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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hey guys and gals,
I've lurked enough on here now that I feel a build thread is appropriate.
The goal of this thread is to simply document what we did, if it worked, if it didn't and document for myself things to remember as I progress.
Also, we have a website and an instagram page:

In July 2019 I purchase a 2014 159" High Roof (non extended) from Salmon Arm, BC and drove it back to Calgary.
Calgary is home, it's where this build is taking place.

Initial photos: https://photos.app.goo.gl/17AyJn8fBXQcAagT9

Step 1 Take it from the beat work van it was, to a blank canvas.
Had to replace an engine mount when the out of province inspection was performed.
Sanded the floor and a bunch of the doors/walls, primed and painted.
Oh also it had a busted glove box and the rear door wire looms were broke.
So I went to pick and pull and replaced those.


Step 2 Install sound deadening.
Read a lot of build threads and youtube videos that people wish they had sound deadened their vans, so we went ahead and did that.
Cut all the strips to sit in between the ribs in the floor, then cut big sheets for the panels.
Overall lots of work, but good finished product, especially in the wheel wells.

Step 3 Build the floor
Since we plan to use this van to ski tour, it needs to be really warm.
Lots of people don't insulate the floor, but cold feet suck so we did that.
Spray foam in the ribs over the sound deadening, then 1/2" styrofoam (xps?) board over top.
Lots of adhesive was used in the making of this film.
 

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Thanks for sharing, I'll be looking forward to seeing more posts on the build out! One question on the van as I'm shopping for one at the moment. What was the mileage on the van?
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks for sharing, I'll be looking forward to seeing more posts on the build out! One question on the van as I'm shopping for one at the moment. What was the mileage on the van?
Thanks Chris!
Bought the wood for the bed build out yesterday, hopefully getting that in this weekend.

As for mileage I'm not sure as I've only put one tank into it, mostly been sitting in my backyard. There are good threads on the forum though.
 

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Thanks for the reply, looking forward to seeing your progress! On milage I actually meant how many miles did the van have on it when you purchased. I'm shopping and trying to stay under 50k on the odometer, I will only be using for sporadic weekend trips and maybe one longer trip each year. Wondering if I should open my search to higher milage maybe up to 60k or 70k and was hoping you might have some thoughts on that?
 

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Thanks for the reply, looking forward to seeing your progress! On milage I actually meant how many miles did the van have on it when you purchased. I'm shopping and trying to stay under 50k on the odometer, I will only be using for sporadic weekend trips and maybe one longer trip each year. Wondering if I should open my search to higher milage maybe up to 60k or 70k and was hoping you might have some thoughts on that?
I bought mine at ~30k miles on it. Nice thing was it still has 3 years of factory warranty left on it or up to 60k miles which is really nice because if something major fails its covered under warranty. Already had to bring it in for some minor services for other stuff and it was all free service. So if you can find a used van like that at a dealership like I did, there is something to be said for having some sort of limited warranty on it. Otherwise be really careful when inspecting the used van when its 60+k miles, these things are industry vehicles which get beat up during the course of use.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I bought mine at ~30k miles on it. Nice thing was it still has 3 years of factory warranty left on it or up to 60k miles which is really nice because if something major fails its covered under warranty. Already had to bring it in for some minor services for other stuff and it was all free service. So if you can find a used van like that at a dealership like I did, there is something to be said for having some sort of limited warranty on it. Otherwise be really careful when inspecting the used van when its 60+k miles, these things are industry vehicles which get beat up during the course of use.
Yeah I bought mine at 100k (60k miles) and the one thing it required for the inspection to pass was a torn engine mount. The mechanic did say I had a fairly immaculate unit (took me four months of searching, lots of test driving) so I'm not too concerned about reliability. The body is pretty dinged up from being a work van, but I figure the money I saved in that gives me money to play with for the conversion.
I'm very confident in the mileage, and I plan on putting 60k km on it next year for the drive south. That was one of my main reasons against the Sprinter, is if I have trouble (I plan on it) I can have any Marco or Pedro work on this engine rather than a Mercedes tech in nowheresville.
 

