Indeed, with Truma heater I was really lucky, as I originally sought. However it changed later.
I got it on Ebay in January. There was no competing bids and I bought it for nominal price. It looked new.and unused. I installed it end of June and when all water system was done tested it in July. It was heating water, however the fire was red and unusually large and the fire was off after 10-15 sec. Then on again and so on anf water was not heated evenly. It also produced the error code for overheating sensor.
I called Truma and they said I need to bring it to a dealer. The closest was in PA, almost 2h drive, and the earliest appointment was for October.
At the dealer they tested it, consulted with Truma and said it has a bonfire, and the burner/gas valve assembly has to be replaced, and it is quite expensive. Since I installed it myself, Truma will not honor warranty. So I am now in the process of negotiation with the seller, Truma, and dealer about how to get the part and how to repair. This heaters being quite new and complicated, Truma does allow even dealers to do certain repairs..
I will try to explain in more details the construction of cabinets.
Here is an image of the part of the top horizontal van frame beam to which the cabinet base is attached.
Inside, this metal beam is divided in two sections separated by a horizontal wall (see image below). The rear cabinet base panel is just lying on the left and right beams and is screwed to them. The left and right bases (red) are also lying on that beam, but screwed to the separator via a wooden block (green), so that the base lay horizontally. The thickness of that wooden block had to be tweaked individually (by 1-3mm), since the hieght of the beam slightly varies.
With this attachment, the base panel lies in place but cannot bear any load of course. To provide the structural rigidity, I did several things (in most cases I used pocket screws to tie pieces together).
1. The passenger side base (longest, 96") is connected in the front to the small vertical wall panel piece screwed to the door frame (see in the left part) .
2. I screwed rear and side bases together.
3. The driver side cabinet bases I screwed to the bathroom and closet walls.
4. For the long passenger side cabinet, and also for the front of the driver side cabinet, I installed three vertical supports, which also serve as separators dividing this long shelf into three cabinets with separate doors. These support/separator panels are screwed by five pocket screws: two to the base panel, one to the van's side frame ribs that connect roof and side walls, and two to the top narrow panel that is attached through the sealing plywood panel to the roof ribs of the van. These top panels also hold the door hinges.
4. For the rear cabinet, the structural rigidity is provide by the rear wall, which is screwed to the metal cross beam above the rear door, and also by two vertical panels on both sides of the AC attached to the AC steel frame. These two walls form the air tight box for the AC that will provide air flow to cool AC.
As a result, I obtained an integrated structure that includes the ceiling cabinets, bathroom and closet. This structure covers all perimeter of the van except the front. All elements of the structure are tightly connected and works like a rigid internal shell connected to the van's frame at multiple points. This is the frameless structure: it consist only of functional elements (base, tops, doors, and vertical walls/separators) that all are built from the same material: plastic laminated IKEA panels.
Hope this explains better how I built it.
Images below can be seen in real size by clicking. Also, they can be zoomed in.
Thank you So much and your work is excellent, as is your documentation and clarity of explanation.
- When going into the various thin metal rib pieces of the van, but installing your wood pieced via pocket holes, did you actually use sheet metal screws? Self Tapping or predrilled? Is there a certain kind of key to handling the interface between wood (and in your case pocket holes) and thin sheet metal, especially in a load-bearing situation?
- With such as well designed install, why did you using (seemingly) weaker particle board or MDF, instead of plywood?
I used mostly regular black sheet metal screws to the predrilled holes, very rarely self tapping but also to the predrilled holes.
The question about handling interface - I do not understand fully. In cases, when a butt end of a board touches the metal surface of the van frame, I applied a layer of sicaflex as additional glue and in order to insulate the particle board butt ends from moisture, which can possibly condensate on the metal surface.
Regarding particle board use vs. plywood.
Sure, the particle boards are weaker than plywood (I did not used MDFat all). However, I do not think I compromised on the strength of the construction. My main design approach is to use relatively weak and simple elements but create a structure that is rigid as a whole with multiple attachment points.
There are two main reasons that determined the use of material for furniture design:
I do not like the look of furniture made of plywood. I could accept the look of high quality wood furniture, however to achieve the professional quality of outside surfaces finish would be very difficult (I do not like simply painted wood furniture either).
2. Time and labor investment on finishing.
The panels that I used are not cheap looking panels that you can find in Home depot or similar. These are very high quality plastic laminated panels from Ikea, and they are probably more expensive than plywood, even when bought in the ASIS section. I managed to cut and compile them together in such a way, that all visible outside surfaces and butt ends do not need any finishing job – they are bright and shiny and have colors that are pleasing to my aesthetic feeling. The inside surfaces also do not need any finish – not as shiny as outside, but smooth and firm.
I am working now on the last finishing touches (covering the remaining metal surfaces with liner and window framing), and soon will be posting pictures of final look of the van inside, so hope you will be able to see the clean and bright look of the furniture.
