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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hey everyone!

What a journey we have been on with our conversion. We wanted to introduce Jellybean our 2019 159WB High Roof purchased May 2020 with 8500 miles. We started our conversion back in May and unfortunately spent way too much time doing research without discovering this forum. For us this meant van blogs like FarOutRide and watching a ton of unfortunate "vanlife" videos on YouTube at 2x speed and trying to understand how to build a van. Some choices we made early on we might have gone back on had we waited, alas, here we are. I read somewhere on here that your first build is a prototype and everything you do should be treated as such. I like that perspective.

Here are some photos to catch you up on where we are now. We will do our best to keep this build journal up to date. We will also try to be as honest as possible about the difficulties we encountered and the mistakes we made. Conversions are hard. Everything takes 5 times longer than we expect. We are just a couple of amateurs trying to do a professional job.

Here are some shots of the stock van:
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Plastic panels came installed. The blue tape here is us dreaming about where the windows we had just purchased would be.
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The dreaded first cut for the Maxxair 5100k
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We ordered the kit from Hein for the install. Came with the butyl tape and such. I found this leak stopper stuff at the local Ace hardware store. So far it's been holding up great. We have had some heavy rains and hail and this stuff is great, I got up there this week and checked the seal. All is well.

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From the inside, you can see the primed and painted screw holes and vent hole here.
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Next we cut the slider window. The first window, was definitely hard. We bought metal sheers but they ended up bending the sheet metal around the lip of the cut. Definitely made us break a sweat.
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We dry fit the window and then we primed, painted and clear coated the metal and did the install only to not have it fit. We realized that there was lip of metal that made the bottom not seal correctly. IT WAS ROUGH. We covered it for the night and decided we are not allowed to work on the van after dark. Nothing good comes when we are exhausted and pushing forward. The next day we removed the window, cut the door more, dry fit again, primed, painted, clear coated and then did the install again. Came out great the second time! My father always says, "Do it right or do it twice". This has been our mantra since this first snafu.

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Throughout this process we were doing sound dampening using Rattletrap. When I drove this thing home empty from the dealer it was so loud on our concrete highways. I was fatigued from the road noise which made us pull the trigger on sound dampening... the whole van. This is one choice I would definitely roll back. I would use it much more sparingly and probably only on panels that won't be covered. We got "vanlifed" here which is unfortunate but what can you do. At least it's quiet to drive now before its complete.

Here is the wife cutting the glue out from behind the rear support for the bunk windows. Another decision we might have rolled back in favor of awning windows.
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These rear installs went MUCH better. Pretty smooth. We had more confidence and felt good about it. Not going to post too many photos here since this stuff is well documented and went pretty smooth. Here is the leak test:
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Took the van for a longer drive to see how the windows sounded on the highway. The sound of the sheet metal flexing was nerve wracking when we hit bumps. I got home and used rivets and lap sealant to reinstall the supports that we removed right next to the windows. This helped the rigidity so much and I would definitely recommend it.
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Writing the next post now, I can only attach 10 photos per post.
 

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Discussion Starter #2 (Edited)
While all of this was going on we were doing a ton of planning and research with electrical and solar and bed position and layout. We pretty much used my knowledge from trade school and FarOutRide. Our system is probably a little advanced for our needs. Here is the wiring diagram. Diagram on the left is the schematic. The one on the upper right is the physical position of equipment for the actual wiring. Lower left is a small loads diagram for wire runs.
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The van's default sound system is HORRENDOUS. I love music and require good sound in my vehicles. Started with the door speakers. Found some cheap 5.5" kicker speakers on ebay and pulled the trigger only to realize that the speakers were 6.5". I used some of the plastic from the plastic panels in the cargo area to cut an adapter plate using my jigsaw. No big deal but definitely a small surprise. Another mistake made and remedied. We had to turn the highs all the way down on the EQ because the tweeters are such trash.
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Holy Rattletrap batman. Like I said, probably wouldn't have used as much given what we know now, but overall it didn't cost much and we are happy to have the van quiet to drive while we are still building it. Blue tape on the floor is for some layout mock ups.
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The final window installed

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A note about rattletrap. It smells. Takes several weeks to gas off. It doesn't smell today but is definitely something to consider if you are adding it to your build.

