With the paint dry, the fun part can now finally begin! Insulation is the first step in the buildout process. There are quite a few methods I looked into and they range the spectrum from somewhat expensive and time-consuming on one end to very cheap and simple on the other. To pick a method, I thought about my budget and the goals I ultimately have for my van.
Budget: I wanted to keep it under $250 (ideally less), for the project to be finished in 3 or so days, and to not have to buy any fancy tools or learn any fancy skills.
Goals: For the most part, I am not going anywhere super cold in my van (part of the fun of being mobile is to following good weather!). The coldest I’ll get is probably a stint in a place with occasional overnight chill evidenced by frozen dew in the morning. Eventually, I’ll get a heater to use intermittently during the day for times I’m not all bundled up in my bed on cold days. More on this in the future. To be concrete, my van should be able to maintain about 55-60 degrees during the day with minimal turning on of a heater. Honestly, I’m more concerned with keeping the van cool during hot sunny times than keeping it warm in the cold. In addition to insulation to accomplish this, I also have a plan to create a shade awning with a huge piece of Aluminet.
The plan: A layer of Reflectix against the skin of the van that I will use spray adhesive to hold in place. Then, pink foam board on top of it for the walls and ceiling. The floor will be foam board with Reflectix only around the edges. I’m not planning on getting every last surface covered with the Reflectix. For my goals, the cost/time benefit analysis just didn’t add up. I’ll probably end up adding some spray foam inside the ribs.
This post will cover just the Refelctix part of this process. I chose this since most people tend to use this as the base layer and it seemed to offer great insulation for its thickness, is easy to work with, and is readily available. I did some research into other materials that were similar to Reflectix to see if I could find anything cheaper, but nothing really caught my eye. For the small amount of material I would need, the Reflectix seemed the most convenient and the best bang for my buck. I decided on 3M Super 77 Multipurpose spray adhesive to adhere it. This adhesive worked just fine for me. The Reflectix has been up for about a week at this point and its still sticking great.
I started by cutting out the wall and ceiling pieces I would need. I used a box cutter. Worked great. I took a measure once, cut a million times until it fit just right. I learned that it’s honestly easier to arrange it and put it up in smaller segments. With too large a segment, it becomes difficult to shove it into the nooks with the spray adhesive on it. It starts sticking in places you don’t want it to stick and it becomes rather frustrating. I used the foil tape on the seams after all the pieces were up.
I did the walls and ceiling the first day, and the doors and wheel wells the next day. The doors and wheel wells took a lot longer than I thought given how quick the walls and ceiling went up, but overall I think the process came in at about 6 hours total. I had about an hour of help during the actual adhering for the walls and ceiling. The ceiling is the only part you might want help on, but honestly it’s a pretty easy one person job.
Materials and Costs: I ended up using a 4’x25′ roll and a 4’x10′ roll (~$65 total) for the process which just barely got me through the walls, ceiling, and doors. It left just a little left over for the floor. If I could do it again, I would buy two 4’x25′ rolls so I could have put a full layer in between the ribs on the floor. I went through about 1 1/4 cans of spray adhesive. (~$20) I hardly went through the roll of foil tape (~$8), though it was nice to have. First round insulation cost came in quite affordable at a little under $100. If you were really on a budget, you can get away with just the one 25′ roll, one can of spray adhesive, and no foil tape, meaning you’ll only spend about $55. You won’t be able to get all the nooks and crannies in the doors or the wheel wells if you do it this way, but those parts are probably going to be covered up/boarded around anyway.
Take Aways: Smaller sections and smaller pieces of the Reflectix are easier to work with when sticking them to the wall. Also they allow you to really use all your scraps. This process can be done all inside the van, so you don’t need to spill out onto the street if that’s an issue for you.