Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Camper Van Conversion: Insulation

The first job with any camper van conversion is the insulation. While it doesn't take specialist skills, equipment or tools, it does take a heeeellll of a lot of time, mostly because the inside of a panel van is fiddly as fuuuuuck, and because of all the layers. So make sure you allow for that in your schedule - it's going to suck time. And your sanity. (I miss mine.) 

The first thing we did, as with every job in the van, was scour the internet for someone else who had done it first, with a similar budget and skill set (almost zero on both counts!) We found this Instructables post on How To Insulate a Camper Van. We followed this pretty closely, with a few adaptations.

Materials:
  • For the floor and walls we used silver foil bubble wrap, polyester insulation and polythene vapour barrier. For the roof we used sheets of Celotex insulation board donated to us by a friend (this stuff is everywhere, definitely check out skips, construction projects and mates' lofts for offcuts and spare sheets before buying loads new.) 
  • The Instructables post we used as guidance suggested using spray glue to attach the silver bubble wrap to the van. One look at how fiddly this job was going to be had us reaching for the duct tape, which we used EVERYWHERE for EVERYTHING. (According to my spiffy budget spreadsheet, we spent around £40 on duct tape, and it was probably more!) It is indispensable, and unlike most DIY stuff, works like a charm...ain't no shame in a duct tape van! To attach the foam boards to the roof we used Sikaflex adhesive. 
  • To fill in any gaps, and there are a lot of them, we used insulation foam spray. Our first batch from B&Q was rubbish (as are most materials from there), our next one from Screwfix was much more solid and dried quicker. 
Method:
  • Floor: We wanted to avoid screwing anything into the body of the van so we used wooden batons stuck to the van floor with Sikaflex, laid the bubble wrap down and then screwed the plywood boards of our floor into the wooden batons.
  • Walls: First, we covered every inch of the inside with the silver foil bubble wrap. Then we stuffed the polyester insulation in all the spaces, and taped it to the walls to fill them out. Finally we covered the whole shebang in vapour barrier, and duct-taped the hell out of it, so every gap was sealed. 
  • Roof: Once we cut the hole for the roof vent (check out the next post about ventilation for details) we attached the insulation boards between the ribs of the roof with Sikaflex, and used duct tape and batons to support them while it dried.
Bubble wrapping the walls - not as easy as it looks!

Close up of the insulation around the window, vapour barrier sealed with duct tape. 

Insulation panels on the roof, and insulation foam creeping out of gaps like a creature from the Black Lagoon

Ah, the immortal phrase, "If we were to do it again..." Ryan says this on a regular basis, and it makes me want to curl up in a ball and scream "We're never doing this again!" But for educational purposes, here's...

What we would do differently:

  • Insulate the floor better! Our floor is pretty cold, we've put carpet tiles and rugs down, but we definitely could have done a better job on the floor. Celotex panels that came up to the level of the batons would have been much better. 
  • Don't skimp on the poly insulation. We didn't have enough to really pack out the walls, and we think we could have easily got another roll in there. They weren't cheap though, which is why we only got one. But in the long run, the more insulation you use, the more comfortable you'll be, and we wish we'd done more. 
  • A vapour barrier on the roof would have been a good thing to do - we get so much moisture in the van, and it's inevitably sneaking through gaps and hanging out somewhere! 
  • Insulate everywhere! By the time we got to the doors we'd had enough, but now our back doors are really cold compared to the rest of the van. This means we get wicked condensation and are currently cultivating some interesting moulds on the wood panelling and our mattress! The storage space above the cab is also not insulated, and over the winter we regularly mopped up jugfuls of water from the shelf. So a job for summer is to finish what we started and insulate what's left, which we'll make a post about (with better photos than this one, promise!) 
Next in the series...ventilation! Oh, the fun just never stops. 

-the FREEDOM junkies-










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