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@aaronmcd

Congratulations on your recent van purchase.

Your floor plan looks similar to ours. I would think if you had a pullout desk that just slide out from under the bed that might be a solution for a work station, but I don't even know the model of van you have purchased.

It is great that you started this thread with a floorplan & section, we would also need to know your “needs” vs “wants”. Looks like it you are keeping it basic which is a good thing. The more we know about your “intended” use the more design ideas we can provide you here.

My main opinion at this stage for you is “Design” is everything. A good simple design is a great start to a successful project.

Another point I can think of is; it looks like you have designed your conversion for a single person use. If that is the case, you may want to consider a design that can incorporate a double sleeper (if things change for you or for resale value down the road). If we can keep our designs flexible or convertible “with ease” I think that is a good thing.
 

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I was thinking the same as @jracca

use the factory seats swivel & a couple of collapsible tables/work stations

then a full elevated bed in the back that you can get a couple of bikes & other gear under

If that does not work for you, one swivel seat/work station & a work station @ the bed (standup or otherwise)

If you can design “spaces” in your van for dual or triple functions IMO those make the best designs. Our slider area is a way in & out, our fridge slides into that space, & we both sit on the floor In that space with our feet on the outside ground, we also access the fridge from the outside thru that space
 

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Thanks for the thoughts. As far as conveniences going away, we are both comfortable with backpacking for a couple nights, but I don't think my wife wants the extended backpacker experience for several weeks at a time. We are good with minimal conveniences though.

"wet area" - I intend to buy a composting toilet, sink with gray water, and shower outside when available.

"paper plates" - We would much rather use plastic dishes than make waste. When we backpack I use a few ounces of water to wash our 2 dishes, and I drink the gray water. A few extra ounces for the convenience of basically RV living seems reasonable.

"water system" - Like I said, when we backpack for a few nights we are fine. But for more than that I would need (very much like) to proper wash my hair, and I'm not gonna cut my hair. I will put in a proper water tank.

"reheat food" - We always cook food. Never had a microwave dinner in my life, nor do I want to start now, but I might install a 600 watt microwave for leftovers. A portable cheapo coleman seems reasonable, and could be moved outdoors for cooking when weather is nice.

"bed and bench become one, bikes outside most of the time" - I am mostly set against this, but this may be SF bias - I've had several bikes stolen. From 3rd floor balcony, from being locked up in well lit attended downtown garage in the middle of the day, from inside a store when I turned my back for 20 seconds. I like my bikes secure, but might consider sketching up a layout with bikes outside while we are awake and in the middle of nowhere. But still, they would need to be inside if we are near town or asleep. Also the raised bed provides extra storage options. Something to think about.

"Electrical too small" - This I really have no idea. I'm a structural engineer. In other words, I hate black magic such as electricity. I was thinking 2400 Wh (2-12V 100Ah LiFePO4 batteries), 400 watts solar, battery to battery charger (I have a 220 amp alternator if that makes a difference), charge converter, fuse box. The fancy ass batteries save space vs the older lunks and last more charge cycles with less maintenance. Basically I just assigned a space as a "design development" placeholder. It could spread out if needed.

Here is a revised layout idea. The fridge by the door was scrapped - Top open fridges are pretty long and I like the cook stove by the door, plus trying to balance weight a bit by keeping the fridge on the driver side. Open to revisions of course. Scrapped the convertible bed. The rear workstation could be stand up at the bed, or pull out while sitting on the toilet box. I may have to chamfer the counter to provide easy access, but that shouldn't be too bad since fridges are typically not super deep (from a quick google search of various models). View attachment 65794
I like your new layout 👍

Setting elevations (such as the bed) for ergonomics & to be able to get 2 bikes under the bed takes finesse & tweaking inches. I think you mentioned you are a Structural P.Eng so you may be use to building standards for design, however I will comment that such standard constraint thinking can be a hinderance for conversion van design. Design is everything here & unless you have done it at least once before 60+ hours of research may seem like a lots, but it really is minor (I have more hours researching just my van heating system - went with a Propex HS2800 after considering diesel). We have a CRL window in the slider a love it (install photos on our build thread).


