VAN BUILD POST 7: Insulation

Okay! Your fans and windows are in… You starting to feel like a pro yet? Now, let’s get to making this van a ~little~ bit more climate controlled. It’s time to insulate! Zak and I used 3M Thinsulate insulation, but there are many options for your van build. We went with 3M Thinsulate because it was a popular option among other people on YouTube, it was easy to get, and it was very easy to install. But, does it keep our van super warm or super cool? No. Not world’s best insulator. We had originally wanted to use Havelock Wool, but it was on back-order at the time, and more expensive than Thinsulate. There are also other options such as spray foam, rock wool, and fiber glass.

Gettin’ our insulation on!

Factors that you should think about when insulating your van:

  • Time to insulate
  • Ease of insulation
  • Natural? Anything harmful/ that you wouldn’t want to breath in?
  • How much time it will take for you to get your insulation (shipping v buying at a local store)
  • Is it water resistant, or does it absorb water?
  • R-Value

Let’s Talk about R Value:

What is an R-Value? It sounds really technical, I know. If you’re new here, we talked about it back during our floor build post, which you can access here. But briefly: The R-Value is a measure of how well a material insulates per inch thickness. Here are some of the approximate R-Values of the insulators I mentioned above.

  • 3M Thinsulate – 5.2
  • Havelock Wool Batts – 3.6
  • Havelock Wool Blown-In Insulation – 4.3
  • Fiber Glass – 3.1 – 3.4
  • Rock Wool – 3.0 – 3.3
  • Closed Cell Spray Foam – 7
  • Open Cell Spray Foam – 3.8

** I wanted to make a small update here thanks to a comment we had on YouTube. We stated that the Thinsulate was not a good insulator for us, and we would have preferred Havelock Wool. However, when you look at R-values for Havelock vs Thinsulate, Thinsulate has a higher R. Value. While Thinsulate technically has a higher R Value at 5.2 than Havelock Wool, the thinsulate is about 1″ thick, tops (at least that’s how it turned out in our van). On the other hand, the Havelock wool comes in 2″ batts for vans, which brings the added R-Value up to 3.6×2 or ~7.2.



So, we said that we went with 3M Thinsulate. Here is how we actually did it. We bought two rolls of 3M thinsulate off of EBay. As a note, the directions that came with the insulation said that it was supposed to expand quite a bit once it was out of its plastic, but we found that it did not expand, so we put it up as it was. I have read a few other articles that it may take weeks for it to expand.

3M Thinsulate in Plastic

Before we started, we made sure to use newspaper and painter’s tape to completely cover our windows and fans. The adhesive spray is very sticky, and does not wash off of windows, mesh, or any other material very easily.

To put in on the walls, we just used regular scissors to cut it to approximately the right shape for each piece of bare metal, and then used 3M Adhesive spray to adhere it. As a note for the adhesive spray, make sure to spray not only the wall, but also the piece of insulation, wait for 15-20 seconds to let the spray get tacky, and then stick the insulation to your wall. We made sure to get all of the obvious pieces of the walls and ceiling, but also make sure to get within the panels of the door, and in all of the hard-to-reach areas of the van. Remember, the more insulation, the better!

3M Contact Adhesive (alternatively, Loctite Contact Adhesive works great too!)

While 2 rolls of Thinsulate worked for us, and we had extra to stuff in extra places, we are starting to wonder if we might have wanted that third roll, to do additional layers of insulation throughout the van.


Towards the end of our build, we noticed that we had a ton of styrofoam and other packaging from our many Amazon orders piling up. In a stroke of inspiration, as we were putting up our walls, we also added quite a lot of that styrofoam packaging behind our walls. It not only stopped us from having to throw away all of that styrofoam/ plastic, but styrofoam is actually a decent insulator as well. Plus, we also figured that more insulation couldn’t hurt!

Watch Us Insulate!

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