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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
We are a two person (Maitreya and Abby), one dog (Natchee) crew out of Bend that wants an adventure van that will support rock climbing, biking, skiing, paragliding, etc. trips while keeping us comfortable and connected enough to work our remote gigs. We specifically will NOT be living in the van full-time, but could conceivably be in there for a month at a time.

Other considerations include safety (especially in event of a collision since vans do, of course, drive!), adjustability for ourselves or future owners, and some good old fashioned DIY skill building. Assume we learned a bunch of stuff from Youtube, FarOutRide, and friends specifically for this project. If we can do it, so can you!

Let's get to it.
 

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Discussion Starter #2
First steps were installation of the bunk window in the rear driver's side of the vehicle, and a Maxxair fan. We opted to do this bit first while the van was bare to make for easy clean up. Overall, it took us about 3 hours for both.

For the window, we selected our location from the interior, used a reciprocating saw to remove the interior rib which sat in the way, traced the hole from the exterior, and cut the hole using a jigsaw with a metal cutting blade. After priming the edge and allowing it dry, we installed the CR Laurence half slider window. While we did this first, I'd recommend installing the fan first -- straight line cuts on a horizontal surface are an easier way to get acquainted with cutting holes in your new van than curved cuts on a vertical surface!

Photos of the window installation

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For the Maxxair fan, we installed the fan over the front third of the cargo compartment. While some folks install theirs over the rear, we opted for this front section since we'll cook a lot in the van and wanted to use it as an exhaust.

We don't have photos of this, but the process is covered ad nauseum on youtube. We did use the Hain adapter, but you could definitely get by without by doubling up on the butyl tape. One note for the Hain adapter is that it's not designed to be centered in the van if you're attempting to locate it in the front 20% of the cargo compartment since the ridges are offset. Anywhere farther back and it centers just fine.
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
Since we bought our vehicle one year out as a used cargo van, it had some significant scratching and wear on the floor. While these didn't bother us (insulation and the floor will cover it) we wanted to guard against rust. So our next step was to clean and prime the floor. We cleaned the floor with mild detergent, covered up the window, sealed off the driving compartment and used a few large rattle cans to re-prime the ground. No biggie.

You can also see the fan mounted in the roof with this image. Note the cardboard covering the window and the plastic sheeting sealing off the driving compartment.

61377
 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
We opted to follow FarOutRide's guidance (for the first of many, many times) on insulation. This involved using Thinsulate as our primary insulator. In order to cut the Thinsulate -- which comes in a big roll -- to appropriate size, we used a roll of paper to template the interior sizes and transferred those patterns to the Thinsulate.

We applied these to the interior of the van using 3M 90 spray adhesive. This process is detailed in depth with FarOutRide. Edit: of course we put in sound deadening Noico in BEFORE the insulation. Didn't document EVERYTHING.

61379


61378
 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
I'm around 6' tall and am not keen on banging my head in the van, so saving space in the floor and the ceiling was important to us. As a result, we settled for 1/2" XPS (extruded polystyrene) topped with 1/2" plywood subfloor.

We used a Promaster floor protector (which was thrown in by the dealership) as a template, and cut the XPS and plywood to size using a sharp box knife and circular saw respectively. We did make some minor alterations when it was clear that template didn't cover enough (by the wheel wells, for example). The XPS and plywood conveniently were sold in the same 4' x 8' dimensions so we were able to make the same cuts twice over.

We removed the factory D-rings from the floor and loaded the XPS into the van shiny side down. We covered the seams with water resistant aluminum tape and, marked out where the factory connection points were, and cut holes down to them (since we intended to lock in the floor to the factory D-ring connectors).

Note that the XPS is pretty "crunchy" and brittle. In our case, this was a benefit, since we wanted it to nestle into the corrugations that run the length of the PM factory floor. However, we had to be careful to not crush it when moving it into place or applying our tape. We used some plywood to distribute Abby's meager weight and not crush the XPS board.

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Though the plywood was only being used as a subfloor, we wanted it to be resistant to water/mold/mildew/warping etc. As such we gave both sides a few coats of bio-polyurethane, let it dry and laid it down. Again, we drilled through the d-ring locations we marked, countersunk the holes, and locked the insulation and subfloor down to the factor D-ring points with M8 machine screws.

