers were insulated properly to stop them from heating up like a greenhouse. The solution to this was to design the containers in such a way to use the natural environment to cool the containers.

They built the classrooms with a huge sloped roof which does two things. First, it allows hot air to rise up and out of the container. Second, cold air blows in and gets pushed down by the roof into the classroom.

Another design used to help keep the containers cool was to place lots of small windows on both sides of the container. When the windows are open, it allows cool air to blow across the container, taking the warm air out of the container.

One thing to bear in mind here is that you don’t have to use a certain type of insulation exclusively. For instance, you could use spray foam insulation for the container walls and roof, and then use rock wool underneath the container to keep the cost down. You can even combine insulation on the same section. For example, you could use rock wool on the underneath of the container and then spray an inch of foam over the rock wool to create an airtight seal.

The best shipping containers use a variety of insulation methods which have been specifically chosen to best meet the needs of their local climate.

Let us know which type or types of insulation you used on your shipping container building.

  1. Bee

    Container build as a home- I want to be able to hang artwork and so will assume the need for internal framing and drywall, but, about how many inches loss to each wall should I assume?
    Any tips for how much wall thickness to assume for plumbing to sinks and w/d?

    This is the best article I’ve found so far, Thanks!

    • Tom

      Most people that do internal framing on their container use 2×4 studs at most. That’s a nominal 3.5″ thickness, plus 1/2″ for the drywall or other wall covering, so about 4″ of thickness for each of the walls. This is also enough room to run drains, vents, and water lines for your plumbing.

  2. Hi jb

    Why on earth haven’t you mentioned vapour barriers? I really hope people are doing their homework and not relying on this article.

    Do you understand how important they are?

    • Tom

      Perhaps you skimmed the article and missed it? Vapor barriers are mentioned multiple times in this article and others on the site. We agree, they are important in a lot of cases!

  3. Carlos

    Does anybody know How much insulation is needed for a 40′ 9’×8′? Traditional insulation (fiber glass) not spray foam.

    • Tom

      If you mean thickness, more is always better, but that is somewhat driven by your climate. If you mean surface area, you can calculate that easily: The side walls and ends are 864 SF (2*40*9+2*8*9), the ceiling is 320 SF (40*8), and if you choose to insulate the floor, which we recommend, it is also 320 SF.

  4. Lahiru

    Hey Tom,
    What is the square feet area can be covered with a combination of DOW Forth Pak 600 A and B while each cane weigh about 20kg

    • Tom

      The 600 in the product name means the product is nominally rated for 600 board feet of coverage. Board feet is probably not a common measurement for you unless you work in the lumber industry, but it is a unit that is 12″ by 12″ by 1″. You should be able to convert it into whatever unit you need with Google’s unit converter, like this: https://www.google.com/search?q=600+board+feet+in+gallons

  5. al

    hey, so I spray the roof of my container, then install my woodburning space heater. Will the foam catch fire?? Could I cover the foam with aluminium sheet to stop the foam catching fire? cheers, AL.

    • Tom

      Yes, the foam can catch fire if placed close to an open flame. However, you should have your space heater set off a bit from the wall, and all open flames should be contained. In addition, in almost all cases, the interior insulation is covered with a type of interior finish. That can be gypsum board, wood paneling, or even aluminum sheet as you mentioned.

  6. A Hole

    Utterly appalling article:
    1. Almost NO mention of condensation control!!!!! Are you kidding? Inextricably linked to insulation and essential to discuss in such an article.
    2. ‘Panel’ (or foam insulation as it’s commonly called, as opposed to ‘spray foam’) insulation doesn’t require stud to install. It can be directly fixed to the container sides with adhesive or mechanically.
    3. “if you are in a very dry, hot, climate, you certainly won’t need much insulation” – If you live in a hot dry climate insulation is as essential as in a cold one regardless of whether you cool it, and even more so if you do To not insulate is to waste energy.

