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Back on the Coast

Back on the Coast

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Van Renovations have Started!

As a lot you have realized, I haven't been posting lately. Once again, I went back to work on the off-grid home, so I have been very busy. I got back about 10 days or so ago; so, I started renovating my van. My main goals are to insulate the van very efficiently, and to put in a well-designed bed platform. I tried to design in other aspects to the back area, but, there just isn't enough room.

The first thing I had to do was to remove all the inner linings and roof liner. Then, I could see what I had to deal with. My first goal is to create an insulated roof with around R10 insulation. This is key to my design. One of the greatest heat loss areas is your roof. While the roof liner was a foam structure around R2, and did help, I wanted much more insulation. Then there are your windows, and the rear and side doors and your driving compartment. They will be addressed later.

Left: van interior with liners removed

I wanted to minimize any loss of interior space and maximise insulation. So, I decided to use foam panels of high R-value in between the roof ribs you can see in the photo. I also used a insulation sandwich panel of reflectix facing up, a foam core of R5 and reflectix facing down. There are also trapped air space above and below the suspended insulation. That way, summer heat is reflected up, winter heat is reflected down, and I have a R10 insulated roof in approx. 2 1/4 inches thick area.

Left: Expanding foam injected into structural channels.

Next, I injected foam into the roof channels along the side and across the top. You got to be careful not to put too much in at a time. It won't cure properly if you do, and you could distort body metal. The idea is to not allow any cold areas within your structure, so I'm trying to create a continuous insulating barrier around the interior. Also, any channels which have wiring or working parts which may need to be serviced were not filled. Common sense.

Both above: Framing to accept insulation and mount paneling.

The pictures above show framing which was glued and screwed to the metal roof channel. You gotta be careful not to puncture the exterior metal skin of your van. The picture to the left shows a rear piece which displays the total depth of the insulating space, a little over 2 inches. The frame members mounted on the roof ribs are made up of 1/4 inch thick strips, so it would conform to the curved roof.

Left: Insulating panels glued into place in roof framing.

Next, I added the insulation. Like a fool, I didn't take a picture showing the overall insulating setup. It goes something like this from top to bottom - rooftop metal skin, airspace, reflectix layer, foam insulation panel, reflectix layer, airspace, wood ceiling panel. I wanted the reflectix on top under a airspace to reflect the summer sun's heat, and so far, it's been very effective. I would have used a double thick layer of foam core, but that would have made a much more lowered roof, so I utilized different materials for different types of heat loss/gain. I negated any foam squeaks by taping duct tape around the panels and gluing them into place with a high quality construction glue. On top and below the panel is reflectix, which doesn't squeak against the foam. It works great, no squeaks at all.

Left: Finished roof, paneled, primed and just needing top coat.

My design is to utilize the original side liners with beefed up insulation behind them, and for the insulated wood roof to fit in with them. So far, it is working out great. A few comments. This is taking a long time, much longer than I anticipated, so obviously I am not living in the van. Also, paints and glues off-gas a lot, so you need to do this when it is dry weather to maximize the setting process and minimize the time.

I lost about 1 1/4 inches in overall height in my back area, but I gained very effective insulation. The effect for the summer is immediately noticeable. My van doesn't heat up nearly as much as before. If I have any circulating air, it's like beautiful cool shade in the back. I know it will be effective in winter.

I once insulated a cabin in the mountains. First, I insulated the floor. It made a little difference. Then, I insulated the windows by storm covers and heavy curtains; the walls were fine. That made a noticeable difference, but not a lot. Finally, I insulated the ceiling. I used a thick insulating layer, as per construction methods. This last step made a huge difference, more than all the rest combined. Also, I stopped air leaks around doors, etc.

I applying the same principals to my van. Laren Corie, a fellow vandweller and knowledgeable person, says that insulation is most important for your windows and the roof, in other words the areas of greatest heat loss/gain. I agree. And that is what I'm doing to my van. The next installment will address the windows and sides of the back of my van, my sleeping/storage quarters.


Jack said...

Pretty sweet!! This post feels like it should be part of a Pimp My Ride episode.


urban vandweller said...

Hi, Jack - I don't know about pimpin', but it's gonna be good when finished. Simple, but functional. I like your blog, checked it out recently. Voluntary simplicity - it's the way, balanced and humane.

Cheers, UV

Anonymous said...

love your blog, btw.
i found reflectrix to be a great insulator in my 59 delux window bus. flexible, reusable, etc. just an idea. good luck in your remodeling!

urban vandweller said...

Hi, Hannah - Yup, reflectix is great stuff. I use it in my current renos, and I used to use it for window covering. '59 delux -sweet ride! Thanks for your encouragement.