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Our theory that the XPS would nestle into the floor proved to be right. It was initially squeaky and loud, but quieted down over a few days. After walking around on the plywood for a few days, the XPS quickly settled into the floor and now you can't hear it at all.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Next we installed our Scopema swivels. I got these on recommendation, but honestly, the verdict is still out. They are noticeably higher than the stock PM cockpit which already seemed a bit high. Not sure if a taller person would have the clearance to sit comfortably.

Not going to go through the steps here, since it's pretty self explanatory from various videos. Will get into the wood strips later ... they were just a placeholder.

61383
 

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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
We flattened the edge of the subfloor (since it was a bit short of the PM's wall edge) using some gaps and cracks. After it dried, we trimmed it to lay flat. This "seals" the edge and also gives the actual flooring surface something to sit against on the edges of the van.

Edit: We stuffed the floor compartments (behind the black plastic covers) with thinsulate scraps before applying the gaps and cracks in case they got sealed shut. As it turned out, they didn't.

61384
 

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Discussion Starter #9
What's with all this "we" malarkey?
I only ever see one person working in the pics.
Dividing labor is v important. She does the easy stuff like building the van, and I do the hard part ... telling everyone about it on the forums!
 

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Discussion Starter #10
With the floor insulate and subfloor in, we turned to the actual flooring. Our intended design is to separate the van into a pretty large garage to accommodate the unreasonable volume of gear we use to play our games (paragliders, crash pads, bikes, climbing rack, etc. are pretty unwieldy), and a flexible kitchen/office/hang out space for getting stuff done. We wanted something house-y for the office/living space and something durable and hyper water resistant for the garage.

After considering vinyl sheeting, we settled on vinyl planking for the house/office area. Initial research suggested that vinyl plank could crack or separate with the temperature fluctuations common in a van, but a few anecdotal accounts from friends and the relative ease of replacing the floor allayed our concern. We went with the Procore vinyl plank flooring for the seemingly tight seams and the cushy feel underfoot.

Installation was easy, particularly once we learned how to use the installation tools to tighten the seams. We opted to keep the floor floating to account for temperature related expansion and contraction . We will use trim in the doorway to lock the pieces in, and kept the first piece clamped tightly to the subfloor during installation to keep everything stationary. Cutting the planks to accommodate the curve at the step into the driving compartment was trial and error with a jigsaw. Just trim a lil and see how it fits.

61399
 

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Discussion Starter #11 (Edited)
The garage floor turned out to be a saga. Initially we purchased coin flooring, but we made a (potentially) false assumption that all vinyl coin flooring is made equally. The brand we bought from Walmart didn't pan out. After letting it rest for a few days, cutting it to size, weighing it down, trimming the edges, etc. it just didn't feel right. Namely, it wouldn't sit flat, and even mild sunlight (it's winter in Bend) would cause the air underneath to expand and bubble up the product. The only photo I have of this doesn't really do its imperfections justice, but I'll post it anyway. Don't let this stop you from considering vinyl sheet flooring -- others have bought the more expensive kind and said it laid down flat and installed flawlessly.

If you look very closely, you can see the width-wise undulations which never sat flat. This product MAY have worked if we used adhesive, but one of our key design philosophies is to keep everything serviceable. I don't want to glue down the floor if I don't have to, lest it dissuade me from checking out potential mold or something that could crop up in the distant future.

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So after doing all this work and giving it a few weeks to settle in, we decided to rip it up and replace it. Our friend Ben suggested using the horse mat rubber product that's commonly used on farms and in gyms. We got several sheets from Wilco Farm Coop (like Coastal) and it's worked great. Easier than the vinyl sheet to work with, lays flat, and proved to be easier to cut. We simply taped any seams with gorilla tape, found the holes and through-bolted it back into the factor D-ring points. In all cases of floor tracing, we just referred back to the slightly modified floor template provided to us by the dealership. Easy peasy.

Will post some photos of the flooring soon.
 

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Discussion Starter #12 (Edited)
A major design decision we made very early in our process was to forgo lumber in favor of using aluminum extrusion. There are a few reasons: 1) safety - in the event of a crash I want my framing to stay in place and the strength of aluminum and steel gives me better peace of mind than wood and screws, 2) adjustability - i'm not experienced doing this stuff so a lot of my design details are figured out in realtime ON the van. the t-slot aluminum allows me to prototype with ease, build iteratively, and test my structures over time, 3) resale value - wanna move the cabinets, change the direction of the bed, reconfigure drawers? no problem - aluminum t-slot lets you move the bones of the vehicle with hand tools!

