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Okay.  I am so sorry but I need to start a new thread. But I am more confused than ever on the very best method of insulating my 2003 Chevy Express van and I need to make a decision soon.  yet I am way beyond information overload and fear I am going to make the wrong decision.  I really don't mind spending the money to have closed-cell spray foam installed.   Yet I am worried about the safety of using such an insulation and the longevity. RoamingKat brought this to my attention with my last post on what to do about the electrical system (do I install the system before or after the insulation?).    RoamingKat said that spray foam can turn into dust from rubbing and vibration.  She also pointed out that FEMA used it in emergency trailer homes for victims of Katrina and people are having health problems. I assume this is caused by off-gassing. 

Then I read that closed-cell spray form is one of the best insulation one can chose especially for cold environments. Close-cell spray foam not only offers a high R factor but a moisture barrier, sound barrier, and can add structural integrity. I went to a RV restoration company and they agreed.  I asked them about buckling and warping.  They said that can be an issue but applied correctly the warping is negligible and will right itself over time.    I have even found websites state close-cell spray foam is the best if one has asthma or a mold allergy. 
Next I read about Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 302 for flammability and that the materials used insulate should pass that standard. I am thinking that spray foam does not pass this standard.  

How am I too wade through all this contradicting info and choose the absolute best way to insulate my van for extreme cold and hot temperature? I currently live in Salt Lake City. Winters are mildly cold and summers are extremely hot.  Moreover I lived in Alaska for most of my life and would love to move back in the next few years.  So I want to insulate the van for extreme cold temperature. 
 
This the ultimate question I have that I cannot seem to find the answer for is this.  If money was not a factor, how would I go about insulating this van?

Extremely confused and frustrated,
Keightley
What are you going to use for a heater?

Insulation works by trapping heat. It does nothing at all without a heat source.
For extreme temps you really can't beat a closed cell spray foam installed by an experienced pro. Just make sure your taping and masking of things you don't want foam on is well done...the stuff sticks to everything.
If the stuff was as dangerous as some people say, the late nite TV lawyer commercials would be all over it.
Its fumes are only dangerous when installing...just like painting a car...the installer wears protective gear and once the product cures, no more fumes.
The only ''dusting" i've ever seen is from very old, exposed to UV stuff in a junkyard.
I have friends whose insulation business has been around since the 50's...they got into foam applications and during the 70's their guy spayed pretty much all the local 'hippy' vans with no issues...and many of those were just covered in shag carpet. When helping to move my buddy, we found an old keg cooler he had made from a big ol wash tub and spray foam...it was at least 20 years old sitting under a bunch of crap in the garage...a bit yellow with age but was still in pretty good shape considering the abuse it had gone thru (but it was fun 'abuse').
During my 'phone technician' days (80's, 90's, 00's) I wired many custom homes that were sprayed by these guys...no issues of off gassing, etc. Even a home for the builder's mother was sprayed...they would not have risked her health if there were danger. I went to her funeral a few years ago...she lived into her 90's and her home was both comfy and efficient.


There have been many discussions on this forum about foam...mostly about the canned stuff; but there is some good info from a member who is experienced with professional installs of closed-cell foam.

I would go ahead and get it sprayed.

[The next best method IMHO, more suited to the DIY, is putting in sheets of polyisocyanurate (polyiso), cut to fit, glue to walls and ceiling.]

As far as the DIY closed-cell spray kits which come in tanks similar in size to BBQ tanks...several I've looked at all advertise no off-gassing, etc.,
 "No CFCs, Penta-BDEs, VOCs or Urea Formaldehyde", usually curing in about an hour.

Hope that helps.
Foams that 'turn to dust' are likely old technology hand-mixed two-part foams for boating used as life-saving buoyancy chambers, think heavy plastic bag inside canoe seat & bow filled with foam that expands in to its own metal formed chamber to keep boat from completely sinking. Umnn... Joe Somewhen getting creative after a few beers foam.  I saw a grown man go to tears once after opening the floor on a 60's Airstream to discover that foam with just rust stains left where the back six feet of iron/steel spars and beams used to be.

