Is insulating a cargo trailer worth it?

In this blog post, we will answer the following question: Is insulating a cargo trailer worth it? We will discuss the advantages of insulating a cargo trailer. We will also guide you and explain how you can insulate a trailer by yourself!

Is insulating a cargo trailer worth it?

Insulating a cargo trailer is completely worth it and perhaps one of the best long-term investitions. In short, insulating slows the rate of heat transfer into and out of the cargo trailer, which means that the trailer will stay cool in summer and warm in winter. 

Insulating a cargo trailer offers you the following advantages:

  • Well-distributed heat in winter;
  • Warmth in full sun in summer;
  • Reduced gas consumption in winter for heating (both for the wallet and for the environment);
  • Reduced indoor condensation and more breathable air;
  • You can transform the cargo trailer into livable quarters. 

Insulation is a crucial step, good insulation is the guarantee of good protection against outside temperatures and of significant comfort. 

What materials to use and how to insulate a cargo trailer?

There are several ways to insulate a cargo trailer. All materials have their own drawbacks and qualities. To isolate a trailer effectively, follow the various steps explained below.

  1. Insulating a cargo trailer with glass wool: Glass wool is used in the majority of constructions. It is an insulator that traps air, which gives it its insulating properties.

Advantages :

  • very good thermal and sound insulation;
  • easy to cut and install;
  • packaging in rolls or panels;
  • attractive price.

The inconveniences:

  • sensitive in humidity;
  • use of a vapour barrier film essential;
  • settles over time;
  • significant thickness in a small space.
  1. Insulating a cargo trailer with thin or multilayer insulation. Thin or multi-layered insulation is often used in trailer fittings.

Advantages :

  • reduced thickness, therefore, saves space;
  • several layers which reduce heat exchange;
  • easy to install because it is flexible;
  • resists high humidity levers.

The inconveniences:

  • poor sound insulation;
  • no thermal imprisonment;
  • limited performance;
  • variable price according to thickness.
  1. Insulating a cargo trailer with extruded polystyrene. A less popular insulating material, but useful nonetheless. 

Advantages :

  • good compressive strength;
  • resists humidity;
  • reduced weight;
  • comes in the form of plates;
  • very good thermal insulator;

The inconveniences:

  • poor sound insulation;
  • relatively high price;
  • does not resist fire.

Multilayer insulation is an attractive material because it is suitable for small spaces and easy to install. Glass wool offers significant thermal and sound performance.

Extruded polystyrene offers good thermal insulation but not sound insulation.

If you plan to travel in cold temperatures, multilayer is likely not enough. It is also possible to superimpose 2 types of materials for optimal insulation. The choice depends on the type of use of the trailer and the available interior space.

Note: roll cork is also an interesting and ecological solution, but it must be combined with another material (multilayer or glass wool). It is often used this way to insulate the roof more effectively. 

On the other hand, it is difficult to obtain precise cuts with roll cork, which must be applied and glued (a heat-tolerant glue is required) to flat surfaces. This is why some people use sprayed cork but it is a difficult technique to implement and quite expensive.

Solution #1: Insulate a trailer with glass wool (walls and roof)

Glass wool comes in the form of panels or rolls. If you choose glass wool with an integrated vapour barrier, it is essential to tape the joints to have an optimal seal, which can be difficult to achieve because of the interior pillars of the trailer.

  1. Measure the spaces between the interior pillars of the trailer.
  2. Cut out pieces of glass wool with a saw or a glass wool knife.
  3. Fill in the spaces between the uprights with the cut pieces.

Once all the spaces are filled:

  1. Apply adhesive to the panels to hold them in place.
  2. Secure a vapour barrier over the entire surface, taping the pieces together with a special adhesive.

Solution #2: Insulate the trailer with thin or multi-layer insulation (walls and roof)

The thin or multi-layered insulation clips onto cleats that are fixed to the uprights of the truck.

  1. Measure the length of the horizontal uprights inside the trailer.
  2. Cut and screw the cleats on the uprights.
  3. Unroll the thin insulation and staple it to the cleats.
  4. Connect the junctions with a special adhesive.

Tip: For optimal performance, it is recommended to leave a 2 cm air space on each side of the thin insulation.

Solution #3: Insulate a trailer with extruded polystyrene (walls, roof and floor)

Extruded polystyrene is commonly coupled with thin insulation.

  1. Measure the spaces between the uprights of the truck.
  2. Cut out the extruded polystyrene sheets according to your measurements.
  3. Fill in the spaces with the pieces.
  4. Place the pieces well against the sides of the truck.
  5. Cut out and fix cleats on the interior uprights.
  6. Perform the same operations as in step 3 to install the thin layer of insulation.

This type of insulation is also suitable for floor insulation:

  1. Fix the cleats to the correct measurements on the floor of the trailer.
  2. Fill the spaces between the cleats with extruded polystyrene.
  3. Screw OSB plates onto the cleats.

How to insulate a cargo trailer, 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 idea is to put a last 3 or 5 layer reflective multilayer insulating sheet. With it, we will create a waterproof vapour 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 similar material and we will use aluminum tape at the joints of each piece.

The bottom line

In conclusion, it is completely worth it to insulate your cargo trailer. You may be thinking that since no living being travels inside it it’s a waste of money. Still, think about the fact that you’d love to keep your trailer cool during summer and warm during winter – and that should be reason enough.

Do you agree with us? Let us know what you think or if you have any questions about the content!

FAQ on Is insulating a cargo trailer worth it?

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 trailer?

The best option to insulate the trailer: 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.

Should I insulate the floor of my trailer?

Yes, you should definitely insulate the floor of your trailer. Insulation is one of the most important steps in the arrangement of a trailer. Indeed, in summer as in winter, it allows us to protect ourselves from the cold or extreme heat. 

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