Camper Van Insulation (Spray Foam and Thinsulate)
Updated: Nov 14, 2019
After weighing a bunch of options for insulation (wool vs thinsulate vs foam board vs spray foam) I decided to go with spray foam insulation. I know this is definitely not the cheapest and some other people have reported issues with it, but I went with it for a few reasons:
-Having windows reduced the space needed to insulate and made foam board harder to fit
-Reinforcement of body panels and reduction of rattle (making rattletrap redundant)
-Wiring was done already
My van is black, so insulation was very important. It gets very hot in the summer and I am constantly working on ways to keep it cooler.
----Scroll Down for Cabin Thinsulate Insulation----
-Spray Foam Tanks (Amazon Version - Home Depot Version, I went with the Home Depot Version because I was on a time crunch, but both are pretty similar)
-Garbage Bags/Grocery Bags
-Heater (if not hot out)
Advice I received after talking with contractors and others doing spray foam:
-PREP WORK!!! Tape up everything, this stuff gets on everything
-Temperature is very important, the warmer the better. The foam is expanding and it expands better in warmer temperature (I learned this the hard way when I had to go back and buy more)
-Cover up wire-ends, I used grocery bags to keep the spray foam off
-Wear protective equipment! (you need to be completely covered and have some sort of respirator)
-Have a garbage bag to shoot the foam into, sometimes its watery when not mixed right so use a garbage bag to "prime it"
-Change the tip of the gun if you stop for more than a minute or so, most kits come with plenty of tips
Because it was borderline temperature when I spray foamed my van I used a space heater on the tanks (recommended by my contractor).
I would also recommend spraying foam in all the small gaps before you start coating the bigger gaps.
Also keep in mind it does expand a lot, people have ran into issues when it has been sprayed in an area where there is no space to expand, that can cause damage. So make sure you apply it in a manor in which it can expand freely without pushing out metal or parts.
Because of the temp the spray foam didn't go as far as I wanted it to. I had to purchase a second set of tanks and apply a second coat the next day. They are not cheap, so make sure you do it when it is really warm out.
I really like the spray foam. It was a mess, but so far its performed well. I used a drywall saw to trim up the foam when we installed the base floor (seen above).
Update (April 2019): Still happy with the spray foam insulation. Would be hard to beat its R-value and has really quieted down any body noise. No negative effects or warping.
Thinsulate (front cabin/headliner):
I also decide to use thinsulate for the front cabin area. Reason being is that it would be a mess to tape off just the headliner after I have done all my wiring and I wanted to have continued access to that area. I ordered 15 linear feet of 3M Thinsulate SM600L, which ended up being way to much, which I anticipated. Using 3M trim spray adhesive (it is expensive...) I sprayed the headliner area and applied two layers to the metal.
Then added two more sections to the sides.
You really don't need it to adhere that well as the headliner will be holding it in place. Many people just stuff it behind the headliner, but due to all my wiring back there I wanted to adhere it to the metal and drop the headliner.
I bought extra so that I could stuff it into any crevice. All of the body cavities at the edge of the headliner were filled and I added a second layer in areas where it would fit.
For the front doors I have already used rattletrap on them and just wanted to add a layer of thinsulate to them. Getting the door panel off is easy enough. Just remove the two plastic covers on the handle:
Then remove the two T30 torx bolts underneath:
Once the two bolts are out just lift up on the door panel and it will come loose. Be careful of the wiring and door handle cable, which can easily be removed.
After that I decided on the areas I wanted to add thinsulate, being careful to note where the window would contact it. Cut to size and using only a little of the spray adhesive I placed them into the door panel. Used smaller pieces to fill voids.
I used foil tape to keep the thinsulate from sticking out and catching the window as it comes up and down, but you can also tuck the insulation in.
For the bottom of the door panels I left them open. There are drains in the door and there will be moisture so I wanted to make sure there was enough airflow at the bottom to let the insulation dry out and breath. I cut sections to install in the lower cargo drawers for added insulation, but without blocking the drains as I really do not use those lower storage areas.
As there is moisture in the door I plan to check the insulation after a bit of use to see if it is holding moisture. I will post updates once the insulation is in use for a while.