    • Tom

      Thanks for the feedback.
      1) We’re working on a follow-on article that talks specifically about condensation and humidity and will link to it in this article when it is posted. You make a good point though: condensation in any metal structure with climate control needs to be planned for.
      2) Technically you’re correct, foam panel insulation doesn’t absolutely require studs for installation. However, mechanically fastening it is difficult, and adhesively fastening it makes it almost impossible to remove if you ever do have a condensation or moisture intrusion problem as you alluded to above.
      3) Perhaps we didn’t communicate this as effectively as we could have. The point was that insulation/vapor barrier as a condensation control measure is arguably slightly less important in a hot/dry environment if your budget is extremely tight. Otherwise, we recommend thoroughly insulating your container for basically all environments.
      Summary: We really appreciate your thoughts here, and we’re working over the next few month on going through and updating a lot of our articles to both be more clear, comprehensive, and also reflect the latest in best practices. Your comments are very helpful!

  7. Peter

    I am conducting a university project about container affordable container housing.
    I wonder to ask if it is possible to use a combination of Insulation Panels and Insulation Foam?

  8. Ruth

    Hi Tom!
    I’d like to get in touch. I’m interested in building a shipping container house in Ireland, where the climate is in the most cold and humid. I’d to get some further information about the possible insulation and cost.

    • Livia Kretsch Bell

      HI Ruth,
      I post this mail 3 years after your question and I am wondering if you ever built a container home in Ireland?
      I would like to have one in Hungary. It is very rare here and I have to look into the local regulations (which is overwhelming in Hungary). But a few years now I am really interested in this building project and I just found a great lot overlooking Lake Balaton.

      I’d appreciate any info!
      Thanks a lot,

  9. Nicknd

    Thanks for this post

    we are finishing our shopping container. the walls and ceiling already have insulation panels however we are finding the floor is cold. we have already laid a wooden floor. are there any products that we could spray underneath the unit? or any other ideas?
    many thanks!

    • Tom

      Congratulations on starting your build! Although the plywood floors of a container are over an inch thick, plus whatever additional flooring you place on top of them, ultimately these materials have very low insulation value. In climates where this is noticeable, insulating underneath the container is definitely a good idea (although a little tough if you’ve already placed the container and don’t have a large crawlspace. Spray foam is a good choice between it can fit in and around the steel structural members holding up the flooring. Oftentimes it’s better to let a contractor handle foam insulation, but if you’re only doing the bottom, it could be an achievable DIY project. We discuss this a bit in Tool #2 in this post: https://www.containerhomeplans.org/2017/07/tools-needed-to-build-a-shipping-container-home/

      We’d love to see the finished product! Reach out via our Contact Us page at the top when you’re ready to show it off!

  10. bineesh india

    Hello my name is bineesh i am verry intrested to make a container home. But is it suitable for indian climate i am in kerala state..?

    • Tom

      Bineesh, container homes can be used in all sorts of climates. The import thing is ensuring you have adequate insulation on the floor, ceiling, and walls to separate the conditioned air from the outside air. Also, providing shade via cladding, a secondary roof structure, or plant life helps reduce the radiation heat transfer to the metal so the cooling is easier.

  11. Emily

    I live in the south, and we have a very hot-and very humid- climate. What do you think the best kind of insulation would be? Our winters are obviously far more mild, so I’m mostly worried about keeping it cool.

    • Anthony jacka

      In north queensland we used a raised fake roof that allows wind to pass under it and over the real roof as the same time. The sun hits the fake roof and not the real one – pretty much everyone has it this way…. And it works too

  12. Andrew


    I live in Tasmania where temperatures can range from 0-30 degrees celcius.

    I would like to insulate my container from the exterior only, can I use traditional insulation or will that allow for condensation and mould or do I need to use spray insulation?

  13. Angel Rios

    Hello! I recently bought the How to build your container home book and i loved it. Im planning to make a project with 3 shipping containers. I live in Puerto Rico and the climate is very humid and sunny with temperatures in summer that can reach 95 degrees Fahrenheit normally. I was reading you recommend foam insullation for heat climate. Is this the best option in my case, to keep heat, humidity and moisture out of the containers ? Thanks for your help!

    • Tom

      Hi Angel,

      Thank you for deciding to purchase my book.

      If you send me an email I will discuss this with you.


