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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hi Friends,

Fair warning: like Jon Snow in the Game of Thrones, I know nothing. My posts will be for those who have no tools, no experience, and are looking for the medium-easy way out. I'll post my blunders and successes. I hope it helps a few people out there that might be in a similar situation as me.


Here's a summary of what has been accomplished so far.

1. Bought a van.
Found a mint condition 2014 through a broker. I gave him my specs. A week or two later he called me one day and said there was one going up for auction the next day. We worked out a max bid and the van was mine! $100 below the max, even better.


2. Remove partition.
Very easy. Used an allen wrench from my bike repair multi-tool. (20 min)

3. Remove the factory floor and insulate, reinstall floor.
This was pretty easy as well. It's glued down with these big black blobs. I used my interior fastener removal tool, basically a baby plastic crow bar and applied pressure until it released. The sides near the sliding door were already loose. So, I only really needed to do this near the rear door. Luckily it was a hot day. I think that helped the adhesive release.

I used 1'' polysio. Cut it with a small paring knife using the factory floor as a template. I saw someone online using a putty knife with a sharpened edge. I tried the paring knife first and it was a cinch. It's prob about the same to buy that little knife or a putty knife so I decided to use each for its intended function and not mess with modifying a tool.

I didn't remove the black blobs of adhesive because I was lazy and didn't feel like prying them all off. The surface was flat. So I sacrificed 1/8'' or so in ceiling height reduction and just went right on top of that. I used Great Stuff as the adhesive. Trying to keep it my application in the same direction as the ribs to allow any water to flow out if necessary. I remembered this halfway through so there's prob some places is could get stuck. Oh well.

On top of the polysio, I used another layer of Great Stuff Doors and Windows. Then, laid the factory floor on top of that again. (~3 hours)

The factory floor is not that amazing. I scratched the coating when taking the partition out. I also dumped a pot of boiling water on it while camping and it soaked into the wood immediately. :/ The plastic coating doesn't seem to do much other than improve the aesthetics. Oh well, I'm going to lay a sheet of vinyl on top of it in a few weeks.

4. Ceiling Insulation
I found some 3/4'' foam at my local home depot. It's the white styrofoam kind, not the polysio. I think they make it in the polysio version. I stopped at the pro desk to try and have them buy it for me. But when they called back, the guy returned with the white foam. A little less R value - 3 vs. 5 I think. Another oh well, good enough.

I got the 3/4'' so that I could make the ceiling flush from the ribs. Ceiling height is a priority for me. I'm going to end up with 73.5''. Anyone over 6'1.5' will have to duck a little. My poor brother at 6'4'' will just have to crouch the whole time. Sorry, bro. Summary... van floor with black adhesive, 1'' polysio, ~1/2'' factory floor, 3/32'' vinyl floor, 1/8'' lauan ceiling = 73.5'' ceiling height.

I put some strips of reflectix in the roof ribs. Later realized, this is not a proper application. There needs to be a space on at least one side of the reflectix for it to work fully. I should have glued full 48'' sections on the bottom of the rib. That would leave air space between the ribs to get the thermal benefits. An other oh well, I'm already at 3! I didn't want to sacrifice ceiling height for another R2. And it's not a complete waste. The website says the product gets R1.1 when there's no air space on either side.

Next I glued up the 3/4'' styrofoam with 3M90 spray adhesive. Along the edges I used Great Stuff. Yeah.. so, I got a pro gun and bought the wrong can. If you have a pro gun, you need to buy the pro can. Fail. Ended up just using the straw. Yeah, it's a mess like everyone says.

5. Wall Insulation
This has been the funnest part so far! I got 30' of Hein's Thinsulate 600. It's amazing. Super easy to work with. I bought a new pair of Fiskars scissors and just cut away. I'm using 3M 90 again. I tried at first to cut 1'' off the edges and glue just the scrim to the van wall. This was not successful. MsNomer came to the rescue and said just spray glue on the whole thing, not just the edges. Bam! It sticks. I applied the glue on both surfaces - van wall and the white side of the thinsulate. One evening and the walls are 90% covered.

