Shipping Container: Estimating and Preparation

Shipping Container Insulation and Framing

InSoFast brings our specialized expertise in building insulation, thermal envelopes, to the shipping container fabrication industry.  We offer innovative shaped insulation and framing specifically engineered to fit shipping container builds. This reduces hidden steel wall condensation issues by filling and sealing the wall from moisture and temperature fluctuations. 

Where to Start:

Start Here

The first question why are you interested in insulating a container? Can you clearly define the project's scope? If so we can help you decide if InSoFast will work for you.

1.  STOP: Verify Container Corrugations Before Ordering

Before You Order

Surprise, not all containers are the same size and size matters. The corrugation design for the side walls of shipping containers VARY. If you are unsure of the fit, order a container sample.  The CX 44 panel adheres to the industry standard of 11" on center a repeating pattern of the corrugated sidewall. Not all containers follow this pattern.  

Shipping container dimension vary. It is important that you verify proper sizing before you order. To check our standard sizes click here. 

Depending on your container's condition and end results you want to achieve, we can guide you to the best approach, which insulation panels, insert and/or insulated studs to use.

  • The condition that your shipping container is in, matters?
    • If you are trying to save money buying a container in "vintage condition," you may save money on the initial cost of the container but increase your labor costs.
  • Shipping container sidewalls are built on an 11" on center corrugation. 
    • Note this differs from standard framing construction methods built around 16" or 24" on centers. This affects other finish materials waste factors and attachment methods.
  • The CX44 Panel stud spacing is 22" on center this effects the finish materials installation methods.
    • (E.G. a sheet of drywall 48" x 96",  22" on center does not divide evenly into 48 or 96.) The fastening and adhesive patterns will change and finish material waste should be considered.
    • We have alternate methods that fit the 4x8 USA and Canadian standards. See FP-2.0RW Surfaces
2. Questions that guide you to the right decision
  1. What do you want to achieve when you are finished, the end result?
    • Residential, Commercial, Industrial, storage, etc.
  2. What surfaces do you need to frame and insulate?
    • Interior application?
    • Exterior application?
  3. How much insulation do you need?
    • What "R-Value" is required for your project? 
3. Obstacles like building code requirements?

BEFORE you place an order with us talk to a design professionals and your local building code officials. Before you purchase your container is the best time to to discuss regulations, permits, and codes surrounding container building in your area. Different locations have different sets, of rules, zoning and building permit requirements.

  • Definition of Requirement - (a thing that is compulsory; a necessary condition.)
Helpful Resources:
4. What end result do you want to achieve? 

Define your Scope of work;

  1. These pages can help you refine your needs, if you have questions give us a call @ 888-501-7899
    • Finally, make a plan and stick to it don't over-estimate your needs. Measure twice order once.

Define Project Scope:

Designed End Use of a Container

In this section we help you define and narrow the available choices for insulating a container depending on your intended end use of the shipping container.

    1. Finished Interior/Exterior Space

    Finished Interior Space; habitable, suitable to live in. This would be walls that would achieve higher R-Values, and would require planned services like electric, plumbing, windows and door openings and higher-grade finishes and cabinetry.

    2. Commercial Interior/Exterior Space

    Commercial Interior/Exterior Space; office spaces, commercial spaces, retail pop-ups and other high-end habitable spaces. These would be walls that would achieve higher R-Values, and planned services like electric, plumbing, windows and door openings and higher-grade finishes and cabinetry.

    3. Industrial-Agricultural Spaces

    Industrial-Agricultural Interior/Exterior Spaces; These would be walls where interior space is at a premium and services like electrical can be surface mounted. Insulation values can vary but a clean and durable finish materials like FRP fiber reinforced plastic or metal are desirable.

    4. Exterior Finishes

    InSoFast is a stable insulation panel that will work well with most exterior finishes. Stucco, thin veneer stone, weathered steel siding, and board and batten siding's to name just a few finishes. The insulated framing systems allows the designer a wide range of options. The air tight, water tight, and 100% adhesive application, the steel shell need not be compromised with hundreds of screws holes just attaching the exterior finishes.