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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
Step 4 Cut A Hole In Your Van
Well as everyone who has done it knows, the first cut is the deepest.
Bought the Maxxair 7500k and prepared to install it.
I found this video the most useful and followed it:
Painters tape and shop towels all around the top in order to catch most of the shavings.
Box underneath to catch the shavings and the 14" x 14" square of sheet metal.
The layers went: Van metal -> butyl tape -> fan bracket -> sheet metal screws -> lap sealant -> actual fan
I simply dangled the wires underneath and went about my day.

Step 5 Insulate The Walls and Roof

I don't believe there is a fantastic option for doing insulation, and the XPS polystyrene was very hit and miss.
While you can cover large areas somewhat quickly, and they do provide a pretty darn good R value (2" R10 on walls, 1" R5 on roof, 0.5" R2.5 on floor),
they also cover your entire cutting area (and coveralls, and hair, and lungs, WEAR FULL PPE) with the stupid pink shavings that are statically charged and want to cling.
We took those panels, used PL300 adhesive to adhere it to the van sheet metal, and spary foamed around the perimeters.
Panels were either held in place by 2x4s, duct tape, or weights depending where they were while the adhesive and foam cured (24 hours).

Step 6 Start buying Electrical Components
Thankfully I have been contracting for a solar company (https://www.infernosolar.com/ great company!) that had wholesale prices on panels.
Picked up two 275W panels (550W total) and the associated cables.
Purchased the roof rack out of Unistrut exactly as this thread explained:
I'm still waiting on my VanTech feet to come through customs, will assemble and update after that.
Bought a Dometic CFX75 off of a friend of a friend for a great deal ($900 vs 1500) after he used it for one trip.
Ran wires for the LED pot lights, as those will get covered up by the plywood.
Going with 8 pot lights on ribs (from the front) 1, 2, 3, 5, and all the wires ran through the central rib on the driver side, which is where I see the electronics staying.
 

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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
I would say we're working on it 4/7 days in a week. The last two night in a row have been 2am (which sucks for work the next day!).
Life gets in the way though, this weekend is Thanksgiving so we have Freshtival Friday, my cabin Saturday, wedding Sunday, Leah's family Monday. 3 days shot in a row.
I've been working on a bed design with my dad, and to be honest it's all the little things, like it took me 45 minutes to remove all the 2x4s holding the roof up and clean everything up.
So when a job takes 3 hours, it's usually 2 hours of work and 1 hour of Home Depot, cleaning, thinking, etc

Step 7 Build a bed frame
When looking into the bed, I had seen many builds with thinner material and/or supports being used.
I wanted a) an open garage b) to be able to use the bed as a structure (both for the van and for humans)
When planning how to make the frame, my dad had just framed a large deck all summer, so we had that style in mind.
I've seen the build using aluminum ramps, and other methods, so I might change later but here's the plan:

From the wall I used McMaster Carr cross nuts (1/4-20) to go into the hexagonal holes. These are all spaced out 5.5" from each other in the back of the van.
From the back I had the 3/16" angle iron lined up with the seam in the wall, then drilled 8" 13.5" 19" 30" 41" 52" 57.5" to match up.
I tried to drill 1/4" holes for the 1/4" bolts, but that was a pipe dream. Had to go up to 5/16" to get my drilling error to line up with each other haha.
From the wall to the centre of the van it will go cross nuts -> 3/8" plywood -> 3/16" angle iron -> bolts
Then the 2x6" frame will go on top of the angle iron (not in the cradle, as it would hit the bolt heads).
The wood frame is undersized to give a few options when it comes to finishing the walls.

Pics:
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Pro tip:
Use a magnet while drilling so your chips don't fly all around your workshop.
I had a magnet above and a magnet below for when I punch through.
You have to clean the shavings off with a shop towel, but much easier then vacuuming and leaving shavings in all the random places.
 

