Van Conversion Part 1 : Framing & Insulation

We are currently in Paradise, CA staying at family's house while we spend time converting our 2016 Mercedes Sprinter Van. This process has been a challenge and we have been doing a lot of waiting for parts and special orders to arrive. Next week we will share a long post on our electrical and solar set up but today I wanted to share the first initial stage of the van process. More details about our van life plan here.

INSULATION

Our first step in the process was to get our van insulated. When we had bought the van, it had said that it had rear insulation which we were pretty excited about, but once you pull back the panels we discovered that it barely even covered it. They basically had just placed a single piece of foam there. We weren't expecting to insulate it, but after seeing the tiny foam pieces we headed to Lowe's and bought reflect-ix, styrofoam for the ceiling, denim insulation, spray adhesive, gorilla tape, and a plastic vapor barrier. We decided that insulation was absolutely necessary because we don't want it to be as cold as a meat locker in there once the temps start to cool down...and we also didn't want to cook in there in the summer. Comfort is key, this is our house after all so being comfortable is our top priority. Shopping in Lowe's for all the stuff we needed at first was so exciting too. The beginning of the conversion just gave us this giddy feeling. That we are actually doing this. It's real! It sometimes doesn't feel real because its so out of the ordinary, but we're so excited for this new adventure.

The insulation wasn't too expensive, here is a detailed list of the materials we bought for insulation.

MATERIALS PURCHASED:

  • ULTRA TOUCH Denim Insulation

  • Reflectix DOUBLE INSULATION

  • Plastic sheeting vapor shield 

  • 5 rolls of GORILLA TAPE

  • Loctite spray Adhesive

  • GREAT STUFF Spray insulation

 

STEP 1: First we covered our van with Reflectix using Loctite Spray Adhesive. We cut each piece out to fit each small section of the van walls. 

Our little furry helper Zoey

Our little furry helper Zoey

STEP 2: Fill all the holes with Ultra Touch Denim Insulation. We chose it because it is mold, pest, insect, and flame resistant. Its also not super itchy if it gets on your skin like fiberglass. This stuff gets everywhere so we had to wear a mask while putting this in. "don't breathe this". We ripped chunks off and stuffed them in all the cracks, making sure its not too tight but stuffed enough to where it covered all the walls. Then we secured them in with some Gorilla Tape.  We also used some spray insulation in the small crevices, but we realized quickly that we didn't like it and only used it on a small part. For the ceiling we used those foam insulation boards, we measured and cut each piece and used spray adhesive and Gorilla Tape to secure it.

Also, to mention it, we cut a hole in our roof and installed the Fantastic Fan Vent prior to putting the insulation in. This part was fairly easy considering we had my grandpa to help us. He works at an auto body shop and mentioned to us he cuts holes in cars all the time, so we felt pretty reassured all would be well when cutting the hole in the roof.

STEP 3: We then added our Plastic Sheeting Vapor Barrier on top by using the Gorilla Tape and covered all the walls making sure there were no holes or openings. We decided to do an extra plastic vapor barrier over our denim insulation because we want to keep moisture out. Coming from the PNW we were used to the wet environment so keeping the mold and wetness out of our walls was necessary.

After we finished this part of the process we were interrupted by a lot of different festivities and adventures so we had to take our van on these road trips with us as incomplete. We regret not putting in the furring strips sooner which we will share below, but the vapor barrier duct tape melted in some of the more extreme heat areas and there were parts of it that came off. We also had to remove the part we installed on the roof because we installed our solar panels and had to drill a hole in the roof to feed the wires to the battery. Once we cut and drilled our furring strips for the framing the vapor barrier stayed put much better.

FRAMING

This part was easy peasy! We went to Lowe's and purchased furring strips to cut and drill into the sides of our van.

MATERIALS PURCHASED:

  • 12 8ft 1x2 in  FURRING STRIPS (came in packs of 6)

  • WOOD SCREWS

We measured the sides and cut each strip to fit in all the crevices. We used a drill, 1/4 and the wood screws to secure them to the sides of the van. We used a strip on the bottom, middle, and towards the top on each side. When drilling them into the sides we were a little worried at first they would pierce a hole in the side of our van, but it worked out and there were no holes. Phew! Everything went well. The only thing we still have to do is install the framing for the roof once we finish the hook up for the solar panels later this week. Once that is finished this week, we will have the framing completely finished and ready for the walls, lights, light switches and electrical outlets to go in. 

Stay tuned next week for our detailed electrical and solar panel set up!

Also, follow us on instagram to see our recent updates on the van build!

PS: We started a Vlog! Click the button below to see more behind the scenes of van life.