How to Build a Wall Inside a Shipping Container

The advent of the shipping container conversion trend has seen multiple new and refurbished containers transformed into offices, homes, hospitals, greenhouses, and restaurants. Just like traditional structures, shipping container homes have to be fitted with walls to divide up space and make the container structure habitable.

This article will answer some of the most pertinent questions surrounding shipping container walls and how to build a wall inside a shipping container. It will take you through the construction process, materials used, and further recommend suitable material for your container’s interior walls.

How-To Build a Wall Inside a Shipping Container

Stock image of a shipping container wall
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Materials Needed

  • Insulation material
  • Paint
  • Trim Strips
  • Electrical Wiring
  • Wood
  • Nails
  • Construction Glue
  • Screw Driver
  • Drywall Tip
  • Inserts
  • Frames

Steps to Building a shipping container interior wall

Framing

Framing a shipping container can be accomplished in two ways: The first way you can begin the process is by filling in corrugation inserts. These inserts resemble well-shaped wood segments and are used to seal air gaps in the shipping container.

After the inserts are placed, you can go ahead and install the framing material. Notably, at this stage, it is optional to add frames to support the walls.

Fig 2. Framing with wood inserts.
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The second option is to begin the process by inserting horizontal or vertical framing over the sheets. After this, you can use a foam spray to completely cover the corrugated slots of sheet.

Commonly Used Framing Material

The most commonly used material for interior framing include:

  • Wood Posts
  • Aluminum
  • Steel Strips

Your choice of material is dependent on the environmental factors in your geographical location as well as your budget.

Wood is readily accessible and cheaper than metal. It is also easier to work with and blends well with wall paneling. However, it is more prone to environmental damage. Metallic material is a more suitable option if you are looking for strength and durability.

wood used for framing
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Insulating

Unlike framing, which is optional, insulating your container is a mandatory procedure if you want to make your container space livable.

Shipping container insulation
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Insulation helps to protect your container home from extreme cold and heat during the winter and summer seasons respectively.

See also: How to Insulate a Shipping Container Step-by-Step

Types of Insulation

Before we get into the types of insulation, let’s first define what R-values are, so you can better understand the R-value numbers below.

What is an R-value?

Insulation R-values are used to determine resistance to heat flow through solid materials. In other words, it represents each material’s effectiveness in hindering the exchange of heat between indoor and outdoor environments. Materials with higher R-values do a better job preventing heat exchange than those with lower R-values.

Insulation’s job is to keep heat in a house or building. Measurement of it’s ability to do so is given by the R-value assigned to the insulation material, such as fiberglass, polystyrene, and closed foam. Now, let’s take a look at the three most common types of insulation for shipping containers.

Fiberglass Insulation

This is the most preferred insulation because of its top-notch quality and thickness of 3.5 inches. Besides its R-13 insulation value, fiberglass can overlay your container structure making it water-resistant.

Fiberglass Insulation
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Polystyrene foam insulation

Also known as Styrofoam insulation, this insulation material has an insulation value of only R-5 and is commonly paneled with plywood.

Polystyrene is used for insulation because it has small air bubbles trapped in it. This makes it a very good insulator because heat energy can’t flow through. So, the idea is that plastic foam is put into a cavity of a wall to trap air, reducing how quickly heat energy flows through the wall so that it remains in your container home.

Polystyrene foam insulation
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Closed Cell foam insulation

This spray foam insulation offers the highest insulation value of R-6 per inch. It is highly recommended because it completely covers the corrugated part of the steel leaving no room for moisture condensation like in polystyrene and fiberglass insulation panels.

Closed cell foam insulation
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Thermal insulation

This is an electrical insulation method that maintains warmth inside your container home.

Thermal insulation
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Wall Paneling Installation

Once the insulation panels have been integrated into your container walls, you will need to completely cover your walls using a panel overlay to give your container a warmer look.

Types of Container Wall Materials You Can Use

Drywall

This is the most commonly used container interior wall material, mostly because of its smooth finish once the walls are complete. It completely covers the seams giving your walls a brick and mortar home look. It is best for permanent structures as it holds the walls well.

Drywall installation procedure.
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Sandalwood

This is another smooth wall that can be a great option for your container home or office space.

The sandalwood seams are easily covered by trim strips making them appear smooth. One advantage it has over drywall is its ability to be moved around without any damage. This makes it a suitable option for mobile container offices or sites.

marble sandalwood
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Plywood

Unlike drywall, the plywood interior has a rough finishing. It is suitable for workshops or studios with rough themes.

Installed plywood
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Steel or Aluminum Sheets

Just as they are used on shipping container home exteriors, steel and aluminum sheets can be used on interior walls. Often, they are insulated by foam or a sleek coating and are suitable for container food structures or garages. Besides being portable, steel and aluminum sheets are easy to clean up.

The downside of these metallic materials is their high pricing. They also require a specialized contractor to engineer them effectively.

Perforated Steel

This is a fancy name for high-quality and more effective steel paneling. To achieve a subtler, quieter feel, you will need to insulate your walls with foam then cover it with perforated steel. Though expensive to purchase, you can easily move it around without incurring any damages.

Perforated steel
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Fiberglass Reinforced Panels

Fiberglass reinforced panels are water-resistant and recommended for mobile toilets or container spaces where water is constantly used during cleaning.

Grey fiberglass reinforced panel.
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If you want to turn your container structure into your primary abode, it shouldn’t be a top priority.

Conclusion

Whether you want to transform your shipping container into an office, a home, a restaurant, or a garage, you will need to ensure your interior walls match your intended purpose. You can achieve this through framing your container’s walls, insulating them, and finally covering them with a wall panel overlay.

The overlay material you select will determine how well your container serves you, and the duration it does so. Don’t just choose any material, select one that matches your shipping container’s purpose.

Ryan Stetson

Ryan Stetson

Currently own two 20' and 40' containers converted into an office/workshop. Having worked in the shipping industry for 6 years, my goal is to share my personal experiences as well as connect potential container buyers with suppliers around the US.

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