2013 170" high roof van build

alleno

Member
Just thought I would document some of my van build since reading what others have done has been helpful to me. We got the van as an incredible deal even though we weren't really looking for one but since it fell into our lap how could we say no. That said we don't have a huge budget for the build and since we will mostly be using the van for weekend get aways and some possible longer trips to ski or bike we are trying to keep it inexpensive and simple.

By the way, our van was a passenger van so windows all though out and air conditioner unit in place. It also had the espar D5 heater that only works when the engine is on and the temp is below 39 degree. What a bad design that is for anyone that wants to live in their van. Gonna have to replace that sometime.

So insulating was the first step. After spending more time then I ever wanted to on the forums reading about other peoples thoughts on insulation I decided to go with a mix of things (one to use some of the insulation that was already in the van - along with sound-deading and two, to experiment with some different types to see how it works in real life vs theory). The pros (up fitters) seem to use either ultra touch cotton denim or just straight up pink fiberglass batting.

Other DYI'ers have used all sorts of things but spray foam and denim seem to be the most popular along with reflectix. If I am remembering a study that was done by NASA comparing foil layers to plastic bags in terms of heat retention (emergency shelters) there wasn't much difference so I decided to skip the reflectix and save the cost. I am sure there are benefits to it but once again I needed to consider cost and simplicity. It is a van after all and unless one is willing to give up some space to create real thermal breaks between the conductive metal walls, ribs etc it seems to me that there will always be a lot of heat loss to the outside. The goal is to slow it down as much as reasonable.

The other big issue is moisture build up on the metal when sleeping in cold conditions which we will be doing. I have slept many many years in the bed of my 1992 Toyota truck which had an aluminum topper on it. I insulated the topper by glueing foam pads in between the ribs. The pads worked great, however moisture would still build up on the ribs but quickly dry out with the sun. Funny but I never really had moisture build up on the sides of the metal truck bed and I wonder if this had something to do with paint, doesn't really seem like that would be the case so it was probably due to something else. Anyway my truck bed has seen years of moisture abuse and there is no rust present on the inside of it although thanks to Idaho's new policy of salting the roads in the winter, the outside of my truck is oxidizing like never before.

I know it is popular to add a vapor barrier between the panels and the insulation but I am worried that any moisture that gets past the vapor barrier just becomes permanently stuck between the metal walls (impermeable) and the vapor barrier - which without a lot of care, glue and tape will only be somewhat impermeable. So I decided to not go the vapor barrier route in the hopes that while some moisture might build up inside the metal walls (or will it be like my truck) it can also dry out once the sun is out or the heat is running. Plus it's an experiment so I can see what things look like in a year or so when maybe I will redo some of it, depending on what is working or not.

Anyway - my van had cotton batting in the sides but it wasn't very thoroughly done so there were plenty of gaps. I therefore decided to consolidate the cotton batting from above the windows to fill in the holes below the windows. This done I had some cotton batting that I would use later to insulate around the air conditioner with all its hoses. Sorry no pictures of the insulation below the windows but its pretty simple and lots of other pictures out there of others doing this.

So I decided to fill the now empty space between the windows and roof with foam board. I choose blue board since it is easy to get in rural Idaho and does not loose its R value like some of the foil sided foam boards which start with a higher R value but loose it with time. I used Great Stuff Pro to glue the blue board to the walls and roof and seal the edges which sure could act like a good vapor barrier. I mostly used the red or Gaps and Cracks Insulating Foam Sealant but I think for foaming inside the ribs or other tight, hard to get to places the lower pressure Window and Door Foam Insulating Foam Sealant (in blue can but green as it comes out) works way better. Note to self to do it this way next time. The advantage of the Pro stuff is that you don't need to use the whole can in one shot, you can pause etc. Don't forget to buy some cleaner for the foam gun as well so you can clean the gun between cans or when you are done.

Of course this process took longer then working with the batts but I also figured most of the moisture is going to wind up here as well so it is probably worth the extra effort. I did leave a couple of spaces filled with cotton batt so we'll see how that looks down the road as well.

