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How much did you budget for your van build?

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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I wanted to report on the progress of my van conversion.

Thank you to all of the helpful forum mates, I have created my floor plan, determined my needs and created a comprehensive budget for every item for the build for Blu Iris (the van).

BUILD BUDGET
  1. Materials
  2. Electrical
  3. Plumbing and fixtures
  4. Bed and living space
  5. Paneling
  6. Kitchen
  7. Flooring
  8. Windows
  9. Window coverings
  10. Insulation
  11. Cabinetry
  12. Food Storage
  13. Window Tinting
  14. Office
  15. Recreation area
  16. Safety and Security
  17. Wiring
The amount I calculated sourcing parts. etc for every item I need to purchase is AROUND $14,000. This will be reduced and reallocated but this is a hard budget. I have to shave off a few things or reallocate money to meet my most desired needs but I think I am good to go.

LABOR BUDGET - I saved thousands on the labor... I THINK

Employed an architect friend for the floor plan to maximize space and storage
DIY me for insulation
My construction friend is cutting all of the hardwood to my specifications for me
Carpenter will build the cabinets, wardrobe and special spaces
My friend is a seamstress so we are working on the sofa covers together
The electrician will install the electrical system

NOTES
I have opted for an off-grid setup for electrical
I prefer Bottled water for my drinking so I will get a smaller freshwater tank - maybe. Still looking into the filtration. I am a biologist so I am very spooked by sitting water...
I have decided this is a hard budget, meaning I will do whatever not to exceed the budget.
I have opted to start with a majority budget on power

BUDGETED BUT NOT BOUGHT - PREPARED BUT NOT YET

This "food storage" thing IS a thing..... Although I budgeted for a refrigerator and stove, I have decided to create a space for a refrigerator but start out with a nice cooler. I think I will carry a portable propane stove to cook outside of the van. This will help me to determine my food consumption and refrigeration requirements
  1. Refrigerator (Saving $1400)
  2. Propane Stove (Secondary)
  3. Induction Cooktop (In addition to...) :unsure: I don't know about cooking in a van. Right now I cook once or twice a week and only veggies
  4. Toaster Oven (Primary) for baking
Propane - I want to build a space for it but what are the recommendations? I think I could safely use it for the showers and dish duty to conserve electricity. Can this be added later?

Natures Head Toilet - Made space in the floor plan but I and my sister can come up with a solution. She is a chemical engineer and I am a Microbiologist. We are developing something. 馃:ROFLMAO::rolleyes: (Saving $1000) Compost CAN be less.

THOUGHTS? How did you develop your van conversion budget
 

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My youngest daughter got very ill about 15 years ago drinking water from a certified source at a CA state campground.
  • We were always fairly careful, but now we are even more careful.
  • Now we only use bottled water for EVERYTHING when away from home.
  • This also eliminates most of the plumbing system costs and space.
  • 3 liter and 1 gallon water at Target is pretty inexpensive and fairly safe.
_

A lot of food goods that are perfectly fine sitting on your counter (bananas as an example but also spices like pepper) won't really last inside of a van.
  • IMHO, a large refrigerator is a must.
  • I have been tempted to just use refrigerators for all food related storage and skip food related cabinets
  • Even if off, the food temperature will be moderated vs in a van cabinet
-
__

An electric skillet can cook pretty much anything that can be cooked with an induction stove top.
  • Similar power requirements
  • Eliminates not only the induction cook top but also potentially cookware
  • ~ $50

  • If you have a small camping propane cook top using 1 lb bottles, this is viable as well.
  • You have to be really careful about keeping the 1 lb propane bottles from getting hot
  • Most are designed for occasional use, so plan to replace every 6 months or so.
___

Windows
  • Have as few as possible
  • Loss of privacy
  • Cost to install
  • Cost to cover
  • Windows potentially reduce your interior flexibility

_

Cabinets
  • Most RV / can cabinets are super shallow
  • Add weight and cost
  • Don't hold much

Consider to have
  • all cabinets on one side of the van, just deeper
  • Aisle on one side instead of down the middle

Maybe you are past this point to make this suggestion useful

_

Flooring
  • Use baltic birch for the wood base
  • Put on some nice thick carpet for comfort
  • Make the carpet easy to replace for when it will need to be pulled up and swapped out

___

Budget
  • I think that vans builds are very tough to budget
  • In my own case, it really requires a post event review and spreadsheet to really count everything
  • IMHO, the reason that you see a lot of people claim that they only paid $xxx for the entire build is that they lost count of all of the details
  • The big items are easy to count, but the little items needed to install something can add up to just as much or more.
  • At the risk of being controversial, if you want to budget, count up all of the items that you can think of at the beginning of a project and multiply X 3.


Just some ideas
 

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Tell me more on isle not down middle?

Good plan & actually realistic.
.
I still use cooler

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Are you going to be plugged in to shore power? Toaster ovens are great, but they aren't the best choice to run off grid. With the exception of some of the higher end infrared ones(Like Panasonic), they're basically just a dead short with very high wattage requirements.
 

