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SSV build, slow and frugal

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I've been working on our van build for a few months. It's slow going. A lot of our building materials are leftovers from other projects, including about half the wiring materials and fasteners. I have tackled a few large diy projects (including a two story garage), but this van thing is mental gymnastics.

Sound deadening (one 36 sq ft package), thinsulate and rough wiring are done. I started with sound material first and quickly decided to use scrap plywood for a temporary floor and to copy as the template for the final one. It's much nicer to work on and protects the floor from dropping every tool I own, pointy end down.

The ceiling and upper walls (above the wire chase and slider) are 1/8 luan. The sidewalls are 1/4 AC exterior plywood with 2" deep bump outs. Rather than moving the wire chase or cutting the foam blobs I just worked around them.

Hoping to see my 8020 order soon.

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2021 W2X High Roof Cargo T350, 148", EcoB, AWD, Avalanche Grey
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Discussion Starter · #21 · (Edited)
The rest of the minicell went in today, followed by the one inch foam board. 3 cans of 3m 90 seemed sufficient for the minicell. The foam is free floating for now. I reinstalled the temporary plywood floor, which now serves as a rather stiff template.
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I sanded the rear edge of the template to match that weird curve at the rear door. Then marked any changes needed when the template is transferred to the plywood subfloor. I'll also cut the sheet vinyl with the template.
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I plan to use 5/16 stainless t-nuts under the floor to attach 8020 framing and the battery box at key locations.

Once I transfer the template to the plywood subfloor, which I hope is a week or two away, I'm done with it. If anyone is near SE Mass, and wants a 1/2" cdx grade plywood subfloor, let me know.
 

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The rest of the minicell went in today, followed by the one inch foam board. 3 cans of 3m 90 seemed sufficient for the minicell. The foam is free floating for now. I reinstalled the temporary plywood floor, which now serves as a rather stiff template. View attachment 169723
View attachment 169724
I sanded the rear edge of the template to match that weird curve at the rear door. Then marked any changes needed when the template is transferred to the plywood subfloor. I'll also cut the sheet vinyl with the template. View attachment 169725
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I plan to use 5/16 stainless t-nuts under the floor to attach 8020 framing and the battery box at key locations.

Once I transfer the template to the plywood subfloor, which I hope is a week or two away, I'm done with it. If anyone is near SE Mass, and wants a 1/2" cdx grade plywood subfloor, let me know.
I see you extended your flooring to cover the spare tire lowering bolt. You just going to just cut a hole for it?
 

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Discussion Starter · #23 ·
I see you extended your flooring to cover the spare tire lowering bolt. You just going to just cut a hole for it?
Yes, I plan to cut an access. Probably 4" in the finished floor and 2" thru the green foam board so that the floor plug sits on the foam. Maybe double sided tape to hold it in place. Still thinking it thru.
 

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Discussion Starter · #24 · (Edited)
In this update, when does Frugal cross the line to Cheap? My wife occasionally feels the need to weigh in. So, somewhere in our travels looking at sheet vinyl
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Someone said we'd not get a good install without a 100# roller. What? Two things. 1. 100# is way over my current limit, and 2. not following 1 is how I found a limit. Well, a donor pail, scrap dowel and $4 bag of concrete mix.....
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The heat gun and scrap aluminum were used to roll the top and bottom pail edges to prevent marking up the vinyl.
 

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Discussion Starter · #25 · (Edited)
Today was epoxy day. Three sheets of 1/2" cross band plywood ($62 each) were cut using the floor template.
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Speed is the key in working with epoxy. No time to look for a tool or think about anything once hardener is poured. I pump out multiple cups of resin about half full for all three sheets. Then add hardener to 4 cups, mix each, mix again and pour out in a zigzag. Do the next two sheets. Get all the epoxy mixed and poured out in a thin layer to control the reaction time. (mixed epoxy in a cup will overheat uncontrolled). Then trowel to level and roller to a thin coat. 5 hours later, while it's still tacky, a second coat. If epoxy fully cures, it adds a water wash and sand/wipe steps to address amine blush.
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Stainless T nuts are under the blue tape. Dog crates, sink base and fridge cabinet will bolted to the floor.
 

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Discussion Starter · #26 ·
I added a strip of vinyl to the bottom surface of the boards connecting the floor panels to match the foam board thickness.
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Then the subfloor was installed followed by sheet vinyl. The 60 pound bucket roller worked great rolling out the floor! I need to get the rest of my sheet goods cut before my seasonal saw horses disappear for the summer.
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I also removed the ceiling, which has been up for a few months as a test. It's 1/8" luan and I was worried it might distort with time. All seems well, so the backside was coated for waterproofing. Here's a few pics showing the wooden trim rail the ceiling butts to at the top of the side walls and the panel seam alignment tabs.
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MR fan here, so reading about your 1/8" luaun experiment with interest. I like the alignment tabs (y) What am I seeing about a foot aft of "the blobs" that looks like a mini divider hanging down? (Maybe you explained that further up but I forgot.)

