insulation · The Build · The Van

My Story – Insulation pt. 2

The Executive Summary

After a five-month hiatus, I wanted to get writing again.

I removed the lights along and filled the space below the electrical rail with expanding foam. This should help to insulate that space since I’m not able to get fiberglass down through the cracks. I also had a change of heart about leaving the floor uninsulated and found some kind of sub-floor insulation with an attached vapor barrier. I sandwiched two layers of this stuff together with the vapor barrier facing out on each side.

The Details

It’s been five months since my last post and a lot has happened since then. After three months of inactivity on the blog, I began to dread writing again. I felt like it was just another project that I had started and never finished. Although I never had a clear end in mind when I started this, and I certainly didn’t define any goals to measure its success against, it still felt like a failure. The thought of writing a new post caused me anxiety. If I sent something new out into the world it would be a reminder to people that I had failed. But I couldn’t stop thinking about it and I couldn’t stay away. The fear of appearing as a failure made me forget why I started writing this in the first place. I began writing this because I enjoyed it. I didn’t care if anyone was reading or who. And so now with summer long gone, life slowing down, and shorter colder days upon us, I’d like to resume what I started and try to pick up where I left off.


I had insulated the walls with fiberglass batting, but there were still a number of small places in the van you just couldn’t reach and so getting insulation into these smaller cavities was going to be tricky. Leaving these areas open wouldn’t work. It would provide too much area for the cold to radiate in.

I got to researching and learned, not surprisingly, that my problem was not unique. In fact, just about every van conversion I saw out there had encountered this same issue. While there were a few unique solutions out there, far and away the most popular solution to this problem was expanding foam. I had used this stuff in the past to seal cracks and gaps in my house to prevent drafts, but I had never really given it much thought as an actual insulator. It made sense though since, as the foam expands, air bubbles become trapped inside the foam. I’m certain what kind of R-value this adds but it seemed like it would fit this unique application so I decided to move forward with it.

I first bought some plastic dropcloth (it’s not cloth so I’m not sure why they call it that) that I taped up over the walls and let drape down over the floor to avoid getting foam on my floor and the insulation I’d so carefully cut and hung along the walls. In hindsight, I should have started with the foam, but you live and learn. Even without the flooring and insulation in place, I’d consider the plastic sheeting anyways. This stuff can get messy!

With the plastic sheeting up and the van looking like a scene from Dexter (I’ve never actually seen the show) I began filling all the smaller cavities with foam. For now, this just meant filling the rails along the top of the van where the lights had been. These two rails run from front to back near the top of the vehicle. Lighting is installed inside the rail itself and the wiring for these lights runs along the top of the rail where it is exposed. This same wiring runs all the way to the back of the van where it provides power to the rear lights so these wires are important. I didn’t need the lights to a cut the wires and taped them off. The foam would be sprayed into the rail where the lights had previously been housed. I then taped the remaining wires up out of the way so to keep them from getting stuck in foam as it expanded out of the top of the rail.

 

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As I was working to insulate the walls I’d been in and out of Home Depot dozens of times. Each time I was there I would poke my head into the flooring aisle to check out potential flooring options as I was beginning to think ahead. I was also starting to think that maybe I shouldn’t leave the floor completely uninsulated, but I still wasn’t sure what insulate it with as I didn’t want it to add much thickness to the floor and I didn’t want anything that would cause the subfloor to move or rock. As luck would have it, I spotted the perfect solution while meandering through the flooring section one day. I ended up buying this rolled insulation with a built-in vapor barrier. This stuff what perfect! It had a small R-value for insulation, it was sound deadening to help keep down noise, it had a built-in vapor barrier, and it was thin and easy to work with.

I rolled out the insulation in the driveway and pulled out the plywood subfloor to use as a template. I traced the plywood and was able to cut through the stuff with some heavy scissors. Easy peasy! I ended up cutting out two layers and doubling up the stuff with the vapor barrier facing down on the bottom layer and upwards on the top layer. This should prevent moisture from getting into the insulation either from the holes in the flooring leftover from the rivets in the original floor or from any water that might get tracked onto the floor once I was living in it. This also doubled up the insulation in my flooring. It seemed like a perfect solution.

While I had the subfloor out of the van, I wanted to seal up all the holes in the flooring. There were a number of holes in the floor left over from the bolts from the shelving that I had removed and the rivets in the original flooring. So I ended up sealing all of these holes with a silicone sealant made for automotive and marine use. With the vapor barrier on the insulation and this silicone sealant, I felt as confident as I could that no moisture could get in underneath the floor and begin to rust out the bottom. I was now ready put the insulation and subflooring back in place.

 

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