Last week, we introduced you to a number of sustainable and natural types of insulation material. Insulation material was actually one of the first things we focused on during our camper van conversion, and we are very content with the choices we have made.
Today, we’ll be talking you through the types of insulation that we’ve used in our camper van conversion.
The importance of insulation
Properly insulating your camper van serves the same purpose as insulating regular houses.
Insulation will act as a heat barrier. It will allow you to stay cool when the summer sun shines on your van, and keeps you warm when it’s freezing outside with minimal heating requirements.
Insulation in your camper van will thus greatly help increase the living comfort within your house on wheels whilst reducing the costs for heating.
Many insulation types these days however also act as great sound barriers! When applied in a camper van, some types of insulation can even help reduce noise in another way. But we’ll talk more about this below.
Why did we use cork as insulation material?
We have used cork to insulate our camper van. We’ve chosen to do so for a number of reasons.
Last week we mentioned eight types of more eco-friendly and sustainable insulation materials. In our opinion, not all of these are as suitable to install in a camper van as some others are.
The first reason why we dismissed half of them, was because they do not handle direct contact with moisture all that well.
We feel that it would be quite difficult to fully protect the insulation against moisture at all times, so we chose to go with insulation material that can withstand direct contact with moisture.
Now we did notice that many people choose to install a moisture barrier in their van to protect the insulation as well as the chassis against moisture. If that is the case, you can safely install the insulation materials dismissed by us. We however chose not to install a moisture barrier and therefore opted for a material that can easily withstand occasionally getting in contact with direct moisture.
Sheep wool probably has one of the best insulating characteristics of all insulation materials on the list. We however did not use sheep wool solely due to its strain on the environment. If you want to know more about sheep wool, or any other natural insulation materials, you might like to read this blog post!
This left us with either flax or cork as insulation material.
Flax insulation generally needs a structure to be attached to as it is a wooly and softish insulation material.
Most of you will probably know by now that the surface of the inside of a van is irregular. Next to that, the distance that the insulation has to bridge between the metal walls of the van and the wall you install is not equal everywhere.
The insulating capabilities of insulation materials greatly depends on the air gaps they hold within them. It is therefore crucial that the material does not get dented or compressed when installed, their insulating capabilities will otherwise greatly diminish.
For these reasons, we did not dare to use an insulation material that needs a structure to hold its own. This made us choose to go with cork as insulation material for our van conversion.
Added benefit as sound deadener
Cork usually comes as a rigid insulation material and therefore can be glued directly to the walls of a camper van. This provided us with two advantages. The first one being as previously explained, it is easy to install without diminishing its insulating capabilities as it can’t be compressed.
An added benefit of using a rigid insulation material that can be glued to the walls, is sound reduction. Many people attach rattle trap, also known as sound deadener, to the inside of a van to limit the rattling sound of metal.
Rattle trap works because it adds weight to the thin walls of your van. Sound travels as vibration, and the thin walls of van are great at passing along these vibrations to the inside. But when you install rattle trap on your walls, the weight increases which in turn reduces the ability of your wall to transmit soundwaves.
Attaching insulation directly to the walls of your camper van has the same effect. The weight of the walls is increased and thus the ability of the walls to transport sound reduces significantly.
So, next to the inert ability of cork to act as a natural sound barrier, it also reduces sound by acting as our rattle trap. Not only does this save us some money, it also limits the use of less sustainable material.
Insulating the walls and ceiling
Insulating the walls was both simple and tricky. Each cargo van is different, but our van has many corners and edges on every wall, and every edge was different!
For each flat area, we cut the cork plates to size using a jigsaw. And some pieces did end up being insulated like a jigsaw puzzle as well! It was quite a tedious and time consuming project but it was well-worth it in the end.
We ended up being able to insulate half of the wall space with two layers of cork plates, which gives us 80 mm of insulation!
The pieces of cork plates were then attached to the walls (and to each other) using assembly glue. We added pressure to the cork plates for about 10 minutes before moving on to the next piece.
When insulating the ceiling, we repeated this same process, but used a wooden beam and a leftover piece of wood to support the plates for an hour or two (or overnight for the larger pieces).
Insulating the floor
The floor of a camper van has many ridges and irregularities, and the space available between floor and ceiling was limited if we wanted to keep the ability to stand in our camper van.
In order to get the most out of the available limited space for insulation, we opted for granulated cork as insulation material for the floor. These are basically small snippets of cork that can be poured into place.
If we would have used cork plates, we’d have lost 30 mm in height compared to what we have now. Jordy would no longer have been able to stand up without hitting his head!
In order to insulate the floor, we had to build a structure out of wooden beams in which we could pour the cork snippets. In the corners, these wooden beams are sealed with silicone to form a closed barrier.
These cork snippets are kept in place by the subfloor which is also glued into place. Before this floor was added, it kind of looked like we had small gardens with soil in our van, haha!
We now have a layer of 27 mm of insulation in the deepest parts of the floor, and 11 mm of insulation on top of the ridges.
Insulating the wheel arches
In most van conversion videos that we have seen, people seem to fully cover the wheel arches in rattle trap. This will obviously work as a sound deadener, but won’t do much to insulate the van.
Since our front cabin is separated from the living area, we decided not to use rattletrap. We will however be insulating these wheel arches properly.
We decided to build a box around the wheel arches, using some beams and sheets of wood.
One of the boxes is made so that it is slightly larger than the wheel arch to create space for insulation material. We made the other box a bit larger though. To make the most of the limited storage space beneath our bed, we chose to install our two leisure batteries on top of this box!
These two boxes will be filled with cork snippets, and if necessary some leftover pieces of cork plates. Since we’re still building them we don’t have a finished picture, but we’ll add one as soon as we do.
Insulating your own home on wheels
We fully understand that every van is different, and that you might opt for a different type of insulation material. Whatever you material you decide to use, we hope that this blog post has in some way been helpful to you!
If you’re in the process of building your own tiny home on wheels, or hope to do so in the future, we recommend heading over to our camper van conversion page. Here, we list all blog posts related to our camper van conversion in order from start to finish.