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Old 11-23-2011, 07:50 PM   #1
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Default Flooring question: How to deal with small spaces

Hello all,
I'm not really new here but I guess you could say I am since I think this is only my second post. I only just bought a van (couldn't find an RV I could afford). I'm now trying to turn it into a camper as simply - and cheaply - as possible.

It's an old Dodge passenger van that had been converted for wheelchair use. It has a high top (that was a priority for me, I need to be able to stand up straight) and a lot of space in the back because all the seats except the two in front are out; so is the lift.

It didn't come with carpet - probably wouldn't have been practical for chair use. There are rubber mats on the floor and it feels like some light padding underneath those. I was hoping to just put some thicker padding down and then carpet over that. But after talking about it on another forum I was persuaded to buy some plywood (I think to make sure the floor was even) and then cover that.

I bought one standard 4x8 piece, which isn't enough; this van has about 12' of space front to back. But the plywood was really expensive so I decided to wait on a second piece until I'd done some more measuring; I didn't want to buy more than I needed. Now that I've taken a closer look at the floor I see a lot of really small areas on the sides, mainly due to things like a heating vent, the spare tire, and the back battery compartment. And I'm not sure what to do with those spaces. If I don't put plywood there the floor will be uneven with just the one piece I have. But if I do I'll have to find some way to get a whole lot of little pieces cut, and that's not something I can do myself; even if I had the skills and the tools - which I don't - I live in an apartment and there's no place to work. I don't even have off-street parking for the van.

I bought the wood at Home Depot and I know they can cut it down; they actually did take about a half inch off the big piece because it was a bit wider than 4' and I wasn't sure if it would fit between the wheel wells. But I don't know if they'd do a lot of little pieces, and even then I'd be patching. I just can't think of any way around this, short of going back to the original plan of padding and carpet (in which case I'd have to sell the sheet I bought; I don't think I can return a cut piece). So I thought I'd ask here for ideas.

One other thing that may or may not figure into this: I'd decided to go with peel & stick tiles instead of carpet. There were a couple of reasons; first, I'm not sure I can lift a big piece of carpet, and second, it would be one less thing to need an electrical appliance for (I can sweep a floor; I'd have to vacuum carpet). But I guess I thought there'd be some padding under the tiles. Then at HD I discovered the tiles are supposed to stick straight to the wood, which means a hard floor to walk on until I can get some rugs down - so, even more money to spend. And I'm on a really tight budget.

Honestly, I really didn't want a DIY project; I'm working solo and just can't manage it. I was hoping to just cover the floor and start filling the inside. But this is getting way more complicated than I expected. So I thought I'd see if anyone else has been through this, and if so how they dealt with it. Any suggestions or ideas you have would be really appreciated.

I hope that makes sense. If you need any more info let me know. And thanks in advance for your help.

Meg
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Old 11-23-2011, 10:45 PM   #2
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Default Re: Flooring question: How to deal with small spaces

Hi Meg,

Take a look at this link: http://www.classbforum.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=885

It shows how Terry made a template (pattern) first and then cut the pieces for floor. Typically, you fasten in a nice flat, level floor and add cupboards etc. You don't want a lot of little pieces. Terry did a great job and sharing the photos helps everyone.

I read through your post and don't think that you want to have to do all of that. It seems to me that your floor is already finished like a passenger van. I'd try to work with that if you are not going to build in a lot of structure like cupboards, closets and a bathroom. Items in the van do need to be secured though. You don't want anything flying forward and hitting you or a passenger if you have to stop suddenly or are in an accident.

Post a photo if you can. It would give us a better idea.

I moved this post to the General forum for a better response.
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Old 11-23-2011, 10:58 PM   #3
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Default Re: Flooring question: How to deal with small spaces

Also let us know how you plan to use the van. Is it going to be for extended travel or just occasional trips?

And, is the current flooring good enough to keep/use?

The most economical solution might be to turn the van into a luxurious tent on wheels. Cargo nets can hold gear etc.
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Old 11-24-2011, 03:12 AM   #4
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Default Re: Flooring question: How to deal with small spaces

Thank you for your answers and for the move, marcopolo. I wasn't sure where to put this myself.