There are some strikes against it as well, which I'll acknowledge, but the benefits far outweighed the costs to me. 1) Price -- it's more expensive than wood (though you need less of it). 2) Not readily available locally ... I have to get it all shipped to me.

In general I'm using the 1.5" x 1.5" profile, called 1515, in conjunction with 3/4" long 5/16" carriage bolts. I'm fashioning my own connectors out of 3/8" x 1.25" aluminum bar and aluminum angle using a chopsaw (non ferrous blade) and drill press (my new favorite thing!), but you could also buy these connectors premade.

For a bunch of technical information you can visit 8020.net and for helpful details on how to build connectors, search Orton Transit. I didn't wind up following his directions as written, but my techniques generally get the same result.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Our general build concept includes a sizable garage in the back to store the asinine amount of outdoor recreation gear that we schlep around on trips (crash pads, bikes, paraglider, etc.). This necessitates a raised bed platform. Our thought was to create two frame sections that run over the wheel wells with a bed platform over them. We included a single rail parallel to these sections to enable a drawer slider, and to support the bed platform (the 80/20 aluminum does have some flex to it).

We mocked all this up using 1.5" x 1.5" cheap pine to prove the concepts (pic below). Our mockup showed us we'd have plenty of support going to the ground, but that the bed platform might have some lateral instability. To account for this, we mounted some profiles on the hip-level rail which would connect to the aforementioned frame pieces. Given the light duty of these wall mounted pieces, we used VHB tape rather than dealing with milling and countersinking aluminum.

The second photo below shows one of the frame bases and the hip-level mounted profile for lateral stability. You'll have to imagine a symmetrical frame base behind the camera over the driver side wheel well. Ignore the electrical layout - this was in the experimentation phase.

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61689
 

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I believe the general consensus on this forum is that you shouldn't insulate behind those black plastic triangles. Those are basically weep holes where any condensation or moisture can leave through the walls and ribs and exit out the bottom of the van.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
I believe the general consensus on this forum is that you shouldn't insulate behind those black plastic triangles. Those are basically weep holes where any condensation or moisture can leave through the walls and ribs and exit out the bottom of the van.
Good point that I hadn't considered. We've used a hydrophobic material (thinsulate) and placed so it's floating above the bottom of the cavity, so I don't think we'd impede any drainage. Will monitor the situation and remove the insulation if it looks like it's getting damp at all. I appreciate the heads up.
 

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Discussion Starter #17 (Edited)
We've had a few productive days on the van (despite the onslaught of late season snow in the town and unexpected guests before CDC warnings to stay TF in your own house). The major step forward was getting the bones of the electric system into place. Our build has been influenced by Explorist.Life's wiring diagrams, as well as the helpful guys over at Bend Battery.

Main points: we're charging off the alternator as well as planning for solar charging. We've snaked a 2 awg welding cable from the battery box through the passenger side B pillar, over the sliding door, and down to our battery bank. It's connected to a Victron Cyrix Li Charge 230 A. Our system integrates a cut off switch to our loads, though the solar controller will be direct to the batteries so we don't accidentally fry it. We're running all the loads through a victron BMV shunt.

We haven't yet connected the inverter or solar charge controller but those will go in over the next few days. I'll clean up and staple down some cables after we do that.


61905


61906
 

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Discussion Starter #18 (Edited)
Another weekend project was to start getting the ceiling in. We wanted the ceiling to be removable for any future servicing we have to do.

Abby whitewashed some 12 ft planks trimmed to fit the roof. Our strategy was to position each slat against the roof and drill to the rib using a 5/16' bit. We'd then remove the slat and use a 1/2 bit with stop collar to put a hole in the rib above. After vacuuming out the shavings and painting the drilled hole, we inserted 5/16-18 plus nuts. Since we drilled everything while it was lined up, it made screwing the slats to the ceiling a breeze. We did lubricate the threads of our machine screws and use hand tools to make sure we didn't destroy the cross nuts.

We didn't fully screw in the slats since we're going to take them all out again. We'll be cutting holes for lights and our fan as well as sanding the ceiling slats.

61907



61908
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Removed the ceiling and trimmed the slats for our lights and fan. Threw some EZ Cool (basically thicker Reflectix) up on the ceiling, reapplied the slats, ran wire for our lights, Inserted the fan trim and got our lights on! Huzzah.

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