Our build has a similar layout; here are a few photos & hope it gets the creative thoughts flowing for you & your wife

I still do not know the size of your van? This is a pretty important piece of the equasion for me in order to provide ideas.

65795


65796
 

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KOV is right. Don't waste any effort or resources on hiding the fact that it's a campervan. Just install whatever windows or vents you want to be comfortable.
There are so many people doing the van/RV thing that, unless is says Amazon on the side or it's obviously a work van with ladders and PVC pipes on the roof, no one will be fooled for even a minute. In fact, unless it is an obvious work or shuttle van, most people will assume it's a camper van right off the bat. And if you have solar panels and a roof vent, fuggettabottit.
Just install windows, you'll be glad you did.
Also, I like your 2nd design.
I agree with KOV & RnR & my van is white with 1 window & 1 white roof fan, & 1 white/ss shore power plug. I could put “trade” vinyl company advertising on it, but I really do not think I am fooling anyone;

Now this is a thing,,,

 

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The people that would call the police on you are all hiding in their house with masks and tinfoil hats anyway.
Exactly & they are not really all that scary ... But the ones hiding in their vans with masks on😳

We live in a Ridiculous World & IMO it is best to get out there & enjoy it as much as we can.

As My Brother use to tell me (referring to the World with mock fear), nobody is getting outta here alive !!
 

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Another thing I have to ponder is windows.

I was initially thinking a skylight would be nice, but might be hard to fit 400w solar, fan, maybe an evap in the future, and a skylight. Also skylights are pricey. What windows would y'all recommend for semi-stealth yet still livable? Thinking passenger door would be nice for living light and driving. Rear door windows I'm not quite sold on, but might make driving easier. Side bed windows... meh - are these really useful to have?
You have a better chance for a leak in a skylight than a window same for dripping condensation.

I really like the CRL windows that are specifically made for the PM vans. We only have one in the slider, and are very happy with it. Our van is a bit of a cave; not for “stealth” reasons, but custom built for how we use our van.

RnR made some good “window” points above & if that is how we used our van we would not be shy to put windows in it. We use our van to travel & sleep in. We do not cook in the van. We do not shower in the van. We rarely eat in the van. We to take our private small space with us on adventures mostly into the wild parts of North America (not big cities - but we have stayed in our van in LA & other major metros). We literally wanted a Private Travel Cave.

Not that there is any validity to this statement; but we feel that our van is more secure with less windows - in reality it probably is not (but people can not look inside it)
 

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Nah, I'm gonna go for the spacecraft hatch.
It is not the necessarily the skylights themselves that leak, but the install opening around a corrugated roof structure that can hold water against the what we refer to in the waterproofing industry as "gipe"

Caulking, sealant, coatings, etc; They all fail eventually & quicker on a van roof then a house due to the road movement. The best roof we have on the van is the sheet metal (not the sealant joints), then we cut into it & apply "gipe". I did this for my roof fan, but that is the only 14"x14" hole I put in my van roof & that was at a non water holding highest flat spot on the roof.

I think it is fine to cut all sorts of holes in your van roof and "gipe" them up, but given an option of a wall hole or a roof hole I'm cutting a hole in my wall.
 

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Idk, adding cameras seems really tough/pricey.
not pricey

super easy to install

check out this link;

 

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Oh and I never mentioned size - I have the 159 2500
Thanks for that. So my van is the EXT which has 14” extra between the wheel wells & the back doors

@RnR has a standard 159” & has been designing a floor plan for awhile, so I would think he knows the dimensions quite well. I posted the Sportmobile layout pdf & that will also give you dimentions To help you rough in sizes.

What size bed do you want? Our is queen width 60”. How long are your bikes you want to put under the bed, as that will be a deciding factor (assuming the bed is going from wall to wall length 73” to 74”
 

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I was comparing their solar panels to HQST panels today. Renogy is a good bit more expensive, but it looks like their dimensions are much better for fitting to van roof - the 100 W panels are narrow for mounting long ways, and the 200 W panels fit nicely crosswise. The 200 W panels are $300 which seems pricey but may be worth it if it's as simple as bolting to the existing rails.