  14. Dave

    I have built a 12×20 shed roof addition on to a 20′ container and have removed most of the abutting container wall. As the walls and ceiling of the addition have bat insulation, I am wondering if spray foam insulation on the interior ONLY of the container will be sufficient to keep condensation away. This structure will be used as a workshop in temps between -10 C to 30 C. I am not very concerned with heat loss as I will be heating w/ wood which is abundant in my area. I would prefer to not spray foam the exterior only as a cost cutting measure.

    • Tom

      Hi Dave,

      It isn’t the only way, but it’s definitely one of the most effective ways to prevent condensation.


  15. Edy

    Hi Tom,

    I lived in a tropical country. Which insulation would be best and cost efficient?


    • Tom

      Hi Edy,

      Where abouts do you live?

      Send me an email and we can discuss this,


  16. Ben Meyer

    Hi Tom,

    Have you every used the refrigerated containers which already have insulated walls?

    • Tom

      Hi Ben,

      I haven’t built with refrigerated containers before no.

      I imagine the biggest problem you are going to have is ‘resealing’ the insulation once you’ve cut into the walls to fit the doors and windows.


    • John

      Kirsten Dirksen has many good YouTube videos and at least one is about building with refrigerated shipping containers. Good stuff.

  17. Ziba

    Hello Tom,
    Thank you very much for such a fantastic info on Container homes 🙂
    We would love to build a container home on a land which has solid bedrock with little soil to work with.The land is relatively flat with a very gradual slope.
    One of my question is regarding the insulation, specifically closed cell foam. We live in a climate of winter -10 to -40 Celsius and lots of frost and defrost as the temperature can fluctuate from one day to next 15 degrees C depends on the windchill factor. Summers can be humid and +30 C at times.
    In this environment from your article it seems the best choice is closed cell foam insulation. For walls we need R 30 and for roof we need R 50 to pass the codes. We are hoping to put this insulation on the exterior walls and roof to not sacrifice the interior space. Do we need to make wood stud structure to spray this foam on the container or can it be done without the structure. If every inch of foam will give us about R7 we would need insulation of about 4 inch on the walls and about 7 inch on the roof.
    In the picture above it seems no frame was made before spraying the exterior walls with green foam. I am confused as I thought the foam insulation can be sprayed directly to the metal with as much thickness as it needs.
    Please help.


    • Tom

      Hi Ziba,

      To be honest it really depends on the type of spray foam insulation used.

      Please get in touch with us via email and we can help you with this,


  18. Lorena

    I am trying to build a beach house (El Salvador). Do I need to apply any treatment for corrosion to the container before I insulate?
    Thank you for your advices,


    • Tom

      Hi Lorena,

      In short yes. You can either clad the container or apply a corrosion protection paint.


  19. Andy

    Hi tom
    I live in Ottawa Ontario canada, the swings of temperature are from plus 40 to minus 30
    You have any advice on how to insulate or the best way to insulate for these extremes in the climate?
    thanks a lot


    • Tom

      Hi Andy,

      Great to hear from you.

      As you’re going to need lots of insulate my advice would be to use the thinnest possible to save on internal space. I’m not certain about Canada but in this neck of the woods its spray foam 🙂


  20. steve

    Hi Tom,
    I am interested in building container home in the tropics of Queensland Australia. I am keen on using spray foam insulation but do not know where to buy commercial size quantities. Also I am assuming you only need to spray external walls of containers and roof. Another question I have is how do you fix battens for frame work. Are they screwed through the container wall or a they glued in place.

    Kind regards Steve

    • Tom

      Hi Steve,

      Actually you can insulate either the internal or external walls, you can also insulate the underside of the containers.

      In terms of fixing battens, you can screw, glue or use angle plates and weld them in place…


  21. Derek

    Hi, thanks for all your research and sharing. ive also read through all the comments and havent found info on this issue. when you say spray foam, im in southern Ontario.. so from -20ish to 40’s Celsius. its used as a workshop, party room, tool and other storage. i have a certified wood burning stove to install, and more venting when spring hits. it is a bare 40′ 9’6 height container. Question can i only apply foam insulation on the exterior (without condensation issues) thanks again

    • Tom

      Hi Derek,

      Yes you can use spray foam externally instead of internal. If you do go the external route though you will need to clad it with something after the foam has set.


