If you want to find out everything we did, the tools we used and the struggles we faced preparing the van for our self-build conversion, then you’ve come to the right place.
If you haven’t already watched our YouTube video you can check it out below. It takes you through everything we did, the struggles we faced and you’ll be able to see the transformation from work van to camper van.
Before we get into this blog post I just wanted to write a bit of a back story so you have a better understanding of why the heck we’re doing this.
Deciding to buy a cheap 8-year-old work van wasn’t a difficult decision for us. It wasn’t a decision that took us particularly long to make either.
We’d both been traveling full time for a few years (Beth a little over 5 years and Jake around 3 years) being on the move had become quite normal for us. After meeting in New Zealand and continuing life on the road we decided it was time for something new, but we didn’t know what.
We decided to go home for Christmas in 2019 and for some reason just kept seeing things popping up about people building tiny homes in vans. We’d had a lot of experiences living in small spaces as we lived in a station wagon/ estate car for a total of 8 months during our travels, we liked it. We liked how living in a tiny space forced us to be minimal and made life feel simple.
So that was it, a decision made. We bought the big red beast (Vauxhall Movano) and got started.
Preparing the Van For Our Self Build Conversion
Tools/ Materials Used:
- Socket wrench set (we used 13mm)
- Pair of pliers
- Dustpan and brush
- Hoover/ vacuum
- Wire brush
- Red oxide paint
- Red oxide paint spray
- White spirit
- Car Jack
- Blocks of wood
Removing the bulkhead
The very first thing we had to do was to remove the bulkhead. If you’re completely new to van lingo (like I was), the bulkhead is the separator that divides the cab part and the back of the van. This is essential for safety in a work van but not so essential in a camper van.
Removing the bulkhead was pretty straight forward. We used a 13mm socket wrench to remove the bolts. After removing the bolts we were surprised that the bulkhead didn’t come off, we then realized that there were two rivets. To remove rivets you’ll need a drill. Using a small drill bit you can drill through the middle where you’ll see an indentation. Slowly increase the speed of the drill until it goes though, this should release the rivet.
Top tip: You can sell the bulkhead!
Preparing the floor for the van conversion
This is a picture of our van when we bought it. You can’t tell from the picture, but the wood on the floor is completely rotten and squishy with years of spillages, we were hoping that the floor would be intact under the wood.
To our delight, the floor was okay. A few spots of rust and a few holes from where the wood had been screwed down but nothing we couldn’t fix. Some of the screws in the floor had been completely rounded off, so pliers came in very handy after we tore off the rotten wood.
Once all of the screws had been removed we used a plastic scraper to get rid of dried paint and hard dirt. We then brushed and hoovered/ vacuumed it for about 3 hours straight. I honestly don’t understand how the dust and dirt just seemed to be never-ending, but we got there in the end.
When the floor was clean, we used a wire brush to go over any rusty holes and make sure there was no loose debris. We used white spirit to clean the problem areas before painting them with red oxide paint which helped protect and prime the metal.
When the red oxide paint had dried we used Sikaflex to seal any holes in the floor.
Thankfully my Dad is a boatbuilder, if he can hold boats together with this stuff then its definitely 100% waterproof, I love this stuff.
Top Tip: Get a little splash of washing up liquid on your finger to make a perfect little sikaflex spread, it’s quite satisfying.
Removing the back step trimming
Removing this was a bit of a last-minute decision and I am so glad that we did! Underneath is was so gross, it had gathered 8 years of dirt and dust… We used a chisel (you could also use a flat head screwdriver) to remove the poppers. It came off easily and took a lot of cleaning.
We used a wire brush, followed by the white spirit and then red oxide paint on this too to protect and prime it.
Preparing the walls for the conversion
We got lucky with the condition of our walls. After removing the wood that was attached when we bought the van, we realised how much space we had for insulation! The gap between the wall and the framework was 75mm. We just needed to apply some sound deadener, which you can read about in the next blog post.
Preparing and correcting the ceiling
After having a good look at the van and everything we’d accomplished in a day, we realised that the ceiling was damaged and bowed inwards. Most likely from having had something heavy resting on it.
We knew this was something we need to fix as the rain was collecting on top of the van and we wanted to create some more space for our Celotex insulation.
To correct this we used a jack, a long piece of strong wood and a couple of flat pieces to create a T shape. After a few moments, the roof popped back up, success.
And that’s it! I hope you founds this “Preparing The Van For Our Self Build Conversion” Blog post and video helpful!
If you haven’t already, check out the video [HERE] that goes hand in hand with this blog post.
Join us in the next one where we’ll be talking about sound deadener… Is it worth it? You’ll be able to find out for yourself as we took a video before and after applying it.
Thanks for reading!
Lots of love,
Beth’s instagram: @sheisthelostgirl
Jake’s Instagram: @jakealexanderdavies
Youtube: Our Wild Horizons