I also noticed how much interior building you were able to do without worrying about damaging the floor due to how you basically suspended things from the walls.
 

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Discussion Starter · #28 ·
@Vanaroo, Thanks. Sizing the ceiling panels and getting the holes placed before hanging was mental gymnastics. If you think you might go this way, I'll write up how I got there.

The top down build approach let me decide what went down to the floor for structural reasons. Example, If a cabinet is bolted to the wall, it doesn't need rear legs.
 

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I would think a number of people would be interested if you'd care to write it up. I definitely am (although I don't actually have a van in hand yet). Even with a high roof, some may be interested in keeping the overhead as lightweight as possible.

I'm used to the "top down" approach in houses where you don't want to get the finished flooring messed up while you work. Nice to put it off as long as reasonably possible anyway. Plus as you say you can avoid unnecessary material and weight.
 

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Discussion Starter · #31 · (Edited)
Light weight ceiling
My quest for a light weight ceiling began with a failed attempt using "wacky plywood" or bending board. It's a 3/8" plywood that bends very easily in one direction. After lifting a sheet and bracing to the roof like it was a sheetrock job, it was deemed heavy and too flexible. On to 1/8 Luan idea.
I had read that Luan might buckle or sag overtime and the edge between the wall and ceiling needed to be straight looking.

I installed upper walls that extended above the roof ribs. This allowed a strip of wood to be glued at the top of the wall. With the ceiling in place, the edges press up tight to this strip.
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The bottom location for the strips was traced onto the side wall using a straight edge against the roof ribs. You can see the side panels are cut to fit the ribs and wire runs.

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Five plusnuts were installed in each rib. One centerline, one outward each side about a foot to the next useful holes and the last on each edge about six inches from each wall. These holes (might also be slots) are existing. The plusnut was positioned so the tabs fell across the slot in an x. If you are using a tool with a long bolt, use some washers; you don't want to dent your roof.
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Measurements
The width of the van bows slightly front to back and the roof is arched at the front, and further narrows. To transfer the width to the sheets, I used a measuring stick. At each roof rib, I took a wood strip. 3/16 thick, 3/4 wide and 70" long. The stick was placed against the side wall, arched tight to the rib, and trimmed to fit tight at the other end with puning shears. This stick, pushed tight against the rib, will hold itself in place due to the arch. This is the same thing with the panel. Push it up and it will hold in place. The end result is a set of sticks with the exact width at each rib.

Then I marked the center of each plusnut for each each rib stick. These are then used to transfer the measurements to sheet goods.

Sheet layout
All my sheets were run side to side, so I cut them to 70" long. I varied the width to get seams across the van at places of my choice, none of which were allowed to fall within six inches of a rib. [Instead, sheets were edge butted in free space using tabs for sheet alignment. This allowed the sheet to self support, rather than screwing down an edge.] Then each sheet was marked with a center line on the short axis. This centerline will cross each rib at the center plusnut marked on the rib stick. If you laid all your sheets out, edge to edge, using the centerline, and then placed each rib stick at each rib location along the centerline, you get the width by tracing the tips, and the location for each bolt hole. The first set of rib holes were drilled perpendicular to the centerline. After that rib sticks are laid out measuring off the previous holes or edge of sheet.

How lucky was I?
Every sheet was cut and drilled before install. Every one fit with minimum edge trimming with a block plane. Every hole lined up. Once the sheets were up, tab locations were marked with tape. There is a slight arch in the roof, so seam lines are tapered and need adjusting. Adjust fit, then drill holes and glue tabs. The front panel is a challenge. More arch equals more taper.
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See post #4 above for how the last panel was constructed.

My head hurts. You?
 

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Wow, thanks for writing that up! I'm on my way out the door but will read that over a few more times later. Very interesting how you purposely did not have the seams at the beams (which at first glance seems logical, as you would butt sheetrock together on a stud).
 

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Discussion Starter · #33 ·
Wow, thanks for writing that up! I'm on my way out the door but will read that over a few more times later. Very interesting how you purposely did not have the seams at the beams (which at first glance seems logical, as you would butt sheetrock together on a stud).
I thought about butting sheets on the rib, but I didn't want to deal with the distortion that comes with screwing down edges. In a house, joint compound fixes sheetrock seams, but in a van it would be a questionable use.

Luan does fine supporting itself as long as it's back from the edge to avoid distortion along the edge.
 