  22. eric j bennett

    My wife and I want to use a shipping container for food storage along with other essentials that maybe needed in an emergency situation. We live in the Pacific Northwest in the High Desert.. My question is do you need any ventilation using it as storage. Being that we are storing dry food stuffs we have to keep it fairly cool. Less than 100 degrees F I would think. I am far from being an expert. This is my first attempt at this. I do however have a lot of construction experience and was planning on gluing blue insulation board to the inside of the container then plywood over that. Not sure what to do on the floor other than polyurethane sprayed. This I have used in the past building houses and it is a great product. Just have to be careful, it sticks to everything. Thanks for any assistance that you maybe able to give me…

    • Tom

      Hi Eric,

      Thank you for getting in touch.

      To be honest I haven’t used containers for food storage before so I’m not sure how much help I will be…

      My first thought here though is a reefer container. They are already insulated and made for exactly what you mention.


  23. Amber

    Hi Tom!

    Fantastic article! I’ve done a lot of research about container homes in preparation for building my own, and recently I contacted a company for a consult and I was advised that the best method was to buy an already insulated (reefer) container. I was told that it was more expensive than the regular containers but still far cheaper, effective and time and material friendly than insulating a regular container. I honestly hadn’t even considered this possibility and can’t really find any information from anyone who’s done it so I was wondering what your thoughts were.

    • Tom

      Hi Amber,

      Thank you for getting in touch.

      Honestly, I haven’t heard of anyone using a reefer container.

      The main issue I imagine with using a reefer is when you cut through the container you will need to also cut through the insulation and it will be difficult to reseal.

  24. Bob barbour


    I have just built a studio office at my workshop using a 20 foot container, and it was an easy enough build. I have finished it in a traditional way , as I’m not too keen on a construction that finishes the job, “still looking like a shipping container”

    • Tom

      Fantastic news Bob!

      We have sent you an email 🙂


  25. Warren

    Hi Tom

    I’m am looking to create a prototype container home very shortly. I am stuck on what insulation to use. It will be in tempture of around 30c to 34c. I was hoping to use 50 to 75mm wool isulation. There also will be air conditioning. There is a tight budget but I need to get this correct first time around

    Please help

    • Tom

      Hi Warren,

      Send me a quick email and I will follow this up for you,


  26. Beverly Prevatt

    Hi Tom,

    Thank you so much for sharing. I have a damaged container so I plan on putting a slant roof on it to hide the bulge. I’m in Virginia and it is either steamy hot or freezing cold. After the foam do you just put up the wood siding? I was going to use T1_11. This is going to be a kennel for my dogs. I want a safe haven for them when we have storms and we have a small container we are going to do the same for us. I’m putting windows AC, heat and TV in it but leaving walls as they are. They will have 5×10 kennels in it with chairs. They will be loven it! Thanks again

    • Tom

      Hi Beverly,

      You certainly have some lucky dogs getting their own space!

      Yes, you will want to frame the roof, insulate and then finally panel it.

      Please let me know how you get on, I’d love to see it once it’s finished!


  27. Sabrina

    Hi Tom!
    I am looking into designing my shipping container home, and I was wondering how thick the insulation should be. I live in Florida, so it has to withstand temperatures up to 95 degrees F and down to almost 35. I have the budget for spray foam, and I am okay using it, but if there is another option that is thinner or as thin that’s just as well
    Thanks so much!

    • Tom

      Hi Sabrina,

      Thank you for getting in touch.

      We’ve sent you an email to discuss this further 🙂


    • Marc


      Since there’s no dates on these blog questions, I don’t know when you sent this, but did you ever build your home? And if so, what insulation did you go with? My wife and I are moving to Northeast Florida to care for her parents and plan on building one.

  28. TuckerSnoCat

    I just wanted to share how I insulated a 20′ container that I use as an insulated bedroom addition at a cabin high (11,000′) in the rocky mtns. It’s an extreme area that gets a lot of rain and more than 10′ of snow in the winter. First I glued 2″ rigid foam insulation to all of the interior surfaces except the door (floor, walls, roof). I then put 2×4 framing inside of the foam panels. The studs were screwed to the floor at the bottom, then an overhead 2×4 held the tops apart. This internal frame holds the foam firmly in place and provided space for roll insulation between the 2×4’s on the walls and ceiling which were then finished w moisture resistent drywall panels. The floor foam was covered w plywood and laminate flooring. A sliding glass door was installed inside of the container doors. This has worked extremely well and is very quiet as well – just subtracts a bit of interior volume, That’s worth it for me in this situation!

