Polystyrene insulation- fire risk?

Jamesy

Full Member
#1
Hell All,
I’ve just discovered that the converter of my van didn’t put Kingspan in after all but use cheap slabs of polystyrene. I’ve pulled a lump out from behind the room panel and fire tested it - it lights really quickly and burns with acrid black smoke. Both the underfloor and roof have this stuff with electric cables running past it. Should I be worried? Do I have grounds to get it replaced by the converter?
Thanks for your help folks.
Jamesy.
 

Edina

Administrator
#2
Wow, that is supposedly very dangerous stuff if it catches fire and surprised to hear of any converter using it.
 
#3
Sounds like it was converted in the 1960s! does the van have woodchip wallpaper as a decorative cover.

I would feel very uneasy having that as the main insulation.
 

Jamesy

Full Member
#4
It was done last year. I won’t say where just yet become this may end up being a legal case. I only found out when I was investigating why the van got so cold this winter in the Alps. There a NO insulation in the top corners or over one of the wheel arches so no wonder the clothes and books all got damp from condensation when these areas iced up in x15 degrees.
Anyone got any legislation numbers that I can use to get them to remedy the situation?
 
#5
Insulation is a very contentious point. I would say Polystyrene is unsuitable due to its flammability and the noxious fumes it gives off, but there are other products in common use which some people think are perfect and others think are very bad - e.g. Fibreglass loft insulation... used to be very common and many converters still use it, but it retains water and can easily promote corrosion as it lies against the inside of the body panels.
Other people are of the opinion that ANY insulation is a bad idea as it stops the vehicle breathing between outer panels and inner boarding and so don't fit any.
Which is right I honestly don't know. I install insulation and barriers in a certain way as it seems - to me - a logical thing to do, but I don't claim it is the best or only way to go. Maybe your converters have a different approach? (I'm just saying this as it may be difficult to prove they were negligent in their build and you could waste a lot of time, effort and money going down a dead-end road).
 

Jamesy

Full Member
#6
Insulation is a very contentious point. I would say Polystyrene is unsuitable due to its flammability and the noxious fumes it gives off, but there are other products in common use which some people think are perfect and others think are very bad - e.g. Fibreglass loft insulation... used to be very common and many converters still use it, but it retains water and can easily promote corrosion as it lies against the inside of the body panels.
Other people are of the opinion that ANY insulation is a bad idea as it stops the vehicle breathing between outer panels and inner boarding and so don't fit any.
Which is right I honestly don't know. I install insulation and barriers in a certain way as it seems - to me - a logical thing to do, but I don't claim it is the best or only way to go. Maybe your converters have a different approach? (I'm just saying this as it may be difficult to prove they were negligent in their build and you could waste a lot of time, effort and money going down a dead-end road).
All understood, ........but would you be happy letting your family drive off and sleep in it? Or would you feel comfortable selling it onto in unknowing new owner? I’m starting to think that the van is a lability now and I’ve wasted quite a lot of money having a brand new Boxer van inverted by a cowboy.
 
#7
All understood, ........but would you be happy letting your family drive off and sleep in it? Or would you feel comfortable selling it onto in unknowing new owner? I’m starting to think that the van is a lability now and I’ve wasted quite a lot of money having a brand new Boxer van inverted by a cowboy.
I'm not defending or condoning the converter in any way. My point is have a think before you spend more money trying to use legislation to correct something that might not break any LEGAL rules (moral rules or sensible rules don't come into it when it comes to legalities).

Just reading your first post you said "...Kingspan in after all but use cheap slabs of polystyrene". If part of their conversion process stated they are using Kingspan insulation, then they must have not delivered to their agreed specification, so it you have that documented, then damn right go after them!
 
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RV2MAX

Full Member
#8
More dangerous than the fire is the toxic gasses released when it burns , that will kill you quicker .
 


Jamesy

Full Member
#9
More dangerous than the fire is the toxic gasses released when it burns , that will kill you quicker .
Agreed. So now I need to go back to the converters with some form of argument to have everything ripped out, the insulation done properly and then everything put back in! Hard to believe all our hard earned money for our van is in the balance -next time I’ll self build. Thanks everyone for your contributions - anyone know a good solicitor? Think I need some legal clout to help my case.
 

