If you go off into a far, far forest and get very quiet, you’ll come to understand that you’re connected with everything.
– Alan Watts
This kind of sums up what it’s all about.
The last time I wrote about fitting insulation was back in May, and it feels like the job has been dragging on since then. When you look at the YouTube videos, you see time-lapses of people fitting insulation over the course of a weekend. Maybe we could have achieved that if we’d known exactly what we were doing before we started, but we didn’t, so … tough luck, I guess.
To be fair, we haven’t spent all the intervening time fitting insulation, but every weekend, pretty much, we’ve been doing part of the job, just enough to progress some other part of the job: fitting the bench bed, or the shelf above the cab.
But the main source of frustration has been the endless trips to Screwfix to buy more materials – and in particular, expanding foam. This van eats the stuff. A quick check of my van expenditure spreadsheet reveals we have bought this many cans of expanding foam:
That’s 14 cans.
They’re 750ml each, and the packaging states the contents will expand to 35 times the original capacity. So – ignoring wastage, of which there has been a fair amount – I calculate we’ve sprayed over 26 litres of foam into the cracks and crevices of this van.
Anyway, we’re almost done.
Insulation is one of the most controversial topics on the van conversion forums, with many a certainty bandied around. Our original plan was to use rigid board for the bulk of the insulation, with expanding foam to fill the gaps. I still think that was a pretty solid plan, but I wish I’d known at the time we’d by spraying this much of the stuff.
- Plywood floor
- Roughly made bench base and panels to convert to a double bed
- Solar panels and charge controller wired up to 12V distribution
- Window in the sliding door
- Roof fan
- Roof light
- Ceiling lights
- Half the USB sockets
- Half the task lights
- About 1/3 of the insulation
- A very roughly made kitchen unit with MDF work surface and sink
- A water pump and waste pipe to and from the sink, connected to two 5 litre water bottles from the supermarket
- We have no gas hob, so we’re cooking on a trangia meths stove.
- We’ve bought a gas heater, but we haven’t fitted it yet, so we can’t warm the van in these cool British evenings
- We have almost no built in storage, so everything is piled up in boxes on the floor and secured in transit with bungee cords
- Bar one finished section, there is no cladding and little insulation on the walls so it’s chilly and looks a mess, with electrical conduit and bare metal everywhere.
A place for everything and everything in its place
- When you’re lying in bed and want to charge your phone or check it for a weather forecast, or pick up a book, eye mask or bottle of water
- When you want to brush your teeth (which for now means going outside) and need access to toothbrush, toothpaste and water by the side door
- When you’re preparing food or clearing up on the limited counter space and need to move things out of the way so you can work on the task at hand
Making the bed
Take a seat
Power and control
Draining the fridge
In the cab
We’ve been busy on various jobs since I last wrote, mostly trying to get some basic components built in prototype form for we can take the van on a short trip and test some things out.
Almost every design/build problem in the van is a chicken and egg problem. And we tie ourselves in knots trying to decide which part to commit to, so that we can move on. The interaction of furniture, cladding, and electrical supply is one such problem.
Since we had to start somewhere, we took the passenger side of the van as a low risk first step.
I started by building a simple bed frame. It’s mostly self supporting, with the legs nearest the wall bolted to the van body using rivnuts.
I set the frontmost legs back from he edge of the bench so that, when seated, you can swing your legs back. The front and sides will be panelled with ply, as will the top. For now, we have a piece of MDF on top to use as a test. The front edge of the bench has a 2cm lip which will form the middle (longitudinal) support for the bed. The other half of the bed will be removable, with one edgeand resting on this lip, and the far side resting on a lip on cabinets (still to be built) on the other side of the van.
Once the bench was complete, we spent many hours figuring out how the cladding could work. The van walls are curved, and flexible plywood could conform to the curve, but there are very few places where it could be pinned back to the walls, risking it flapping around, unsupported, or ‘drumming’ when on the move. So we decided to build a flat frame for the middle section of the wall, onto which one large sheet of flat ply can be fastened.
To clad that section, we re-used some of the 5mm plywood that was in the van when we bought it , cutting out holes for the task lights and USB sockets. It feels pretty solid, so we’ll see how it works on our trip in a couple of weeks.