Shipping Container House Insulation – The savings when building with a shipping container
Yes, acquiring containers may be cheap, that one thing, but remember that you have other costs involved. These costs start from the time of purchase, and apart from delivery, you are building a shipping container home from scratch – bare bones. For the home, you will need to get services put into the roof cavity area, cutting of windows and other spaces to create the floor plan, adding plumbing and electricity and installing an HVAC system, etc.
Doing the above will add a sum that is quite substantially different to the cost of initially acquiring a container which you will become aware. You may end up paying a similar price to buy a house of the same size as your new shipping container home with the same number of rooms as a prefabricated or traditionally built home. I would suggest that even in some cases the result of building a shipping container home vs. a traditional home could, in some cases, be more costly on a rate per square meter construction cost basis.
There is also another consideration that is welding. Welding the used sea containers can be a long task to do, and this is something that you will need to get that are specialised in welding. The person has to be familiar with welding shipping containers together properly and figuring out all the configuring and piecing together of the containers.
Knowing how to insulate the property
House Insulation is critical. We are all aware what the Australian summer is like and being in a shipping container will not be much fun if the insulation of the home is poor. Insulation, in particular when developed in rural areas can be a problem when you are running power from solar energy. During the winter you will need insulation against cold temperatures of the type, such as inland Victoria or Tasmania experiences. Condensation may also be a factor to be aware of. Poor insulation and condensation lead to rusting of the metal walls and roof.
Research insulating risks before building – before building, you will need to do some research how to insulate to ensure that your walls do not end up rusting away on you.
Plumbing – Plumbing is one of the things that you may think about at the last minute. When we usually buy a property, everything is already there, and when you are building from scratch with a shipping container, you have to think about all the intricate details of services required. This will also be different when you are stacking containers on top of each other creating the second floor or multi-story environments. You will need to consult a designer to work out a plumbing system that will fit in with the containers rectangular shape.
Wind factor – during the winter time in Victoria you can get strong winds coming from the inland. Other parts of Australia also experience high wind. Especially elevated properties, hilltop positions, etc. which are in full direct head of the wind. It, therefore, is common sense that as you have a corrugated steel barrier, aka the container wall you will get some vibration. This vibration will result in noise.
When you are planning on designing a home take into account the factor of the wind in your area and directional wind all year round. There are sites that wind sports people use, e.g., Wind guru that provide excellent information about the wind in the areas you want to check.
You will need to consider any factors necessary to mitigate the effects of wind. Mitigation works might include plantations of tree barriers and dense foliage as a screen protection from the wind and to reduce the noise going through the living areas. Having a good landscaping strategy will help.
The whole aspect of developing involves some research if you want to get the least amount of problems with living in a shipping container. The in’s and out’s, the positives and the negatives. The people that will win out are the ones that research the problems of construction, council application process thoroughly, acquiring the sea containers to designing and developing a home that suits the environment. To save money, the devil is in the detail as they say. Research that you will have done before even before outlaying one dollar on the house is so critical so that you go armed with questions and preparation.
Contingency Planning – It is all about the contingency planning and preparing for any mistakes that can happen along the building construction process. Doing the research will minimise errors and make your shipping container home and enjoyable place to live.
Shipping container home insulation
Insulating your shipping container is a critical consideration to make. There are a number of ways to insulate your home such as a list put out by the US Government but may give some ideas with more discussed below. Especially given the raw container does not have any insulation or aeration other than the main open door in many cases. As containers are made out of steel, this factor makes an excellent conductor of cold or heat. Australian temperature variations can be significant, from cold winters and parts to hot summers having suitable insulation installed is critical. You might want to read an article titled – “how do I keep my container home cool” which links off to another website.
The last thing you want to do is have a poorly insulated shipping container home that makes you bake in summer or freeze in winter. As previously mentioned, there are other considerations such as condensation which can build up. Without consideration for condensation, you could end up having rusting of your home.
With all that said, it is imperative that you have proper insulation in the shipping container home. A home without insulation is not a cheaper option that you should consider. Take a hot Melbourne summers day, and you will soon work out why you should have spent the money on the insulation. On the flipside, come around to wintertime, and equally a home in the same area will be cold. In the long run, it is more economical to insulate a home than leaving it as is.
House insulation and cooling methods are different in each area. In Queensland, for example, the air tends to be moister (humid air) and air-conditioning systems that work in Queensland may not work in Victoria where during the summer the air is a lot drier. Point being, running a traditional air-conditioning system versus an evaporative cooler which may not perform well in a dry air environment may be a significant consideration for you. Other fan cooling systems work well in Queensland to take advantage of the moisture in the air and a humid environment.