    • Tom

      Thank you so much for sharing! I hope this helps everyone else reading,


    • Gail Redberg

      Hi TuckerSnoCat
      What type of adhesive did you use to glue your rigid foam insulation panels to the interior of your container? I have a reefer container that we are using for winter storage of plants and I would like to reduce our energy costs.
      Thank you,
      Gail Redberg

  29. Ivana

    I would love to have a shipping container home in New York City. Possibly upstate New York, however I am confused about purchasing land and the codes. Do you know of any direct links that could help me find out if it would be legal and okay to have a shipping container home on two to three acres of land. I have decided to use a mix of insulates because sometimes its very wet and then very dry. Global warming alot of people say is a farce but I have been here ten years. What would you reccommend as insulates I also like the multiple small windows idea too.

    • Tom

      Hi Ivana,

      I’ve seen a few container homes built in upstate New York now!

      I’ve sent you an email Ivana with some more information,


  30. Geoff

    Hi Tom,

    What would the height and width internal dimensions be of a shipping container after insulation, specifically spray foam? I’m trying to design a rooms for a hostel but can’t do it without knowing what those dimensions would be. Is there a typical amount of inches off a wall the foam insulation would take off?

    Thank you!

    • Tom

      Hi Geoff,

      It depends if you use a high cube or normal container.

      Presuming you are still battening the walls, you can take 3 inches off each wall to calculate this.

      Hope this helps,


  31. Elizabeth


    I live in Canada where it can go from 40 degrees Celcius in the summer to -40 degrees Celcius in the winter. I am assuming that a spray foam insulation would be better, but since I know nothing about construction I wanted your opinion.

    Thank you!

    • Tom

      Hi Elizabeth,

      Certainly, if budget is no issue I would always recommend spray foam insulation.


  32. Bret

    I read an article (in Dwell, I believe) in which a shipping container was insulated with a sprayed on ceramic coating that also served as paint. Are you familiar with this product an if so how does it compare with spray foam?

    • Tom

      Hi Bret,

      I have heard of ceramic coating, however I haven’t had practical experience of using it personally.

      However from what I’ve heard- personally I would go with spray foam instead.


    • ascher

      Hi, the spray on ceramic “insulating” coating was proved to be a fraud. You can research it but one person even has an uninhabitable house because his house isn’t insulated.

      • Tom

        Thank you for sharing this Ascher.

        Do you have any news articles on this you could share?


  33. Matthew

    Hi there I have a 40 foot conex box and I want to put insulation panels on the inside of the container.but the liquid nail glue is not stick to the container. Can u help to how to set the glue in the container

    • Tom

      Hi Matthew,

      I haven’t tried gluing the insulation panels to the container. Instead I would use wooden battens to create a frame inside the container, then drop the insulation panels inside these wooden frames.


  34. Zack


    I am living in Malaysia, and have been thinking about owning a container home for me and my family for years now. Since Malaysia is close to the equator, it has a relatively hot and humid climate, with rainfalls on 1-2 days per week on average. Budget is quite tight, since shipping containers themselves are not easily obtainable here. What will be the best insulation method for this? Thanks.

    • Tom

      Hi Zack,

      Thank you for getting in touch.

      Without being familiar with your exact climate it’s hard to say without visiting, however most container homes in tropical environments are insulated using spray foam insulation.

  35. Janet

    In your description of foam insulation you refer to the moisture protection it provides; but when discussing faced fiberglass insulation you don’t mention a need for moisture protection. Do you recommend applying a special water proof paint to the outside, and/or vapor barrier on the inside of the faced batt insulation?

    • Tom

      Hi Janet,

      Great question.

      This would depend on where you’re building the home and your budget. However I would always recommend creating a vapor barrier on the inside of your containers.


