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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hello Promaster Forum Community!

I have been promising a build thread for a while. Here it is!

The dream:
For the past five years, I've hardly made a dent in my debt. My cost of living is too high. A sacrifice is needed in order to aggressively pay down what I owe. How can I do that? Well, I've always wanted to do some kind of tiny home/travel trailer/dirtbag climber/train hobo thing. Let me do the math... yep, it checks out! If I sell my car, move out of my apartment and into the van, I can pay off all debt in 16 months instead of 7 years!!! After weighing the variables, I decided to suck it up and do it. Honestly, it's still freaking me out and I don't know the first thing about plumbing, insulation, etc., but I'm going all in. Phew!!


Making the purchase:
I found the van in Wisconsin. It's actually pretty hard to find a 3500 EXT window van. I flew up there on a one-way ticket and then drove back home to Texas.

Van: 2016 Promaster 3500 Extended High Roof Window Van
Price: $32,000 before tax and title (It's good for us to all share what we paid to spread the knowledge)
Mileage:500
Bells and whistles: tow package, rear 12V adapter, rear speaker wiring, uConnect 5.0 (ya, that's an upgrade?), cruise control, rear defroster
Known issues: The undercarriage had rust on everything. The dealer said that is normal, even on a new van. Sounds like bullsh*t. I'm calling RAM corporate about that. The inside also had dirt, scratches and small indentations in the cargo area. New van? Maybe the dealer used it for their own internal purposes, but a new van shouldn't have all these issues and 500 miles on it... TBC

This first set of pictures is my purchase and roadtrip back home.


Me and A VAN Called Quest just hanging out


Inside is bare and ready for the build


First stop was Lake Michigan for a little meditation



First night in the van!


Stopped in St. Louis for a photo op
 

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Discussion Starter #2 (Edited)
Time to plan the build...
On the civilian and military side, I do/did a lot of planning. I was super eager to get things started but needed to have some kind of plan in place or my robot brain would have a meltdown.
I made a project spreadsheet with phases, tasks, categories and status. (I will likely add a notes section as well


I also made a cost breakdown sheet to track where my money is going


This workbook/spreadsheet is in progress and I will deliver it as a complete XLSX file (for posterity and future van builders) when it is finished.


For the floorplan design, I settled on Floor Plan Creator, found in the Google Play store. It isn't the best in the world, but I just needed something simple to help me visually see what I wanted.


Noise in the driver seat while on the highway averaged about 74dB. Let's see how it progresses through each phase of the build.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Next up is the initial equipment purchase. After doing a lot of online research on build phases (what comes first, how-to, planning, etc.), I decided that insulation needed to happen first.


1" polyiso


Great Stuff Pro Gun. Don't even ask. You NEED this.


Great Stuff Pro Gaps and Cracks


3M 90 Adhesive. After a call to 3M themselves, they said this is the right stuff. (Don't buy the 77 adhesive as it isn't designed for this.)


Walk around the big saw and find free scrap wood in the back. There's a bunch of it, just ask.


Painter's tape


Zep Degreaser


6' planks


Got it all in the van

Oh, ya. I forgot to mention the construction paper. This was critical to making stencils... see below.

Let's get building! Woohoo!
 

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Discussion Starter #4
My intention was to custom fit the polyiso to flat pieces of sheet metal. I saw a number of videos where people were gluing huge sections of it over ribs and ripples and my robot brain had a fatal error. I spent WAAAAYYYY more time on this than you should ever do. You can probably glue over little bumps in the sheet metal, but I wanted to make sure there would be no gaps for movement later on.

My recommendation is that you get the pieces in there as best you can, but don't worry about the lines being perfect. The Great Stuff foam will more than make up for a crooked line. You can cut to fit on the fly... unless you have a robot brain like me... then, the lines must be straight or the goblins will murder everyone.

I pulled the panels off the sliding door and rear doors.


Time to make the stencils.




A big pile of stencils with locations labeled.
Note: I now have stencils for every spot on the van. Let me know if you want them. It'll save you like at least 17,000 hours, probably.


Pay attention here. This is what makes one side go WAAAYY faster than the other.
Once the passenger side was in, I stenciled the pieces that were already mounted on the wall.
Now, my pieces for the driver side will fit perfectly in place. Extra adjusting or cutting wasn't needed on the driver side.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Polyiso Time
You might consider getting an insulation or drywall knife. I used a sharp, straight-edge knife that sliced through pretty easily but required some sawing. I have a feeling that the INSULATION KNIFE might work better for cutting INSULATION. The utility knife doesn't work well because the blade isn't long enough to cut through 1" polyiso.


