90,000 Miles to Me

The Insulation

Insulation was next. This single topic took more research than any other part of the van build. As evidenced by the next article on Insulation Considerations.

What was the big deal? The bottom line is that I had very specific, almost unattainable requirements. The insulation had to actually insulate, duh, and also be non-toxic. Sadly, this is a losing combination. It seems that in the insulation industry, you can have either one or the other, but rarely both.

In the end I went with a combination of five types for different areas.

  • Loose fill cellulose insulation got stuffed in all the holes and crevices in the walls and roof ribbing
  • 1/4″ natural cork underlayment lining the walls
  • Thinsulate batting lining the ceiling
  • Under the headliner got a couple layers of duct insulation (not the fiberglass kind) because it had a sticky side which adhered to the roof and a metallic reflective side, and because I got a good deal on it at the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store
  • The floor will be done later with those puzzle-looking floor mats for kids

I had planned on insulating the floor with the cork underlayment, but used more than expected on the walls and ended up resorting to anti-fatigue floor mats instead. It doesn’t meet my non-toxic requirement, but at least it will be coated in carpet sealant and covered by the carpet, so I shouldn’t be breathing it in.

The cellulose insulation (in white bags on the left side of picture below) was easy to put in by hand, it just took a while and got everywhere. It didn’t itch though, because it is non-toxic!

The cork underlayment was a bit trickier to figure out. How could I cut it to fit in the indents of the upper walls? I settled on suspending it from the rafters in the garage via a PVC pipe I had lying around, so I could feed it out onto a makeshift workbench foot by foot as needed.

I taped some plastic sheeting that was lying around to the van walls and traced the shape onto the plastic, then transferred the plastic sheet to the cork on the workbench and cut out each shape. Individually. Because they were all different. Every. Single. One.

The cork then got put up in each of the wall recesses layer by layer, held in place by a combination of non-toxic adhesive and a few screws to reinforce the layers.

As the layers got built up, larger sections of cork covered them and slowly built up the recesses to come flush with the wall ribbing. Some areas took as many as 12 layers.

When filled in all the way, it looked like this.

Leftover pieces of cork will be used to cover those holes in the bottom of the wall and the top ribbing to keep the cellulose from spilling out. That stuff got everywhere. But vacuumed up easily.

Ceiling insulation will be put up along with the ceiling framework, later. Now that the walls have insulation, it is time to cover them.


2 thoughts on “The Insulation

  1. Hi Martha!

    I hope all is well on the road. I read through a couple of your build write ups, including both of the insulation related ones.

    – I was wondering how the cork had done with keeping you warm, if you
    had had a chance to test it in any colder temps.
    – What Thinsulate battle did you use? (link?)
    – What loose fill cellulose did you use? (link?)

    Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions! I appreciate it.



  2. Hi Brayden, the combination of cork (primarily) with Thinsulate and cellulose has been working out very well for me. As long as I cover/uncover the windows at the right times to keep the sun in/out, I can keep the temperature of the van regulated quite well, and it is usually quite pleasant inside. On hot days, with the windows covered and the roof vent open, it is usually no more than warm inside, and on cold days, with the windows open and the vent closed, it is usually much warmer inside than out. Of course at night the temperature dips, but has never gotten close to as cold as outside.

    The Thinsulate and cellulose I picked up at my local Habitat for Humanity Re-Store, as leftovers from other people’s projects, which was a great deal for me.

    This is the Thinsulate I got: https://amzn.to/2H1Z6gY

    And this is the cellulose blow-in insulation I got: https://amzn.to/2GWqhh5 There are several brands selling this stuff, and they all look pretty similar to me, so I wasn’t picky about the one I ended up with. Four bales worked out well for me, for stuffing it in the various holes and bits of the van I wanted.

    Hope this helps.

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