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Full Version: 2003 Chevy Express Access / Insulation Walls Ceiling Floor Build Out
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So I started a thread Target R-values and I am not receiving the response I was looking for.  So I thought I would tell you all the plan and see what advice I would get.  Here are some pictures of how I want my van to look like.  Yes... if you recognize this van then you know these photos are from Thank you Zack Both for the beautiful van that became my inspiration.  I did not set out to buy the same year, make, and model; it just happened.

So my van pretty much looks like this at the moment.


Next weekend I will be painting the outside and in with white Upol Raptor.  The outside paint is peeling which is a notorious issue for this year in Chevy Express manufacturing.  And since it will keep rust away and have some sound deadening properties, I decide to go ahead and paint the interior metal too.  It can hurt and at worse it will just give me a very clean surface to work with.

In the end, I want the inside to look like this before I add furniture, cabinets, shelving and storage.


Zack used Reflectix, Polyiso boards, closed-cell foam spray, and fiberglass batts to insulate his van.  I want to work with materials that I don't have to wear protective gear when installing and are for the most part a bit more environmentally safe.  The way I look at this is that I have three options:

1.  Install polyiso boards all over in thickness of 1 inch and 2 inches, cover the walls and ceiling with 3/8" plywood, and cover the floor in 1/2" cork.  I estimate this will give me an average R-value of 12.  This is my least expensive option coming in at $828.

2.  Install a material that is creatively called Car Insulation and sold by the website  The core is a 1/4" polyethylene closed cell foam core wrapped in 99.4 pure polished aluminum reinforced facing.  The claim is that it is the lightest and most effective thermal sound deadening insulation in the world.  We all know that not to be true.  The R-value is only 1.  My thought is that it is for the prevention of thermal bridging of the metal frame and conduction of the metal skin.  Then I would install wool batt from Havelock wool on the bottom of the van sides underneath the pop-out panels as well as on the ceiling and the loose fill wool in the nooks and cranies of the van.  Polyiso boards and 1" cork insulation will be installed on the pop-out windows with close-cell foam filling in the gaps.  And on the inside of the 3/8" plywood walls, glue 1" cork insulation.  On the floor I would install a cork floor composite that is 1/2" over the plywood with polyiso insulation underneath.  I estimate this will give me an average R-value of 16:  R-17 for the ceiling and the walls below the pop-out windows, R-16 for the pop-out windows, and R-13 for the floor.  This is the middle of the road option for me coming in at an estimated $1210 for materials. 

3.  The most expensive option is using a product called Aerogel Spaceloft.  I have found someone who is willing to part with some for $3.75 a square foot.  So I would install this like I would the car insulation or Reflectix.  And then do everything in option 2.    Instead of using 1" cork insulation, I would use 1/2" cork insulation saving a bit of space.  This will increase the average estimate R-value from 16 to 18: R-19 for theceiling and the walls below the pop-out panels, R-18 for the pop-out panels, and R-17 for the floor.  This will cost me $1750. 

I can afford option number 3, but I wonder if the increase in R-value would be worth it.  Aerogel has an R-value of 10 at 1 inch.  At the 10mm it comes in, it only has an R-value of 4.  But it also has other properties aside from the insulation. 
1.       It has the lowest declared thermal conductivity of any conventional flexible insulation.
2.       It is hydrophobic while being vapor permeable
3.       It is mold resistant
4.       In conjunction with #2 and #3, it has an extremely long service life which allows the material to be reused
5.      It offers an R-Value of 9.62 per inch. At nearly R-4 per 10mm layer one is optimizing R-value and lowering the thermal conductivity while maintaining the most livable space.

So is option number three worth the extra expense?  I don't know.  This is why I want to know everyone else's thoughts on this. 

I thank all in advance for their replies now.  I really do appreciate this resource.  I could not be doing this without your advise.

I would go with the cheapest method #1. All I use is rtech foam about 1.5 inch thick in the sides, 2 inches on the roof and 2.5 inches on the windows. The only places I used plywood (hardboard) was over the windows, I didnt want any interior lights being seen outside.

The rtech foam was easy to cut with a box cutter, and I used a hot glue gun to install, no fumes, and the glue drys almost instantly. You get done quickly. You got a clean slate to begin with, so it will go smoothly. If you have a divider in your van like the top picture, keep it, I had to build my own divider door to seperate the driver compartment from the rear. All the heat comes from that big windshield, the divider in my van is heavily insulated with a sliding insulated door to keep the heat out. 

This is the results I get parked in the sun with just the foam insulation and divider door, in the back I only have a small swampcooler running. The front uninsulated is 148 degrees, the back insulated is 94 degrees. Over 50 degree difference. Rtech foam works good for me, I prefer it for ease of installation and flexible enough to curve to the skin of the van. 


My recommendation is to get one of the cheap 15 dollar IR thermometers that you can point to the areas you want to measure the temperatures. This way you can find the hotspots that might need an extra layer of foam. Rtech foam can be hotglued on top of other foam, hotglue sticks to everything. I would find all the hotspots before installing the plywood.

Ir thermometer