Van: Update #1

Posted by Andrew on January 15, 2018

Everyone is long overdue for a van update, so here we go!

Last time we talked, I was in the tear-down phase, removing the old floor and interior construction from the previous owner. It’s safe to say that I’m past that phase and fully into construction at this point. I was able to successfully remove the old floor, grind off the old adhesive holding it down, and remove the metal wall separating the cabin from the cargo area. In addition to the adhesive, the floor was also bolted down, so I ended up doing a lot of manual work cutting old those old rusted bolts out.

Once the floor was up, I cleaned up some surface rust with a wire wheel and applied some rust preventative spray. Hopefully, this will keep the rust from returning after I put the new floor over it.

The first step in construction was to install the start of the floor. First, I laid underlayment on the bare metal, then bolted 1/8” plywood down. The underlayment will provide a little cushion, and reduce noise slightly. In the future, I plan to put down some laminate flooring as well to spruce the place up a bit.

The next step was insulation. Insulation is an important part in keeping the van comfortable, and doesn’t impact the amount of available space in the van. As you can see in the picture below, there’s approximately 3-4 inches of space to work with for insulation between the skin of the van and the inside of the supports. Once I put up walls, that space would be sealed off anyway, so it made sense to take advantage of that and fill it with insulation. The goal is to help keep the van cool in the summer and warm in the winter (with help from a heater).

I spent some time doing research on possible materials, and I first settled on polyiso panels (the pink squares shown below). The panels have very good insulation properties, and I had access to someone’s leftover panels, so I figured I’d give that a shot first before spending money on more expensive options. My goal was to glue the sheets in place against the van skin. To spare you the suspense, this did not go according to plan.

First, the sheets are very rigid, so they needed to be cut into smaller pieces to actually nestle into the spaces without just flexing back. Second, the several adhesives I tried all failed within a few days. Thankfully, I hadn’t put up the walls or ceiling yet, so I was able to see they were still loose. I even tried using a jack to hold them firmly in place while the adhesive cured, but it just wasn’t meant to be. Last, even if I would have gotten them to stick, they made a truly annoying squeaking noise whenever they’re rubbed against anything. Avoiding that noise was probably a blessing in disguise!

After going back to the drawing board, I decided to check out denim insulation. It comes in rolls that can be ripped easily into different shapes without any special tools or protective equipment. It’s made from recycled jeans, and has above average insulation properties as well. This was easy to work with, and a spray adhesive easily held it in place until the walls were in.

I even found part of an old Levi’s label in the insulation:

After the insulation was in place, the walls started to go up. I used 1/8” plywood and screws to attach the plywood to the supports on the inside of the van. Cutting the plywood to shape was the hardest part because of the curved walls, and the odd shapes needed for wiring or structural elements. There weren’t too many obstacles here, but this part did get a bit tedious. It’s definitely motivating to start to see things come together though!

As things currently stand, the floor, the ceiling, and the left wall of the van are insulated and the plywood walls are up, and the insulation is sized for the rest of the walls and the rear doors. Construction is currently halted because it’s been below 10 degrees for most of the last month, so I look forward to starting back up in the Spring!

Special shout out to Nick P. for providing much needed common sense and the gracious use of his driveway and tools for this project. He definitely had a better idea of what I was getting into before I did. 😊


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