Bus Build: Insulation for our Bus Conversion | Sheep’s Wool – S03E41

Doing research on insulation can become downright confusing at first.  People on bus/skoolie forums and groups hold very strong opinions about what will give you the best results, with whole hearted arguments for why you shouldn’t use another insulation.

Instead of just following the popular choice of spray foam insulation (an option that may work okay but is toxic and harmful to us and the environment), we decided to dive a little deeper researching this aspect of our build. After learning how insulation works, what the unique concerns are when living in a bus and chatting with our sister-in-law (a Sustainability Administrator at a large engineering firm), it was a no brainer for us to go with sheep’s wool insulation.  If you haven’t seen that video or read the blog yet, I highly recommend you do.  She offers some great resources for helping you find sustainable and non-toxic options in construction.

We chose to go with Havelock Wool as they source their wool from New Zealand who offer not only the best fibers suited for insulation but who also practice superior cleaning and shearing practices. Their website is full of helpful and informative facts on wool, comparing how wool stacks up against traditional insulators and will answer many questions you may have about using wool in your bus or van build.


The Truth About Sheep's Wool

One of the biggest arguments you will hear about sheep’s wool is that it will mold. This is simply not true, in fact it is the opposite. It is mold and mildew resistant.

We sat down with Philip Walsh of Havelock Wool to discuss the misconceptions on wool as insulation and learn more about why wool is such a fantastic sustainable option. This is what we learned.

Other than the fact that wool is a non-toxic, renewable, sustainable and biodegradable option, wool offers a lot more than the common or traditional insulators. We think these factors actually turn wool from being a good option for insulation to a superior option.

Wool Manages Moisture

This is huge in a bus or van build! It does not mold, because it naturally absorbs moisture (without becoming wet to the touch)  while still maintaining its insulation properties. When the air becomes dry again, the wool will release the moisture back into the air. Many argue that Spray foam offers the highest R Value, but R Value is not the only factor that makes an insulation effective. Moisture management over time and in different climate conditions will provide you with the best insulation qualities.

I highly recommend you read Havelock Wool’s Blog post titled “Does R Value Even Matter?” and “Havelock Wool is Mold Resistant” to learn more on this topic.  Plus you can read more of the science to back this up HERE.

Wool Filters the Air

Most insulators emit harmful toxins, while wool actually filters the air and keeps your home environment safe. Wool irreversibly bonds with formaldehyde and other pollutants. This naturally occurring feature of wool will not be found in any other insulation options.

But don’t just believe us, HERE is the science that proves it.

Wool Offers Sound Deadening Qualities

Again, this is huge when your home is in a vehicle.  It can make a big difference to your quality of life both when you are driving down the highway or camping in a crowded RV park.

Wool is also naturally fire resistant, easy on the wallet and a breeze to install.  This is how we did it:

Wool Insulation Installation (try saying that fast 5 times!)

The van bundle that Havelock Wool offers is 2 bags of batts compressed into one. 1 bundle should cover approximately 200 sf. We bought 3 bundles (so 6 bags total) for our bus walls and ceiling. We opened them up a couple days before installation both to let them air out (they do smell a little like a barnyard) and to decompress.

Many people use string to hold the wool up on the ceiling, but we chose to go with wood laths which we nailed into our furring strips with brad nails.  You are basically looking for something to hold the batts in place and help resist gravity, until you put your walls and ceilings in. The batts are easy to tear apart, so you can make them whatever size you need. Small amounts can be torn off too to stuff into small gaps and crevices.

For the walls we glued and screwed a wood lath into the top metal beam of the bus and then sandwiched the top of a batt between the glued lath and another lath which we then stapled together. We first tried screwing the wool and wood lath directly into the beam but the screw doesn’t go through the wool, the wool just wraps around the screw but a brad nail goes through the wool no problem.  Then we just tore the batt down to size and tucked it in between the beams.

The barnyard smell does dissipate over time and we immediately felt the temperature change as we installed our wool. It was around 36 °F outside but with just a space heater in the bus we were able to warm it up where we stripped down to our tees and tanks.

We do have a few batts left over which we plan to use in one of the luggage bays which will be a room for our cats, but we’ll get to that at a later stage. After all the challenges we faced installing sheet metal and windows to the side of the bus, installing our insulation was a painless and simple process.

 

Up Next
With our insulation in, we can begin building our walls and ceiling to complete the shell of the bus.

Some of the links we share are affiliate links, which means that if you choose to make a purchase, Rehabit8 will earn a small commission. This commission comes at no additional cost to you. Please understand that we have experience with all of the products we post and share them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions we make if you decide to buy something. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you achieve your goals.

Havelock Wool
We are very happy with our choice to go with Havelock Wool.  Our bus was immediately warmer and it was very easy to install.  If you are interested in buying wool for your build, please consider using this link to make your purchase.  At no cost to you, we will earn a small commission which will help us to keep making videos and sharing in this blog.

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By Mela & Don

Mela and Don are sharing their journey as they make conscious decisions to live a more healthy, environmentally friendly life together.

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