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I live in Michigan and have been considering a cutback van build.  The ones I find most interesting are more like step vans with a pass through between the cab and the box.  However, most of the ones I find have a translucent ceiling.  How does one insulate a ceiling such as this?  I would want to get at least an R-18 or about 6 inches of foam insulation.    I live in Michigan and it gets cold here.
Does anyone have experience with this?

Check with a truck cargo body shop to see if it can be re-skinned in Aluminum.
I've heard bad things about those roofs leaking over time. Plenty of step vans out there with regular aluminum roofs. I'd pass on the translucent roof.
(07-13-2017, 06:05 AM)Aabreu Wrote: [ -> ]  I would want to get at least an R-18 or about 6 inches of foam insulation.    I live in Michigan and it gets cold here.

That's a lot of foam insulation....but unless the walls and floor are insulated nearly as well, it might be over-insulated from the standpoint of losing too much interior volume.

I would think 2 inches and a radiant barrier should be plenty. Unless you plan on only heating the interior with a candle!

On older trucks that translucent material (usually fiberglass or similar) will get brittle, and hail damage could cause a crack or puncture, and you might not know about it if the ceiling was foamed. Then rain could get in and cause problems.

In my search for box trucks (still ongoing) I always eliminate the ones with that type of ceiling.
I don't want to deal with a translucent roof.

Truck options fall off quickly. Would have to buy new to get the options I want.

Not ready to buy anyways. Just planning for now.

it would not be hard to put a solar panel over the translucent on the roof if it's only in a small area, or go on the roof and cover it over with sheet metal, if it takes up most of the roof. Anything is possible. And it would be a cheap repair if you do it yourself.

If it was the vehicle I wanted, I figure a way to work around a minor inconvenience. 

In my van I have a roof vent I don't use, I had to remove the cover off of it so that I could install the solar panel.  The vent is open to the elements, the only thing that prevent the rain from getting in my van is the solar panel. It was a simple fix for my predicament.

I would probably start with 2 inches of foam, and if that wasn't good enough I would add more. Use an IR thermometer to check for hotspots, and add more foam to that area. A hotglue gun is all I use to install the foam, it sticks to everything and drys quickly.
Ir thermometer cost about 15 dollars. Its non-contact, you point at an area and it tells you the surface temperature in that area.
Thank you for the advice. Those are great suggestions. I like the thermometer idea. Very clever.
I like the work around idea too. If it has a roll up door, work around it. Food for thought.

(07-15-2017, 12:00 PM)jonyjoe303 Wrote: [ -> ]...or go on the roof and cover it over with sheet metal...

Or paint it with something thick and very opaque, like garage floor paint, trunk paint, or non-slip boat deck paint.
I have a box truck with the translucent ceiling and there's no reason to rule out an otherwise ideal vehicle because of this. It is not an ideal material, I would much preferred to have a metal roof, however it is common enough that I wouldn't give it much weight when choosing. I wish Photobucket hadn't killed my pics, as there was multiple posts detailing how I addressed the weaknesses, but I'll hit the highlights:

1) it gets brittle and I had one hole from a branch when purchased, and I added another.  I didn't want to trust it hidden under ceiling insulation and covering for my build.

2) I re-roofed the entire box prior to solar install using Peel n Seal and EternaBond RoofSeal around perimeter. These are both expensive (relatively) and professional quality materials...roof is now over a year old in the Florida sun and I'm pleased with the system. I've used Peel n Seal for many years at work, and the Eternabond tape is turning out to be pretty impressive.

3) Insulating between those big, deep ceiling support ribs is far easier than on about any other type of vehicle. Spray foam, a professional grade, 2-part product, is by far the best choice if you can swing the cost. A DIY kit is at least $400 in materials. I was lucky, all but two of my ceiling bays were already foamed. Spray foam not only insulates, it also greatly improves the structural value of that thin roofing.

4) I cut 3/4" Polyiso rigid foam board and used foam from a can, like max expanding Great Stuff, to lock it into place. You need to brace the panels into place while foam cures, but it works great...I have 1.5" of insulation without loosing a bit of headroom.

Hope that helps you weigh the choices...
I'd start with a roof coating at the very least. Kool Seal or similar (I just did a review on one of them) will be very helpful.
After that you'd still want to coat the underside with something dark to keep the UV rays off your insulation or it will break down over time.
Then just add insulation, a radiant barrier, and then some paneling or glued in place fabric.
While those roofs are fragile I wouldn't pass on a truck just because it had one. Too many other things to consider when buying.
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