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Discussion Starter #11 (Edited)
Step 7.5 Realize Your Bed Frame Is A Bit Too High
After we put the bed frame in place we figured out that it could go down an inch or two.
After looking at options, I've even put the bed frame into a FEA study to see deflection of 2x6s vs 2x4s.
Results in the photos, but here's the summary:
4x - 2" x 6" - 0.013" Deflection
5x - 2" x 4" - 0.043" Deflection
6x - 2" x 4" - 0.038" Deflection
8x - 2" x 4" - 0.030" Deflection
So as of right now I'm going to have family dinner tonight and talk it over with Dad and Leah, see what we can figure.
Is 0.030" acceptable and safe over a year's worth of sleep and abuse?
Is 0.100" acceptable and I'm not worrying for any reason?

I've seen people use other materials such as steel too, but I like the woodworking aspect. Screw plywood in and such.
Any one want to weigh in on this?
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Step 8.0 Begin Sheeting Plywood Walls
In order to take the van from a dirty old van to a "living space" the plywood had to go so we could quit having spray foam everywhere.
My plan is to use 3/8" plywood (might go with 1/4", but the first one went in okay) cut out oriented vertically.
Use the two horizontal van ribs with cross nuts to hold the plywood (and cabinets in the future) to the walls.
Last night I just did the holes under the bed frame (was 1:30am), but they worked out great!

Bonus cross nut diagram (brass washer is van rib, black spacer is 3/8 plywood):
 

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The deflections are all acceptable. However to get the sizes down and control diflection look at something like 5/4 X 3 oak, ash, or maple on edge. There is a reason bats are made of such woods not spruce-fir-pine.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
The deflections are all acceptable. However to get the sizes down and control diflection look at something like 5/4 X 3 oak, ash, or maple on edge. There is a reason bats are made of such woods not spruce-fir-pine.
Yes, anything less than like 0.5" is really nothing, I'm more concerned with long-term fatigue.
Oak, ash and maple eh? I'll try to take a look tonight at Home Depot. Thanks for the tip!

Step 8.1 Continue Sheeting Plywood Walls

Leah and I got the rear passenger wall up yesterday. Early night, made it to bed before 1am haha.
Use the cross nuts ("screw-to-intstall rivet nuts") 90186A213 for holding up plywood is a great removable system.
DO NOT use the 6-32 size, they are simply too small for this application. The 1/4-20 is significantly better, even in terms of getting a hex bolt rather than machine screws.
The driver front section of the wall has really weird hole locations, so I'll be drilling my own holes for the larger cross nuts.
The rear sections were perfect, there are hexagons every 5.5" that hold these nuts really well.
 

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Hey guys and gals,
I've lurked enough on here now that I feel a build thread is appropriate.
The goal of this thread is to simply document what we did, if it worked, if it didn't and document for myself things to remember as I progress.
Also, we have a website and an instagram page:

In July 2019 I purchase a 2014 159" High Roof (non extended) from Salmon Arm, BC and drove it back to Calgary.
Calgary is home, it's where this build is taking place.

Initial photos: https://photos.app.goo.gl/17AyJn8fBXQcAagT9

Step 1 Take it from the beat work van it was, to a blank canvas.
Had to replace an engine mount when the out of province inspection was performed.
Sanded the floor and a bunch of the doors/walls, primed and painted.
Oh also it had a busted glove box and the rear door wire looms were broke.
So I went to pick and pull and replaced those.


Step 2 Install sound deadening.
Read a lot of build threads and youtube videos that people wish they had sound deadened their vans, so we went ahead and did that.
Cut all the strips to sit in between the ribs in the floor, then cut big sheets for the panels.
Overall lots of work, but good finished product, especially in the wheel wells.

Step 3 Build the floor
Since we plan to use this van to ski tour, it needs to be really warm.
Lots of people don't insulate the floor, but cold feet suck so we did that.
Spray foam in the ribs over the sound deadening, then 1/2" styrofoam (xps?) board over top.
Lots of adhesive was used in the making of this film.
Thanks for all the info & photos. Many Sq ft of Noico did you use?
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Thanks for all the info & photos. Many Sq ft of Noico did you use?
Thanks! Its been fun so far, and I've leaned on tons of build threads and forum posts so I figured it was my turn to pay back.
I got two kits of 36 sq feet for a total of 72 sq ft.
I originally bought one kit, and didn't cover half the van.