    Shipping Container Exterior Insulation

    1. Framing the lower Exterior wall
    2. Weathered steel siding install
    3. Board and Batten Exterior install

    The weathered steel we chose is heavier than most available material siding. Weathered steel, often referred to as *(Cor-Ten). Corten develops a light rust layer that once formed, will protect the underlying material and prevent further corrosion. That is why we chose it for this InSoFast project we are hoping for a dramatic yet rustic finished shipping container.

    Definitions, Standards and Terminology:

    1. Surface Definitions

    A container is a cube with 6 sides, each side has 2 surfaces that can be framed and insulated. Added together interior and exterior, now the possible surfaces to insulate equals 12 sides with windows, doors, then R-Value the combinations are limitless. Container Wall Call OutsMake a plan and stick to it don’t over-estimate your needs. Measure twice order once.

    2. Abbreviations for Shipping Containers Condition

    InSoFast Definition of Conditions

      • New (one trip)

      • Used (multiple trips minor dings and dents)

      • Vintage (Used hard lots of damage)

    It can be very confusing purchasing new or second hand container. Every supplier and reseller can grade conditions on a different scale of good, better, or best, ABC’s, 123’s, and other industry acronyms and certifications. The alphabetic soup of ratings. It all sound so complicated and confusing. Yet it is fairly simple, inspect your container before you make the investment. Would you buy a used car before you took it for a test ride? Take the time and visit your container reseller.

      • Institute of International Container Lessors –The IICL sets repair standards, by which all repairs are carried out. IICL is the strictest standards for used containers. Tools and Guides.
      • Cargo WorthyCW  Standard under which a used shipping container is deemed suitable for the shipping cargo.  The CW or Cargo Worthy standard generally implies that the container has a valid CSC.  That little plate attached to the container Convention for Safe Containers. Look for the latest inspection date.
      • Wind & Water Tight – WWT a standard under which containers are literally wind and water tight. In short, if you lock yourself inside the container, you should not see any light coming through the panels or roof. WWT makes no reference to the quality of the under-structure.
      • Convention for Safe Containers –CSC established in 1972 to promote and maintain a high level of safety of human life in the transport and handling of containers by providing generally acceptable test procedures and related strength requirements.
      • International Standardization Organization – ISO International organization based in Geneva working towards harmonizing worldwide technical standards; including those governing the construction of shipping containers
    3. Industry Standards Wall Preparation

    Definition of Requirement - (a thing that is compulsory; a necessary condition.)

    Safety Precaution: Cut out all openings in the container and complete all welding, cutting or grinding operations prior to installing InSoFast panels. Do not expose the foam insulation or plastic studs of InSoFast panels to the flames, heat or sparks generated by welding, grinding or cutting on the steel container after panels have been installed. 

      • Ensure all surfaces are clean of any debris, dust, loose paint, etc before installing InSoFast panels. It is up to the installer to determine the suitability of the adhesive for the surface you are bonding to. If in doubt, an adhesive performance test can be done.
      • Eliminate any leaks before installing InSoFast panels. Do not penetrate the steel walls of your container with screws or fasteners. This compromises the continuous seal and can introduce moisture-related issues.
      • If the container has large dented or indented areas, we recommend hammering them as smooth as possible before installing InSoFast products. As an alternative, the foam of the panel or insert can be adjusted by either carving away the InSoFast foam or by adding spray foam as as a dent filler.
      • Cut out and frame all openings before installing any InSoFast panels or inserts.

    Modular Building Institute and National Portable Storage Association, Compliance Handbook.

    4. How to Choose the Best Container

    If you are purchasing and converting a container for storage, a man cave, she shed, mobile office, or just insulated storage we recommend an in person visual inspection. It is okay to act like a Missourian, (the SHOW ME state). It would be easier to modify a container in good condition then one with dings, dents, rust, and holes. 

    It is important to inspect the walls you want to cover before you order InSoFast. InSoFast panels are not suitable for every project. It is up to you to decide if you have the skills necessary to tackle leveling a wall using advanced techniques. A wall must be repaired and stabilized structurally. Containers should be hammered flat and true and all rust spots and hole fixed. InSoFast panels are designed to be applied to structurally sound walls. How to shim and level walls. Learn More

    Panel Adhesives:

    Shipping Container: Estimating and Preparation
    1. Loctite PL Premium 3x

    Safe and Reliable!

