Complete Guide to Shipping Container Framing

NOVEMBER 19, 2021 BY RYAN STOLTZ

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If you’ve ever built a wooden structure, you probably know all about frames. These rigid members impart support and shape to traditional structures. The heavy-duty steel body of a container, however, offers adequate support and does not require interior framing. Instead, shipping container frames help you attach drywall, spray foam insulation, or make extra doors and windows. 

The application isn’t the only thing that changes when you apply frames to container walls; the process also varies. Below, we’ll walk you through how to attach frames to shipping containers, the different types available, and the various purposes they serve. 

Shipping Container Construction.jpg


How Do You Frame a Shipping Container?

You can add framing to your container by selecting a suitable design and installation method.

Consider an appropriate design, and secure the base plate to the floor and ceiling with angle brackets. Refer to the steps below if you're planning on adding frames to your shipping container homes yourself.

 

Step 1: Select an Appropriate Material

First, you need to determine which material you're using - wood, steel, or aluminum framing. We've covered the advantages and disadvantages of each material for internal framing in the subsequent section.

A wood frame for making a truss.jpg

 


Step 2: Finalize the Design and Layout

Here you'll probably need professional help. You will also have to determine a layout that appropriately houses the electrical fixtures, accessories, plumbing lines, and other outlets.

If you're using frames to add insulation, you'll need suitable segments that close all underlying air gaps. Building codes and standards can help you determine the size and width of frames that you'll require.

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Step 3: Assembling the Framing

Securing the frames in their positions can be a bit tricky. If you attach the frame directly to the shipping container wall using nails and screws, it may cause leakages.

Such gaps can affect the wind and water-tight capabilities of a container, leading to condensation and moisture build-up.

As a preventative measure, you should make sure there is at least a 1" gap between the frame and the walls.

Start by placing the frame in an accurate position. Use pocket-hole joinery or toe-nailing to secure the vertical beams with the horizontal base plate. Fix the horizontal ceiling beam with the vertical beams using hurricane ties. You'll have a single assembly ready for installation in your container office or home.

Using pocket-hole jig for joining wood.jpg

 

Step 4: Installing the Frame

Secure the base of the framing to the floor using screws. Ensure that you appropriately space them out to avoid any unwanted movement. Use angle brackets or D-ring tie-downs to secure the top section of the framing. The frame should now be ready for use.

angle brackets for frames.jpg


Different Types of Frames for Shipping Containers

You can either use wood or metal for framing your shipping container home. Metal framing can come in either steel or aluminum.

Each type offers its unique set of pros and cons that make it suitable for specific applications.


Wooden Frames

Wood is one of the most widely used materials for framing, which is why you're likely to find more resources and help for building wooden frames.
 

Interior of a house with wood framing.jpg

 


Advantages of Wood

  • Wood is a natural insulator. It acts as an excellent thermal barrier in extreme cold.
  • Cutting and framing wood usually takes less time because it does not require heavy tools.
  • Since wooden framing is quite popular, you can easily find contractors, designers, and the workforce with experience working with wood.

 
Problems with Wood

  • Wood can rot with time.
  • Wooden framing can attract termites and other insects.
  • These frames have lower strength than metal. Therefore, they form bulkier structures with more components.
  • A wooden frame can easily catch fire and present additional hazards.


Metal Frames

While some prefer steel to build homes, others recommend using aluminum to create frames of ideal thickness. Below are a few factors to consider while using metal framing for your container home.

Advantages of Metal

  • Steel and aluminum are more robust and provide more structural stability.
  • Because they require fewer members, their designs are relatively more straightforward.
  • There is less potential for a fire hazard.
  • Your framing is safe from insects, termites, and fungus.

 
Problems with Metal

  • Metals are good conductors of heat, but instead of containing that warmth, they make it difficult to insulate your walls.
  • Welding aluminum requires complex machinery and skilled expertise.
  • Metal framing is prone to rust which can impair its functionality.

Exterior frames for accommodating windows and facades on a commercial shipping container project.jpg

Exterior frames for accommodating windows and facades on a commercial shipping container project

Watch how this person used aluminum frames to his advantage in his shipping container home.

Typical Uses of Shipping Container Frames

  • Framing is a prerequisite for insulating your shipping container home. You can add spray foam or fiberglass panels to retain warmth in your container.
  • Frames can act as support beams for additional doors and windows.
  • You can conceal your electric lines, plumbing, and other utilities behind a plywood-framed wall.
  • A steel frame can add more structural integrity to your containers.

 
Conclusion

Shipping container frames can help you add insulated walls, fill air gaps, and make design modifications to your structure. Depending on your level of comfort and expertise, you can select wooden or metal framing. 

Because framing requires immense labor and skills, it is always best to consult an expert before modifying your shipping container building.

Mobile Modular Portable Storage is the leading supplier of shipping containers for commercial and industrial applications. Call us at 866-459-7600 or get in touch with us to learn more about our container solutions.

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FAQs

Do Shipping Containers Need Insulation?

Shipping containers may require insulation, depending on your location. The metal structure doesn’t contain heat very well and easily allows cold in. 

Can I Screw Into a Shipping Container?

Although you can screw into a container's wall, drilling can cause leakages. Such gaps can affect the container's wind and water-tight abilities.

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