Lastly I was running out of time to get the insulation part done in the heated space I had available so with the doors and and cab headliner I wound up getting some eco batt (I was going to use cotton batt but couldn't get locally) that I was able to score on my last call to all the insulators and building supply stores within an hours drive. Eco batt is a lot more friendly to work with then regular fiberglass batts and a lot of green construction folks tend to use it in interior walls and between floor joists as sound deadening. I have it in my house.

So with that installed I am now done with the first part of the build. It will be interesting to see what holds up and if I have moisture problems or not in the next year. Still a ways off before I can take it on that ski trip to Rogers pass though.
 

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Frank Mc

New member
Thanks for the pics and other info Alleno I'm still looking for my build van. Frank E. Or.
What are you going to cover walls and ceiling with ??
 

alleno

Member
Well I am trying to use the original paneling and headliner where I can. Under the windows it will be the stock paneling and in the front half of the van I am reusing the headliner. However for the back half since I want to install some upper cabinets I have to come up with something else. I have an abundance of political election yard signs and they fit perfectly between the ribs so I am thinking I am going to use those for sure inside the cabinets and probably on the ceiling as well. For the ones that are really visible I am hoping to cover in fabric at some point. It is still a work in progress and things change but that is the plan for now.

The signs are great in that they have some structure to them and they are light. So we'll see how it works. I got the idea because I had seen some other posts where people were ordering the material the signs are made to use as paneling.
 

alleno

Member
So I have now installed the bed platform and the sliders that will eventually hold a tray that can slide in and out of the back doors. Pictures attached.

The biggest challenge was how to hold the sliders in place. I wound up screwing lag bolts up from underneath the stock plastic floor (1/4") with bracing to keep them from pulling through and to provide more rigidity. The lags go into the 2x4 to which the slider is mounted. There was a little side to side play in the 2x4s but once the bed was mounted on top that went away. They are very solid now. If I was to have problems I would go to plan #2 which is to bolt them to the metal floor of the van with plus nuts.

The bed platform itself is removable by unscrewing the 6 screws (3 to a side) that hold the 2x2 to the 2x4. The 1x6 pine slats are just screwed to the 2x2s.
 

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alleno

Member
Managed to get some more work done, am installing the rails that form the connection to the van for the upper cabinets. Installed plus nuts to attach 1x 1/16 x 96" aluminum angle to the side and roof of the van. If I were to change this I would use 1 1/2" angle next time as it would do a better job of trimming the holes above the windows.

I am trying to keep the cabinets as light as possible so that will inform my choice of materials, we'll see how it turns out.

For the bottom rails I drilled the rails then used the rail as a guide to drill the holes into the van. First did one hole, installed plus nut, attached rail, drilled next hole, take down rail, install plus nut, replace rail with both plus nuts, drill next hole, take down rail, keep repeating till every other hole is done with bolt and plus nut. Then I drilled the rest of the holes for the rail and installed the last plus nuts. It was tedious at first but all the holes lined up and only needed to file (used round file) one or two to get the bolt to fit.

For the top rails since you are pretty much limited by by the roof beams as to where the holes can go. So I expanded the preexisting holes that lined up with where I wanted the rails to go and installed the plus nuts. Then I made a wood template to get the holes to line up and then used this to drill the rails. Once again a little filing of the holes and everything went up nicely.

Next will be cutting the plywood to make the cabinets.
 

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alleno

Member
Playing around with using some old political yard signs to use as paneling on the inside of the upper cabinets - once I get them in.
 

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alleno

Member
Managed to get the upper cabinets in last week - took me a while longer to get to taking pictures though. Still need to put the doors on them. Long term I am hoping my daughter will paint them with some type of creative design come summer, but guess we'll see about that.

Overall am happy with them. I used 3/8" AC plywood for the the bottom of both. The driver side cabinet also has 3/8" for the front but I used 1/4" for the passenger side front and will use the left over of that sheet to make the doors. So able to to do the cabinets with a sheet of 3/8" and a sheet of 1/4".

Aluminum angle is both screwed and glued (gorilla glue) to the plywood so should be plenty strong.

The 1/4" is fine for the front but seems like it would have been to thin for the bottom. The 3/8" seems perfect, plenty stiff and yet light.

Glued in some some 1" x 1/2" boards so things won't slide from one end of the cabinet to the other.
 

