Complete Guide to Shipping Container Flooring

Are you a shipping container homeowner or looking to move your business to a shipping container space? Shipping containers were built to withstand long distance travel and protect the goods being transported inside them. But commonly, in the 21st century, shipping containers are being used for more personal spaces.

Shipping container flooring needs to be durable and sturdy, especially if the space is being used for more than just storage. Shipping containers around the world are being used for office spaces, tiny homes, small shops and more. Ensure the longevity of your shipping container space with the right flooring.

There are numerous options that you can choose from for sturdy flooring in your shipping container. Depending on what your container is being used for will determine the best option for you.


Read on below to see the best shipping container flooring options, all you have to do next is choose what’s right for you and your shipping container space.

Shipping Container Floor Options

Whether you’re looking to make your shipping container more stylish for a homely welcome or something simple for an office space, you have multiple options to choose from.

1. Original Plywood or Bamboo Flooring

Cost: $2.29 /sq. ft. for bamboo flooring

laying down bamboo flooring
installing bamboo flooring in a shipping container

Original plywood or bamboo flooring is what the manufacturer of the shipping containers will typically use for robust and sturdy shipping of goods. As mentioned above, these floors are treated with pesticides that could be harmful to human health.

In some cases, the pesticide treatment is minimal and instead of replacing the flooring with new plywood or bamboo, you may be able to cover the flooring with a non-breathable underlay straight over the top of the original plywood or bamboo flooring. Then put the new flooring over the top of the underlay.

Related: Shipping container foundation and footings

A more cost-effective option is to use an epoxy paint coating. We delve into further detail about epoxy paint coatings below.

Another option is to completely remove the original hardwood flooring and replace it all together. This is more time consuming and might be costly but if you have the budget, this will give you peace of mind that you’re not harming your own or anyone else’s health.

2. Aluminum or Steel Flooring

An extremely easy to maintain option is aluminum or steel flooring. Refrigerated containers will usually have aluminum or steel flooring so it can feel like a very ‘cold’ look in a container. Of course, you can decorate the inside of the shipping container to your liking.

Steel and aluminum flooring have a few pros not limited to:

  • Odorless.
  • Easy to clean and maintain.
  • Scratch-resistant.
  • Long-term resistance to wear and tear.
  • No chemicals needed for floor treatment.
  • 100% recyclable.
  • More environmentally sustainable compared to tropical woods

If long-lasting, easy to maintain, sustainable flooring is important to you, aluminum or steel flooring might be your favorable preference of flooring in your shipping container.   

3. Imitation Wood Vinyl Planks

Cost: $2.29 /sq. ft. for vinyl flooring

vinyl flooring
vinyl flooring with rubber underlayment

Otherwise known as vinyl, imitation wood is a popular choice in many homes, offices, and residences. Although manufactured with synthetic materials, vinyl can look like wood flooring. Vinyl used to come in long, wide sheets but has progressed with time to come in smaller planks.

Vinyl is water resistant, low maintenance, cost effective and long lasting if well maintained. This type of flooring is easy to install, whether it be in your house or your shipping container. The flexibility is what makes them so easy to install.

The vinyl planks have little grooves on the sides of them, so they clip into each plank easily. Because of the way vinyl planks are installed, if one is damaged, they’re easy to replace. Unclip and pull up the damaged plank and simply replace it with a new one.

Note: When installing vinyl flooring, you need to install a rubber underlayment first, such as this one. The underlayment will also help with soundproofing the floor, which is a nice added bonus.

Laminate has the same installation process as vinyl flooring but is manufactured with different materials. Both can look stylish and just like wooden floorboards.

Imitation wood vinyl planks are easy to clean with a dry mop and vacuum and also with hot water and a vinyl floor cleaner. Don’t use too much water or you risk the vinyl planks lifting out of place due to expanding.

4. Commercial Carpet Tile

Let’s start with the cost effectiveness of commercial carpet tile. At Home Depot, you can pick up commercial carpet tile for as little as 37 cents per square foot. As well as the carpet tiles durability and wear and tear resistance, prices like this are almost unmatched.

