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Discussion Starter #1
Hi all,

I've been browsing around on here and other places on the net for sometime and haven't been able to find information about anyone trying this.
The van is a 2019 136 wheelbase high top.

I have a bunch of very good quality oak flooring in greater than 10 foot lengths I'd like to use for my floor. I believe it's 2 1/2 inches wide or close to that.

I'm a finish carpenter by profession and have a decent skill-set and plenty of tools... but I am not a flooring installer, nor have I built out a van so I have some learning to do.
My intention is to keep the van pretty modular so I can use it for both work as well as weekend adventures.

Can anybody think of any potential issues I should keep in mind when doing this?

My general thoughts and plan:
  • 3/4" polyiso
  • a few nailing strips running perpendicular (short direction) to the flooring (flooring runs from front to back)
  • prime the bottom and all end grain to limit moisture absorption to minimize contraction and expansion of the floor
Questions I have:
  • How to secure nailing strips... what type of adhesive?
  • How to secure floor to the strips... proper flooring spikes with a nail gun, finish screws... maybe also an adhesive??
(I'd like to have hidden fasteners regardless how I approach this)
  • Can I simply replace the tie down bolts with longer ones to the surface of the new floor?
  • Should I use a sound deadening sticky mat on the floor before I even start? If so, should I avoid using it where I will put my nailing strips?
I hope to get started in the next couple weeks! I've been driving it around for the last few months and have really enjoyed it. My build will probably be pretty slow but I will definitely share the progress along the way. I appreciate the resources on this site :)
 

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Just my opinion but: I would not secure the strips to the van. I would lay them in there, exude your hardwood to them, then bolt the whole thing down using the factory tie down points with longer bolts. I would not bother with sound deadener if you will have polyiso.

I’m not sure I’ve seen hardwood floors in a van, but sounds nice. I had them in a bus I used to have and had no issues. On the van I have a waterproof vinyl plank floor over 3/4” T&G sub floor over 3/4 polyiso. All bolted down at factory points. Works well and is solid


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I've layed quite a bit of oak flooring and this is really not the application for it. The large temp and humidity swings will make a mess of the floor in the end, even with the sealing of the boards, you can't stop the changes. It will certainly provide a floor for you, but in a few years, you'll have a lot of gaps and if you do spill things they will go right through the floor and so on. Also, it is a huge pain actually to sand a floor area that small, you would spend a bunch of time with a hand belt sander on it - it wouldn't make sense to get the large drum sander up there in the van. If you have that kind of flooring as extra, I'd be much more inclined to use it in a project around the home.
 

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That is a tough one;

In houses, wood floor contractors bring in the hardwood @ “climatize“ the wood to the building environment for a couple of weeks before laying & finishing it.

I’m unsure of your “modular” comment. Is it your intention to remove this flooring sometimes?

Regardless, I would think installing the wood onto plywood with glue & screws (counter sink screws Up thru plywood & into hardwood & laying the plywood on top of insulation & bolting down thru the top down thru your metal van floor & using counter sunk bolts/washers/nuts, might be a design

Sometimes when we DIYers have “material” we want to incorporate it in our vans. Sometimes it isn’t worth it even if the material is free.

If you like the look, you could buy oak face finish cabinet grade plywood & run very small very shallow sawcuts in the face to simulate oak flooring & just install that plywood?

I bought BB Plywood in 5’ x 10’ sheets & I am guessing oak could be acquired in this size also

edit; I was finger peck iPad typing when cahaak posted, but I 2nd everything in that post.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
The flooring is intended to be permanent. The “modular” comment was referring to the overall build.

I’m not particularly concerned about it looking like a floor in a finished and conditioned house... I understand that what I am proposing will is something much different.

will it be a solid and practical floor for the long haul. I am hearing your concerns cahaak.

I’d rather not add another layer of ply mainly keeping overall height issues in mind. I’m 6ft so I only have a little room.

Thanks for your thoughts!
 

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Ceiling heights;

Some data points for ya.

I am a hair over 5’-10”. 1/8” plywood panels right against the ceiling ribs (1” Polyiso fits between the ceiling ribs). On the floor, 1” rigid insulation & 3/4” plywood (finished & coated with a hardwood clear waterproof wear product). The center of the van roof is slightly higher than @ the walls. My one ceiling light fixture is surface mount & is about 3/8” thick (LED).