Looking at charge converters and can't figure out what the amp rating means. Is it output or input? Or both? For instance, solar panel voltage is typically higher than the battery, so the current will increase on output. 4 panels at 5.3 amps = 21.2 amps in, but at 12 volts it's 33 amps out. Will a 30 amp charge controller work? Assuming less than 90% efficiency I guess it would but is the current rating output or input?
I don’t have solar on my van, but if I did I would research the very thin flexible panels & a way to mount them directly on the roof with VHB tape. Unless you need roof racks for other purpose.

Solar or camera wires on the roof; The factory rear middle black plastic roof housing is a perfect path to bring wires onto the roof or mount the back view camera (if you do not want holes in your roof).
 

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You might want to consider hanging your bike off the back. I came up with this easy rack system where I can lock my bike. I should’ve put it on the other door though. But I do plan on adding another rack so that I can carry four bikes.
View attachment 65923
I really like your bike rack idea, but cant really see how you fabricated it. Could you post some more photos showing what you have done?
 

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I discovered that the street is a fine place for cutting wood.

But I'm thinking of installing my fan in the near future and cannot figure out how to get to the roof. Stack books? Park next to a tree? It seems ridiculously wasteful to buy a ladder just to install a fan. Maybe buy a ladder, install fan, return ladder?

Also discovered the majority of time is not installing a thing, it is research, drive to store, search for things, ask questions, read labels, try other stores, etc. I installed the floor the other weekend, took 5 hours or so. But it took the entire previous day to buy stuff. This weekend I wanted to work again. But it again took the whole day to buy stuff and I still need to find more tomorrow.
Yup

Design/Build DIY Van Conversions. We buy a van, have a rough idea of design, & start building. The design process involves much research in a hobby that changes over time with new technology, new materials, & new equipment. Without a fully detailed design you can not produce an accurate materials list. I highly doubt any DIYer on this forum has ever performed a fully detailed design & put it on paper prior to starting the build process.

I estimate I could build Van #2 in 35% of the time it took me to build van #1. Less research, less time on design, & less mistakes. The DIY path is a self education process where you gain knowledge & skills that are very valuable if you heed them again (most of us will).

Regarding the ladder; another option would be to rent one from a rental shop if the rate is cheap enough not to buy something.
 

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I don't doubt at all that a second build would be that much faster, especially if the design is similar. I have my basic layout and major components planned out, but keep running into stuff where I really need to know the EXACT component I want and where it will live permanently because it affects another part and then another and another etc. Then I think if this ever breaks and is unavailable the replacement could be a different shape/size and not fit, so I have to plan for potential changes here and there. I did the bed platform this weekend, and have to plan for removing part of it to access what I plan to put underneath in case I need to replace an electrical components or something.


Oh yeah, I do want to add solar. Problem is I am in an apartment and don't have anywhere to store large things like ladders. All my tools and materials live in the van. Might have to go the rent a ladder route.


This weekend I spent the entire Saturday planning out a buy list and buying things. Then today I spent the first hour and a half buying more stuff. Then around 6.5 hours insulating wheel wells and building a bed platform. R&D is by far the majority of the time though. I'd guess 60% R&D, 25% buying stuff, 15% working. The 15% work is split 5% figuring out how, 2% set up and clean up, 3% learning and doing slowly, and 5% actually working quickly. At least I'm getting better with my tools.


Livermore, you say? It's a bit of a drive, but in the area.
Hang in there @aaronmcd it gets better or you just get use to the hours of research & tweaked design changes. I believe in designing in separate components & trying to stay away from proprietary products. An example of what I am talking about would be a roof fan which in the RV Industry has a standard “rough opening“ hole of 14” by 14”. The idea is if you have the need to replace this unit after years you should be able to buy & drop in a new fan into the old opening. Design & build for “serviceability” repairs maintenance etc. An example of this is the majority of my wiring for electrical was placed after my ceiling, wall, & floor panels were all installed. That way I can alter or fix easily.

