Shipping containers primarily come with standard plywood flooring. There are instances however where you may need a different type of flooring – either a steel floor, or a specialised type of flooring. A steel floor is quite commonly needed in an industrial setting, or on a farm, as it provides a heavy duty flooring for heavy equipment and constant use. A flat rack or bolster on a farm can easily be used as a cattle crossing or bridge if it has a steel floor, and if you’re storing large and heavy equipment, you should put this on a floor that can withstand a large amount of pressure without warping at all. Another use for a steel floor is in termite heavy areas – termites will be able to eat through a plywood floor but a steel floor will remain untouched, as will your furniture or equipment that is stored.

Specialised flooring will usually only be needed if you are planning on building with your shipping container. If you purchased your container used, it might have a plywood floor that has been treated with toxic pesticides. Furthermore, it could have transported many different chemicals, some of which may have leaked during transport. While anything spilled in the containers gets cleaned up, sometimes it still hits the floor gets absorbed into the plywood.

How to install a new floor in your container

Remove original floor

This really is the best option. It takes some work, but it’s definitely doable. Here’s how it’s done:

Tools and Equipment: Respirator with Cartridges WARNING: DO NOT USE A REGULAR DUST MASK; Heavy Duty Grinding Tool; Several Grinding Disks; Heavy Duty Drill and bit; Saws All; Bottle Jack; and a Crowbar

Steps to remove old flooring (Make sure container is well ventilated.)

  1. Put on respirator following the instructions included with it. The chemicals in the wood are really toxic and will be put into the air while you are drilling.
  2. Locate every screw and grind its head off.
  3. After grinding down all screws, use the drill and saw all to cut a hole in the floor big enough to fit the jack and pump it up
  4. Using the jack, pop each floor panel up. Use the crowbar to break it loose from the screws and edge.
  5. Remove floor panels and discard.
  6. Grind off all screws level with container cross members.

Your container is now ready for its new sub-flooring.

Steps to seal container plywood floor

Tools, Equipment, and materials: Respirator with Cartridges WARNING: IF YOU WEAR A DUST MASK, YOU WILL BE OVERCOME WITH FUMES; Paint Roller with extendable handle; Metal Paint Roller Pan; 4 Liters Isopropyl AlcoholHeavy Duty Cotton Braid Mop; Rubber Bucket (The concentrated alcohol may melt the plastic); 100% Solids Epoxy Clearcoat; and Warm Water to thin first epoxy coat

Cleaning the Floor

Pour the isopropyl alcohol into the bucket. Using the mop, apply generous amounts of alcohol to the floor, mopping thoroughly to loosen any dirt and promote absorption of alcohol into the wood. Let dry and repeat. This will strip any oily residues from the plywood floor.

Mix and apply the primer coat of epoxy

Mix your first batch of epoxy and thin it with the appropriate amount of water to make it into a primer. Pour some epoxy into the roller pan. Using the roller, apply it to the wood floor. Once the entire floor is coated, allow to dry for at least 24 hours.

Mix and apply the second coat of epoxy

After the primer coat of epoxy is dry, mix a second batch at full strength. Using the roller, apply coat and let dry thoroughly.

Curing the epoxy coating

Epoxy coatings can take up to a week to fully cure. Research the epoxy you are using, allowing it enough time to fully cure. Once the epoxy coating is cured, you can begin laying the sub-flooring.


There are an abundance of videos and step-by-step instructions on this. If you get stuck, you can easily find help through a quick search. The most important thing to keep in mind is that you may want to apply some kind of insulation underneath the container, or use some kind of insulation, such as extruded polyurethane board, underneath your subflooring.

Vinyl Flooring

There are a variety of vinyl flooring types to fit every budget and decor. Here are the most popular types:

  • Plank–Looks like real wood
  • Peel and Stick–Looks like stone. Wide variation in price, based on style
  • Groutable Peel and Stick Tile–Looks like expensive, exotic stone
  • Floating Vinyl Plank–Looks like real wood, doesn’t require gluing
  • Loose Lay Tiles–Interlocking vinyl mat tiles
  • Shop/Garage–Textured tile designed for use in shops and garages
  • Sheet Vinyl–looks like real wood or stone; single sheet


Pricing varies so widely within each type that it’s impossible to make any generalizations. However, if you want high-quality, realistic looking wood or stone flooring, it generally costs more than some of the other options available.

Summing it Up

If you can, remove the old flooring in your container and install new. It’s the best, and probably cheapest way to go. If you prefer to seal the old floor with epoxy, you can do that, too. Be sure to wear a respirator and do not sand the floor. Installing new subflooring requires a fair amount of research and effort, but it’s worth it in the end. Finally, when it comes to vinyl flooring, there are a lot of types and styles to choose from. Installing is the same as it would be in a regular home. Good Luck!