Temperature regulation within your van can have its challenges depending on a number of variables: color of the van, if it’s located in shade or direct sunlight, ambient temperature, etc. These factors can’t always be changed, but having proper insulation will give you the best shot of regulating your space and keeping it comfortable.
We decided to go with the spray foam over foam board, fiberglass, or denim because of cost, time, R-Value, sound deadener, and the added vapor barrier. Being able to do 2 vans with the 602 sq ft also saved us both a ton of money getting each van done for about $375.
After calling around to local businesses, we were getting quotes of about $1,500 per van and no one had any experience previously spraying a van before…so we figured we were equally as qualified to do it ourselves. After all, are we qualified for any of this? *shrug*
After some research, we found Foam it Green which sent a kit with everything we needed to get the job done. After a full day of prep work, we were able to cover both interiors of the vans in about 2-3 hours.
Some other benefits of the Foam It Green kit were:
- Anti Microbial
- R-Value 7 at 1″ (we were able to cover 1″ pretty consistently and then some)
- Fire retardant
- Super easy to apply
- Spray Foam Kit
- Infrared Thermometer
- Plastic Sheeting
- Blue Tape
- Bread Knife
- Flathead screwdriver
- Putty knife
Most of the time spent during this project happens in the preparation phase. It is extremely important to consider where you will be spraying your foam since it will expand and harden very, very quickly.
It is important to remove the paneling found on the side and rear doors of your van so that you can spray appropriately in these areas. Using a screwdriver and a putty knife were helpful in being able to get the trim fasteners off of the panels. These panels reveal open areas that can be sprayed into for additional insulation.
Plastic Sheet Prep/Areas not to Spray:
The plastic sheeting can be used in conjunction with the blue tape to seal off these important areas. This allows you to spray without worry, as during the process your main focus will be smooth movement and accurate trigger pressure for the right flow of foam to your van’s interior. The last thing you want to think about is “where is that foam going?”
Here is a list of areas to make sure you cover properly and/or do not spray:
- Door Locks – make sure adequate area is available for locks to actuate. This is a critical spot as once this material hardens, you could have some major issues opening your doors.
- Sliding Door panel – this contains a long wire that helps actuate the door opening. The wire itself moves when actuated, so we recommend using crushed denim in this area.
- Side floor/wall panels – these are smaller panels that offer access to the bottom of the sidewall of the van.
- Ceiling studs/framing – this area of the van is where you’ll be mounting your furring strips and it needs to be kept clean for easier installation.
- Tail lights and pretty much the entire back corners of the van.
Because there are so many wires and cables that can be affected by the spray, we decided to double down and use crushed denim insulations to stuff areas that still needed insulation, but it protected against the foam expanding too much and ruining or limiting access to wires.
It is important to keep an eye on the temperature of the van. The instructions suggest that the van’s body temperature should be in the range of 60-80F. If your van is not in this range, consider moving it into sunshine or shade respectively. If you are in an area where you do not have shade available, consider running some water over the top of the van to get it down to the proper temperature. Buying a darker van, this was problematic for me and this trick helped.
The execution of this is fairly simple, but having a game plan is crucial since you have to move relatively fast as the foam cures. Here are the steps we’d recommend:
Read the directions a few times. We found that doing an initial read through the directions was helpful, but it can’t hurt to read a few times for any bits of info you might have overlooked.
Plan your attack. The instructions suggest starting on the roof of the van due to the pressure that the containers provide at their fullest. We followed these instructions, but to be honest, after doing the whole van, I think we still had quite a bit left, so we could have started elsewhere first, but we would advise doing the same. After all, they are the experts! The order we chose was: roof, sides of van, doors, then any cavities that needed to be filled from the prep phase where panels were removed.
- Put on the Tyvek suit and gloves that are supplied with the kit to keep your body and any clothing you value safe. The foam will stick to whatever it hits almost indefinitely.
- Make sure you buy a respirator since the kit does not supply one.
- Eye protection – I highly suggest you do not skip this step. If you got this in your eyes, you’ll need some medical attention.
Prepare canisters. The directions provided with your kit are written well, but this is a very helpful video that we watched a few times to get comfortable with the process:
Test the spray. We’d advise that you get a box or piece of cardboard to spray and feel how the trigger pressure works. Having a steady and consistent finger on the trigger will leave you with a better end result. If it’s going to be your first time, these test sprays will be very beneficial to you. I wasn’t sure how much the foam would expand either, and testing helped me to figure this out.
Start spraying. This is the moment of truth. Double check your temperatures one last time and get to spraying! We went with a variety of approaches, but I think the easiest way was to spray the outline of the area you are in and then fill it in. Multiple videos shown below will help you see the process as we did it. However, don’t be afraid to get a little artistic. Spray some spirals while you’re at it! It is suggested by the manufacturer that if you stop spraying for more than 15-20 seconds, you should change tips so that the flow of the spray is consistent. We went through about 7-8 tips each.
Spray cavities. We highly suggest that you limit the amount sprayed into cavities of the van. It is good to spray in them, but do not overdo it. If you spray too much, you could either damage the body of the van if it has no place to expand to, or you will end up cutting this down and wasting foam (and your time).
Let it cure. It is suggested by the manufacturer to let the foam sit for 24 hours. This allows for the foam to expand completely and harden.
Make necessary cuts. This step will vary based on the rest of your build in terms of where you will have paneling and where you will not. Essentially you will need to have the foam flush with whatever area you plan to panel. For us, that meant that the foam on the ceiling would eventually need to cut down so that it was not above the plane of the cedar planking. The same applied with our wall paneling.
- Noise cancellation – The insulation on the van does not cancel out noise, but it seems to “deaden” the sound. It makes everything a bit deeper in terms of sounds. When you first knock on the van walls, sounds gave off a higher pitch “ding”, versus more the “dong” sound now.
- Climate Control – I put the van to the test by sleeping in it without insulation when I first bought it. I hung my hammock and slept in about 40 degrees in the hills of Ramona. It got cold! I have a Marmot sleeping bag and I was feeling a slight chill. After I insulated the van, I slept inland, about 10 degrees warmer and it was nicer, but again, that was 10 degrees warmer.