Everything you never wanted to know about Shipping Containers…

6 Aug

Okay, I give…

Lately, I’ve been deluged with email from people who are either (a) starting to take me seriously, or (b) looking for enough evidence to indict me.

Questions run from; “Why?” to “How?

So, I thought that over the next few days, I’d just share some information with you, and help you get to know “the box I’m building” on a more intimate level.

I’m going to pull questions out of my email, and answer them here, publicly, for all to see. After all, it’ll keep the lawyers busy for weeks. And we all know that a busy lawyer is a happy lawyer… LOL!

Question: I mean, really. Shipping containers? Are you nuts? You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that shipping containers are just hot ovens if you use them for homes or offices!

Answer: What? Although you might think so, that’s just not true. I’m guessing that you’re comparing this idea to getting into a hot car in an overcrowded parking lot, on a really sunny day. But, it’s not the same situation at all.

If you just threw some furniture in it, and then slapped on a coat of paint, you might get that “warm oven” feeling, but today’s shipping container is really just a “big steel building block,” with a ton of potential.

All you have to do is insulate it.

Addendum: For some reason, the amendment to this post segment, which should have appended and aired late in 2008, has never posted. I checked and rechecked, but the “post played” as originally written, instead of with “the added commentary” after a lot of investigation took place.

So, let’s amend again, shall we?

During the Fall of 2008, I, like many others, fell into the hole dug by purveyors of  the “hype and media blitz” that began touting the “Ceramic Coatings” parade. It was propped up by “tests’ (that later couldn’t be duplicated reliably), statistics that were later found to be seemingly built “out of thin air”, and statements that were off-times misleading. Nor, did they use a single “industry approved and recognized testing methodology.”

We didn’t know that THEN. We DO know that NOW.

So, we shared what we learned (based on those presented facts), only to be forced to recant later, as “proof”  (and even “common sense”) undid us as the “real facts” came out.

What was I thinking?

I believed guys like BOB VILA, and the people he brought in to demonstrate it’s (Ceramic Coatings)  worth.

I WANTED it to be true. I wanted it to be true so badly that I bought in, based on the test results I was “seeing”.

But alas, it wasn’t TRUE. You can’t use ceramic coatings to replace insulation in your home. It just doesn’t work.

I’m not afraid to admit when I’m wrong.

I was wrong. “Ceramic Coatings” are NOT the way…

Did the producers of this material LIE?

I hope not. I think they believed (and some still do) that Ceramic Coatings are the answer. But those of us that work with ISBU containers, and understand basic physics now know otherwise.

So… with “much eating of crow…”

“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!”

Editor’s Note:  April 3, 2010 – If you’re reading the blog on a regular basis, you now know that I’m actually killing that “Ceramic Coating” dream every chance I get.  Although I was originally bombarded with a LOT of “test” result papers…

I’ve openly challenged product design engineers working in this field to provide both ME and my readers (thousands of them) with PROOF that Ceramic Coatings will work as INSULATION on steel structures. Just back up your statements with industry recognized and approved tests that we can duplicate, to prove your results.

We WANT you to be RIGHT.

No takers.

Ceramic Coatings don’t work as some people would have you think. It won’t replace your insulation, and it won’t keep you warm (or even comfortable), in all locations. And in those places where it does perform, it’s been suggested more than once that a thick coat of white paint will duplicate the same “results.”

My thanks to Matt, who pointed out that the post was in error (the “amendment” didn’t show)…

Question: What about rust and corrosion? Won’t a metal shipping container rust quite easily?

Answer: No. Remember, an ISBU is a Shipping Container used for ocean shipping, humidity and saltwater. ISBU stands for “Intermodal Steel Building Unit.” It’s just a “trades term” for a shipping container that’s being used as part of a building or structure.

(In a way, I’m sorry to see this “ISBU” label. It means that the industry has caught on to the fact that “used” shipping containers are good building material. That can only mean that the price will go up, as we try to “reclaim them” for use as shelter…)

A shipping container is constructed out of special, non-corrosive Corten steel. When you properly insulate it (I use SPF almost exclusively),  it becomes virtually rust proof, it’s highly antiseptic, and… it also prevents mildew and it’s ugly friend, MOLD!

Take it from me, after a hurricane, if you never have to see mold again, it’s way too soon!

FYI: Don’t use the term “ISBU” around here!! When I did, the authorities immediately thought I was building a missile installation!!

I’ve gotta go now, there’s a SWAT Team on my front porch!

Stay tuned!


12 Responses to “Everything you never wanted to know about Shipping Containers…”

  1. Ashish August 7, 2008 at 2:27 am #

    Now that’s the kind of thing I was talking about in the email! Some basic info for us newbs. 😀

  2. renaissanceronin August 7, 2008 at 2:51 am #

    Ashish; You ain’t seen nothing yet. It gets better!

  3. Hugo April 11, 2009 at 10:51 pm #

    I LOVE your enthusiasm!

    e-mail me, contemporarycaprice@gmail.com

    • renaissanceronin April 12, 2009 at 6:48 am #

      Hi Hugo,

      Thanks. Hey look, I’ll do anything I can to help you. Watch your email.

  4. Kunal November 8, 2009 at 12:17 am #

    I am using a shipping container to make a home on my farm. Would super therm be sufficient insulation for the summers when its 40deg C outside and i want to aircondition the room (to say 18deg). If that works, this would be a tremendous space saver as opposed to lining the interior walls with rockwool…

    Any help would be much appreciated. Thanks!!

    PS: You mentioned a file on thermographic testing done on Super Therm applied to shipping containers. COuld you pls send it to me as well? THanks a ton!

