Shipping Container Home Floors

Regardless of whether you’re planning on using new or used containers in your build, there are a few things you need to verify with your supplier if you’re planning on keeping your original shipping container flooring intact.

The most important thing to find out is whether or not the wood used for your container floor was ever treated with pesticides or harmful chemicals. This is usually only a concern with used shipping containers that were used for transporting cargo at some point. Even if you’re buying new, it’s important to note that some manufacturers will assume that you want your container floors treated unless you tell them otherwise.

If you are unable to verify this information with your container supplier, you should try to locate the consolidated data plate. Otherwise known as a “safe convention plate”, a consolidated data plate is usually attached to the front door of a shipping container and should have any harmful chemical treatments notated.

Understanding Shipping Container Safe Convention Plate Information

To someone unfamiliar with shipping containers, the information on the safety convention plate (CSC plate) can be confusing. To keep things simple, we really only need to focus on the section titled “timber component treatment”. This section should have three important pieces of information noted:

• Immunity (IM)
• Chemical Used to Treat Floor
• Date of Chemical Treatment

Once you know the chemicals your container floor was treated with, you should check out this helpful WHO pesticide classification guide to get a better idea of potential health risks.

It’s important to note the information contained on a shipping container’s safe convention plate is not always 100% accurate or up to date. Treatments on shipping container floors that were replaced during the service life of a container are typically not notated. Similarly, a container that was used to transport harmful chemicals does not require any additional documentation, even if a spill occurred.

In the unfortunate circumstance that your consolidated data plate is missing and you are unable to contact the manufacturer or supplier of your container to verify absence of pesticides, we recommend replacing the floor before using it in a home build.

Once you’ve confirmed your container floor is free of harmful chemicals, you still need to conduct a thorough inspection of its condition and structural integrity before you start finishing the rest of your interior.

Even if you end up buying a container with a floor that is free of harmful chemicals but in less than perfect condition, you’ll need to decide whether to repair or replace it entirely. Many first time container home builders make this decision entirely on bottom line build cost. Despite cost being the most important factor for decisions in most builds we advise our clients to take aesthetics and longevity into consideration as well.

In making your decision, it’s important to remember that replacing your shipping container floor after you container home interior is finished is typically much more expensive than replacing the floor in a bare container.

Assuming you’ve crunched the numbers and are set on keeping the original container floor for your home build, there is still work to be done. While you may think good condition floors are essentially plug-and-play, most will require resealing or secondary coating to be a viable option. Many builders find epoxy to be the easiest way to seal a container home floor, while others opt to use a non-breathable underlayment to preserve the look of the raw wood.

If you decide to go with epoxy, you need to make sure it’s designed for sealing wood and free of solvents before getting started. Once you’ve bought the proper epoxy and are ready to pour it, you should give the plywood a thorough cleaning with isopropyl alcohol to make sure you get the best bond possible.

Combining the lack of factory ventilation on a shipping container with the toxic fumes emitted from curing epoxy, we advise using a fan for ventilation and avoiding spending extended time in the container while you’re pouring. If budget allows, you should also invest in respirator designed for this type of work before starting.

If you have specific questions not answered by this guide or just want some guidance throughout the process, feel free to reach out to a Stackhouse Container Home Expert Today.

Replacing a Shipping Container Floor

Assuming you need to replace the floors of your shipping containers, there are many replacement options available. Popular container home floor materials include, but are not limited to:

• Commercial Carpet Tile
• Bare Floor of Container
• Reclaimed Barn Wood (LINK)
• Stained Concrete
• Rhino Lining
• Steel Overlay
• Vinyl

Regardless of what material you choose, the most important considerations to keep in mind in considering container home floor ideas are weathertightness and ease of cleaning. The last thing you want is to end up with a rotten or perpetually-dirty floor in your new home!

How to Remove a Shipping Container Floor

If you’re a first time DIY container home builder looking to replace you a shipping container floor, you’re probably wondering how to do it.

To remove a container’s plywood floor, you should start by cutting around the holes of the bolts holding it to the bottom of the container. A simple reciprocating saw is the best tool for the job here, but a drill with a specialty coring bit, circular saw, or hand saw will also work.

As soon as you have all of the floor bolts cut out of the plywood, tension is the only thing holding the floor in place. Because wood has a tendency to swell in the presence of moisture, this tension can be very difficult to overcome in an older shipping container. Typically breaking this tension and removing the plywood can be accomplished with a medium sized crow bar.

Certain circumstances may require the use of a full-length pry bar. In extreme situations, you may find it easier to cut the floor into smaller pieces, but this should be reserved as a last resort as it can be quite time consuming.

Once you have the original floor completely removed, it’s advisable to consider insulating the space between the steel cross members before laying your new floor. Insulating the floor of a container home can drastically improve its energy efficiency and comfort and is usually ends up paying for itself exponentially in the long run by reducing heating and cooling costs.

Even if you are planning on keeping the original floor of your container intact for your build, it’s wise to consider drilling access holes and insulating with spray foam before covering the floor with any secondary materials.

At the end of the day, the decisions you make on your container floor can have a huge impact on your overall container home experience. If you’re still unsure of how you want to go about planning the flooring for your build, contact a Stackhouse expert today.