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5. Walls, insulation and ceilings…oh my!

It has been a few weeks since our last entry, things have been happening, but very slowly. This is partly because Steve can only work on the van when he’s not at proper work, and partly because he is doing an amazingly detailed and precise job…no bodge it and scarper here!

So, previously on A Van and a Plan…we had sound proofing and a floor. Next came walls, insulation and ceiling…

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The insulation is an eco one made from wool, from B&Q, it was not cheap, but better than polystyrene boards as it can be moulded around all the awkward shapes in this surprisingly curvy van! Another addition that can be seen in these photos is the network of electrical cables. These are for the lights and electrical sockets.

Next, before the ceiling could be fitted, we had to cut a hole in the roof!! Humans create a lot of moisture just by breathing, and we do not want this moisture staying in the van and making everything mouldy. So we bought a caravan roof vent, and, on one of the hottest days of the year, Steve was up on the roof, cutting a hole and trying to make a flat, square vent fit a ridged, curved roof…

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Then we could continue with the ceiling…sound proofing, insulation and board, plus the ceiling LED lights:

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It is amazing how quiet and cool it is inside now, and, I imagine it should be nice and warm in winter!

So, that was all the basic foundations complete…time consuming but SO worth doing properly and well. I cannot over-emphasize how much work Steve has put in, making sure that all the panels fit the curve of the van exactly…such a high standard! Having had a leaking, non-insulated van for many years, he is determined that this one is going to be better insulated and vented than our house!!

Coming up in the next episode..we talk interior furnishings (Yay!) and lots of boring but important and essential electric stuff (Yawn!)…I may have to refer to the resident electrician (AKA Stevie) for that bit…back soon!

4. We are finally floored!

Dull subject, but obviously necessary…this is the tale of a floored van…

Having de-rusted and painted the floor a fetching shade of green in our last installment, we (ie Stevie the carpenter) then made wooden struts to cross the floor in order to have something to attach the plywood to. These wooden struts were salvaged from some ex-park benches from the council that would otherwise have been burned:

They were both screwed and glued down. Next came the cutting out and squeezing in of some salvaged polystyrene insulation boards.

Then onto the sound proofing. This was done using a product called “PeaceMAT” and quite expensive (all costings will come in a later post), but so very necessary. Having previously owned a VERY noisy LDV Convoy minibus van when our children were young, where the only way to have a conversation whilst driving was at the top of your voice, we were determined to invest in the best sound proofing possible!

So, getting high on the glue fumes, both the floor and the walls were covered:

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The ceiling is yet to be done. But now, finally…..THE FLOOR!!! 5mm Chinese hard wood ply. This will also be used for the walls and ceiling, but for now…

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We are floored!! Hurrah!

This whole process took 2 very long days…lots of tedious measuring and re-measuring; but it is one of the most important stages, laying the foundations. Meanwhile we sit, and design, and dream of, the perfect interior…but that is MUCH later. Next will be insulation for the walls and ceiling and lining those with ply. Bet you can hardly wait…!!!

3. We buy things and the conversion begins!

I know this was going to be all about sound proofing, insulation and ventilation but that’s a bit boring, so let’s talk about SHOPPING!! We have been buying, and parcels have been arriving. Some of it WAS the serious stuff, ie soundproofing and insulation; but the rest was fun stuff: beds/sofa, cool box, kitchen equipment, lights etc. Here is the first load of purchases:

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It may not look exciting, but that is our sofa, our bed and our dining room table!! The sofabed is basically 2 chair zed-beds that we got cheap on e-bay because nobody seemed to want lime green. These will sit across the back of the van as a sofa during the day and unfold into a bed at night. The 2 blue plastic trays will be our tables:

Look! They have folding out legs and the top lifts up to reveal a secret compartment!! I think I’m more excited about these than anything else…

Our awning has also arrived:

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Sitting here on top of that very interesting soundproofing (more of that later). This is a stand alone awning that can be left at a campsite whilst we tootle off for a day at the beach. This is what it will look like:

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And we also have lights, LEDs, four of ’em:

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There are still a few more parcels to arrive, I shall update as and when.