Per MsNomer's suggestion I amazoned some Dynamat for the wheel wells and doors. I thought the thinsulate would be enough but for another $60, what the heck. I'll take the extra reduction in road noise. It annoys me to no end, even in my daily commuter car. I'm now thinking of adding some dynamat to that! All the wonderful things you discover while building a van...


Huge shout out to MsNomer. She was in town this weekend and was kind enough to hang out and help me with my build. The in-person learning was invaluable. I'm now equipped with a few key skills to do the bed build. Pocket screws are awesome. If you're like me and know nothing and own nothing, check them out. It's $40 and basically all you do is predrill a hole then put a screw in it at an angle to join two pieces of wood. I'm going to build my wheel well boxes with it. And maybe more, who knows!

Alright, that's it for now. Stay tuned for more. I'll be doing the electrical next weekend.
 

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Thanks for the tip on the pocket screw system from another know nothing camper build PM person.
 

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They go under the name of Kreg screw kits. There may be generics too.

https://www.amazon.com/Kreg-R3-Pock...g_2?ie=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=XRVNMNVT8N075TBRPH04

I don’t think any of your choices will be crucial it is just that others might be better. You have my admiration for persisting with the straw bottle. I think the foam is great but I will NOT use the straw can! BTW in our homes, mice will not chew through the great stuff cracks and gaps foam. Good for those mouse holes you find along the foundation. Just say’n.
 

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...another endorsement for using a Kreg jig and screw system. They made many of my "implementations" easier and more pro looking!

klunytunes, careful with the electrical stuff... it's not all sticky and gooey, but there is one issue - you can't see it!

nice progress so far, looking forward to more posts,

ed
 

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Yup, I use the Kreg all the time when it's going to be hidden, quick, solid and inexpensive.
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
Here's a pic of the Kreg. It's that blue thing in the back is the jig (I think that's what it's called). There's an adjustment on that for the correct screw length. You have to use their special screws and it has a square head. It comes with a special drill bit you adjust a collar to the right length as well.

The blue jig is clamped into place. Drill out the holes, as seen in the picture. Another piece of plywood is propped up vertically against that 2x4. The piece with the holes in it are stood up and clamped to the second piece of ply to make a right angle. Make sure it's straight. Then, just put screws in the pre-drilled holes.

The holes are on the outside so they will show but it's going to be under my bed so I don't really care. You can buy plugs for them if you are painting and want to get a smooth look.

Be careful to do the settings on the jig and drill correctly. I screwed through the ply and had to back them out. I think that's because I had 3/8 ply and 1'' screws. So, 3/8 + 3/8 doesn't quite add up to an inch when joined. Whoops. Another "oh, well".
That was crappy ply anyways. I got it at home depot.

Home Depot Learnings...
Pro- they'll cut wood for you for free.
Con - some techs are better at cuts than others. You might want to mention to them that you need it to be exact.
Con- the quality of wood you get a HD really sucks. I ended up going to a real lumber yard and found a nice 1/2'' sanded ply. The wood is noticeably higher quality. It's heavier and the top layer is thicker.
Pro - HD is open on Sunday. Lumber yards are not.

I applied the Dynamat last night. For the accident prone out there... the layer of metal on the outside can get really really sharp. My hand slipped and it sliced my finger open. It was deep enough and long enough stitches came to mind. Luckily duct tape was nearby. It was already starting to heal up when I took the duct tape off so I just superglued it and am hoping for the best.

The dynamat installation was easy and took about an hour. Cut it into strips to apply over the wheel well. Flat material on a rounded surface... you get the idea. I used a roll of duct tape to roll press it out. I got 12sq ft from amazon. I'm covering the wheel wells, back door panels and sliding door panels. 12sq ft wasn't enough and I had to buy a second pack. I slammed the door shut and noticed the difference immediately. No more, goooooooooong sound!
 