    In many cases, construction adhesives are actually a more reliable method of attachment. In particular, Loctite’s 3X Stronger formula is designed to cure 3 times stronger than average solvent-based varieties. A single bead can outperform screws spaced 6 inches apart.  Technical Data

    Green Guard Certified Adhesive: Technical Data

    One of the many reasons we recommend Loctite PL Premium is it has the GREENGUARD Certification.  It is important to us that you use an adhesive that has low chemical emissions, you are building in an airtight shipping container, improving the quality of the air you breath is kind of important.

    InSoFast panels were designed with simplicity in mind and we would argue that gluing them is not only the easiest method of installation but often the most effective. Third-party testing has shown the adhesive bond strength of our studs to have 108psi of holding power. This means each adhered panel is capable of holding over 5,000lbs!

    In Canada the Glue is LePage PL Premium

    Brand of adhesive for installing InSoFast is Canada.

    Testing was conducted using Loctite PL Premium’s 3X Stronger Construction Adhesive, (in Canada it is marketed under the LePage PL Premium brand,) on clean concrete surfaces. It is the only adhesive we have tested. Other formulas and brands may not work as expected.Buy Shipping Container Insulation Panels in Monroe, NC Technical Data

    2. Estimating Adhesive Quantity

    Estimating Adhesive Quantity

    Estimating the amount of adhesive YOU will use has variables beyond our control. Like the condition of your walls, or how accurate are you with a glue gun? The example below is for one side wall of a 20' standard height shipping container. You will need approximately 3 tubes of the adhesive. That is in a perfect world. PL Premium 3x adhesive is applied in a ⅜" bead on the backside of the studs onto the ribbed surfaces.  We realize that a 3/8" bead of glue is very subjective. It is important that there is enough adhesive to squish the dovetails on the back side of the stud when pressed to the container wall. Adhesive follows the "Goldie Locks rule, too much, too little, and just right. If you are doing just right you can expect that 1 large 28-fl oz. tube will cover 18 of our 24" long studs or enough glue at a 3/8" bead to cover 36 foot long bead of glue. 

    Additionally you will have to estimate for glue around openings like windows and doors.

    1 large 28-fl oz. / 828 mL tube = 18 (24" studs or inserts)

    • CX 44 (22 panels with 2 studs each plus 8 end wall edges) = 52
    • 52 ÷ 18 = 3 tubes of the adhesive

     To verify that enough adhesive is used, press the panel into place. Pull the panel back and check to see if the adhesive has spread out beyond the full width of the stud. It is normal for the panel to "float out" from the side of the container when it is accommodating irregularities in the container walls. Additional adhesive may be necessary in some areas.

    3. Adhesive Quantity Chart
    Approximate or rough estimate for 28 ounce tubes of adhesive required.
    CX 44 Side Walls End Wall and Inserts Ceiling and Inserts Swing Doors Total with doors  Total w/o doors 
    20' STD/HC 3 Per side = 6 2 1/2  6 1/2 3 15 12
    40' STD/HC 6 Per side = 12 2 1/2  13 3 31 28
    Flat Panel- Insert End Wall and Inserts Ceiling and Inserts Swing Doors Total with doors Total w/o doors
    20' STD/HC  5 1/2 Per side =11 2 1/2  6 1/2 3 23 20
    40' STD/HC  11 Per side = 22 2 1/2  13 3 41 38


    End Wall and Inserts Ceiling and Inserts Swing Doors Total with doors Total w/o doors
    20' STD/HC 4 Per side = 8 2 1/2  6 1/2 3 20 17
    40' STD/HC  8 Per side = 16 2 1/2  13 3 35 32
    4. Important Notice Cold Weather Application Tips

    Important Notice: Container Surface Temperature Applications

    When bonding InSoFast's EPS foam insulation and studs, use above 41°F (5°C) and avoid cure and surface temperatures below 32°F (0°C). Surfaces need to stay warm and be clean, dry and free of frost, grease, dust and other contaminants. Pre-fit all materials and protect finished surfaces. If using cartridge format, cut nozzle at a 45° angle to desired bead size and puncture inner seal. Be very careful not to allow Loctite® PL® Premium to cure on a finished surface.