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Discussion Starter · #34 ·
The feature on the ceiling is a shade box to cover the cargo lights when you don't want them. Slide the shade covers over the lights and relax.
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Here are some additional pics. I removed the lower wall panels to install the floor. You can probably see that the lower row of holes are used for the top edge of the lower panel. The middle wall panel (with bump outs) is trapped along the bottom by the horizontal 8020 rail bolted to the wall.
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The wall bump outs allowed me to pass wiring from the top to bottom of the wall, tucked behind the panel, but accessible in the panel bump out.
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Wiring runs over the top were held against the roof ribs with tape on wire trees, which utilized the smaller holes in the side of the ribs. The wire trees are in a pic above with the Astro tool. Here you'll see wire trees taped on with black fabric tape every foot or so along the roof.
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Sam - Thanks for the detailed write up on your roof concept. I am doing some what the same. I did have one question. When using the 5 plus nuts across the metal rib on the side to side arc you can pull the ceiling panel flush to the rib in the middle but on the outboard plus nuts you can't ( in order to maintain the smooth arc). Did you add some type of filler/shim between the rib and the upper side of ceiling panel to creat a bearing surface so that you could fully snug up the outboard fasteners? I was thinking of possibly temp install of a strip the width of the rib, covered with a nonstick plastic, install and get a good smooth arc, then shoot foam in the outboard gap between the metal rib and the temp wood strip @ the outboard plusnut location. Is this not needed to prevent cinching the outboard fasteners down to much and distorting the arc or cracking the plywood?
 

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Discussion Starter · #36 ·
@Phrogman , I was able to snug the outside fasteners. The key is to measure with the stick tight to the arch of the rib. This results in the panel needing to be flexed tight to that arc to match the contour. The 1/8" Luan bent very evenly over the radius near the wall. With the bend in the plywood pressing out against the wall, it is difficult to get it down. I had to push up on the panel while pulling down on the corner to get the edge to release to get the panels down. That arched panel holds itself in place on it's own. I did not use any backing.
 

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Super helpful details. Thank you! When I actually have future van, I know I will be referring to your thread again (but it's also great now because all I can do is plan and scheme). I like the clean look of your interior, and also with a medium roof I don't want to be giving away precious inches to thick planks, etc. I also need to stay well under GVWR in order to leave room for towing in the GCWR, so lightness is good.

Did you consider using some type of marine ply as opposed to the luaun? I suppose you wouldn't have chosen the luaun unless it was either better for the purpose (bendier?) or equally good but more economical. Or maybe marine ply isn't even available that thin (guess I have never tried for any less than 3/8"). Edited to add: I went back and re-read and I see you had a stash of materials on hand from other projects.

What did you use for paint on the walls and overhead? It looks great. I would be very happy if mine ended up looking at least similar to yours. So clean and functional looking. I really really like the idea of being able to partially disassemble when desired. My previous campervan (bought used and converted by an official company) always made me nervous because the walls were filled with wire nuts and unprotected water pipes -- and it would have been a nightmare to try to get to them if anything went wrong (or to make anything more robust).

I still need to figure out the best floor situation. I like yours but maybe don't want to use that "extravagantly thick" 1" foam :sneaky: with a MR. I do want to keep the heat from the exhaust system and hot pavement out as much as possible though. Still thinking on that one...
 

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Discussion Starter · #38 ·
The Luan was $14 per sheet and an experiment. I looked no further. The upper walls are 1/8" Luan, the mid wall and lower are 1/4" AC exterior plywood. The backside of the bumpout is 1/8" Luan. Faces received two coats of 123 Primer and 3 coats of Ben Moore Regal exterior soft gloss. Backsides received two roller coatings of epoxy.

They make 1/2" foam board. I'm a fan of 0.4 minicell. Lifts the floor just off the ribs unless compressed and allows air space.
 

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Thanks for the details. I'm already a Benjamin Moore paint fan so that's noted. Plenty of epoxy on hand for the backs. Guess I just need the van :unsure:

I've been thinking about doing a floor basically just like yours but with 1/2" XPS or Polyiso - if I can find either in that thickness. Then 1/2" ply subfloor and sheet flooring of some type. I like the idea of Thinsulate but I think with the overall thinness I'm considering, the rigidity of the foam board would be a plus.

So that'd be around 1-1/8" above the floor ribs. Then since the 1/8" luaun works for the overhead (plus maybe some type of adhesive foam between that and the roof ribs? For a bit insulation/isolation?). All that together would be less than 1-1/2" off the 70" of headroom I've read exists in a MR (I think that's from the top of the floor ribs to the bottom of the roof beams in the center of the van). If that all works, I'd have 68"+ headroom in the areas I'd be standing in, which would be great. And lightweight! I was prepared to go HR if necessary, but like the compactess of MR if it could work. Plus since I need to keep GVW down, having more upper cabinets might be counter-productive.

Seeing what you have done is a great proof of concept and very encouraging. The idea of the tabs and mid-space junctions on the 1/8" luaun is not something I would have come up with on my own.
 
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