How do you insulate a van?

Nate Murphy
the van conversion guide e-book

One of the first steps in a campervan conversion is to completely insulate your van. Insulation will help to regulate the inside temperature in cold weather and also prevent you from baking on hot days. Insulating the floor, walls and ceiling is also an important way to make your van feel less like a vehicle and more like a home. But how do you insulate a van?

Types of insulation material

  • Soft insulation - E.g. Recycled glass, wool or loft insulation is good for covering walls or curved areas.
  • Rigid insulation - E.g. PIR board works well for floors and ceilings.
  • Spray foam insulation is good for filling gaps or can also be used to fully insulate your van. 

Check out this video to see how to insulate your van using spray foam insulation

How do I stop condensation in my van?

Condensation appears when warm air, saturated with water vapour, touches something cold. Any time you cook, shower or even breathe in your van, you are creating warm air that could lead to condensation. Condensation can cause dampness and mould, so it’s important to prevent it as much as possible.

How to prevent condensation

Ventilation (roof vents or opening windows)

Installing a roof vent or an opening window will allow fresh air to circulate in your van. For maximum ventilation you should install two openings - one that allows fresh dry air to enter, and another that draws damp air out of your van. When you are cooking or showering in your van with the doors closed, you should have a fan running to extract the steam. An electric roof vent is the most effective way to draw out moisture from the air and will be the best way to prevent condensation forming. 

Cover bare metal 

Make sure that you cover as much of the bare metal shell of the van as possible. You can use auto carpet or fabric to cover hard to reach or curved areas - this will prevent the warm air from condensing on the cold metal of the van and creating moisture. 

Install a vapour barrier on top of your insulation

A vapour barrier is a waterproof layer that sits on top of your insulation to prevent moisture from reaching the metal of the van. It’s important to make sure it’s completely sealed - any holes or gaps in the barrier will allow condensation to form behind and can be catastrophic - leading to mold and rust. 

Install an externally vented heater

When you pump warm air into your van with a heater, you need to allow for sufficient ventilation in order to prevent condensation. By installing a heater with an external vent you won’t need to worry about using another extractor fan when the heater is running.

Install a wood-burning stove

A wood burner is not a practical option for every van dweller - but if you have one in your van, then you will have a dry heat source that’s brilliant and reducing condensation. 

How to prevent condensation when you are using the van

  • Avoid using propane cookers that produce a lot of water vapour. 
  • Cook outside when possible, open a window or make sure that you have an extractor fan running. 
  • Make sure to always ventilate your van. Get into the habit of opening vents and windows to allow fresh air to circulate. 
  • Keep your van warm with a heater to avoid cold air forming condensation.
  • Shower outside where possible, or make sure that your shower has sufficient ventilation.
  • Hang wet clothes outside to dry to avoid excess moisture inside your van. 

Is insulating a van worth it?

In short, yes. It’s definitely worth insulating your van if you want to be comfortable and also want to keep your van in good condition. Insulation can help to keep your van cool as well keeping it warm, so you’ll need insulation even if you plan to spend most of your time in hot climates.

Most importantly, insulating a van reduces the chance of condensation which can lead to mold and rust. Rust can be terrible news for the body of your van and can lead to costly repairs, or even cause your van to be written off. Mold is also vital to avoid - not only will it damage your van, but it is very bad for your health.

Insulation can make your van feel more homely and cosy. It can reduce the noise from outside and ultimately make your van feel like a nicer place to be. 

Can mold grow on spray foam insulation?

Spray foam insulation doesn’t attract or cause mold. In fact, it can trap existing mold and prevent it from spreading further. By covering an area of mold in spray foam insulation, you starve it of oxygen and prevent it growing any more. 

How do I prevent mold in my van?

Mold forms because of excess moisture and condensation, so it’s good practice to keep your van ventilated to avoid condensation forming. If you get condensation in your van, dry it off using a towel. You can also invest in a car window vac - they are extremely satisfying! 

Installation proper insulation along with a vapour barrier to prevent moisture reaching the walls of the van will help to prevent mold over time. Another excellent solution for preventing mold is to use closed-cell spray foam. It’s very effective at getting into small gaps and therefore prevents moisture from getting into the walls. 

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