Insulation question

I know about the standard insulation used but have a question about cork board. It is light weight, high R factor and sound deadening. Moisture is the question or would using a vapor barrier be adequate? Also very light weight.

Any thoughts on this???

Hello Jenn and welcome to the forums! Are you asking about using cork as part of the insulation, the subfloor, or actual floor to walk on?

Cork naturally repels water so it’s a popular choice in homes in the kitchen and bathroom where it would be more exposed to water. (Floors and/or countertops.) It’s recommend to apply a sealant to the cork to enhance the water repelling nature of it and to help keep it looking nice for longer. You can also apply stain to get the look you want. But you have to keep the sealant (polyurethane, for example) applied to keep the water tight nature of it effective; about every 4-5 years depending on how it’s wearing. I’ve read articles that don’t recommend it to be used in places where it will be overly exposed to water, too.

Cork is a great choice for vans because it’s also a mold inhibitor because of the naturally occurring substance in it called suberin. Anything that helps against mold in a van is a good thing.

Keep in mind that cork can scratch, scuff and dent easily though if you drop a sharp object on it or have heavy furniture. Chairs with caster wheels aren’t a good idea but you can refit them so they’re hardwood floor friendly and that would take care of the problem. Cork is expensive, but I’m interested in it myself. I will be living in my van as much as out of it, so I would appreciate the softer surface.

Then you have to realize that cork does expand and contract with the weather. It’s recommended to leave a half inch gap around the edges to give it the chance to do that. As someone who likes knowing they’ve cleaned all the dirt off the floor, this is a downside for me. That half inch is just a place for dirt to gather.

And yes, cork does have thermal properties. It’s certainly warmer (and softer) to walk on and it generally enhances any insulation you already have.

I wouldn’t call cork “sound deadening” exactly. It’s more accurate to say it’s sound “absorbing” or sound “dampening.” It will quiet sounds down and get rid of echos, but it’s not good sound “deadening” or “soundproofing,” even though it can be used as one of a combination of elements to achieve it.

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The cork was for insulation mostly cause it reduces cost in the vapor barriers although I would still. Yeah that 1/2" gets me too but oh well a little dirt keeps you healthy. :grinning: I like it naturally inhibits moisture. Just saw a van on FB market place they are trying to sell for way to much that they used regular insulation and I didn’t see a vapor barrier. Ridiculously asking 12K. I sent him a message on the mistake of insulation and his price point was way to high.
Having walked on my P’s wood floors in winter the warm underfoot is appreciated.

It sounds like you’re going in a direction you’re comfortable with, Jennifer. I’m still researching for the best way to insulate for my needs. I have time though since I don’t even have my van yet.

I have perfectionist tendencies and, while I don’t expect things to be perfect, I just really hate conflicting information from different sources! When you don’t have experience with something and you’re researching how to do it correctly, it’s frustrating to come across info that varies so wildly!


I’ve spent my entire adult life living in vehicles, many of them, and frequently in extremely hot or extremely cold conditions. Most of them had little to no insulation, and all of my favorites had lots of windows.

With the exception of a cargo van, which was extremely insulated, I had no problem either heating or cooling any of them. The insulated cargo van was the worst of them all. Shade in the summer, and sun in the winter has treated me better than any amount of insulation, and then just having good heating and cooling equipment. A few weeks ago, in Northern Minnesota it was -57°f, and I was totally warm and cozy in my uninsulated window van, with none of my windows covered or insulated either. All it takes is a good heater.

I spent last summer South of Miami, very hot and humid. I would park in the shade when possible, but even in direct sunlight, my swamp cooler could keep me comfortable. When the outside temperatures and humidity were in the 90’s, inside my van was in the 70’s, and the humidity was in the 30’s. Very comfortable, and no insulation or window covers were necessary.

My portable heaters require no power, and my 12v swamp cooler only uses under 2 amps of power. Both work as well or better than the original vehicle’s heater or air conditioning, but work without the engine running. While insulation might slightly reduce the heating or cooling power needed, it will by no means eliminate it, and quite frankly, it could not make me any more comfortable.