After doing weeks of research on insulation we landed on Havelock Wool. We would not choose Havelock for our next build if we were to do it again. We chose it based on the reasons that everyone chooses it over polyiso, Blah blah blah environment. We are very environmentally conscious people and try to do our best to not contribute to the problem. The wool is a pain in the butt. I would love the ease of polyiso at this point. Again this van can be thought of as a prototype, this is our "wool bed" and now we need to lay in it. Another note about Havelock is it also smells. It smells during big temperature/humidity swings. Maybe that will change, maybe it won't. We will let you know.
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Getting ready to put the floor in:
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1" Polyiso for the floor, this is the point at which we discovered this forum. Thank God!
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Half inch plywood over the 1" polyiso. Sealed the plywood with poly on both sides to keep it from getting funky. Crazy to think this is just the sub floor. We bolted it back down to the D Ring bolts with some measuring and suffering. I made some cardboard jigs so I could find them after the floor was down. They were still hard to find but we did get them.
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Our oven arrived from eBay totally smashed. Full refund from the seller. So I started the process of dismantling the oven and replacing the glass.
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Sheet metal from the oven door with all glass removed. I covered the broken glass in duct tape and scraped it out with a paint scraper. I reached out to a local glass place in Arvada, CO to get a sheet of tempered glass cut for it. Came out to $130 bucks for glass. The sheet without holes was 40, then each hole is around 40 bucks to drill. Not a bad price for an oven:
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Next post coming. Photo limit again.
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
Got the solar installed, followed FarOutRide with the VHB Tape. Found some folks on this forum running the wires through the black camera box. Awesome idea. Glad to not drill through the roof again. Sealed those cable glands with the leak stopper stuff from the first post. Again a nice bulletproof seal.

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Panels are alive and CRANKING.
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How the solar looks from the ground. Note the Tacoma parked right next to the van. This was my ladder to get on top.
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Cutting some side panels from the floor scraps. We used rivnuts in the factory holes. I would not recommend this. I would suggest drilling holes where you want them and avoiding the factory holes.
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We bought some cheap 2x2 to mock out the bed so we could order some 80/20 precut.

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Passenger side panel cut by the wife. Teaching her to use a jigsaw for the first time.
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Did some ceiling furring. Mistake here again, forgot to fill the beams above with insulation. Pulled them down last week and stuffed them. 1/4" sill sealer under the boards to keep us squeak free.
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Electrical going in:

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Built a box to go over the wheel well. Another mistake, it was about 1" too small. Ended up cutting a small notch on the inside edge. It's not about not making mistakes, but covering them up well.
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More electrical
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Another post coming
 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
Mrs. Cno started making some insulated curtains for the rear windows.

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And I got the glass back from Glass Guru and glued it in with high temp silicone. The black stuff that smells like vinegar. This is the same glue they used at the factory.
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Fully assembled with the new glass.
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Took our first trip out! Basically car camping with tent stuff on the floor. Sure was nice when it rained.
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8020 Came in! Getting the measuring sorted before bringing it to my friend's house to use his drill press.
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The wife did the full install here! Came out awesome. She planned the whole thing, ordered it. Installed it. Very exciting to get the platform in! The height is 36" from the floor. We needed to get the mountain bikes under it so it had to be high. Having used it at this point we are excited about the height and think it will be all good.
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Insulating behind the passenger side rear panel. REALLY hard to get the wool to stay in place. String? What? Polyiso would be the smarter choice here. It looks overstuffed but I ensure you it is not. It just relaxes.

