How do you insulate a van? (A helpful guide)

In this short guide, we will explain: How do you insulate a van? We will discuss the importance of insulating a van and guide you through the process of doing it. 

How do you insulate a van?

It is so easy to insulate a van that anybody can do it! But first, we must understand why insulating your van is an essential step that you mustn’t skip. 

Insulating your van in a serious and thoughtful way is very important for future living comfort. Of course, the avenues for reflection will vary depending on your life plan and other data, such as payload. But, no matter what, serious isolation will allow you to have:

  • Comfort with soft and well-distributed heat in winter;
  • Warmth in full sun in summer, without emptying the equivalent of your body of water on the mattress.
  • Reduced gas consumption in winter for heating (both for the wallet and for the environment)
  • Reduced indoor condensation and more breathable air.

This part should not, therefore, be neglected, which is one of the most important in the development. Imagine if it is missed, it will be necessary to dismantle the whole van to start it again! Moreover, we can see in recent months that the importance of this step in the development of a van is well understood by any van lifer who starts.

The moment we have decided on the ideal material to insulate our van, we have to get down to work and collect the rest of the necessary materials and tools. As always, we leave you a summary table to help you in the process.

What tools and materials do you need to insulate a van?

The tools and materials you will need to insulate a van are:

  • Recommended insulation material – 20mm Armaflex (or thinner for critical areas)
  • Cork (only for the floor)
  • Installation Tools – Aluminum or Rubber Tape
  • Sikaflex
  • Cutter, scissors, meter and level
  • A cloth and rubbing alcohol.

More than a process of different steps to follow, it is a monotonous and simple task. We must pay attention to cover as much sheet metal as possible without leaving air bubbles between the insulation and the sheet. The bubbles could form condensation and produce rust over time.

How to insulate a van, step-by-step

Before starting the work itself, the first thing is to make sure that the sheet is completely clean. To do this, we will pass a cloth dipped in alcohol or something similar to obtain immediate cleaning and drying.

We are going to divide the process by the various areas to be worked on.

First layer insulation

  1. Difficult to access areas: In the event that we have decided to do so, the first task is to fill difficult gaps with polyurethane foam. We will apply it carefully and well. It expands a lot, so you have to do it little by little so as not to damage the sheet. The excess material can be easily cut with a utility knife when the foam dries and is rigid.
  1. The floor: On the ground we will have already put or we will put the battens (20 x 30 mm wooden slats anchored to the sheet with rivets). It is about building a structure on which we will later place the floor and, later, we will anchor the furniture. 

Then, we fill in the gaps with the rigid or flexible insulating material that we have chosen. To do this, we will measure and cut the plates to size, marking the drawing with a pen and a level.

Despite not being as ecological as cork, extruded polystyrene usually comes tongue and groove. In this way, it facilitates the process of covering joints and installation, as well as being more economical.

  1. Walls and ceiling: On the walls and ceiling we will do the same operation with the chosen material. If we choose Armaflex or Kaiflex self-adhesive, the placement will be much faster and easier.

 Of course, we must make sure we get it right the first time because once it sticks it is very difficult to take it off without breaking it. We will also need a white marker or a colour that can be seen.

The process consists of cutting the pieces to measure with the cutter. It will be necessary to make smaller pieces for corners and small curves, a real puzzle in which the entire sheet must be covered. It just takes patience and be sure that everything invested in this process will be more than rewarded.

Second layer insulation

It is not a mandatory step but, once the first layer is finished, the ideal is to put a last 3 or 5 layer reflective multilayer insulating sheet. With it we will create a waterproof vapor barrier and it will also serve to cover the nerves (in which case we have not made them with another material). In this part of the process, we can use much larger pieces and it will be easier.

As with the first layer, if we do not choose self-adhesive we will glue it using Sikaflex or a similar material and we will use aluminum tape at the joints of each piece.

How much does it cost to insulate a van? Approximate prices

Regarding the price of insulating a van, taking as a reference the measurement of a medium-sized van, between 15 and 20 square meters of insulating material are needed to line the floor, walls and ceiling. The amount will vary based on the specific size of each van.

The best insulator and also the most expensive is Armaflex with a cost of about 10 to 15 euros per square meter. From there, the prices are going down considerably for the rest of the materials. For example, if the budget is very tight, you can use rock wool that already comes with the aluminium foil. A fairly effective and inexpensive all-in-one.

  • Armaflex or Kaiflex: between 10 and 15 dollars per square meter depending on the thickness
  • Multilayer roll: approximately 5 dollars per square meter
  • Unit roll of aluminium tape: approximately 5 dollars
  • If we need ultra-resistant Sikaflex: approximately 11 dollars for each bottle
  • If we need polyurethane foam: 7 dollars each bottle approximately
  • Rest of materials: approximately 20 dollars.

A TOTAL OF BETWEEN 200 and 500 dollars depending on the size and the insulating material chosen.

Final thoughts 

Before installing the insulation in your van, you must install the wooden structure that will allow you to fix your plywood sheets or your panelling. For this, you will need cleats of different lengths and widths.

Pay attention to the free space between the wall and the thickness of the batten. You must have enough room to lay your insulation without compressing it in its thickness. 

Do you have any questions or comments on the content? Let us know!

FAQ on How do you insulate a van?

How to thermally insulate a vehicle?

To thermally insulate a vehicle you can use an asphalt blanket, aluminium adhesive felt, EVA thermal insulation or aluminized etalon. Coating the interior of the vehicle with these characteristics is what creates the insulating layer, helping to prevent heat from the exterior from reaching the interior of the vehicle.

How is the insulating membrane placed?

The role of insulation should be extended towards the highest part of the ceiling. Once the roll reaches the highest level of the ceiling, it must be attached to the structure. Once the insulation is fixed on the top of the roof, it should be aligned until it is parallel with the braces. 

How can I insulate a van?

The best option to insulate the van: Kaiflex or Armaflex type synthetic rubber elastomeric foam. The best insulating material is elastomeric foam based on synthetic rubber with a closed-cell structure. The best-known brands are Kaiflex or Armaflex.


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