Van insulation was one of the most confusing decisions we have had to make so far for our van build. There are so many options when it comes to insulation and so many factors to consider, such as toxicity, moisture management, r-value, sound proofing, etc. After researching all of our options, we ended up choosing Havelock Wool for our van build for a few key reasons:
- It’s non toxic. Since we will be living and working in the van, we wanted something that was safe to breathe 24/7.
- It’s warm. It has an r-value of 7 for the 2” batts which may not be the highest of all time, but the other benefits outweigh having the absolute highest r-value. We also will be installing a heater for any brutally cold nights.
- It’s great at moisture management. According to their website, “it will take moisture in when the ambient air exceeds 65% rh. When those levels drop below the threshold, moisture is dissolved adding to temperature control and indoor air quality.” One thing we know we will get questions on is why we don’t have a vapor barrier. According to Havelock “condensation is inevitable and entirely unavoidable. Plan for escape routes, not a feeble, misguided attempt at barriers.”
- It’s easy to install. It’s not rigid and can easily be cut or ripped apart to fit the spaces in the van. You also don’t need any protective gear to install it.
- It’s good at sound deadening. As you may notice in our vlog, we did not install rattle trap. We aren’t 100% sure if we will regret this or not, but Havelock wool has a 90 and 95 noise reduction coefficient for batts and loose fill, respectively, so we feel like it will do a pretty dang good job at noise reduction.
We initially bought 3 bags of the 2″ batts, but then decided to insulate the floor as well, so we bought a 4th bag to be safe. However, after finishing the walls and floors, we still had a tiny bit left for the doors. While it wasn’t enough, it didn’t make sense to crack open the 4th bag, so we made due with what we had and returned the 4th bag, which cost us some shipping, but we got most of our money back.
Tips for Insulation
Start with the nooks and crannies
We started by ripping up the batts into much smaller pieces and shoving it into all of the nooks and crannies. Using a pen or a screwdriver to help shove things into tight spots was very helpful! It can be a bit annoying having to shove wool into every single hole, but it’ll be worth it in the end!
After filling the nooks and crannies. then it’s time to add the batts to the larger spaces. You may need scissors to cut the batts to fit the areas, or you can rip them apart.
Use a vacuum to fill the support beams on the ceiling
We saw this trick on Benn & Lu’s YouTube channel and it was super helpful! Here’s a quick rundown of how to do it (also shown in our vlog):
- Tape up all of the holes on the support beam.
- Attach a small piece of fabric to the end of some string. Make sure the string and the fabric are light!
- Have one person put the string in the large hole at the end of the beam while the other uses a vacuum to suck the string through the beam.
- Once the string comes out the other end, hold onto it while the other person ties a strip of wool (we pre-cut these) to the end of the string.
- Remove the tape so nothing sticks or rips.
- Have one person shove the wool into the hole while the other pulls on the string at the other end to move the wool through the beam.
- And you’re done!
Use string and the crisscross method for the ceiling
We used the openings on the side of the beams (as seen in the photos below) to string the string through. We went from one side to the other to create a criss cross pattern until we had string across the whole beam. We loosened the string, added the wool, and then tightened it and tied it to the end of each beam in the thickest part so it was sturdy.
Note: the wool may not fit perfectly in the space, so you may have to double up or add extra pieces.
We still have some more insulating to do, but we feel like we have learned a lot so far and hopefully these tips help make your insulation installation easier!
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Great instructions! Seeing it on your video also helps a lot!
Thank you! 😀
How many bags of wool did you purchase for your van size? 🙂 Thanks for the great review/guide!
Hi Dani! We are so glad you found this blog helpful! We bought 3 bags at first for the walls and ceiling and then added on a 4th for the floors, but we haven’t used all of it yet. We still have some walls to insulate, the headliner, and the doors and I think we will end up using about 3.5 bags in the end. The shipping is $$$, so definitely order as much as you can at once to save some costs! I’ll make sure to update this blog when we are done to say how much we actually used 🙂
What type of string did you use?
Hi! I believe it was white twine!
How has the wool insulation been working out for you this past year? Have you noticed any issues at all? Can you tell if it sagged at all (i.e. cold spots near the ceiling along the walls? Do you think it is ‘managing condensation’ ok? Have you spent much time in high humidity areas? Cold areas?
It is what I want to use in my van but people keep trying to dissuade me. I don’t think that will work but I’d really like to hear from experienced van owners who have used wool and had it for some time.
Thanks for anything you can share.
Hi Deryn! We love our wool! We haven’t had any issues with it at all, including sagging. And as far as we know, it’s managing condensation well! We spent many cold days (single digits included) in Colorado last fall and also just spent some time in Florida, where it was pretty humid. I hope that helps!
Do you regret not using rattle trap? I’d love an update now that you’ve been in the van for a while?
Hi Addison! It’s hard to 100% say since we don’t know what the alternative is like, but we haven’t regretted not having rattle trap! We have noise from things in cabinets and the road sometimes, but nothing crazy (and we think those are normal noises). We have a 6 month van update here if you’re curious about anything else we love or would change: https://adventuresofaplusk.com/6-months-van-life-highs-and-lows/
Great instructions! How did you get the wool to attach to the walls? I didn’t see that in your video or blog. Thanks!
Hi Helen! So sorry for the delay. We ended up using spray adhesive for the walls. Which wasn’t ideal since it isn’t nontoxic, but it was the easiest option and the wool attached great with it. Hope that helps!
Such a great, detailed insulation install video! Wondering if you found that the smell dissipated over time? We currently have wool dog beds and don’t notice any odor but had to return some duvet bedding that was wool due to strong barnyard smell. Our Havelock is already on order but hoped to hear what your long term experience after install has been. Thanks again, Jo.
Hi Jo! The smell definitely went away, especially after adding the ceiling and walls. We haven’t smelled it since finishing, which is great! It also got less barn smelling over time throughout the build too. Hope that helps!
Thank you for the response, that’s what I was hoping to hear! I can’t wait to have a little buffer between us and the snow, currently our build is very nose numbing .
Oh wow, we bet! Weather can make the van build extra brutal. We had a couple 100+ days building ours in TX and that was not fun lol!
Do you have any details on how you insulated your floor?
Hi! We have a video on insulating and installing our subfloor here: https://youtu.be/cidC71Oez2I