Conversion Van Renovation

Due to the recent passing of my grandma I put my shoulder to the grindstone to finish the van. I’m going to show what I did, and show you my materials list at the end.

So the Van (we call her Nessy) started like this:

Interior shot - Chinook Interior Cab

But, then I tore ALL out. All the carpet, the bed/seats, the cabinets, the stove, the toilet, the heater and water heater, even the kitchen sink.

2013-04-15 17.19.45

That resulted in over 600 pounds of trash and recycling.

600 pounds of trash

Since we started with a 1986 Ford Chinook I was able to reuse the holding tanks, stove, and heater–I had to replace the water heater, it was too far gone to repair. Once I had the entire thing torn out Rose cleaned all of the surfaces and I started insulating the walls, floor, and ceiling. I used 1-inch insulation board on the floors, 2-inch insulation board on the walls, and a combination of fiber insulation and Refletix on the ceiling.

Framing for van insulation

You can see in this picture that I made framing for holding the insulation in, and to attach the plywood to. I used mainly 2×2 boards with some 1×2 boards for spacing and buttressing. Special thanks to my father-in-law, John, for help during this section.

Framing for conversion van

After all of the parts that require outside attachment (heater and water heater) were back in place and the insulation was complete we used 1/4-inch plywood to cover the walls and floors. Rose found some outdoor fabric that helps us make things look nice and retro at the same time.

Retro Fabric Wall

That window cutout is the bane of my existence, at all stages of the process. The hole in the floor on the left is where our “house battery” lives. Because we started to run out of time we half-assed the ceiling covering (it is bright blue canvas, if you are curious).

Once that was all done I started with the cabinets. I used an old table top to build the new kitchen area and upgraded the faucet to be a taller model with a spray head. The framing for the cabinets are 2×2 boards and the shell is 3/4-inch plywood. I built the back portion to be sectioned in 3-rows and 2 columns. I reinstalled the over-cockpit cabinet and will be adding a bedside cabinet. I used Rose’s favorite Ikea rug and a cheap 4×6 rug as floor covering.

Next, I upgraded to pluming system by replacing the Suburban 6-gallon water heater and switching the lines to PEX tubing and SharkBite unions. With all of the changes in design I also had to reconfigure all of the grey water plumbing. Rockford helped.

Rock helps me cut pipe

Next, because we are bringing our dog with us on the adventure I picked up a 12-volt fan for the roof vent. I chose the Fantastic Fan since it has a thermostat control and move 90-cubic feet of air per minute. Since we only have 144-cubic feet it should be able to keep it fresh even in the hottest weather.

Replacing a vent

I am also replacing the power converter and controller, the stereo (we wanted usb and auxiliary inputs), and the speakers. Those are less interesting to describe though.

Overall the materials list looks like this:

  • 6 – 4ftx8ft 1/4-inch plywood sheets (you might want more for your ceiling)
  • 2 – 4ftx8ft 1/2-inch plywood sheets (miscellaneous cabinet parts)
  • 3 – 4ftx8ft 5/8-inch plywood sheets (We used these to build the vertical walls of the cabinets)
  • 2 – 2inch 4×8 foam insulation board
  • 2 – 1inch 4×8 insulation board
  • 50ft – 48inch Reflectix Sheeting
  • 6 – 2×2 8 foot boards (framing for insulation and cabinets)
  • 12 – 1×2 8 foot boards (small framing, furrings, cleats, etc)
  • 1 – 5×7 foot rug
  • 1 – 4×6 foot rug
  • 1 – 30 gallon tank
  • 1 – 15 gallon tank
  • 1 – 10 gallon tank
  • 1 – Faucet and sink
  • 1 – Propane Cook Range (ours is an older version)
  • 1 – Range hood
  • 1 – Fan-Tastic Vent w/ Thermostat
  • 1 – Suburban Water Heater
  • 1 – Suburban Furnaces
  • 1 – RV Toilet
  • 14 yards – upholstery cloth
  • 5 pounds of screws
  • 12 door hinges
  • 100count wide crown staples

Now Nessy looks like this on the inside. We still need to finish doors for our cabinetry, but this is the gist of it. I will update once we get it all dialed in. 🙂

In Nessy

4 thoughts on “Conversion Van Renovation”

  1. I am very curious to see how this van turns out!

    God damn! Seeing these pictures makes me want to get cracking on some real-world physical projects.

    The closest thing I’ve got is building a custom ergonomic keyboard I bought the parts for off of Massdrop. 🙁

    1. Don’t you have lots of baby furniture to be building?!
      But really, I am impressed that you’re building your own keyboard. Way above my paygrade.

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