Step 9 I'll write tomorrow haha
 

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Don’t let this be an indicator to others that sound deadener is necessary as it isn’t. In a finished conversion most of those surfaces will be insulated with Polyiso, Thinsulate or another sound absrbing material. Cover the wheel wells and save your hard earned money for something in your conversion that will improve the camping experience.
 

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Pro tip:
Use a magnet while drilling so your chips don't fly all around your workshop.
I had a magnet above and a magnet below for when I punch through.
You have to clean the shavings off with a shop towel, but much easier then vacuuming and leaving shavings in all the random places.
If you put painters tape or an old latex glove or shop rag over the magnet first it makes getting the metal bits off very easy, easier than trying to wipe them off with a shop rag after the fact.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Don’t let this be an indicator to others that sound deadener is necessary as it isn’t. In a finished conversion most of those surfaces will be insulated with Polyiso, Thinsulate or another sound absrbing material. Cover the wheel wells and save your hard earned money for something in your conversion that will improve the camping experience.
It absolutely isn't but neither is putting in a fridge, plumbing, etc.
TBH it cost $150 and lots of hours but I'd do it again

If you put painters tape or an old latex glove or shop rag over the magnet first it makes getting the metal bits off very easy, easier than trying to wipe them off with a shop rag after the fact.
Brilliant! I've just been living with a moderate amount of shavings on my magnets, but I really like the latex/nitrile glove idea.

Step 9 Attach the Roof Rack
There is a thread on this forum of a guy that built a low profile unistrut roof rack for his solar panels.
I copied that build, and I'd say it worked 90% perfectly.
I bought 10' of rail, and the front and rear feet are about 11' maybe 12' apart. But I just slid it forward and used the first 6 mounting feet, not all 8.
Using the Van Tech feet to mount to the unistrut rails, I used two sets of washers and nyloc nuts to hold them down.
Six feet total, three per side. Holds great.
The feet are expensive for what they are, but they do work well.

Step 10.0 Set Up Solar System
As 8 an 8 year old boy I loved the solar system, never thought I'd build my own haha.
But for real, it seems like every build has a main component of solar, even though it seems like a $100 isolator off the engine battery seems like it'll give me more Wh.
I suppose it does make sense to have multiple sources for different times in the trip.
Back to the task at hand though.
Yesterday I got four holes drilled in the roof, two filled with silicon, two filled with wires (measure twice!).
The panels will be 2x 275W (550W total) panels wired in series.
Solar controller is the Renogy Rover 40a.
Can't provide a review for either yet, but both seem good.
60 cell is key, as it fits perfectly sideways on the van. 72 cell is too long.
I plugged them in downstairs, didn't read anything off the panels as it was basement lighting, so here's hoping it will give me some readings this week!
They still need to be hard mounted to the roof (have to secure the cable entry gland first, going to do that tonight), and totally plugged in.

Step 11 Build a Box for the Water Tank
Small step, but had to be done.
Leah found an awesome tank off instagram that fits over the wheel wells (name?)
It was made for a sprinter, so I had to shim up the box off the floor.
Simple 2x4 C frame, and then I painted it white to blend in with the theme.

Step 12.0 First Interior Mock Up
I meant to do this earlier, but we finally had some large components (bed,fridge) that gave us a better picture of what our space is going to look like.
Basically we decided to scrap our initial idea of seats on both sides of the van, and go for a single bench seat for two.
This was due to the large fridge we purchased.
Here's my idea to have the fridge not slide out, but be accessible. Please let me know if you can think of ideas/improvements.
All in all it really gave us a greater appreciation for the tiny amount of space we're about to live in, but hey better than the Tacoma with a RTT!
The bed is lower than it will be, but the original position was too high, so we wanted to see a different angle.
 
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