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2014 136鈥 HR
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it's easier to keep track of a budget when the van project isn鈥檛 mixed in with others. How do I value the leftovers from another project that get used in the van? How do I value the left-overs I may or may not use later? At some point, I just gave up.

Toaster Oven (Primary) for baking
That's a massive number of electrons, not only the wattage, but also baking normally involves tens of minutes.

Harry's suggestion of an electric skillet instead of induction is a good one, though electric skillets tend to have bulky handles. It may be hard to find a compact one鈥攁t one time I researched the options and didn鈥檛 like them. You might just keep this option open for a while and think on it.

Natures Head Toilet - Made space in the floor plan but I and my sister can come up with a solution. She is a chemical engineer and I am a Microbiologist. We are developing something. 馃:ROFLMAO::rolleyes: (Saving $1000) Compost CAN be less.
Absolutely you can do this. Looking forward to seeing what your combined expertise comes up with. :)

I prefer Bottled water for my drinking so I will get a smaller freshwater tank - maybe. Still looking into the filtration. I am a biologist so I am very spooked by sitting water...
Just thinking about tanks makes me queasy. I won鈥檛 use a water bladder in a backpack, either. We use 2.5-gallon AquaPaks for shower water. Easy to transport, easy to fill, easy to clean. For drinking, one-gallon.

Glad to see you getting some momentum. Enjoy.
 

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2014-159 HR in CT
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"IMHO, the reason that you see a lot of people claim that they only paid $xxx for the entire build is that they lost count of all of the details"

or,

They don't count their personal labor time and effort. It sounds like your friends are doing most of the work! I'm not criticizing, but I'm surprised that you have:

An architect providing desgn services
A construction friend cutting all of the hardwood to spec
A carpenter providing free carpentry
An electrician providing free electrical services
A seamstress working on the cushions

(Are you paying them back in "Microbiologist Services"?)

...And you still manage to end up with a budget at $14,000 (with no toilet, fridge, windows, etc if I understand your post correctly.) Not sure about the 3x formula...

Please note: you did ask for thoughts.....
 

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2016 3500 ext-ht
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557 Posts
"IMHO, the reason that you see a lot of people claim that they only paid $xxx for the entire build is that they lost count of all of the details"

or,

They don't count their personal labor time and effort. It sounds like your friends are doing most of the work! I'm not criticizing, but I'm surprised that you have:

An architect providing desgn services
A construction friend cutting all of the hardwood to spec
A carpenter providing free carpentry
An electrician providing free electrical services
A seamstress working on the cushions

(Are you paying them back in "Microbiologist Services"?)

...And you still manage to end up with a budget at $14,000 (with no toilet, fridge, windows, etc if I understand your post correctly.) Not sure about the 3x formula...

Please note: you did ask for thoughts.....
I wouldn't mind bartering a microbiologist for some labor on her van. I have a huge tapeworm that just keeps growing and stealing money from my wallet.
 

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We're in at $13k, no shower. Got all we need. Don't get lost in the details. Good batteries are very important and be realistic with energy.
 

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2014, 138WB, High Roof, Gas, SW MT
Joined
2,196 Posts
Hi,
A couple thoughts on meeting the budget...

On the composting toilet, we built one for $82.
It was based on a lot of input from people who have used composting toilets for a long time.
To me, it was the best decision we made in the whole conversion and works really well.
Details: Our ProMaster Camper Van Conversion 鈥 Composting Toilet 鈥 Build A Green RV

On the electrical system, if you choose to use propane for your energy source for cooking and baking you could save thousands of dollars on your electrical system. The induction cooktop and the toaster oven don't cost a whole lot themselves, but they demand a large lithium battery bank, an expensive inverter/charger, and lots of expensive solar.
You can cook using a propane or butane stove (lots of people love them and would prefer them to an induction cooktop), and various kinds of stove top simple ovens have been discussed.

Our electrical system cost $1500, and I think I could do it for more like $1200 today. We have an electrid fridge, lots of 12 volt lights and chargers, a 1200 watt inverter that I rarely use, DVD, TV, ... It also has plenty of solar. We can go several days off-grid even with very limited sun. We never feel short of electrical conveniences -- but, of course, this depends on your lifestyle. I do see the comment time and again from people commenting on their conversion that "we almost never use our inverter".

Not at all trying to tell you which way to go -- just offering some possibilities.

Gary

PS: You don't show any way to heat the van in your initial post -- no need for it?
PSS: You can build a simple cheap electrical system for the first go round, but leave space provisions for a fancier one later. This is harder to do with the parts of the conversion like insulation, paneling, ...
 