    Because you are bonding two non-porous surfaces (such as InSoFast panels to metal) or if you are in very dry conditions (less than 30% relative humidity), add water in the form of a very light or atomized spray from a plant mister bottle to the extruded adhesive. This is a positive benefit for ceiling applications as it speeds curing time. Repositioning time will also be reduced to less than 15 minutes. Use mechanical supports like "T" braces for ceiling application for 24-48 hours hours while the adhesive cures. Cure time is dependent upon temperature, humidity, porosity of materials being bonded together and the amount of adhesive used. Low temperature and humidity will slow cure time. For in-depth information on cold weather applications go to this PAGE.

    Cold Weather Tips:  

    Interior Installation

    To ensure positive adhesion it is recommended to use adhesive above 41°F (5°C). For easier application, ensure the product temperature is 59°F (15°C) or higher. The best solution is to move the container inside to a place warm or cover  the container by tenting it in.  Here are a couple of suggestions for tenting the container. If you are doing multiple containers, set the shelter up over your 1st container heat that shelter if possible 59°F (15°C) or higher for 24-48 hours. When you complete that container get 4 people to pick the shelter up and move it over to the next container.

    Cold Weather Use:
    Cold Weather application is possible down to 19°F (-7°C) ambient conditions. Adhesive product must be kept above 45°F (7°C) during application and all bonding surfaces must be free of snow, ice and frost prior to use. Cold weather conditions will slow cure times.

    Exterior Installation

    The interior of the container must be heated above 41°F (4°C) or preferably 59°F (15°C) or higher until the adhesive has had a chance to cure. No worries keeping the temperature just right the InSoFast panel is insulated

    Interior and Exterior Installation

    Install the exterior panels first while heating the interior.  Allow adhesive to cure before installing interior insulation.

    Technical Data

    5. Important Notice Hot Weather Application Tips

    Important Notice: Container Surface Temperature Applications

    When bonding InSoFast insulation, to a container the temperature range must be above 40°F (4°C) and the container's surface temperatures not exceed 90°F (32°C). Surfaces must be clean, dry and free of frost, grease, dust and other contaminants. Pre-fit all materials and protect finished surfaces. If using cartridge format, cut nozzle at a 45° angle to desired bead size and puncture inner seal. Be very careful not to allow Loctite® PL® Premium to cure on a finished surface.

    Hot Weather Tips:  

    Interior Installation

    Loctite PL Premium should not be applied when surface temperature rise above 90°F (32°C) the adhesive will not cure properly. The insulation panels applied to the interior will not allow the container to dissipate the heat. It is best to either work early in the morning or late in the evening before sun heats the container beyond Loctite's recommended temperature range. If possible move the container to shady area or tent over the exterior until the adhesive has cured. Here are links to shelters.

    Exterior Insulation Application

    The interior of the container can be cooled with a portable air conditioner below the 90°F (32°C) until the adhesive has cured.

    Technical Data

    6. Safety Precautions and Cleanup

    Wear gloves. Cured adhesive on bare skin will not come off immediately with washing and will cause skin to darken. Cured adhesive and discoloration will come off in about 3 days.

    Clean tools and uncured adhesive residue immediately with mineral spirits in a well-ventilated area to the outdoors. Remove cured adhesive by carefully scraping with a sharp-edged tool.

    FRP Adhesives:

    TiteBond FRP
    1. Titebond Advanced Polymer Panel Adhesive

    TiteBond FRP Adhesive

    Titebond GREENchoice Advanced Polymer Panel Construction Adhesive
    Download Manufacturer's Literature


    Titebond GREENchoice Advanced Polymer Panel Construction Adhesive is a high performance, professional strength advanced polymer adhesive specifically formulated to be used for most types of paneling installations. It has fast grab, a rapid cure rate, trowels easily, is moisture, mold and mildew resistant and contains no water. This adhesive provides as much strength in four hours as urethane or solvent-based counterparts do in 24 hours. Its ultra-quick speed development enables contractors to install virtually any type of paneling on porous or non-porous substrates without fasteners. This VOC-compliant, nonflammable formula is environmentally safe–emitting no harmful fumes and promoting healthy living and working environments.