Carpet tile is a great option for businesses and office spaces for its cost effectiveness as well as its resilience to withstand heavier foot traffic. Plus, they come in different shapes and sizes for style and design purposes.

Commercial carpet tiles are designed to resist common stains, dirt, and wear. Commonly used in businesses but more recently seen in homes and residences. Constructed with longevity in mind, carpet tiles are much more easily replaced than the usual carpet you find inside most housing.

If one or two carpet tiles are damaged, with hard to remove stains or odors, simply replace the carpet tiles needing replaced. It’s much cheaper than replacing the carpet of the whole room.

Commercial carpet tiles come in a huge variety of colors and can make your shipping container exceedingly homely.

You might also hear carpet tiles being called ‘modular carpet’ and ‘carpet squares.’ As well as coming in a range of shapes and colors, not unlike vinyl planks, you can purchase carpet tiles in planks too.

Here’s a list of pros for opting for commercial carpet tiles for your shipping container flooring:

·        Easy to install.

·        Easy to replace.

·        Easy to transport.

·        Sustainable option with minimal waste when installing.

·        Cost effective for installation and longevity.

·        Variety of colors, patterns, and shapes.

·        Durable and stain resistant.

Whether you’re turning your shipping container into a space for the office or for living, commercial carpet tile is a great easy to install option for your storage unit.

5. Epoxy Coating

epoxy coating
you get a nice shine/gloss when using epoxy

Designed originally for industrial uses, epoxy coating becomes incredibly hard, resistant to wear and abrasions, corrosion, damage and stains.

Instead of a non-breathable underlay you could also use an epoxy coating to completely seal over the original flooring. Epoxy coating can be used on almost any surface, is anti-corrosive and waterproof.

Using an epoxy coating over your flooring will keep the original plywood or bamboo style while protecting you from the harmful pesticides used in the hardwood floor underneath and will also create an anti-slip surface.

There is a difference between epoxy coating and epoxy paint so when looking into epoxy as an option for your storage container floors, keep this in mind. You want epoxy coating.

The epoxy coating is a mix of two liquid components, resin and hardener. Epoxy Coating, when dried, basically seals the harmful chemicals under the surface so that you’re not at risk of short- and long-term health effects from breathing in the harmful chemicals.

6. Coin Vinyl

You may have seen coin vinyl flooring on a few dance floors in your time. This is because of coin vinyl’s durability, water and other liquid resistance and wear and tear resistance. This flooring is exceptionally easy to clean too.

Just like vinyl flooring, this coin vinyl style provides an easy cut for a custom fit and is designed for easy installation and easy maintenance.

Coin vinyl flooring looks like flooring that has coin sized raised circles underneath it. This slightly raised surface offers a type of floor grip.

Coin Vinyl provides traction on your flooring and is slip resistant. Easy to maintain and keep clean and is usually a fairly sturdy and durable type of material. Coin Vinyl is often used in garages and is strong enough to resist wear and tear from cars driving over the flooring.

A popular choice in shipping container floors being used as garages, tool-sheds and offices. This low-cost roll-out flooring also comes as a diamond tread design and might be great for an industrial type look if that’s what your design entails.

One of the cons for the coin vinyl is the lack of available colors. If this is your preference, be prepared to choose between silver, black, gray, and possibly sandstone.

How to Check Your Shipping Container Floor

Are you worried about your shipping containers floor being damaged or perhaps even containing harmful chemicals? There is a way to check what chemicals have been used to treat the original flooring of your shipping container before you start your renovations.

Check the consolidated data plate.

The consolidated data plate is the CSC (Convention for Safe Containers) plate that is usually located on the outside of the shipping container door. The CSC ensures containers are built safely and contains relevant safety information about the timber component treatment.

Immunity (IM), Treatment Chemical and Treatment date.

With the above information, you can make an educated decision on whether you need to replace the flooring or if you can use an epoxy coating for time and cost efficiency.