    • renaissanceronin November 8, 2009 at 1:48 am #

      Hi Kunal,

      Here’s the deal. I’ve never seen any extensive testing that proved that Supertherm actually worked to keep a residence cool, or warm, for that matter.

      And, until I do, I’m not going to apply it on, or into a home I expect a family to live in. Peter DeMaria built his house in Southern California out of ISBUs, and he’s used Supertherm. Perhaps he’ll take enough readings to document this product, so that the rest of us can see how it actually works in something beside theory, where ISBU home construction is concerned.

      So, I’ll just answer your question by saying this: So far, no one knows. Period.

      I’ll forward you the test results that they forwarded to me. Watch for it’ in your e-mail. After that, you’re on your own.

      Will I put Supertherm on MY house? No. I’ve yet to be convinced.

      And where would you even get it? Aren’t you in Queensland, Australia? Is it being shipped internationally for residential use? I was told by management there that the product was ONLY being used commercially, for “large buildings…”

      Have you considered Rigid PolyIso foam boards, or even closed cell foam?


    • stan February 20, 2010 at 2:12 pm #

      Had to laugh….supertherm is well document…we have it in use since 1993 in our Nuclear Power plant in Pickering Ontario. Its used to coat the pumps and piping that carry the steam, not only does it keep the heat in the pipes, it also protects the workers from extreme heat.
      heres a link to check out……

      • renaissanceronin February 20, 2010 at 2:44 pm #


        Supertherm works as an INDUSTRIAL COATING for PIPEs carrying fuel, water, etc…


        Again, I haven’t seen ONE conclusive study that demonstrates that Supertherm (or any other “miracle coating”) actually replaces insulation in a multi-environment situation. And I’ve looked. EXTENSIVELY.

        And therein lies the REAL problem with products like this;

        Until there is enough industry accepted “data and study” to support the claims, from “an industry recognized” source or panel…

        NO Planning and Zoning Inspector will let you use it on your house…

        Look, despite how it sounds, I don’t HATE SPI Coatings (the makers of Super Therm). In fact, I use Rust Grip, one of their encapsulation coatings, all the time. I LOVE it.

        In fact, I recommended it to a builder/contractor team, TODAY.

        When SPI Coatings proves to me that it works from “Maine to Mexico”… and it becomes affordable enough to embrace in a residential application… I’ll be the first one to publicly praise, and then buy it.

        Like I said, I WISH it worked the way we need it to. It would make my life dramatically easier.


  5. Matthew April 3, 2010 at 6:17 am #


    I’m very confused. This entire post is, as far as I can tell, a overwhelming endorsement of SPI’s SuperTherm product. But then in the conversations below the post, you repeatedly insist that SuperTherm is not a good insulation solution, and that you’ve never seen a study saying that it is/you’ve never used to insulate a home.

    Which one is it??


    • renaissanceronin April 3, 2010 at 7:28 am #

      Hi Matt,

      For some strange reason, after a blog back-up, it appears that the “original post” aired, instead of the one where I later amended the post.

      In all the “hype and hoopla” (I blame Bob Vila! ;)) about ceramic coatings, many of us in the industry and beyond bought in, based on what was represented as credible evidence of performance.

      Later, after a lot of investigation and even some personal trial and error, it was determined by most of us that Ceramic Coatings just don’t work.

      Do they work on industrial piping? Yep. Doesn’t that mean that they’ll work on your house, too?


      Did I want them to work? Absolutely. It would make my job SOOOO much easier.

      But, alas… they don’t.

      I’ve probably written 20 blog posts to this effect, since that original post aired, way back in 2008.

      Thanks for pointing out that “my post went south.” It’s fixed now and I’ll keep an eye on it to make sure it stays fixed…

      After hundreds of posts, it’s hard to keep track of them all… 😉

      PS. I should have just “killed the post” but after we exposed the problems with Ceramic Coatings, we thought it best “to amend and let it play, so others could learn what we had to learn the hard way.”

      That only works if your posts “stay put…” 😉

      Color me “sheepishly looking at the sky, with a red face.”

      Thanks for pointing out my error.

      Sorry for the confusion.


      • Matthew April 3, 2010 at 8:20 am #

        Thanks so much for the quick response! I understand now, and I also blame Bob Vila 😛

        It’s a real shame, I’ve been researching the option of building a shipping container home (ala Adam Kalkin) for awhile, and the SuperTherm option looked to be the key to the whole equation.

        So, what do you use to insulate a shipping container home?


        • renaissanceronin April 4, 2010 at 5:11 am #

          Hey Matt,

          When somebody makes me look “stupid,” I try to cover my tracks ASAP! 😉

          I like Adam… even if he is a rascal. But, he’s just ONE fish in the pond. There are lot’s of guys out there with good ISBU ideas…

          I happen to know one… in fact, he’s sitting right here… 😉

          Seriously, I do admire the Qwik House. It has some potential, albeit in my view, the way he’s marketing it, it’s just too expensive from most families I deal with.

          You can do better, “all by your onesies.”

          For insulation, my favorite method is using SPF (spray on closed cell foam) on the walls and floor, and then using SIPs (structural insulated panels) on the roof.

          Don’t like fiberglass. Not one bit.

          SPF provides many advantages: it’s not just great insulation! (r7 per inch)

          It’s a moisture barrier…
          and a vapor barrier…
          and it’s not rodent and critter friendly…
          and it’s durable…
          and it adds strength to your structure… and….. 🙂

          Top that with a stout SIP roof and you have a super-insulated envelope that you can heat with a candle! 🙂

          Okay, maybe not a “candle…” but you’ll get GREAT energy savings, lemme tell you!

          Don’t get me started!


Comments are closed.