Stencil transfer to the polyiso


Cutting out the pieces


Lining up the pieces in order because well, I don't have to tell you about the goblins


Last piece! This was extremely tedious. I recommend finding a workbench and a buddy to help.
My back was pretty sore after bending down and standing up 1,000 times. That's probably an actual, real-life number.


Small pieces go in and get a few pieces of painter's tape to hold in place until the 3M 90 sets.
NOTE: 3M adhesives actually require a some drying to become tacky. Spray the sheet metal and the polyiso and wait a couple minutes before mounting. The adhesive will bond much quicker.


Bigger pieces get a scrap wood piece wedged into them with a long plank. 6' works perfectly if you use the floor tie-downs.


I almost ran away to Guatemala after this... You can probably just mount long/wide pieces between the cross-beams and not worry about filling in the ribs.
Luckily, a friend helped for this part and it went SOOO much faster.
Right or wrong, my plan is to cover the ceiling "tiles" (polyiso) I made with sheets of Reflectix. That way, there will be little air gaps or air channels between the tiles, allowing heat to get trapped there.
Under the Reflectix will go the ceiling panels. Any criticism on this ceiling plan is welcomed. It just seems like a sound idea based on what I've been reading.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Great Stuff Time

WARNING: Wear gloves and eye protection when using Great Stuff.


I didn't realize how CRAZY this stuff is. This picture is AFTER an hour of scrubbing with a steel brush.
I also got some of the Gun Cleaner blown back in my eye because I wasn't wearing eye pro.
After these mistakes, I am now wearing latex gloves (Walgreens) and clear lens eye pro.
To add, now that I am much better at using the GS Pro Gun, my gloves and face rarely get anything on them.



Foam went around the polyiso and filled in the crossbeams.
This stuff expands a lot more than you think it will.
Give it a couple minutes to fill out before applying more or you will have a dripping mess.

That brings you guys up to date on my progress.
My next post will have some questions...
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Questions about insulation:

There are a few locations I'm not sure what to do with. Do I fill those in with Reflectix, polyiso and GS, something else? Surely not all GS. That would cost a fortune. I also heard that we're supposed to leave the holes in the bottom for moisture to drain, but nobody is showing pictures or videos so I'm not sure what parts they are talking about. Can you help?



What goes in these big sections of the rear doors?
What goes where the wires and cables are in the rear doors?


This is the midpoint column of the cargo area. There are some fairly large sections in there.
The space in the column goes all the way under the floor.


I assume these crossbeams get filled with GS foam, right?


This column is behind the driver's seat. What goes here?


This is one also behind the driver's seat, but there is a huge section back there that goes under the floor.


Wires in the column next to the sliding door. We wouldn't GS foam those, would we? How would we ever work on the wires or lights if need be? Reflectix?


Stuff the horizontal beams running across both sides of the van with polyiso and then fill out with GS?


The rear columns have a narrow section with small holes. Fill these in with GS?
I don't imagine the panel with speaker wire or 12v adapter gets anything. Reflectix maybe? Some other material that isn't wet?
 

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You are doing great! Do you own HD stock?;) you have to be very careful with the foam (as you discovered) and once it's out of the container it's pretty hard to remove from anything. You should always use low expanding door & window foam to prevent bulges. If you foam the inside of your pillars you are asking for problems in the future if there are any wires in there or you need to make changes - you will never get it out. Don't forget your biggest heat loss/gain will be thru the roof and glass - the pillars are next to nothing.

The ext window van is great but the heat loss/gain from those windows must be brutal why did you want all windows for full timing?

I can tell you are enjoying this "little" project!
 
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I filled most of the sections you circle with 1” Polyiso, No really I did. The way to do it is to make your pattern as near as you can from the perceived shape outside the cavity. Then cut the foam into smaller pieces to fit through the openings, installing the remote pieces first and adding some GS as you go. I use anything I could to wedge them in place to cure enough to stay then the last piece goes in and Eureka! I only use the gaps and cracks you bought but did not fill the roof ribs or same smaller pillars as the loss of heat in them is mostly conduction anyway. You might try to get some Thinsulate on Ebay to pull in them. DO NOT foam fill all the ribs. You will want them for wires later and the chance of bowing the sheetmetal is huge!
A bit of planning ahead would have saved some money as the near identical progun is on Amazon for $15. Great job on the free wood. You are overfilling the gaps. Ease up with that gun fella. Great work, keep at it. Insulation is often in the details. Its never pretty but is pretty important. I also wonder about the window van???
 
