What Kinds of Insulation Should I Use For My Shipping Container Living Space?

With the new and used shipping container market continuing to expand due to growing consumer interest, more questions are being raised about how to amply insulate them for all-seasons.

From business kiosks and pop-up BMarko offices to home additions and guesthouses, new and used shipping containers are gaining popularity across the board.

Shipping containers make excellent building materials because they can be installed modularly, which reduces construction time and on-site labor costs.

And when it comes to converting a shipping container into any sort of living space, there are few decisions more important than how it is insulated. There is little point in saving a couple of bucks building your structure out of shipping containers if you’re going to be spending insane amounts on heating and cooling your home. An air conditioning unit in an uninsulated home has to work double as hard as a unit that is in a well-insulated home. This will also lead to more repair bills, as it will break down more often. Luckily, there are companies such as Global Cooling AC Repair that can maintain your air-con to ensure it is running efficiently, but you’ll still need good insulation.

Image by Jesse C. Smith Jr. via Flickr

Image by Jesse C. Smith Jr. via Flickr

So, here’s a look at the different insulation types you will likely use when you insulate a shipping container living space.

First Things First

Let’s take a moment to appreciate what the heck we’re doing when we insulate a room. The idea is to keep thermal energy where it originates; outside heat in the summer stays outside, heat inside in the winter stays inside. Seems simple, right? Well yes and no.

Different conditions and requirements mean different insulation options. And if options make you nervous, fret not; we made the choices for you.

Simply put; the stronger the insulation is in blocking the transfer of thermal energy, the higher the “R Value“. In fact, every building material has an R value attached to it, from Autoclaved Aerated Concrete to fiberglass – you name it, and it’s got an R value.

And since geography is different in many places, there is no one size fits all insulation solution. Before you begin planning your shipping container insulation, we recommend stopping by your local hardware store and asking what R values are required for your geographical area.

Anything made out of metal like a new or used shipping container automatically requires higher R values, and it’s all about balancing construction cost, long term energy savings, and over all environmental impact.

shipping contas

Insulation Types

In any lifecycle assessment, higher performing insulation will be your best choice, so let’s take a look at the best option first, and then work our way down the list of most common insulation choices for how to build a home from shipping container.


Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) are generally made out of OSB sandwiching foam core, and are able to achieve an R value ranging between 22 and 30. They’re as easy to assemble into structures as Lego blocks, and they get an edge due to their lack of framing materials being responsible for less thermal bridging than other solutions.

Spray Foam

Spray foam is popular because of its ability to create a tight envelope with fewer hydrocarbon resources. Although it has a lower R value that other forms of insulation do, it’s low cost and ease of installation complement its environmental friendliness – soybean-oil based product is gaining in popularity.

Loose-Fill Spray

A great way to use recycled materials with low-toxicity binders is through the installation of loose-fill spray insulation; a fibrous spray that adheres to surfaces such as joists or floor pans. Materials that make up loose-fill spray range from newspapers to cellulose, combined with an EPA-registered fungicide.


High density batts are always your best bet, and that their low cost also means a little extra care during installation. It is common that framing challenges and design complexities make this insulation method a little more daunting.