How to Frame a Shipping Container

Are you wondering how to frame a shipping container? Whether you’re planning on transforming your shipping containers into a home, an office, or a guest house, they’re going to need walls.

And in order to add those walls, you’ll need to frame the container. In traditional housing, framing is done to provide further support to the structure. However, shipping containers have sufficient support and strength. So why is shipping container framing so important?

Framing enables you to transform a shipping container into anything you desire. It further enables you to attach a wall to your container structure, insulate it, and add doors, windows, and other container accessories.

Without framing, you will have to drive your nails through the corrugated metal of your shipping container, which may eventually be detrimental to the container home by allowing moisture in through small openings.

So, to prevent that, we’ve put together this quick step-by-step guide that shows you exactly how to frame a shipping container using aluminum materials.

how to frame a shipping container using neatly installed wood frame
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This article will give you a detailed step-by-step procedure for framing your shipping container home. It will guide you on the tools you need, different framing materials, and the cost of getting your interior living space framed. Trust me, it is worth every minute you will spend reading it.

Tools/Equipment You Require

  • 10ft Aluminum Studs
  • 8ft Top/Bottom Aluminum Tracks
  • Tape Measurer
  • Tin Snips
  • Marker
  • Screws

Step by Step Aluminum Framing Installation

Fill corrugation inserts

Fig 2. Filling in corrugation inserts
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You can begin your framing process by filling in corrugation inserts. These inserts resemble well-shaped wood segments and are used to seal air gaps in the shipping container. Some people consider this process optional.

An alternative is to begin the process by inserting horizontal or vertical insulated sheathing boards, or whatever your preferred insulation method is. After this, you can use a foam spray to fill in any gaps after the framing is installed to ensure your container home is well insulated.

Cut 10ft studs

create framed interior by cutting the studs
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Next, we’ll want to cut the 10ft studs to around 9′ 2″, assuming we’re creating framing for a high cube container. We’re leaving a gap so that we can install insulation above the studs.

Insert the studs

aluminum studs
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Once you’ve cut the 10ft studs to size, you want to begin sliding them into the top and bottom tracks, keeping the studs roughly 16″ apart from each other from center.

Secure the studs to the tracks

heel of the stud
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securing top track
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Securing the stud to the top track with screws

Next we want to secure the studs by screwing them into the top and bottom tracks. When screwing them in, make sure you’re screwing into the heel of the stud, not the flimsy part.

Continue doing this all the way around the container, making sure the studs are roughly 16 inches apart.

Leave room for insulation

As we mentioned above, when building the frame, drop down the ceiling a bit so you have room for insulation, whether that’s spray foam, sheathing boards, or whatever method you choose.

Insulation is a crucial procedure in container homes
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spray foam insulation method
installing insulation boards on 40ft container
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Installing sheathing board insulation

You might also like: How to Insulate a Shipping Container

Types of Framing

In most cases, container owners go for these three framing ideas:

Timber Framing

timber framing
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When using timber framing, it is advisable to wedge the timber in using small nails and then use glue to hold them into place. The upside of using timber is that it is less expensive and readily accessible. It is also easier to work with and blends well with wall paneling. However, it is more vulnerable to harsh environmental conditions and insects.

Aluminum Strips

Framing using aluminum strips
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When using aluminum strips on shipping containers, you will need to start by welding thin metal strips into your containers’ frames before screwing in aluminum strips. Once these strips are in place, installing a wallboard becomes an easy feat.

Steel Strips

You can weld thin strands of steel on the sides of the shipping container home. A thinner steel strip is particularly important in places that experience heavy rains, high humidity, and lots of bugs.

image of a steel frame
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Metallic material like steel and aluminum is more ideal if you are looking for strength and durability. They are, however, more expensive to acquire. Notably, your choice of material is dependent on your environmental situation as well as your budget.

How much does it cost to frame a Shipping Container?

It is difficult to attach a specific price to a shipping container framing procedure. Most of the time, the cost will depend on the materials you use; using timber will cost much less because wood is easily accessible. Timber currently for around $400 per 1000 feet, and you will probably need much less than 1000 board feet to frame your shipping container.

Metal, whether steel or aluminum, is highly-priced and could contribute to a greater budget for your shipping container framing procedure.

Additionally, hiring a contractor will cost you much more than doing the framing work yourself. Take the example of Jamie and Dave, a SW Washington couple who own a shipping container home. They did the framing work themselves, saving more than $1000 while at it.

However, the downside of this is that it can sometimes be quite time-consuming, especially in instances where there is little to no experience. For this reason, we greatly recommend hiring a competent contractor to frame your shipping container house.

FAQs

Can I screw into a shipping container?

Screwing directly into your shipping container can be detrimental to your container’s health, rendering it less wind and watertight. Framing provides a surface where you can screw and create holes without impacting your shipping container.

To avoid screwing directly into your shipping container, you can use screws to secure the base plates down the floor and angle brackets to secure the top plates.

How do you hang things in shipping containers?

To hang things on your shipping container walls, you need to first frame them with either wood or metal. Next is to install a wall panel like drywall, sandalwood, plywood, or steel and aluminum sheets.

Once these are installed, your shipping container’s interior walls will resemble that of a traditional home, and you will be able to hang almost anything.

How do you attach wood to a shipping container?

As part of your framing procedure, you will have to attach wood to your shipping container. You can use screws to attach the wood to your container’s base and angle brackets when attaching the wood to the roof of your container.

Can your frame a shipping container home yourself?

Many container homeowners have effectively framed their shipping containers themselves and with little to no experience.

However, most have reported taking a longer time to frame their container walls. We, therefore, recommend hiring a professional to frame your shipping container walls with the precision it deserves. Needless to say, this might cost more, but it is worth every penny.

Conclusion

Whether you have resorted to a DIY or hired a container professional, the shipping container framing process is a crucial one that will determine the quality and livability of your container home.

The material you choose to work with will have an impact on your budget and on your frame quality. The amount you spend on framing will also depend on whether you resort to completing the procedure on your own or hire a professional.

If you are seeking durability and strength, a metallic material will serve you better than timber. The latter is more vulnerable to harsh environmental conditions and bugs. We highly recommend that you hire a professional to do the framing work for you unless you have background knowledge and experience in framing.

Hiring a professional may ultimately cost more, but it will save you from many avoidable mistakes that may result in you spending more time and money on your shipping container home.

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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