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Here the water pump is hung on the wall so we can finally install this panel. The bigger hole is there for a fridge plug. The Dometic folks tell you not to cut the cable. I usually don't listen to these warnings but for some reason this time I did. First I drilled a hole that was just for the 12v socket and realized this was a mistake. If anything went wrong with the plug I would need to take the whole panel off. I drilled out a larger hole and then made a small panel out of 1/2" ply to mount the plug.
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Garage wall planning and bed platform wood on. Also some wood covers for the back door bays. Made by the wife with her new jigsaw skills. We vented them because we want air to get in there if water gets in. The last thing we want is that insulation to smell.
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Slider door cover 1/4" ply, again vented in case moisture gets in there.
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Next post coming
 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
Heater came in from Heatso. It got caught in customs and I had to fill out some importer paper work to get it released. Fedex was pretty challenging to work with but here we are!
Here is me trying to understand what is what:
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Me trying to understand furring within the window bay and really feeling discouraged. This was one of my harder weekends of not getting a lot done and just staring at wood. One of those "drive this van off a cliff" times.

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Built this heavy duty fridge box. Hated it. We are using it as stool in the garage instead.
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Another weekend out! What fun! A bed platform with a sleeping bag on it!
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Stereo head unit installed. I used the iDatalink Maestro with a cheap apple car play deck.
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Tweeter install! Finally we can turn those highs back on. Duct tape holding it while the silicone II that is holding it in place dries.
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Pergo flooring for the front and cut up a big rubber utility mat for the back - taped it back together with flex tape. You can see the dreaded awful fridge box in the background.
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Oooooooh baby! Visible PROGRESS feels good. Note, insulation falling out from under the boards. Had to pull them down and secure it with string. Lame.
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Testing the layout
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Next post coming.
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
Ok so CR Lawrence windows.... Framing them is exciting. After much trial and error I landed on creating some laminate frames. Our friend John who is an actual professional craftsman suggested it. He was kind enough to let me borrow the router. Not bad for the first time using a router. It only slipped a few times and dug into the frames. Used "natural" plastiwood to fill in the mistakes. One of the things that was challenging is the top of the window frame is more narrow than the bottom. So the top of the frame is 2x3/4 sheets and strip of 1/4" ply. The sides are 2x3/4" sheets and strips of 1/2". And the bottom of the frame where the window well is widest is 3x3/4. This gave me the correct offset. I glued all the pieces together and screwed them. Then sanded them really well. Then poly'd them. Then I glued them around the windows using construction adhesive. I used a mix of gorilla glue 30 second set construction adhesive and some crazy strong locktite stuff for the bulk of it. The 30 second set lets me glue them on and hold them for a minute and then they stay put while the 24 hour cure stuff dries. Here are some progress pics:

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Got the subwoofer installed. Sound system is almost done.
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Control knob
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Used tap splices on the Upfit(?) Connector. Searched these forums and found the pin layout and colors and tapped those wires for the sub hookup.

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Put together a mattress using some foam from Amazon as a mattress topper and some foam from Western Upholstery Warehouse. It's a Gel Foam 3" Topper made by Viscosoft and a sheet of HD70 from the warehouse.

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The topper came in a sack which was great! It fit both of the foam sheets once we cut them down.
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Next post coming
 

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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
Holy crap a bed! Getting ready for our next weekend out. Furring installed on the walls. 2x2 and 3/4 ply notched at the top. The passenger side is the furring we went with. On the drivers side you can see the wood on the beams. This came off and we chose to not use them on the beams. They made it a weird size from the sheet metal wall. I used the same glue approach for the furring. Gorilla for 30 seconds with the heavy duty 24 hour stuff for the bulk of it.
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Trying to figure out how we are going to fit the mountain bikes. Note the zip ties on the bed frame. These are temporary and we will use the 80/20 Roll-ins to tie it down. Just haven't gotten around to it and zip ties work great for now.