Looks good - not my style but you’re doing a nice job of construction.
BUT, IKEA panels are anything but premium, high quality panels! They may have cost more you than good quality HW plywood plywood but that doesn’t make them a good value by any means. They are all finished (on most sides) granted but they use very poor quality laminate over similar quality partical board (I hang out at the IKEA As-Is section quite often and I’m very aware of what they offer and it’s true value). As for black sheet metal screws - I hope you’re not talking about sheetrock screws. Self-tapping or thru bolting provides far more structurally integrity than simple sheet metal screws and the cost is negligible.
I too am not a fan of IKEA’s materials and it has gotten worse from a time most of it was birch hardwood and plywood to the glued sawdust today. However the final work and ascetic comments of World Trekker are first rate, congratulations on that. I used to comment a lot on safety in a crash but have given up unless the work looks really fragile and heavy. I appreciate that glue and screws work in plywood and solid wood but suspect their utility in those composite panels. It sounds like World Trekker has thought this aspect through and has made a good attempt to make it safe with KREG joints and the like. That's about all any of us can do. KOV is right that any additional strength has to come from the sort of hardware IKEA and others use like T bolts, glued pegs, etc.
IKEA sells partly due to design and ascetic and World Trekker has captured the essence of that.
Really curious about the wool and moisture. They say on their site that its resistant to mold and mildew and has natural moisture management. Controlling moisture up to 65% relative humidity. I saw a site claiming this 100% sheep wool dealt with moisture better then than others. I actually have ordered Thinsulate but might cancel it.
Get yourself one of those Progun foam dispensers and a can of pro level GapNCracks and a can of cleaner you will totally change your thinking. Little to no mess, control of the bead size and the ability to leave it for a few months or more and reuse it. In construction I carry one in the tools stuff and find that it is used often for mouse sealing, doors and windows of course and to add that needed bit of fill under sills and rim joists.
Polyiso solves the concern about moisture in the van by letting it escape down to the rocker panels which were designed to handle it. You won’t stop the condensation completely with any insulation so would you want wet thinsulate, wool, denim, fiberglass holding it or have something that it can’t get into in the first place? All this has been covered many times but still there are misconceptions all the time.
Thanks for the comments, I’ll try to respond to all here.
Regarding the Ikea panels quality.
Sorry for not being fully clear, but when I say “high quality Ikea panels” I mean only the quality of their finish and of their look. They are laminated with about 1 mm thick plastic, have nice pastel colors, are bright and shiny, and relatively resistant to damage – all this is what I needed. I do not know about their structural quality: I did not research it and did not have a chance to compare them with other manufacturers of similar panels.
Regarding the structural stability of the construction under the adverse conditions.
Being fully aware of the weakness of particle boards in general, my approach to structural stability was not through the use of strong materials but through the construction design. The bases of cabinets along the side walls of the van are cut exactly to the shape of the walls and are inserted between the vertical frame columns of the van. I do not think they can move anywhere as a result of front or rear impact of significant force. The resistivity to the side impact is provided by the rear base, which is inserted dead between the walls and by multiple screws attaching side panels to the walls. Another important element for the structural stability is that all cabinets and bath/closet room form one continues structure that goes along the perimeter of the van, and is inserted in several locations inside the metal frame of the van’s body. All this gives me a hope not to worry much about its safety.
Regarding the wool.
Yes, those were the claims about wool resistivity to moisture that I read also and decided to give it a try, the wool being much cheaper than thinsulate. How it will actually behave – I do not know yet, except what I have observed recently. Most of the wool insulation is already covered with panels, however I have two locations (rear vertical cavities alongside the rear doors) that are still open. A lot of wool is packed there. The weather lately being quite chilly (even below freezing occasionally), but as I checked couple times there: the inner side of the wall and the wool is dry. Well, I am not living in the van, there is no cooking or water usage, but I still work inside almost every day for many hours and lately, with doors closed. So this the current experience – how it will be later, I of course do not know, and it will be difficult to check the presence of moisture after all cavities will be fully covered.
The conversion process slowed down lately due to low temperatures, teaching load and skiing season. However the build is close to completion and I can post some latest development. This post is about bathroom.
The bathroom consist of
Shower base (Dreamline corner drain in black from Lowe's),
Ceramic cassette toilet ( Dometic CT4110, Ebay)
Ceramic sink (Gutviken, Ikea)
Pullout kitchen faucet
Under sink cabinet
The bathroom came out to be relatively large. The size was determined by the size of the shower base, which was originally 32"x32". However, 32" was too much extending into the aile, and on the other hand not enough long. So I cut 2" piece from one side and attached it using Bondo epoxy to another side, thus getting 30" deep and 34" long bathroom.