Edina

Administrator
#10
Some solicitors will not charge for the first meeting, but if you want free advice visit Citizens Advice: better to know where you stand legally before approaching the converters.
If you google 'boat safety scheme' and polystyrene you will find out why it is not used on boats eg.


The provisions of this section of Part 3 in the 2002 BSS Standards are mandatory for non-private boats where applicable.

It's a good idea to keep cables that are insulated or sheathed in PVC away from polystyrene thermal insulation - the two materials have been known to react and break down the cable covering. It's recommended that the electrical installation is periodically checked by a competent electrician - preferably every year - so that you can keep a record and spot the signs of a problem, before it becomes a potential hazard. [3.4]

And

The provisions of this section of Part 6 in the 2002 BSS Standards are mandatory for non-private boats where applicable.

If non-fire retardant polystyrene is present on your boat this can cause a fire to escalate. To minimise the chance of this happening it's recommended that polystyrene thermal insulation complies with Type A requirements of BS 3837 Part 1. [6.5]
 


#11
Plaxton were using polystyrene as insulation in 2000, as I suspect most coach builders were and maybe still are. I do wonder when choosing materials as to what is best for safety, durability and cost. My first conversion was finished in varnished plywood. Wow that stuff burns well. I'd imagine that all soft furnishings are fire retardant these days, but are they. Do the same laws for house products apply to vehicles?
 
#12
Plaxton were using polystyrene as insulation in 2000, as I suspect most coach builders were and maybe still are. I do wonder when choosing materials as to what is best for safety, durability and cost. My first conversion was finished in varnished plywood. Wow that stuff burns well. I'd imagine that all soft furnishings are fire retardant these days, but are they. Do the same laws for house products apply to vehicles?
Interesting points there. Also I wonder what the foam used in the seats and mattresses is like for flammability?

As an aside, it is impossible if no labels to tell by just looking or feeling, the only real test is fire!
My partner used to make tutu dresses a few years ago and there was a story in the news about a little girl who went up in flames when the polyester dress-up dress type thing she had from Asda or Tesco or wherever caught a spark from a fireplace! I decided to check the material that my partners dresses used just in case, as they were all nylon type material and looked flammable.
Long story short, I had a blowtorch played on it for around 15 seconds and while not intact of course, was not bad at all.
Very surprising (and very relieving as well)
 


#13
White st foam was banned many years back in home construction,but i fear no legal force to stop it being used in vans,but if you said i want or they said we use kingspan then you have them by the b--ls
 

Duckato

Full Member
#14
An entire motor home is a massive death trap fire wise a bit of polystyrene won't make much difference pretty much everything else in the van is equally evil! So don't get to hung up over one component.

Instead simply verify what you had in your contract if he skimped then you have rights but only if you can clearly show the wrong materials were used.

However whether you will get anywhere..... was it a limited company or a sole trader that you used is he insured did you get a warranty etc.

Also don't immediately consider removing it the stuff is horrible to work with and the little balls get everywhere! You will be clearing up for ever, better to gut the van and reinstall from scratch perhaps reusing what you can.
 


#15
An entire motor home is a massive death trap fire wise a bit of polystyrene won't make much difference pretty much everything else in the van is equally evil! So don't get to hung up over one component.
What a total load of bo**ocks!

If a motorhome is properly built, using proper materials throughout the construction then that is not the case.

In my van I used closed cell spray foam and special fire retardent upholstery foam and materials. Yes we do have a gas hob installed but I test/check it regularly.
We also have 2 near to hand fire extinguishers and a fire blanket and the required fire and gas detector alarms and as the van engine is diesel, then that isn't a significant fire hazard.

As for your original post @Jamesy it sounds to me as if you had your van converted by someone who does this for a living, if so, if you were me, I would first of all gather up as much detail data and information as you can about building standards, regulations and materials not to use that no doubt might be obtainable from the NCC (https://www.thencc.org.uk/).
Although I very much doubt that the person who converted your van is a member of the NCC, if you are able to gather enough technical and legal information about the professional conversion of a panel van into a motorhome, then you would be able to confront the manufacturer in question with the information. Even if the converter is a one man band, then, as they are in business, by law they must exhibit high levels of due dilligence and care.

If they then fail to offer to make amends, you will have a very strong basis to approach Trading Standards and ask them to take action and if they fail to do so, then as a very last resort you could take action against them yourself, but of course that would cost you quite a lot until you had won your case.

Phil
 


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