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Do you own HD stock?;) ...!
I've been tempted to ask HD if they would "sponsor" my build. I'd put a 1'x1' logo/ad on my van in a location of their choosing. In exchange for 25% off materials and tools. I already get 10% off as a member of the military, so I'd really only be asking for another 15%. Anytime I was asked about my van I could say it was a 100% HD build all materials and tools used came from HD. My next build I may try a proposal like that for both HD and Lowe's. In my proposal I'll have a list of agreed upon items that they just don't have, and that I'd have to get out of house.

Perhaps also agree to blog or post videos on their website of the various projects.


Excellent start! I agree about the goblins and straight lines. I have learned that if I want help...that help, may or may not have the necessary attention to detail or patience that I have. I found that out recently when handed the front of my cabinets with the doors (supposedly) measured and ready to be cut out with a jigsaw. I started at one end...flipped the board around and started cutting again...I was a good 1/4" off from the other side. A couple deep breaths and realizing the cost for another sheet of ply and the time already put in I did not want to do it again, but I know I could not do this by myself, so compromises have been made. I can always fix it next year.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
You are doing great! ...

...You should always use low expanding door & window foam to prevent bulges. If you foam the inside of your pillars you are asking for problems in the future...

...why did you want all windows for full timing?
Thank you for the encouragement. It's difficult pressing on (mostly alone) in this project not having a clue if I'm doing things right or wrong... (see comment to RD below)
I like the extra light coming in to the van. It also makes the van feel huge. Heat loss/increase will have to be one of my compromises to enjoy that light.


I filled most of the sections you circle with 1” Polyiso, No really I did...

...DO NOT foam fill all the ribs. You will want them for wires later and the chance of bowing the sheetmetal is huge!...
I did what you said and started stuffing polyiso into all of the nooks and crannies.

Foam: I want to go underwater and scream FUUUUUUU*****KKKKK!!!! I didn't know about NOT filling the ribs. The sheet metal has little ripples in it. (see my next post) It's my fault for not asking, but I also didn't see it mentioned in any of the videos/posts. It's done. It's over. I'm counting that as my one screw-up on this build. Everything else will go unhitched. :)


I've been tempted to ask HD if they would "sponsor" my build...

...I agree about the goblins and straight lines...

...I have learned that if I want help...that help, may or may not have the necessary attention to detail or patience that I have... A couple deep breaths and realizing the cost for another sheet of ply and the time already put in I did not want to do it again, but I know I could not do this by myself, so compromises have been made.
A proposition like you mention is something I've thought about as well. I've also thought about filming the whole build and submitting it as commercial/promo footage to companies like Ram, Dometic etc. One of those DIY'er commercials.

The goblins are real, man. Keep that sh*t straight. LOL

Very true about asking for help. I'm happy to get any help from my friends. It makes the work go so much faster! We're not professional companies that have engineered all of these parts. A margin of error has to be allowed or we'll lose our minds. I'm taking deep breaths as well and just enjoying the journey. I'm building my own home! Sweet!
 

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Discussion Starter #14 (Edited)
WARNING: DO NOT fill the ribs with Great Stuff Gaps and Cracks foam.

There are many videos about people using GS foam, but they leave this warning out of their how-to instructions. If you overfill (and you probably will because of how small the ribs are), the foam will have nowhere to go and it will push the sheet metal out, leaving ripples on the outside of the van. (see attachment)

It isn't the end of the world, but it sucks knowing that you hurt the cosmetic look of the van (and maybe the potential for selling it).

My recommendation is that you run some Reflectix or Thinsulate through the channels and ribs.
 

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Actually if you run conduit it then doesn’t require any fish tape at all! You get a little furry ball like a pom-pom called a feather (?) and hitch a string to it. Then take a vacuum cleaner or shop vac and suck the feather through the conduit and then attach the string to pull tape (flat nylon tape for the purpose) or some small nylon rope and once that is through attach the wire to that and pull it in. It takes longer to explain than to do and the cost may be nothing! Easy peasy- and I have made the pom-pom from the Ms. yarn in an emergency!
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Actually if you run conduit it then doesn’t require any fish tape at all! You get a little furry ball like a pom-pom called a feather (?) and hitch a string to it. Then take a vacuum cleaner or shop vac and suck the feather through the conduit and then attach the string to pull tape (flat nylon tape for the purpose) or some small nylon rope and once that is through attach the wire to that and pull it in. It takes longer to explain than to do and the cost may be nothing! Easy peasy- and I have made the pom-pom from the Ms. yarn in an emergency!
Too late for me! Hopefully, someone else finds this before they get as far as I did.
 

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We continually preach about only using low expansion foam here but...
 
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3m thinsulate might be another option for getting into those tight spaces. Use fish tape to get through the section, then tape the thinsulate to the fish and pull back through.

EDIT: Oops, missed page 2.
 
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