If* you do a DIY 'froth pack foam' then prior proper preparation is essential. Surfaces clean so foam will bond. ALL crevices, gaps, ledges caulked or masking taped over to keep foam from expanding under/aside them and heaving/distorting sheetmetal layouts. 1 or 2 pounds per square inch pressure seems like almost nothing BUT foam expanding under a beam/spar may present 30, 50 (or lots more) square inches of surface area so 30, 60, 100 PSI force causing all your smooth metal lines to warp with that potion of motion you just applied. Serious stuff and why a foam insulation professional will likely decline working on just any vehicle someone drags to their shop.

Spraying just the broad open areas and skipping the enclosed pillars and beams is likely a prudent choice. First coat should be 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick so expanding foam curing at different times does not act on itself as a lever to warp long spans of smooth sheetmetal, the thin layer insulates the metal so it will not rob heat generated by the later coats of foams chemical reactions and thus reduce overall board-feet result, and covers the nooks and crannies a thicker layer of foam might key into and gain traction to distort the structure.

I had an estimate from a Foam Pro to do our houses 2nd floor while roofers were tearing off everything - that's the 3000psi heated-line 55-gallon drum on trailer foam - and price came in just under $10k or about 2x what I thought it might cost and it didn't happen, anyhow - while the Pro was at house he looked at my 27' Airstream I had the interior stripped out of... His comment was 'IF you do a DIY froth-pack 1/2-inch starter layer over everything I'll shoot the remaining 1-1/2 inch".. .  . ..and that offer was only to someone he thought might know a little about what he did.

If you do the DIY or even pro-built foam then know that cutting/trimming the surface from applying too much  ruins its water-rejecting trait once the resin glaze is cut. I've reglazed sections using the small canned foam by smearing into the pores and collapsing the foam by rubbing it repeatedly  to make a hard shell layer but that's not as good as the original catalyzed foam would've been, holding foam shy of needing trimming and adding something else if needed to fill gaps is a better long term bet.

Anyhow - someone looking a for a couple of years utility maybe better served just tossing 4x8 sheets of polyiso insulation at the interior, trim to fit yes then simply panel the interior with the foam and glue/screw some hard-shell liner to tack boat carpet over, the above detailed insulation musings came from pondering an already fifty-year-old Airstream trailer to equip it for the next fifty years... Dodgy
Some "cyber friends" created this write-up on insulation recently and I think it's really good: https://gnomadhome.com/van-build-insulation/

It's written to be consumed by the totally uninformed, but you may find particular interest in the section where they compare the various insulation types, including an R-value per inch comparison.
Are you boondocking in snow drifts with a Webasto weeks at a time?

Looking to save genny fuel running A/C parked in the Death Valley sunshine?

Or following nice weather without any technological climate controls?

We are not mind readers.
I will be boondocking in snow drifts in the winter and looking to save genny fuel running A/C parked in Death Valley sunshine. Okay... maybe not that bad but close. I live in Salt Lake City and I do plant to stay here. However I do still have family in Alaska so making my way back there is always peculating in the back of my mind. So yes... I am looking to insulate for both extremely cold and extremely hot as best as possible.

Right now my plan, once my van is built, is to live primarily in the Salt Lake City area all year round. In the summers I will travel the inter-mountain west during the weekends hiking, fishing, biking, and perhaps biking. In the winter, I want to spend my weekend at a Utah ski resort working as a ski instructor. Ultimately if I can figure out a way to support myself with health insurance working remotely out of an office (my van), I will do that. That said if I get the opportunity to spend my summers in Alaska and my winters in Utah, then I will be one very blessed woman.
Anyone unconfused you yet here?

Got the cash? Spray it with spray foam by a pro. 
Will be very expensive. Contact a contractor and see if you can piggy back after an existing spray job on location to save costs and setup.
Less cash? Self installed, cut to fit Polyiso covered with a heavy vapor barrier. Finish interior to your preference.
Cheapest is styrofoam.
In real extreme, both ways, I'd say at least 4" all around, 6" even better.

But means the lost living space requires larger dimensions on the outside.

Price using rigid boards then DIY spray for the gaps & corners first

then get quotes from professionals to compare
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