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Kluny, your build thread is an invaluable addition to this forum. Too many folk would rather DIY, but chicken out because they have neither tools nor experience. You are proving that where there's a will, there's a way. Keep it coming.
 

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If you don’t plan to go get stitches or are where it is impractical (my big self-slice once in the N Maine woods canoeing) I suggest a preventative tetanus shot before you start, antiseptic soap (stings like crazy) when it happens, antiseptic cream worked into the wound ignoring the blood, butterfly closures to close it (not duct tape unless that is all you have), gauze loosely applied, bandana to hold everything together and get back to work. It even worked when I nailed two fingers to a 2X6 with my pneumatic framing nailer. Fortunately I had my leatherman to pull the nail out of the board with the other hand. Sometimes we sound like we know a bunch of crap because we have done something similar but really we often are doing just what you are. Your honesty is refreshing! Can’t wait!
 

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Kreg + Glue = ?

I'm also a big Kreg fan... HOWEVER, I'm an even bigger fan of Kreg + a quality wood glue. I started out using unglued Kreg joints only to discover they loosened over time... from the temperature/humidity fluctuations and/or the flexing of the van body. Details are here... https://vancave.wordpress.com/cargo-van-overview/cargo-van-insulation/

Awesome progress so far!
Best,
Phranc
 

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Agreed, I would never just make a Kreg joint without glue.
 

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Along the strip of wood that will connect the two pieces. The glue does much of the holding, the screws position and clamp the pieces while the glue dries. Remember most paints and clear finishes defeat the glue’s holding power. Yellow carpenter’s glue like TiteBond etc. not white school glue.
 

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Discussion Starter #13 (Edited)
I had some help and accomplished a few things this weekend. 4 people from about 10am-6pm:

- Installed new speakers. Followed the crutchfield website tool and it arrived with a fit kit specifically for the Promaster. We used a drummel to saw off a tab on the mounting frame that didn’t fit.

- Mounted the renology 100w solar panel with hein’s vhb feet. Drilled a ~1’’ hole in the roof and ran the wires down through a rubber grommet. Sealed with lap sealant. The wires are currently hanging from the ceiling.

- Installed the taylor battery box & optima battery under the driver’s seat, and isolator following this post http://www.promasterforum.com/forum/showthread.php?t=39274. I cut out the foam floor to place the battery box. We still need to make the final connection to the car’s main battery to give it power. I’ll post the second half of the electrical system when we get there.

- Installed the curt hitch. You need #30 torx for screws that hold the bumper. I used my multi-tool. It’s not like the seat where a torx socket is required. Then a 15mm, 16mm socket and 30mm socket. We ended up using an adjustable wrench on the 16mm bolts bc we didn’t have the right size and it was twisting in on itself and getting stuck. Need to connect the wiring harness still but the frame install was a no brainer.

- Procured the ceiling material and cut to size. I’m using hardboard thrifty white. Used a hole saw to cut out circles for the recessed LED puck lights I got off superbrightleds.com. The 2.25’’ hole saw wasn’t big enough so used the drummel again to sand it out a bit until they fit. The drummel slipped too far one time and I’ll have a nick in white surface that the puck won’t cover, whoops. The hole saw wasn’t a clean cut so I think it was better I got a size too small so that it didn’t rip up the white finished surface.

I think I’m going to get some double sided 3M VHB and tape the hardboard to the ribs for a clean finish without screws. I’ll need about 40’ of that. Expensive ($25)… but it’ll give a nice finished look I think. I’ll leave some space in between and put a trim piece.

Next steps….
- finish out the electrical system, run the wires, connect the outlets, hang the ceiling with the recessed lights. I’ll upload pics after the next big day.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
RD,

I was looking at your bed. I'm planning on doing something similar. Mine will be higher resting on 2x4s bolted to the horizontal rib, 25.75'' off the floor. There will be ~4'' gap from the rear door. I'll get 60 full inches width by having the last 6'' closest to the sliding door being 71.75'' vs 74''.

I'm curious what kind and size lumber you used for the frame.