    Trowel Recommendations and Coverage

    3/16”W x 1/4”D x 11/16” C-C (OR 1/2” space) V-Notch

    COVERAGE: Approximately 60 sq. ft. per gallon

    Titebond 448-fl oz White Panel Construction Adhesive 3 1/2 gallons = 210 Square feet of coverage


    APPLICATION TEMPERATURE: Over 50°F and below 90°F for adhesive and substrates (can be applied down to 0°F, but reduces drying speed) SERVICE TEMPERATURE RANGE: -40°F to 220°F WORKING TIME: 20 minutes at 70°F


    Before installation, it is important to wipe down all metals with acetone if an oily residue is present, as this can deter adhesion. Surfaces must be free of any material that may deter adhesion, including severe and thick amounts of drywall joint compound. Patch holes and depressions and remove any bumps, high spots, dust, oil, and grease. Cut and pre-fit all panels. Lay panels flat and let them acclimate to room temperature 24 hours before installing. Note: Best results when adhesive and materials are used above 50°F.


    Spread adhesive over entire back of panel, using a V-notch trowel. 

    Keep trowel notches clean and free of adhesive build-up to ensure proper application. Place panel against surface and press firmly over entire surface, working from the edge of the panel where molding is installed outwards to the open edge. Using a roller over the entire installed wall panel is also recommended.

    Note: Bracing may be required. Panels used in conjunction with channel moldings should NOT fit tightly into the moldings. Leave a small area in the molding for expansion and follow panel manufacturer’s recommendations. Any holes drilled through the panels for fasteners, pipes or conduits should be oversized to allow for natural movement of the panel. Spread no more adhesive than can be installed in 20 minutes or less.


    When bonding two non-porous substrates together, particularly in low humidity climates, it is recommended to lightly mist the wall substrate with water just before applying panel. Panels that do not lay flat or are heavier in weight may require at least 24 hours of blocking and bracing or permanent mechanical fasteners. If applying adhesive over painted, plastered, or seal coated surfaces, please contact Titebond's Technical Service at 1.800.347.4583.

    2. LIQUID NAILS® Panel Adhesive (FRP-310)

    Application Instructions: 

    1. Cut and pre-fit panels.
    2. Spread adhesive with the recommended trowel over entire back of the panel.
    3. As soon as adhesive is spread over entire panel and before adhesive skins over (within 45 minutes), set panel in position and press against wall.
    4. Press panel firmly into place, working from the center to the edges until full contact has been made.
    5. Bracing may be required if walls or panels are not completely straight.
    6. For channel moldings, permanent fasteners, and panel spacings, follow panel manufacturer’s specifications.
    7. For application over concrete: Concrete surfaces must be dry and completely cured. When installing panels over below-grade concrete, where moisture can penetrate, you must first attach furring strips to the concrete block and then attach a solid surface, such as wood or drywall, to those furring strips. Then continue with standard application.

    Working time: Up to 45 minutes. Very warm, dry conditions decreases working time.

    Tech Data Link
    3. Safety Precautions and Cleanup

    Wear gloves. Cured adhesive on bare skin will not come off immediately with washing and will cause skin to darken. Cured adhesive and discoloration will come off in about 3 days.

    Clean tools and uncured adhesive residue immediately with mineral spirits in a well-ventilated area to the outdoors. Remove cured adhesive by carefully scraping with a sharp-edged tool.

    PDF instructions and other guides

    CX 44 InSoFast Shipping Containers Brochure pdf
    Flat Panel - Inserts Sales Sheet pdf
    Insulation R-Values vs Space Comparison for Shipping Container pdf
    R-Value in a Shipping Container Performance Comparison pdf
    LowPro Solution for Insulating Containers Brochure pdf
    What InSoFast Panel or Insert Box to Use and Where pdf
    InSoFast Container Installation Guide pdf
    Application Tip - Container Ceilings Reducing Bracing Time pdf

    InSoFast Plus Method

    Need a higher R-value? No Problem! Start with a base of InSoFast continuous insulation panels they are feature-rich and easy to install.