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Wow,
A few months ago, after I posted a potentially controversial (but intended as helpful) response to one of your threads, your response was: (colored text is yours)
"I agree. Thank you... You have answered so many questions regarding the insurance. I APPRECIATE YOUR HELP SO MUCH"

Fast forward to this thread, and your response is, "it appears literacy must have escaped you or all of your kitchen chairs are not at the table." Although my post was not part of a plan to insult you, your remark above is clearly intended to do just that! (note: I do have a Lagun table, but you're right, I don't have any kitchen chairs at it! ;))

Please forgive me for assuming you were getting a lot of free work done for you. In a past thread, you said that you have a cousin who is a master electrician, and that the carpentry work could be done by your architect. I DID miss the word "Employed" when you referred to your architect.

But, I don't think it's an unreasonable conclusion to think you were getting lots of work done for free when you start the topic with, "LABOR BUDGET - I saved thousands on the labor... I THINK"

As far as spelling, I will take responsibility for spelling "design" without the "i". I hope that satisfies your need to remark about my spelling.

And in a effort to help the forum move toward a more precise grammatical environment, I feel the need to state that,

1) "...but I and my sister can come up with a solution" is not considered correct in most grammar guides.

2) Your thread title, "Do's and Do nots" should be "Dos and don'ts" which is the suggested form for that phrase.

As always, best wishes on your build!
 

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Just an observation.

If you look back at this thread, post #28 of GaryBis where he did a spreadsheet of your loads and attempts to get within your budget:


LiFe batteries are nice, but if you are willing to use these Lifeline GPL-24s (4 of them) then you can get very close to your power needs (on a daily average basis) for $1200 plus tax.

Not the water heater or air heating.


That would run pretty much all of those things including the toaster oven, blenders, computers, etc and power the 2 kW inverter that you need to run them.

There are days when it is going to be really tight but it could work as a way to try to keep within budget.

They are on back order, but worth the wait.

That is just ~ 200 lbs so no different than having a friend over.
 

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There is nothing wrong at all with getting help, via leaning on friends, trades or pay.

When I need wood work to look professionally done - I find someone that knows what they are doing and has an artistic touch.

At one time I thought my product photos weren't too bad. Then I did a trade of some work with a pro photographer - completely different setup and results than I could even imagine.
 

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Sooo, no fridge, no water system, no heat, what exactly are you spending the 14k on then?

Certainly not the way I would do it. In my opinion, Potable drinking water is essential, cabinets for storage are essential. Stove/food prep are essential, windows in the living area are essential. Dry storage for food is essential. I dont have anything to sell you and really dont care what you do with your van and how you spend your money. Again, not at all how I would do it, you did ask for opinions...best of luck with your build!
 

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2017 159" High Roof
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Wow,
A few months ago, after I posted a potentially controversial (but intended as helpful) response to one of your threads, your response was: (colored text is yours)
"I agree. Thank you... You have answered so many questions regarding the insurance. I APPRECIATE YOUR HELP SO MUCH"

Fast forward to this thread, and your response is, "it appears literacy must have escaped you or all of your kitchen chairs are not at the table." Although my post was not part of a plan to insult you, your remark above is clearly intended to do just that! (note: I do have a Lagun table, but you're right, I don't have any kitchen chairs at it! ;))

Please forgive me for assuming you were getting a lot of free work done for you. In a past thread, you said that you have a cousin who is a master electrician, and that the carpentry work could be done by your architect. I DID miss the word "Employed" when you referred to your architect.

But, I don't think it's an unreasonable conclusion to think you were getting lots of work done for free when you start the topic with, "LABOR BUDGET - I saved thousands on the labor... I THINK"

As far as spelling, I will take responsibility for spelling "design" without the "i". I hope that satisfies your need to remark about my spelling.

And in a effort to help the forum move toward a more precise grammatical environment, I feel the need to state that,

1) "...but I and my sister can come up with a solution" is not considered correct in most grammar guides.

2) Your thread title, "Do's and Do nots" should be "Dos and don'ts" which is the suggested form for that phrase.

As always, best wishes on your build!
She seems to have a lot of insults and negative opinions saved up for people from whom she鈥檚 soliciting free advice and feedback.

In her last comment to me, she suggested that I was killing the ecosystem by peeing outside, and here I read that she prefers drinking water out of plastic bottles.
 

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My view of her situation:
  • Full time job in NY
  • Is a micro biologist, so might even be helping with the pandemic directly or indirectly
  • Is trying to build a van in a short time period on a limited budget while working full time
  • Deals with difficult local people every day, seeking out help / support from like minded crazy people like other van hobbyist

Sounds pretty stressful to me, as well as fairly impressive that she is willing to take on a big project and learning curve like this.

I get insulted and my advice ignored all of the time on this forum. If you don't have thick enough skin to accept that individual opinions really don't matter to any one else, maybe it is time re-consider how you view the world.

Give her a break....
 

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we are all individuals even if we identify with various groups.....this big group van owners/wanttobe divided into subgroups (promaster vs pmc) as example which can further divided ...
on and on.....then we read something wamo...its amazing what will set us off.....just remember basic instinct is predator......and all us individuals are watching

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