Friday, 27 August 2010

How To Build A Van

  • Start by purchasing one battered up Ford Transit ('luton' back) off a crook on eBay for £950.  In your excitement to begin your van conversion project, buy the first van you see, and don't waste time by going to view any other vans.  Also, don't bother checking out anything important, such as the engine.
  • Also buy a knackered, non-road-worthy caravan off a nice honest family on eBay for £200.  DO do your research, and get one that has a working fridge, water heater, lights, wires, hobs, sink, and any other useful parts that may come in handy.    
  • DRAW, DRAW, DRAW, PLAN, PLAN, PLAN!  You are an architect now, and measurements, preciseness and imagination are KEY.
  • Nick the windows and door out of the caravan and transplant them into your van. 

  • Flooring beams laid in place and bolted through aluminium flooring.  Shower tray marked into position.  Silver 'bubble wrap' insulation hung across the walls and stapled into place on the wall frame beams.

  • Flooring laid down and screwed into the wooden floor beams.  We used sheets of 15mm thick MDF.

  • Caravan completely scrapped - all the useful parts (windows, fridge, water heater etc) were either used in our van, or sold on eBay in order to buy an upgraded version.  Took the aluminium from the shell to the scrapyard and got £70 for it.  Sold the chassis for £100 to a guy making motorbike trailers. Extremely satisfying task smashing up a caravan, like!  (And getting money back for it!)

  • Built wooden beam frame across the ceiling under the fibreglass roof.  Triple insulated it with rock wool and bubble wrap insulation.  Bought a massive caravan window on eBay, cut a giant hole in our roof, and set it in place.  Great for watching the starry starry night!  Also bought a £300 bedframe and mattress from someone on eBay for £30.  Cut the bedframe into 19 pieces and re-made it into the shape of the overhang over the cab.  Permanent king size bed!
  • Underbed storage: wardrobe space and cubby holes on left, and big shelves on right.  Two bench seats with storage under each (bank of 6 leisure batteries on the right plus storage space; 300 litre fresh water tank and water pumps under left bench seat). 

  • 'L' shape kitchen frame built in the back right corner.

  • Walls made from 15mm thick MDF.

  • Second hand 'Omnivent' (3 speed, 2 way fan with opening lid and insulated screen) installed in the ceiling.

    • Shower wall frame built and walls insulated and made from 6mm thick plywood.
    • Ceiling vent installed into ceiling in bathroom.
    • Thetford cassette toilet mise-en-place.
    • 'L' shaped kitchen frame built into back corner of van, next to bathroom.
    • Will have hobs, sink, storage, gas tank cupboard.
    •  MDF worktop, storage for two drawers, plus space for fridge and water heater.

    • Exterior vent for Cascade 2 water heater.
    • Exterior door for access to toilet cassette.  Lovely job.
    • Making the kitchen worktop:  We got our mitts pon a plank of fine mahogany wood, and had it cut into pieces by the wonderful boys at Tiptree Building Supplies.
    • With the help of Gripper the cat, we pieced the mahogany bricks back together to make a parquet flooring style worktop!
    • Using tiling spacers, we got the arrangement perfect, including tricky corner pieces that had to be cut by hand with a sharp Opinel knife (amazingly sharp, foldable knives from the Savoie region of France)
    • Filled all the gaps with wood glue.
    • Marked out and cut the gap for the sink to be fitted.
      • Bit o' wallpapering and a nice lick of jazzy paints on the inside; and on the outside Nato Green military matt paint.

       Next it looks now it all works and we live in it!


      1. yeahhhhhh, Peggy rocks!!!!!!!
        just miss a big picture for the more beautiful bathroom of the world!

      2. AHHHH THANK YOU!!!!! You were her first couch surfer! :) More photos of the beautiful bathroom coming soon! xxx

      3. Great job doing your own van conversion. I like the idea of buying the old beater trailer to take the appliances out of, and you even got half your money back selling the frame and skin!

      4. Thanks for checking it out - it was a real trial-and-error learning curve! DIY at it's greatest! Just checked out your site, it's great - I think it's as much freedom of location as freedom FROM location too! :)

      5. hi katie. really loving your blog- it is inspirational! any more pictures of the finished van? i'd like to see what it looks like now. i just started knitting, i am really enjoying it but there's a few holes so far. my boyfriend will be getting some interesting clothes anyway. missing you and toby loads, give him my love. and yourself. see you soon i hope, emma xx

      6. Hellloooo Emma! Thank you for your kind and lovely and encouraging and wonderful words. There will be more photos of the van one of these days - Joel is living in it over the winter, and making a right royal mess of it! So when I dig it out from all the snow, thaw it out, and clean it out in the spring - I hope to show you all some more of what it looks like, and to go on all sorts of adventures in her :)

        Great job on the knitting front - lots of holes is all part of the process :) Make features of them - all of life's imperfections are there to be celebrated! :) I will give Toby a big fat smoocher from you, and one to myself :) Hope everything is fantastic with you. I love your book Tunth-sk. I have been reading it aloud in the bath, and it really tickles me up, and confuses me, and I love it! Hope to see you and your grown up girl soon. BIG LOVE, Katie xxx

      7. This is one of the coolest things I've ever seen!

      8. You guy's did a great job! I also hope to see the picture and full details on the bathroom. I have an 8'x 8' micro home with a sleeping loft and it needs acompact shower and toilet.
        Walt Barrett

      9. Thank you Kristen and Walt. Your photographs of your adventures look super duper Kristen!

        And I would LOVE to see your micro home Walt, it sounds truly wonderful. Is it mobile? If so, where do you go in it? If not, where do you keep it? :)


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