The science and techniques that go into insulation can get pretty complicated. When it comes to your van project how you insulate it will depending on your budget, the climate, the size of your van and how you want to use it and how much work and time you’re willing to put in. I wanted enough inuslation to help stop rapid temperature changes and keep the van warm and dry so that I could safely store camera gear (and myself) in it during the many rainy, cold winter months on the Scottish West Coast! For a general overview on insulating your van and the science behind it I’d highly reccomend this talk by Greg Virgoe.
After a fair bit of research I went decided to insulate as much as I possibly could – an easier (and cheaper!) prospect when dealing with a smaller van such as the NV200.
Equiptment & Materials
I ended up using products almostly entire from Dodo Mat. Dodo Mat are a UK company who specialise in insulation and sound deadening materials for vehicles. They are widley used and reccomended in world of campervan conversions. I found this video guide by Combe Valley Campers to be incredibly useful in the best practices for using these materials.
Trim Removal Tool Kit – Amazon
Dodo Mat DEADN Hex Sound Deadening Mat – Amazon
Dodo Mat Van Insulation Thermo Accoustic Liner – Amazon
Dodo Mat 12mm Super Liner – Amazon
Dodo Mat Fleece Campervan Insulation Roll – Amazon
Heavy Duty Black Nitrile Gloves – Amazon
My insulation process took the form of three main layers. A first layer of sound deadening panels to reduce road noise, followed by accoustic insulation and finally, a top layer of true inuslation such as dodo fleece wool or legnths of kingspan to plug gaps and fill space where possible.
With the first layer of sound deadening, aim to cover all parts of the vehicle that are in contact with the outside. These deadening sheets helps reduce rattle and road noise and creates more ‘rigitiy’ in the panels. It’s espeically useful at reducing the ‘booming’ sound that thin panels in large vans produce while driving at higher speeds.
After removing the cabin bulkhead, I started removing all the interor felt/plastic panels to get access to the inside of the doors and sides of the van. I then started to stick down the thin Dodo Mat panels. These panels are for the walls, doors and ceiling of the van.
TOP TIP: Be careful with those sound deadening panels, they have sharp metal edges and will rip your fingers to shreds if you’re not careful!
The glue on these panels is very sticky, but using a hairdrier or heat gun can really help the inital sticking and help liquify the top layer of glue. It probably didn’t help that I was doing this in March, so the outside temperatures were pretty low anyway!
Wall & Door Panel Insulation
After the deadening panels, the first insulation then goes on. For the walls and doors I used the Dodo Mat Van Insulation and Acoustic. This is flexible, closed cell foam with a layer of reflective, silvery material on top. It’s a decent form of insulation and also works to reduce road noise.
Finally, I started adding in the Dodo fleece. This facinating material is actually made from shredded plastic water bottles and acts in the same way as wool or glass fibre insulation. It’s safe to use and handle without protection and is perfect for filling into gaps and void spaces. As you can see in the below photo, I stuffed the fleece into all available spaces and gaps in door panels and walls. I also used spare lengths of kingspan insulation boards in larger spaces.
Insulating The Floor
For the floor, I opted to use the Dodo Super Liner, which essentially combines the deadening mat and accoustic panels into one roll. This stuff is pretty thick and a bit more difficult to put on, but it means you only have one layer of material to work with. A heat gun is also very useful here. Keep in mind that in the NV200, access to the top of the fuel tank is located on the floor under a metal panel behind the drivers seat. I’d reccomend cutting a section out here so you don’t accidently over this up!
After a lot of peeling, sticking, and cutting my fingers however, it was complete! Using the panels that had come with the van, I fitted them back in place with a layer of silver bubble wrap material to act as a vapour barrier. I also opted to not fully insulate the ceiling at the point, as I was planning to do v-lining on the ceiling and so I wanted to return to that after I had fitted more of the interior out.
TOP TIP: For the floor, you are better with some help – having my dad there to ensure the tension is held on the mats as I heat the glue underneath made it much easier to do!
Insulating The Ceiling
Several weeks after I had finished with the floor and wall insulation, I returned to the final stage – the ceiling! By this point I had already stayed in the van several times and I had also just freshly carpeted it (more on that below) and I was ready to put the final touches to the insulation. For this, we had to shape lengths of wood that would screw into the metal ceiling ribs and allow us to to stick in both the insulation and the v-lining to cover it all up. The v-lining was a bit ambitious but I was captivated by the idea of a beautiful wooden ceiling!
The wooden cross beams were sharped and scribed to each metal rib, which while a bit fiddly, in the end it worked out really quite well. With these in place, I then placed lengths of kingspan insulation into the gaps, creating a flush surface on the ceiling. I stuffed the gaps with remains of the accoustic foam, as well as some off cuts of the dodo fleece.
I also choose to fill the hollow metal ribs with expanding foam. This was just to close off any final air gaps and bridges within the ceiling, though it can be a pretty messy excerise so make sure you have some sheets down!
Finally, similar to the walls and door panels, I opted to then cover the entire area with a single sheet of bubble wrap ‘insulation’ (I say this in quotations because despite being used frequently as such, the actual thermal propoerties of it are pretty poor) as a form of vapor barrier and to keep everything contained. Then it was onto the more fiddly job of covering it up with the actual v-lining (which I’ll detail later)!
The Final Results
There was a few weeks difference between putting on the walls, doors and floor insulation and then the final ceiling insulation (which we did at the same time as carpeting the van) but the effects were instantly notifcable. With the sound deadening and insulation in the floor, the van now feels incredibly sound on the road, with far lets rattles and bumps. The biggest difference, however, was the ceiling. The effect it has in capturing and retaining heat is quite increidble. In the summer I could sleep in the van without a blanket and wake up the next day warm, and even now in the winter just a simple summer sleeping bag would be enough to keep you warm.
The insulation was by far the most difficult job, but without a doubt the most rewarding. The value it has added is amazing, and I’d reccomend anyone who is looking at their project to go ‘all in’ on insulation as much as possible!