  36. Heather

    I also live in Colorado and wonder what the best insulation solution would be for the full expression of seasons here with the extremes being: -5 in winter and 105 in summer. Though it is generally dry here, we have had an unusual couple of years, including the big flood of 2012.
    Thanks for your help.
    P.S. We would be interested in any of the above options.

    • Tom

      Hi Heather,

      If budget is no option then spray foam insulation is definitely the way to move forward!


  37. mojo

    Excellent insulation and almost for free is a straw bales and clay plaster

    • John

      Strawbales are a great building material, has problems when facing the corrugations of a shipping container. The straw is exposed to 2 enemies at the gaps. Room for pests to abide and attack the straw, and oxygen chimneys that would make it highly flammable. Placed next to a smooth wall is better but still not as good as being able to finish both faces with a clay plaster.

  38. Judy

    Hi! I live in Guatemala. 6 weeks ago my husband passed away and our dream was to built a wooden house on top of 2 shipping containers. I still want to fulfil that dream. So we have the shipping containers in place, which will be used for our projects but ….I am looking for a floor design to put the wooden house on. Is there a special way to do this? There is a company in Guatemala city that will prefab a house for me but I am concerned about the floor. The containers are 16 feet apart. My husband had drawing a blueprint but I want to make sure it is safe. There will also be a green space on one end for a garden…containers are not cheap here and companies only want to rent/lease them.
    Also we would like to insulate them…what do you think of the tinfoil insulation…that I can get here….Thank you for any advice you can give me.

    • Tom

      Hi Judy,

      We’re very sorry to hear about this, but delighted you still want to pursue your dream!

      I’ve seen this done before and I think they framed the top of the containers and then built off of that…

      I haven’t heard of tinfoil insulation unfortunately, is there anywhere I can read more about it?

  39. Fred

    I’ve got an insulation conundrum for you… I live in Colorado and was thinking about a mountain cabin container home. But I want an insulation scheme that takes into consideration not just summer/winter use, but also wildfire.
    Current thought is to build a 6′ gravel buffer around the container, but what can I do to prevent internal or external insulation breaking down into a flammable/explosive puddle?

    • Tom

      Hi Fred!

      The gravel buffer is a good idea, however we don’t have experience of designing ‘wildfire’ resistant insulation. Most insulation will be approved to withstand certain temperatures, so most first thought would be whichever insulation you choose check with the manufacturer to make sure it can withstand extreme heat…

      Thanks for getting in touch,


    • magnus

      What about rockwool?

      • Tom

        Hi Magnus,

        We mention Rock Wool in the article, in the Blanket Insulation section.


    • Basil El Halwagy

      Hi There,
      There’s no such thing as insulation from any kind of fire.
      Put it this way: If the entire forest is burning around you, then A. you won’t be able to breath, you’ll asphyxiate due to the smoke inhalation.
      That’s why, during a wild fire, you abandon your home.
      Good luck to you.

      • Charles Stevens

        Assuming your not planning on sheltering in place, but concerned about your property stored in the container, rigid rock wool panels should be sufficient. They can be glued up like foam, but will withstand much higher temps befor they melt. If you are hopping to shelter in place, please reconsider, though an aluminium shipping container will reflect over 90 percent of the radiant heat and their are ceramic insulations rated for 3500 F ( even a steel container will melt first) you still are faced with smoke, and though a good HEPA filter system will extract most of the harmful particles in wood smoke you are still gambling with your life.

    • Austin

      Perlite stucco

    • Mike


      I would try running some sort of geothermal/radiant cooling in the walls, its a closed loop system that can dissipate the heat, I realize you’ll need and internal power source for the water pump or a stationary bike and stamina…..

    • Skip

      Hey Fred:
      I also live in Colorado, and have considered using shipping containers. My choice is to use an Earth berm around three sides and the roof, like an Earth Shelter, set into aSouth facing slope. The Earth will protect your home on all sides but the front. I’ve seen container homes, where the front facade side of the container is turned into a drop down deck that can be raised back up and sealed. I like that idea for when I’m not around for a few days or more. Most wildfires burn through in minutes, if there’s not much fuel (dead trees, limbs and brush) I think my idea is all I need to protect my home in the event of a wildfire.