Thursday, July 23, 2015

Van Remodel - Part 5 (finished enough)

Ian shared the van reveal on facebook but I realized I never followed up on my blog, which I assume some people were waiting to see. Sorry for dropping the ball! We were just so done with the van when we got to this point that talking about it any more was making me crazy. We got it to this usable state just under a year ago but still have not found the motivation to really trim it out as we've taken on other projects. I foresee us leaving it as-is for a while more =p

So... where do I begin. Let's take a tour, shall we?

First off, we have to go back (1) and look at (2) where (3) we started (4):




It used to be a cushy passenger van with green carpet, two captains chairs in the 2nd row, a bench seat in the 3rd row, wood trim, limo lights, and a tv with VCR (I know you want that VCR). Ian built a bed out of 2x4 when we made our move from CA to CO, which satisfied our needs for a while but once he learned how to weld, his inspiration to transform this space took off!

He began with a full gutting:

We insulated the floors and walls, paneled it with 1/8" plywood sheets, and decided to cover up the large side windows for a) better insulation and b) ease of install. The greatest challenge in this build was the curves in the van. They were everywhere and inconsistent and a P.I.T.A. to work with. Ian rewired everything in the back and installed back up and rear view cameras, a ceiling vent fan, and an LED light on the wall. He welded & spray painted (some of) the bed frame & the slide-out frame to support the fridge, built all the cabinets, installed the vinyl plank flooring, and upholstered the overhead speaker paneling and a few doors. Oh, and he installed an extra battery under the van along with a solar panel on the roof and a solar controller on the wall behind the driver's seat. Of course, that list is a gross over-simplification of the huge scope of what Ian really did. 

This is the view from the side doors. Note the passenger seat swiveled around. That was made possible by a swiveling plate that Ian engineered and welded. That was the first thing he welded for the van.

 The bed folds back on Ian's side to allow for more walking room during our waking hours. The left side is where we put our clothes and packed sleeping bags.

The bed folded out & all made up. Ian's 6' and I'm 5'5" so I gave up some bed length for the cabinet. We left the small operable windows accessible in the back for circulation and for a little peep area to check for stranger-danger before we get up. We use bubble-foil insulation cut-to-size for covering the windows. We originally were planning on blinds of some sort but the foil has been enough for us so far.

Our sink cabinet. Most things you see on top are from Ikea, except for the single-burner Coleman propane stove. For our safety, if we ever use the propane stove inside the van, we have the vent fan on with windows open and/or the side doors are open for circulation. And we don't have the burner sitting on the dish drying mat you see here. So far it's all worked out. We also have a small fire extinguisher tucked behind the driver's seat. Safety first!

The fridge/freezer pulled out and open all the way. We mounted a shower grab bar on the door as our handle. The reason for that is because the original handles were just small plastic handles that Ian accidentally ripped off the old door panel one time, so we went with a beefier replacement with the remodel. It's a nice towel rack too =)

When the seat is swiveled around, the fridge can only be pulled out partway, in which case we can pop the lid out of its hinge to access the fridge.

Under the sink is a water pump, drain tank for waste water, and storage for our two-burner stove, propane, and kettle. The right side also has an access panel to get to the fuses that control the pump and inverter and other wiring.

 The 16 gallon (60L) water tank is tucked under the fridge frame with a little access door to see how much water we have. We have a hand pump stowed in the van in the instance we run out of power or if the water's too low for the pump to reach.

 Ian welded the bedframe so that there is unobstructed access throughout to easily slide gear in. The cubby on the left stores Enzo's food, treats, and brush along with extra wiper blades and a snow brush. The cut out in the flooring (a bit difficult to see, but it's there in the bottom left area of this photo) is for a concealed anchor plate where we can put back in one of our captains chairs should we have a 3rd passenger.

A view from the back.  We store our camp chairs, camp table, climbing gear, kitchen bin and food bins underneath here with room to spare.


The cubbies here store a battery jump-starter, first-aid kit, solar shower, and shower mat.

The solar panel that powers our vent fan, fridge, LED lights, and water pump.

The speakers and cubby that Ian built and upholstered.

The cubby has our vent fan remote, LED lights, and two USB charging ports. This is where we store our kindles, books/magazines, camera+accessories and other miscellaneous stuff.

And that's it! You probably noticed wall & ceiling joints with vapor barrier+insulation poking out the edges. That and 3 more door panels are basically the remaining things to be finished. Oh, and some covering for the roof over the front seats. Right now it's just bare metal with two jaggedy holes cut in the metal on each side. We were originally thinking of making a panel with lights but having used it without, we haven't missed it since we always have a headlamp around. I think if we ever finish the trim work, we'd just cover the jaggedy holes in the metal. 

A few big things we've learned from this process that we'll do differently next time:
1) Start with a van with straight walls. 
2) Install the flooring throughout and then build on top. As it is, Ian just put flooring down where you see it: he floored around the cabinets, which he regrets because of the dirt-trap the bare plywood floor can be and also because it's not water-resistant in the cabinets. 
3) Start with a van with straight walls. Did I mention what  P.I.T.A. the curves were?

A general source list for the major pieces:
- Counter top: $10 scrap board from Ikea's As-Is section. Probably a former desk or cabinet siding.
- Ikea FYNDIG single bowl sink
- Ikea TÄRNAN pull-out faucet (looks to be discontinued as of July 2015 when I just checked)
- Ikea RINGSKÄR soap dispenser
- Fan-Tastic vent fan with rain sensor
- ARB fridge-freezer 50 QT
- LED light strips purchased on ebay originating from China.
- LED wall light purchased on ebay also originating from China.
- 100W Solar panel  (I think this is the one we bought.)
- TrafficMASTER interlocking vinyl plank flooring from Home Depot

Oh! One thing I recently purchased for the van is this roll-up over-the-sink dish drainer:
It is coated with a heat-resistant silicone (up to 400F) so it can also be used as a trivet. It is invaluable given our limited/non-existent counter space. Highly recommend for anyone living in a small space! I normally have it folded in half over the sink so we can still use the faucet. 

I have cushion covers in the works for the bed, but so far I've only cut the fabric: still need to sew everything. These photos were taken before I got to that. 

If you have any questions about process or resources, leave a comment below and I will do my best to get back to you. I hope this and my previous posts about our van remodel were useful! We gathered a lot of ideas from others who shared their van build so I hope this adds to that knowledge base =) 

Cheers!