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Went to home depot and got a sheet of 3/4" Birch Prefinished and had them cut it on the panel saw. The unfortunate thing is that all the employees certified to use the saw had no idea how to use the saw. All the cuts were crooked. They gave me a deep discount on the board. This forced my hand to finally buy a table saw. So glad I did. This has changed the game.

More test fitting.
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While working on this the plates finally came in!
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A drawer! It's 63x16". This was my first table saw built item. I have no idea how I made it so long without a table saw.
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It started raining so I switched gears and installed the Rostra cruise control. This was pretty easy if you are proficient in installing car stereos. It wasn't much different. The trickiest part was attaching the power wire to the ignition. You have to remove a ton of plastic. I ended up stripping a bit of the wire ignition wire, tinning it, and tapping into it with the cruise control wire. Then I taped the crap out of it. Done deal. I tried to get the ignition wire out of the molex for a bit, but lacking proper tools I couldn't do it. Also because it was raining this had to be installed squirming around the drivers seat definitely making it more interesting. I tested it that night and works like a charm.
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Got the drawer in. The slides are from eBay 48" locking 500LB slides. Good thing I have a wife. She came up with the idea to raise her bike using the little platform to fit both bikes face out. This gives us more space in the back of the garage if both bars are facing forward.
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Right now it is secured to the 1/2" floor which does cause the floating floor to flex a bit when the drawer is fully extended and weighted. We may run an 80/20 beam to floor from the bed frame.

We started planning a small "nightstand" shelf. After using the van a few times we needed a place to put our books at night and our phones, and water bottles. Notice the peeling rattletrap. I can't wait to cover the ceiling and never have to look at that stuff again. When I installed it on the ceiling I did not follow the directions because even after all these years and countless mistakes I still feel smarter than directions. The directions suggest to do the install on ceilings using 6" strips. I decided to use massive sheets. I then had to cut lines in them to get the air bubbles out. Obviously it's pretty ugly up there, glad to be close to insulating and installing the ceiling.

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I also bought a compressor. Game Changer. Nice to have the right tools for the job. I am not sure if I could have done this with caveman tools.
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Ordered the swivels from Leisurelines in the UK. Came in 3 days and still cheaper than ordering them in the States. Shipping was around 100 bucks. If you are considering doing this, you should.
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I also had the seat bases cut by Innovative Welding Solutions, LLC in Wheat Ridge, CO. $125 per seat and he even painted them. Skirts still need to be cut. They look fantastic and I am not bothered by the fact the skirts have yet to be put back on.
 

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Discussion Starter #8 (Edited)
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Test fitting the incomplete night stand. Check, check, test fit, check again, check again. You know the drill.
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Wall going up. We are using these 8' sections of 1/4" pine T&G. They have a coat of Killz primer on them and coat of semigloss white. We will need to pain them again after we fill all the nail holes from the install. The first board was the trickiest, getting the sizing correct.

We then decided to move the white toggle switch. It is the emergency water pump shut off. I had to cut it back out and install it above the location in this photo. It can be seen below.

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Glued on supports for the shelf in the upper bay. Wiring up the shelf before screwing it in. Not pictured is insulating that cavity before sealing it.

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Finished product for the day.
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Alrighty folks! We are all caught up to yesterday. Going to be updating this going forward! Hope you enjoy. Let me know if you have any questions or if I can clarify anything. Thanks for looking!
 

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Congratulations! You’ve done very well (in spite of following Far Out Ride‘s advice) for being newbies😏. It looks good and next time you will know what to do and not do!
 

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Great job!

We have also traveled and camped in our van at various stages. It is actually really helpful because then we know more of what we want to do. We have had our van for a year and I'm still not done with it.
 

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Great job! Noico is similar to Rattletrap but it doesn't smell.
 

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It’s not a mistake—it’s a design element. So the first rule is never say you made a mistake.

However, on this forum, admitting mistakes is a good thing and appreciated. Rules are made to be broken.
 
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