Original intent was to go without a sink, however when the room was framed, we realized that it is quite large enough to put a small sink in the corner by the window where we had the water plumbing protruding out of the wall anyway. Luckily, we found very elegant small (11x15) ceramic sink in Ikea, which perfectly fit in the wall configuration of the corner.
The bathroom side walls are made from plastic covered Ikea panels that are screwed to the floor, ceiling , van walls and shower base. The rear wall (van's wall) is insulated with 1"rigid foam insulation and has a square hole for the cassette. The sink is supported by a small cabinet with the corian countertop (same material that was used for the kitchen countertop). The toilet is sitting on a rigid foam pedestal (pink) that levels the shower base surface and raises it above the small shower base walls in order to be able to remove the cassette.
The insulation is paneled with the 5mm plywood as everywhere in the van. The bathroom has a window with lower part opening out, which is a front part of the large CRL window. The window is framed around with the rigid foam insulation (glued with Sikaflex, small gaps filled with filler and sanded ) that fills all gaps and is easy to work with to make complicated smooth transitions between various surfaces.
Then, all surfaces are covered with water proof vinyl material which I bought at the Habitat for Humanity store - $15 for a huge roll. I do not know what it is - there were no label. It looks like wallpaper, but it is vinyl, 56" wide, very sturdy and has slight texture that resembles grey wood grain. I used it for covering the ceiling and it worked nice. So I decided to use it also for the bathroom, and some lower panels in the van. I glued it to the walls with the Roberts 6700 carpet glue from the HD. This glue is not bad to work with - becomes sticky quite fast, but stays soft for a long time, so there is no rush and it is possible to fix mistakes: remove and reattach better.
After that, I mounted the sink, and finished the plumbing. The faucet has a pullout, which in the pulled out state serves as a shower - just need to find a nice holder and attach it to the ceiling. For the sink drain, I used the same 1" rubber hose, as for the kitchen sink, for which I drilled the hole inside the cabinet through the shower base and floor. Later, the hose will be connected to the grey water tank under the van. And finally, I attached the cabinet door. The plumbing details are shown below.
And here is the final almost finished bath - just need to add the shower head holder and a curtain and waterproof all corner seams, which I will do when it will become warmer.
The original requirements for the dinette table were:
should be removable in case the front bed is needed
should not block the passage from driver cabin to the van
should be extendable in length to accommodate four people
should be flexible in front-rear position to accommodate different size people in front and second row seats.
All these mean that the table should be movable in 2 dimensions: left/right and front/rear.
We were lucky to find a perfect dimension (18"x50") wood covered panel in Ikea's AS IS section for $5. I cut the length in tree pieces: 6" for the non-movable window sill, 27" for the permanent movable table, and a 17" piece from the middle for the insert extension.
The movable frame mechanism was constructed of two long drawer slides (24") and two short drawer slides (10"). On one side, the long slides are screwed to the steel angle, which serves as the base that attaches to the van wall horizontal beam by two M8 machine screws with large heads that can be tightened by hand. Other side is attached to a piece of 3/4 copper pipe. This was chosen because it perfectly fit to the old RV steel table leg that I had, which, being screwed firmly to the pipe could rotate in the bushings and lay parallel to the table when needed to be removed and stored.
The pictures below show the frame already attached to the wall and the pin in the leg inserted in the hole in the floor. It is shown in in normal and extended positions. It also shows that the table leg is not at the center under the table but shifted to the front (right on the image), closer to the driver seat. This is done to make getting in and sitting at the table more comfortable, and because the rear part (left on the image) of the raised floor that covers the seat platform under the table is actually the door that opens giving access to the storage box below, so the leg cannot rest there.
The next pictures show the table desk attached to the frame and mounted to the van again.
The last pictures show the narrow unmovable part attached permanently to the window sill, and the final look of the finished window and the table in different normal and extended positions.
So, after you've had this now built for a while, how's it going? Are you enjoying the layout? Anything you'd like to change/modify? I'm super inspired by your build - I'm thinking of a similar layout, largely based on your build. First though, time to put in the platform for the seats - thanks for your design!
Regarding your platform, what are the angle dimensions you used? 1/8'' thick and 2''x2'' angle?
Thanks for the interest. The build is almost complete - working on final touches: finishing all metal surfaces with liner, making convertible bed/rear seat, window shades, front seat swivels. The work slowed down since December due to winter vacation, skiing trips and large teaching load. Will be posting soon many pictures.
So far no regrets about layout or anything, however did not try it yet seriously except couple ski trips. I am very happy with the seat platform and seat mounting system that i designed - was able to put all electrical stuff under the seat (batteries, inverter/charger, MPPT, all switches and breakers), and also to have a sizable storage box.
For the seat platform, as well as for all other steel constructions in the van (bed frame, AC frame, seat swivels), I am using 1/8" by 1.5" or 2" angles from bed frames that I get for free from friends, neighbors and CL. There are always people wanting to get rid of them.
Good luck with your build and do not hesitate to ask questions if any.