Not sure exactly where you are in your build, however in general breaking the entire build into smaller tasks & then tackling each task in a determined sequence will provide you a loose schedule. An example from my experience in order would be;

roof fan, shore power, any windows (any other perimeter penetrating items)

Any wiring or mechanical (plumbing etc) that has to be behind the finished (ceiling, wall, floor) panels or surfaces

Ceiling & Wall Insulation & Finished Panels

Floor Insulation & Plywood (floor finish)

Ceiling hung cabinets/shelves

Bed & floor cabinets

Electrical & Mechanical

All Other Finishing Items


It is all worth it in the end !!
 

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One annoying thing the sterling b2b charger positive wire. I could run straight to the charger with a few inches, but I want a breaker switch located near other breakers and main on/off switch, which requires an extra 4 ft. Not long for 4awg if the wire fits, but more cluttered than I like. I could try and relocate the b2b breaker and the DC load breaker to be more in line, but that puts them in the box which I didn't want.
Hi @aaronmcd

I briefly looked at your schematic above, but did not thoroughly go thru it.

Regarding your B2B breaker switch near the main on/off switch; I am wondering if instead of a on/off switch you would be better off using a “4 position” switch like I used? My switch “off / house batteries / starter battery (alternator charge) in your case B2B / Both.

1 switch that; turns everything off or can disconnect the B2B from the house bank. I have fuses in my system (not breakers).

Thought I would throw that idea out there. The 4 position switch was $5 or &10 more than the simple On/Off


67849


67850
 

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Says the guy who used scaffolding to put his fan in... :)

View attachment 67947
@Sather

Ya I did not really want to go to that bother, but I did not want to put any weight on the roof. IIRC the metal skins are 30 thousands of an inch & the ribs flex & I weigh over 200 lbs. @aaronmcd build “site & situation” is a bit different & I try to understand his situation & think of options I would do in his shoes. It is like I tell my Staff, I have lots of ideas & “the odd one is even good” 😜

Thanks for pointing out the humor in that post 🤣


@aaronmcd

Even though you have “Sidewalk Superintendents” You are killing it dude 👍. I can imagine how hard it is to cut the roof opening from below, but now you are done with that task. I had a few that I dreaded & even worse they were self inflicted by my design.

Conrgats on “gettin er done” !!

Not sure of the metal shaving collection, but would a strong magnet work?
 

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@aaronmcd

I installed my Propex with the combustion exhaust to the side of the van & pointed towards the back. The combustion intake I put towards the center of the van & pointed towards the back. As far as I recall, both tubes had the ends at the low point with no traps to collect water. You are right - Do Not Shorten the Tubes. I purchased self drilling/tapping screws to anchor the clamps & I used a drill to install.
 

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I used the “yellow” tape & the thread of the 90 that fits into the Propex female gas inlet (see photo below). If you are using the same fitting as mine, the “flared” ends do not get the “yellow” tape.

slightly soapy water to check your joints with the gas turned on to check for leaks.

Have fun on you camping trip !!

69743
 

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I'm not using the compression 90 degree fitting that came with it. For now I'm just fastening a flex dryer hose with a 3/8 flare 90 to 1/4 male NPT, then NPT/BSPT adapter. I got the yellow tape for the pipe thread fittings. Later I'll route copper pipe when I have the time to do it right.

For intake pipe routing, my propex is near the wall, so it comes down between the edge and the main front to back floor support. Seems like I'll have to cross that support with the intake. That will cause the intake to go up again a bit to attach to a crosswise support. If I go straight back I run into the suspension springs.
Good, I do not like the compression 90 fitting that comes with the Propex. I used the flare fittings & flared my copper lines. Best to soapy water test even a temporary install.

If you are looking for ideas/comments on your Propex install photos of your intended installation would go a long way (I know that is hard to do underneath the van). You can always “tweak” the intake & exhaust if you are not happy with the 1st install. Just do not shorted either tubes.
 
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