VanDweller Community Forums

Full Version: Relatively cheap/easy ceiling insulation
You're currently viewing a stripped down version of our content. View the full version with proper formatting.
Hey all you beautiful people. I need help with ideas for insulating my ceilng. I have a 95 e350 window van that I had to rip the headliner out of because it was filthy with years of dust when I got it, so my ceiling is just bare metal now. The sides are also bare metal because of all the dust buildup behind the plastic trim, and since it was most all damaged anyway, I just left it off and took advantage of the extra space.
I don't have much of a budget and I don't have any skill or practice with doing it "the right way." I attempted to glue camping pads to the ceiling with liquid nails, but it didn't stick well to my available surfaces.  I had considered coating everything with plastidip; although it wouldn't be much in the way of insulation, it would at least cover the bare metal. What ideas can you guys throw at me?
No money and no skills?  Now you're talkin' my language!   Smile

Are you talking about blue camping pads?  Do you get a bunch for free?  If so you could screw them right into the roof ribs, washers to keep them from tearing out.  I don't think I've ever heard of anything doing that.

I have heard that big box stores have tons of white expanded polystyrene (what we Americans incorrectly call "styrofoam") for free.  Or maybe watch craigslist for used foamboard insulation.  I got some XPS foam board insulation for about the third of the store price that way.  [Edit:  I think you are in Colorado;  this is a sample search for Denver to help you find used foamboard insulation.  Adapt for other cities as needed.]

BTW, stuff will stick better if the surfaces are cleaned with alcohol or something first.  Liquid Nails for Projects appears to be safe for XPS and polyiso boards according to my testing.
when I did mine I just recovered the old one. I carefully removed the head liner, I flipped it over material side up and I carefully removed the old material. then I used spray adhesive and simply glued new material to the old headliner base. you can get the material at an auto upholstery supply house. there all the different types available, the vinyl with foam backing and the little holes in it, or the genuine imitation Mohair, or whatever. if you want a little more insulation glue a base of closed cell foam on first. highdesertranger
I mean a good insulation job is worth the money if you can swing a few hundred bucks. I insulated my astro with reflectix, denim, and gap filler but I'm pretty sure I get the most bang for my buck out of the denim. Also I know I might be going against the Bob Wells canon but based on my own hand test experience and the opinion of a contractor that uses a similar product directly attached to attic rooves reflectix attached to bare metal does a great job if you're trying to take care of heat from a bright sun. If you're more interested in staying warm, light and fluffy is the way to go. I wonder if it would be possible to find old down sleeping bags and insulate with them somehow? Just a thought... Minus that I recommend denim, it's be great for me.
well Denim is cotton and cotton absorbs and holds moisture like a sponge. people who spend time in the outdoors have a saying, "cotton kills". this is because of its ability to absorb and hold moisture. highdesertranger
And bugs, other critters
20 dollar hotglue gun and rtech foam insulation (about 8 dollars for a 4x8 foot sheet) will do a permanent job in your situation, foam aint coming off on its on. Hotglue sticks to everything. I got foam on my roof thats been there for 5 years, still on there solid.
Without proper insulation on your roof your going to cook inside your van. All the heat comes in from the roof and windows.
No skill required to get professional results, just cut the foam(with boxcutter) into small pieces 1x1 foot apply the hotglue to it and quickly put on roof, it drys quickly less then 5 minutes. I just eyeball the cuts, no ruler needed, any places I miss, I cut a small piece of foam to cover it. hotglue sticks very well to foam, so you can glue multiple layers of foam on top of each other as you can afford to buy more foam.

rtech foam (from home depot)
hotglue gun from harbor freight
On denim.... I can understand the adversion as a matter of principle but I think it sort of breaks down under scrutiny.

Yea sure, critters will use cotton scraps as bedding. That is true. Show me, however, and insulation material in existence they won't chew apart and use as bedding. And really the only time I see this being an issue is when the vehicle sits still for a very, very long time.

On moisture... Yes, I do agree that cotton absorbs mousture like a sponge. I've done quite a bit of hiking in my life and cotton certainly is a no-go. There's two primary reasons for that. It does't dry quickly, but more importantly, cotton is heavy compared to other fabrics, and since it absorbs moisture, it gets especially heavy when its wet.

I think the anathema in the vandwelling community against denim is a little overblown. Yes, it absorbs moisture, but what I don't understand is that many people will go to what I would consider insane lengths to seal every last pinhole in their van and then put in reflectix, and then an envelope, and then ontop of all that put in the insulation and sometimes even put that behind an envelope. Last time I checked we aren't planning on sending our vans into space. Either there's some air movement behind your walls or there isn't.

Also remember the main reason we don't like moisture is mold. Mold is created when high amounts of moisture are present in a single area for a long period of time. Denim is mold resistant and wicks moisture away, or at least spreads it out in itself to the point that it can evaporate. I've designed my van so that there is at least a path for air to move behind my walls, so that on a nice warm sunny day I can leave my windows down and turn my fan on and air out the van if I think it's a little humid inside because of a rainy spell or something. I really notice things dry out.
Maybe you are underestimating just how humid a van gets without **lots** of active high CFM ventilation.

Most people don't ventilate enough.

I personally don't advocate using Reflectix nor trying to get a 100% vapour barrier.

I've also never heard of critters using any XPS or polyiso rigid panel, nor spayed foam, as bedding or nesting material.

Mites, bedbugs etc certainly appear in any human space while in active use, mobile or not.

Rusting body panels is, much more serious than mold.

Your van your choice, just putting info out there for everyone.

Only time I've heard people using organic insulating materials is when they are very sensitive to (or paranoid about) offgassing.

Roxul or other mineral wool would be my reco for that.

I also believe EPS doesn't gas at all.