I do not “feel” the ceiling is too low even when wearing shoes
 

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I've layed quite a bit of oak flooring and this is really not the application for it. The large temp and humidity swings will make a mess of the floor in the end, even with the sealing of the boards, you can't stop the changes. It will certainly provide a floor for you, but in a few years, you'll have a lot of gaps and if you do spill things they will go right through the floor and so on. Also, it is a huge pain actually to sand a floor area that small, you would spend a bunch of time with a hand belt sander on it - it wouldn't make sense to get the large drum sander up there in the van. If you have that kind of flooring as extra, I'd be much more inclined to use it in a project around the home.
True. But maybe OP is building a camper to sell to the #vanlife crowd? Oak floors in a van with quartz countertops could fetch a lot of YouTube views and sell for a pretty penny.
 

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This is a horrible idea for many, many reasons including the several mentioned above. I’ve installed plenty of ¾" oak flooring and this is the last place I would consider doing it.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
True. But maybe OP is building a camper to sell to the #vanlife crowd? Oak floors in a van with quartz countertops could fetch a lot of YouTube views and sell for a pretty penny.
Haha! Definitely not.
 

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This is a horrible idea for many, many reasons including the several mentioned above. I’ve installed plenty of ¾" oak flooring and this is the last place I would consider doing it.
Do you have any more reasons than what was mentioned?

I would definitely not consider it if it was short pieces of flooring, but I feel differently about it being the material I have is long enough to stretch the entire length of the van.

This is material I just happen to have and would love to see it in a van floor. I did not purchase it for this reason.
 

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Weight and added height for nailing strips come to mind. Your floor should be insulated and have a vapor barrier beneath any solid hardwood flooring. How and where do you intend to fasten it? Nails, mastic, screws & plugs all need a good solid underlayment that needs to securely fastened to the steel floor.

Any money you may save by using this material will be offset by future problems. If you must have wood on your finished floor at least use an engineered product you can simply glue or lay down over a plywood subfloor over poyiso insulation.

This is simply my recommendation from 50 years in the construction business and having built many, many conversion vans.
 

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If you want the look of Oak flooring, then my recommendation would be to use a high quality Oak veneer plywood directly over insulation and finish it with an epoxy coating or multiple layers of a Urethane that contains aluminum oxide as a wear layer. There are different veneer cuts out there that you can get that look fabulous. The plywood is stable and a continuous layer. Of course there is also vinyl and snap lock flooring that actually looks pretty darn good and would function great in a van. It wouldn't be real wood, but it could still give the ambiance of it.
 

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And even nice sheet vinyl glued to 3/4" tongue and groove plywood looks good in my van... I agree that 3/4" solid wood may have too much expansion and contraction over temperature and humidity extremes.
 

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Discussion Starter #16 (Edited)
Hmm... I definitely see I'm getting a fair bit of push back here :)
Interesting that jagarcia89 said it worked fine in a bus.

I'm not after an oak floor look per say but I appreciate the comments... and it was never to save money although it never hurts.

So what if I attached it it directly to a full sheet of plywood over top of the insulation? Would that make a difference in your opinions?
I could do a good think layer of glue across the whole surface??
I'd rather avoid adding the extra height but might be willing to make a compromise.

I do hear you all! I am a bit stubborn though and will investigate a little bit more before making a final decision.
 

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You asked for opinions and received them. What you do now is only up to you. Good luck. At least gluing to a sheet of plywood is a slightly better option than nailing or screwing. If you’re not using it to save money that begs the question"Why are you doing it?" There are many far more suitable, alternative products to use to obtain the same end result.
 

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The wood is going to move whether you glue it or not.

For reference, the humidity in my van varied from 16% to 75% yesterday. That's just one day's swing. In a van, you must assume extreme swings of temperature and humidity. It is a harsh environment for materials.
 

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I've seen oak used for many years in trains. That's a pretty harsh
environment. As long as the floor is glued up with waterproof glue
and can float for expansion and contraction, I think it is worth a try.
I'd glue it to waterproof ply (fairly thin) and use the tie-down bolts
with oversized holes so it can expand and contract. Don't bolt to it
anything that can't move so the floor can expand & contract and do
seal it well so it's waterproof. What's the worst thing that can happen?
You have to replace it when the van could wear out in a matter of years
anyway? Oak is a tough wood used in very bad environments, like boats.
 

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I just looked up oak flooring in trains. Guess what they used for rail
car floors! You can buy oak planks from rail cars from the 1920s!
I was thinking street cars, but, guess what they made box cars from.
I'd try it. Especially for a work van.
 
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