Insulation does have non temperature related uses though, or at least differently associated uses. In passenger vehicles you typically have very little exposed metal. This does create a thermal break between the inside and outside. Passenger vehicles also typically have a thick felt type pad under the carpet that also covers the wheel wells. While this is great insulation, it’s primary purpose is for sound deadening to keep road noise to a minimum. In cargo van conversions, measures must be taken to keep the walls from “ringing” while going down the road. This isn’t necessary for passenger vans.

Most of the full timers I know advocate for opening windows and ventilation instead of insulation or roof vents.


"Necessary ventilation defeats any advantage of insulation." ~ Hobo Joe

Van Dweller
What type of heater do you use? and what is your swamp cooler? Less conversion cost means buying van with fewer miles but increased cost in vehicle. But then you know your house will be with you a while.

This is why I came here to get good advice.


I use kerosene for both heating and cooking, and I also have kerosene lanterns for a backup, or I also sometimes use them for the ambiance.

My swamp cooler is a home made indirect type, so it works even in high humidity areas. The intake air enters from the outside, and it exhausted back outside. This cools the water in the reservoir which is then circulated through a small radiator, which only indoor air is recirculated through. This way no moisture is added to the interior air. It works as well or better than conventional air conditioning, but runs on 12 volts and uses only about 2 amps of power on high, and just over 1 amp on low, which is where it is normally set at after an initial cool down period of 15-20 minutes.

Neither age nor miles reflects the true condition of a vehicle. I prefer the older pre-computerized vans because there’s so much less to go wrong with them. My vaan is a 1973 high top Dodge van that has nearly 450k miles on the original engine and transmission. It had just over 250k miles on it when I bought it over 10 years ago for $750. It was mechanically sound and had very little rust, but the interior had been totally stripped. I replaced the original passenger van style floor and walls out of a wrecking yard, then moved my camping interior in rather than building it in. It was move in and travel ready for well under $1500 total.

Since I’ve owned it, it has been stone cold reliable and only required normal maintenance. I have added a few cheap and simple upgrades that weren’t actually required, but I desired. I added a points eliminator kit, an electric radiator fan, and auxiliary electric fuel pump, a fuel pressure regulator, and switched out the plugs to a type known as fire injectors. The electric fuel pump is in place and wired to a switch, but is not in use. It is merely a backup plan in case the original fuel pump fails in an awkward place for handy replacement. The fire injector spark plugs are guaranteed for life and guaranteed to never foul. If the points eliminator kit ever fails, I can easily replace it with the original points and rotor. The original radiator fan is still in use, and the electric fan has both a temperature sensor and a bypass switch. It gets used rarely, but can keep everything cool even in traffic jam situations in high temperature areas. The fuel pressure regulator significantly increased both my gas mileage and my power.

Regardless of the age and mileage of my van, it reliably carries me clear across the country on a regular basis. The Dodge based vans and motorhomes from the 70’s and 80’s have been the most reliable vehicles I’ve ever owned. It’s all about reliability for me, and I’ve never had a computerized vehicle that I would call reliable. Sure, I only get 18mpg on the highway, and about 15mpg in the city, but that’s more than a fair trade off for the reliability, simplicity, and lack of major repairs needed on newer vehicles. One computerized van I had required over $8k in repairs, and it had under 100k miles on it, and I paid big bucks to purchase it too, and it was under 2 years old at the time, and came with great looking but obviously phony fleet maintenance records. Either that or the newer engines and transmissions are just plain garbage compared to their older counterparts. Newer doesn’t necessarily mean better, and a warranty doesn’t help much when you’re stranded in the middle of nowhere, nor does it make up for your losses due to depreciation on newer vehicles.

With a $1500 van including the conversion, it will pay for itself very quickly. The same can’t be said for newer or more expensive vehicles. I’m not into losing money on my vehicles. My van has owed me nothing since a couple of months after purchase, and is probably worth triple what I have into it. Short of a catastrophic collision or it getting stolen, I could replace anything, including the engine or transmission and still be money ahead. It still drives like a dream, and keeps me totally safe & comfortable, and provides everything I need.

Van dwelling, or full timing is about practicality for me, not a race to see how much money I can spend, and I don’t need the latest and greatest everything. It’s all about comfort, convenience, and reliability for me, and my poor old van provides all of that and more.


"Be the reason someone smiles today!" ~ Van_Dweller