The warmer and drier the climate the less you may need insulation as you would need to be compared to say a cold environment. The right type of insulation you will have to discuss with your builder or home insulation specialist in your area, whom ideally has constructed similar locally built projects.
Here are the types of insulation that you could look at:
Spray Foam insulation – I understand there is a product which is a spray foam insulation. It is quite fast to apply and also provides a barrier. This barrier may prevent the shipping container from rusting or having mould issues for your home. Spray foam can be placed between the gaps and therefore is quite flexible in its use. In some countries, though, spray foam is quite expensive as a form of insulation and some report it is a little messy compared with other methods of insulating your home.
Spraying requires both exterior and interior walls to be insulated but also underneath the container spray is needed to prevent moisture from getting in from underneath the container. The most effective and best reportedly spray foam available at the time of writing was polyurethane foam. Foam insulation can be sprayed into cracks and gaps. There is a downside in terms of mess and cost and once the foam has set, it can be painted.
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. source: container home plans.
Insulation panels – apparently this is another good option to insulate your shipping container. Panels are quite easy for the DIY’er to do themselves. Panels can come in pre-prepared sizes and is quick to install but are slightly more expensive than the spray on options apparently from what I have seen. Reportedly has a small depth in each panel of insulation but high insulation value. i.e. if the foam is too costly for your budget, you could try pricing panel insulation which can be purchased at a moderate price while maintaining thickness at a minimum. You need stud walls to install insulation panels. There is a thickness specification in the US known as an “R” rating. Australian products use a similar thickness rating as the USA but if you want to keep your building costs when installing insulation panels to a minimum the lower the R-rating, the lower the cost to buy.
Polyester Insulation – this type of insulation comes under the brand “Greenstuff” and is in Australia. Said to be made of pure polyester. Non-irritant, non-allergenic and “completely safe” to touch. You can get a “R rating” from 1.5 to 4.5 for this product. Home insulation cost of insulating with Polyester.
Blanket insulation – another product for the DIY enthusiast. It is relatively cheap, in fact, one of the most affordable options available. Blanket insulation needs stud walls to enable fitting. Fitting is fast and commonly referred to as example rock wool. NOTE: Sometimes this type of insulation is made of fibreglass and therefore needs care and handling. You need to get some instruction on fitting blanket insulation, a professional to fit it which is highly advisable given the nature of the substance. Installers will have To wear safety gloves, safety glasses and dust masks and protective clothing. Remember, your health when dealing with materials is important and you would not want fibreglass fibres going into your lungs.
Blanket insulation is considered relatively cheap insulation. There was a concern with a government program also back in 2015 where installers were dying through electrocution after installing a government scheme of insulation using this material commonly referred to, e.g., Pink batts. There are numerous articles you can google online about the issue.
I would check given that there are concerns about fibreglass fibres whether you would like this product to be in your home or go for another type of product. Remember the asbestos disaster that happened. I would not want readers unknowingly falling into a health trap – eco-friendly options offer a much greater piece of mind.
In Australia, there is a product called “EarthWool”. I checked online for earth wool insulation and sites like gumtree.com.au had this product at prices between $5.23m2 and $11.89m2 for the R3 to R6 respectively. There was a company advertising here that would even deliver around Australia. An Earthwool supplier in Melbourne’s number that you can ring is 0385924799. I have seen other ads for Earthwool at around $60 a bag for R.5. Something I found advertised on the bunnings website (photographed below) from Knaufinsulation.com.au is a roll of Earthwool with an “R” rating of 2.0. So that might be another product available in Australia to check out for insulation of your shipping container home.
More Eco-friendly home insulation options.
there are various options for house insulation which I will cover in another article. I plan to discuss more and expand on eco-friendly insulation choices in another article.
Wool insulation – similar to a woollen blanket. Natural sheep’s wool is used instead of fibreglass, which has been somewhat controversial.
Cotton insulation – Wall cotton insulation for the home like wool is a “blanket style” insulation. Recycled clothing made of cotton is used. Wall cotton insulation is more expensive than fibreglass.
Living roof – This is not a natural insulation substitute. It does help in temperature reduction slightly. Here’s how a living roof looks –
Mud walls – people are building houses with mud brick and mud is an excellent insulator. Again, I will look into producing an article on mud brick housing, etc. in another article which warrants more detail. Ideal for dry climates, however.
Good roof design can help
An example of roofing design with a shipping container home is Vissershok Primary School in South Africa. This design may not be practical in areas subject to high winds, especially cyclones. You can read more about the school design in archdaily.
I will add more insulation options here as I get them. I tend to go for something on the “green energy” side which is natural and of course fire retardant.