So, today Steve started working on the van properly. First he went off to buy the plywood to line it all:

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And then, the boring essentials…rust spots were identified, rubbed down and repainted with rust proofing and paint:

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Yes, the paint is green, because we had some already and you’re not going to see it…little savings here and there all add up! So that is drying out now, and the next job will be soundproofing. Every separate panel in the van was measured and numbered and Steve painstakingly spent the evening cutting out the pieces, like the little elves from “The Elves and the Shoemaker”

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Tomorrow he will be cutting struts of wood to go across the floor and will fill it with some old polystyrene sheets we salvaged and the layer of sound proofing.

That’s all for now, hopefully we will get quite a bit done over then next 3 days before Steve is back at work. By the way, just for the record, I AM helping too, as Rita his helpful assistant…mostly cleaning stuff when needed, making cups of tea and holding his tools!

At least I’m more help than Archie, the bagpuss…it was way too hot for him to do ANYTHING today:

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2. What needs to be done first?

The van seems to be in good condition, not much rust, just a few spots that will be easily rubbed down and painted. The first main job is to remove the bulkhead behind the seats so that we have daylight in the back.

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This comes out easily and then Steve sets to taking out the interior panelling and unwanted bolts and fittings:

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Meanwhile, I arm myself with soapy water, cloths and Autoglym and start cleaning the slightly mucky cab area…

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I’m quite proud of how clean and gleaming I manage to get it…it only took 2 1/2 hours! The van was a hire van and we were starting to find evidence that it was used by builders..splashes of plaster and cement. But, as we started removing layers, we were also coming across rather a lot of dry, sandy soil encrusted in all the nooks and crannies. We thought we had hoovered, scraped and mopped up the worst of it until I decided to lift the edge of the fitted cab matting….

Thick, damp muddy soil was everywhere…we had already swept some of it up before taking these photos. I’m intrigued as to how it could have spread so far under the cab mat. Steve thinks maybe there had been a loose load of soil in the back and the company had just power washed it out, thus forcing it into every crevice!

So, everything was left to dry out and then we set to again with the vacuum cleaner and the soapy water. I even cleaned the seats with upholstery shampoo. And things are starting to look a bit better:

The final job before the man went back to work for the week, was to remove the orange ‘winky pot’ and the very substantial, heavy tow bar:

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So that is where we are up to at the end of this first week. However, we have also been busy in the planning department, designing the interior and doing lots of research and, already, a fair bit of ordering online. The next post will cover the interesting subjects of sound proofing, ventilation and insulation…yeah, sexy stuff!!

Step 1: Get a van….

Not as simple as it sounds…SO many questions, especially when one is married to an engineer who has driven vans all his adult life. What make? ….er…van? Which model? …umm…sexy? How high? What engine size? Panelled or windows? Front seats or crew cab? How many miles? How old? How much money??? Aaargh!!! BUT…although overwhelmed initially, after weeks of these questions and having a patient, relentless husband shoving pictures of various makes, models and design under my nose at all hours of day and night, we decide on the following:

  • Ford Transit
  • Short wheel base
  • Medium roof
  • Panelled
  • Just front seats
  • Preferably under 100,000 miles
  • The newer the better
  • Price range about £5k-£7 but could go higher if pushed.

We were open to change, especially as most vans we liked seemed to be 100s of miles away. However, we were in no hurry, we trusted that the right van would be revealed at the right time…and so she was, and right on our doorstep at a very small family business just up the road near Wetherby.

A trip out on a very rainy Tuesday morning (16th May 2017 for the record!) saw us haggling for this beauty:

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We got her for £6,800 with 66,000 miles and a 2012 plate. A hurried trip home sorted out insurance and road tax (hurrah for the internet…so easy and quick!) and she was OURS!!