Here's what it looks like I need:
Back fixed section
- 2 studs 2x2 or 2x3? to screw the slats into, 74’’ long. I won’t have that wheel well box all the way to the back to support it.
- Is the stud that goes across the ‘plywood standing on edge’ screwed into the plywood? Or does the bed frame just sit on top of it?
- Finishing strip on the long sides, 1x4 or 6?

Front moving section
- 1 stud 2x2 or 2x3?
- what size is the piece you bolt the slats to here? 1x.5?
- 1 finishing piece, you used oak. Is this a 1x6?
 

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Sounds like you are on a roll!

Why did you only put one 100 w panel on and not two. One is sort of a waste the cost for 200 w is negligible and much more worthwhile. Optima batteries have a very poor reputation if you can exchange them for regular AMG or even just two flooded 6v golf cart ones you will be far ahead in both usefulness and quality.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
I wasn't even planning on having solar in the first place so I went small. I'm going to use it mainly as a weekend vehicle so the main source of charging will be the alternator. The loads will be very minimal. I'm not running TVs and computers and pumps. Just the LED lights, furnace, fan, and a fridge. The solar is kind of a back up power generation source for those rare occasions I might spend more than 3 days in the van without driving anywhere.
 

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RD,
I was looking at your bed. ...cut...... you used oak. Is this a 1x6?
I felt that attaching something to the sides of the van was unnecessary and a waste of material. My “frame” is a piece of 1/2 inch plywood anchored to the wheel wells extending from the back door to the front edge of the opened bed. In your case you would rip a sheet of nice 1/2” plywood 25-3/4” wide and as long as the bed would be back to front in the van and stand it on edge, drill several (two?more??) 5/16 holes through it and through the wheel wells being careful not to jab into the tires. I then installed rivnuts but you could run a short bolt (5/16X1-1/4”) from under the van to the inside and use washers and nuts. I installed 1/2” polyisocyanurate foam between the bed frame and the wheel well for insulation. The cross pieces are five quarter (not 1” which is only 3/4”) lengths of oak about 1-1/8” X 3” on edge and fitted into small slots to keep the bed from moving forward in a stop. The slots are about 1” deep but could be deeper. The forward edge is wider to hold my weight when I climb in perhaps 1-1/8 X 5”. Between the two sets of offset slats (in the middle of the open bed) I cut an oak filler piece in a trapezoid shape flat on the top and 2” wide, tapered from each edge underneath (<1/2”) to about 3/4” in the middle to allow it to slide over the back slats and still not push up the mattress like “The Princess and the Pea” when open. The forward section of bed slats are bolted to the trapezoid piece with 10-32X1" bolts and washers and screwed to a 1’X1” block on the inside of the forward cross piece near its bottom edge. The two bed sections are about 1” less wide than the distance across the van so they can slide and be removed easily leaving just the frame plywood which I have only removed once. All this was planned to be a test built of material I had but once I got it assembled it was so great I am never changing it! BTW the ikea mattress we bought was nicely covered and we just cut it down to size, trimmed it a bit to fit along the back and cut one section in two and reinstalled the covers. It is about 5” thick, you don’t feel the slats, and it is as comfortable as our beds in our house! Better really but if I said that you wouldn’t believe me.
My thoughts- don’t 2X4 any thing in a van- that is building framing not cabinet material. I had the oak but you can get it at H-D nearby. Hardwood is so strong smaller pieces work well and end up lighter in the end. Don’t use metal either, thats for building trailers not cabinets. KISS make each part do several jobs, be simple, light, and sturdy. Rant over. Ask more if I obfuscated this.
 

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If possible don't buy any wood (other than 2x4's at HD. You can usually find a speciality wood retailer in most large markets where you can buy just about and species, thickness and size for half the price of HD or Lowes.

I would recommend using poplar for cabinets if it's not going to be exposed. It's cheap, clear, strong, better than pine and works very well (if looks aren't important). You can then use something nice like oak or maple for the face frames.
 
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