Speak to a professional

If you’ve researched the chemicals used and are still unsure of what to do about your treated marine grade plywood, speak to a professional.

Try a local hardware store, a flooring expert, or call the manufacturer directly for further classification and more detail.

Original Shipping Container Flooring

Original shipping container flooring is usually made up of two parts. The underneath is made with steel cross members, like steel plates or beams that provide structural support and the over layer wood flooring.

The typical hardwood flooring of a shipping container is made with marine plywood which is treated with pesticides to prevent insects and critters from damaging the goods being transported.

If the use of your shipping container is not for transporting goods but for a liveable and/or workable space, you may need to remove the pesticide treated hardwood floor before moving in. These treated floors are harmful to humans and can cause short and long term health issues.

Shipping container floors are designed to withstand extreme weather conditions and are built to last. They are made from heavy duty materials to provide a strong and resilient shipping container to reduce damage to the contents inside.

When you receive your shipping container, you may be wondering if you need to remove the original flooring and if the original plywood flooring is replaceable.

Should You Remove The Plywood Floor?

If purchasing your shipping container brand new, you can make specific requirements through the manufacturer. Depending on what your shipping container is to be used for, shipping containers can come bare, or for a price, partially converted for office or residential purposes.

Used shipping containers may contain treated plywood floors that needs to be removed and replaced. When ordering your used shipping container, you can ask about the flooring and the timber component treatment of the original floor.

Chances are, the floor of your container will have needed to be treated for pests and insects for proper storage reasons. Used shipping containers will in most cases have been treated with harsh chemical pesticides that are harmful to human health.

Using second hand shipping containers is a preferable option for new owners that are conscious of reducing their imprint and reusing and recycling for sustainability purposes. For this reason, used shipping containers are more popular than the new ones. Not to mention the prices for new shipping containers.

Whether you choose to remove or treat the original plywood flooring is completely up to you.

How to Remove the Plywood Floor

Luckily, manufacturers have made the removal and replacement of flooring in standard containers not too difficult. With the right tools you can complete this DIY project in a day.

  • Cut around the holes of the bolts in the floors with a reciprocating saw or a hand saw.
  • Cut out the floor bolts.
  • Using a crow bar or a full length pry bar, break and remove the plywood.

It should be pretty easy, but be prepared to get your hands dirty and use some energy to remove the original flooring, especially on older containers that may have seen better days.

Once you have removed the original shipping container flooring, consider having your floor insulated. insulation installed before laying down your new floors. Insulation is key to energy efficiency, air flow, and keeping the desired temperature in your residence.

For extra safety and cautionary measures, we advise choosing a fire retardant insulation for your shipping container floor. Fire retardant insulation is used to slow, stop and reduce the intensity of a fire.

If you’re keeping the original flooring and want to ensure the comfort of your shipping container, you can drill small access holes to allow for a spray foam insulation. Once this is done you can choose to cover the original plywood container floor with a cover (Like epoxy coating).

How to Treat the Original Plywood Floor

If the rustic, used original plywood floor is something that appeals to you more than covering or replacing it with a new floor, you can treat the original container floor.

To keep pests away, the container floor is infused with hazardous and harsh pesticide chemicals that keep pests and insects from damaging the floors. Depending on how old the container is, your shipping container floor may be damaged from wear and tear with cracks, holes, and missing layers.

It is suggested that you don’t sand the floor in case of releasing these chemicals into the air, which can cause you harm if breathed in. If you have a couple of years to spare, the chemicals used in the container floors do dissipate over time.

Keep the original shipping container floor charm by cleaning with isopropyl alcohol and then sealing the floor with a wood friendly epoxy. For health reasons, wear a ventilated mask.


Shipping containers are manufactured and built to endure the harshest conditions. The flooring needs to be sturdy and treated with pesticides to avoid damage from the elements and from pests. When renovating a shipping container the condition of the shipping container floor is important for comfort and durability.

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