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alleno

Member
So I wound up buying an espar D5 hydronic heater from Rixen Enterprises in Oregon. It was more money then I wanted to spend but since we are hoping to use the vehicle for winter trips to Canada and for mountain biking in the summer I really wanted to have a way to pre-heat the engine and the van (winter) and make hot water for showers (summer) and this is the way I decided to go. Hopefully I will appreciate it down the road because it was outside my budget and beyond my abilities to install on my own. Luckily I have a good mechanic friend in Boulder who was willing to help.

So last week I drove to Boulder and we managed to get most of the components installed and tested. Still need to secure and wire in the battery and install the shower parts but I know the heater etc all works.

Because my van is more of a work in progress then one that was all planned out from the beginning I really wanted to install this unit so I would have the most flexibility to make changes to the rest of the van in the future. Most folks I believe wind up with the battery under the front passenger seat, the fan unit and heat exchanger for hot water in a cabinet somewhere in the living area and the furnace under the chassis.

We decided to put the the fan under the passenger seat so it would not have to be relocated if we make changes later (plus my cabinets/sink area etc are not built yet). The battery will eventually be in a box that will go right behind the drivers seat - the furnace, pump and glycol tank are all installed in the engine compartment left hand side. Controls etc will go in the upper cabinets I have started on the drivers side.

There is also a heat exchanger for the engine that is in the engine compartment. This will pre-heat the engine glycol whenever the furnace is running.

I am attaching photos of the furnace, pump, glycol tank and engine heat exchanger here. Will try and get photos of the fans and water exchanger for showers (which is also under the passenger seat) later in the week.
 

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alleno

Member
Photo showing glycol tank, engine heat exchanger and all the heater hose to connect.

Photo of heater vents that were installed under passenger seat as well as photo taken from side of the fan unit. Will try and get one with the seat removed which will show installation better the next time I have the seat off.

Photo showing where the battery is going to be mounted. It will be strapped to the 2x4's. I will build a cover for it. Also included a photo showing some of the terminals that I installed under the driver seat. Will run cables from starter battery to these and then to house battery.
 

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alleno

Member
Still working on getting the electrical all done. Getting pretty close now. I ran a 15' 4 gauge cable from the battery to a fuse block in the overhead cabinets. This way I can run wire from the overhead cabinets to different places in the back of the van without having to go back to the battery. Should make for a cleaner installation.

So far the fantastic fan and the controls to the espar heating system are connected to the fuse block but eventually I would like hook some lights and some USB charging ports into the fuse block. I imagine this is where I would hook in an electric pump for water as well once I get around to installing a sink. Any suggestions for a sink and electric pump would be appreciated. A small pump that would work out of a water jug would be great for now.

Pictures of the spot where the battery will sit and overhead electrical. A box/cabinet will eventually surround the battery.
 

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pfflyer

Well-known member
Its a very simple set up. The water container I got at Wally World but have seen them at other stores that sell camping supplies. Its called an Aquatainer and holds around 7 gallons.The waste water container is an old kitty litter bucket. It holds about 5 gallons. I just need to remember to empty the waste bucket before I drive off. This was originally a temporary solution but it works well for us I haven't been motivated to come up with another "sealed" container.

sink set up.JPG
 

alleno

Member
Awesome, great to see how you have it set up. I like it and it is along the lines I was thinking of - I wasn't sure if the pump went down into the container or not, I seem to remember reading somewhere about submersible pumps as well.

thanks
 

alleno

Member
Counter work

So I decided to go with a tool cabinet for our kitchen counter since this wouldn't require nearly as much work to install drawers etc and should be relatively easy to install. The big thing is how to secure it. This has meant some modifications to the vents (passenger van) and a way to hold the counter up so the vents could still blow air out under it. I decided to modify the floor with some plywood and 2x4s to both hold the counter up and secure it to the floor.

The floor of the counter will be bolted down to the same threads that held down the left side of the bench seats. The back of the counter will be bolted to some plus nuts installed just below the window. Lag screws may also be added to the counter bottom to help secure it to the floor.

Pictured here is one of the templates I made to line up the tie down ring hole in the new plywood floor, the plywood floor with 2x4s being painted with primer, and the counter partly installed.
 

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