Here are a couple of pictures of the van, taken right after I got it a couple of weeks ago:





To answer some of your questions: This is going to be my home, at least for a while, while I do some traveling. It's not what I would have preferred for full-timing but it's the best I could do with an extremely limited budget. Once I get some more cash coming in I'd like to upgrade to either a regular Class B or maybe a B+ - or just settle down in a "sticks & bricks" in a different part of the country (and preferably not in another big city ). There is an advantage to going this way - I get to arrange it the way I like. The disadvantage, of course, is that it isn't ready to live or even camp in as is. But I was hoping to keep everything as simple as possible. You're right, I don't want to do any building; that's why I bought a passenger van and not a cargo van. I was hoping to limit the major work to the carpeting.

I did look at the thread you linked to and seeing the paper template helped; that's actually what I was thinking of using for the carpet. But so many people on the other forum kept saying I needed wood, that because the floor in my van was corrugated (they saw these same pictures) I needed something over it to even it out. I didn't notice any of that, but that might have been because I sprained my ankle really badly right after I got the van so the few times I did walk in it I was being so careful that I didn't notice anything strange about the floor. It does feel a bit uneven to me now but it's not terrible. I do think there is padding under the rubber mats; when I pulled up the piece in the back to clean it (it was under the lift and really greasy) I could see a small piece of the padding still left back there (most is gone, I suspect because it was removed for the lift). I wasn't sure if those metal bars - where the seats would be, I think - would be in the way but I thought if there was a problem I could just put extra padding between them and then cover everything with more padding. I did look at carpet padding when I was at Home Depot and it looks fairly easy to handle. Carpet might be harder, but it would definitely be nicer to walk on than tile (and more insulating too).

Anyway - I would love to not have to do anything major with the floor; I don't like the idea of lots of little pieces either, of wood *or* carpet (or tile). I won't be building any furniture or storage areas; actually, I won't be building anything. Here's what I was thinking of doing:
- platform and mattress (to be used as couch during the day and bed at night), with storage underneath
- table for computer and craft work (I work online and also make jewelry which I want to start selling); I have a folding table that I'm using now that would also be good for flea markets and craft fairs. I'd just have to be sure it was either secured or folded up before driving anywhere.
- some type of porta-potty
- an icebox or cooler, a water supply, and something for cooking (I haven't thought this through yet; so far my ideas include big water bottles with pumps and a portable stove; I'd really like a sink but am not sure I can afford one)

I'm not sure what you mean by a tent on wheels but maybe that's what I was thinking of. And I'm open to other possibilities. I just can't do a full DIY on this. And honestly, I'm already a bit frustrated; I was hoping this would go more smoothly. (I have to admit, my sore ankle isn't helping... )

Meg
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Old 11-24-2011, 04:06 AM   #5
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Default Re: Flooring question: How to deal with small spaces

I haven't studied all of your posting carefully yet. Given the limitations you list, I encourage you in the big job ahead of you. I think at the end of the job you will be happy to have a solid plywood floor over the ribbed original floor. You may not have to buy another 8 x 4 sheet of plywood; you should be able to buy smaller pieces, say 3' x 4', for the smaller areas. Or ask Home Depot to save scraps for you. If they can't, a smaller lumber store might. It may also be that end pieces of carpet could be less expensive than peel and stick?
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Old 11-24-2011, 06:45 PM   #6
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Default Re: Flooring question: How to deal with small spaces

Lots of decisions to make! A factory made B van would be so much easier and you could focus on your future plans and income instead of the van. When I was looking earlier this year I saw a 1994 Coach House Class B at $12,000 here in Canada. It had been imported from Florida. My guess is that $10,000 should get you something like that in Florida with low mileage. It would have a bathroom and a kitchen with a fridge and a furnace for heat and cupboards and counters and an air conditioner for cooling ........... and lights and electrical outlets.........and curtains.......... and battery charger/converter.............sink.........and probably a generator.

If you are going to continue with your current plan then I think the plywood floor is a good idea. Are those metal tracks for the seats removable? $45 to $60 should get you 3 sheets of suitable plywood. You could do it with 2 sheets according to my estimate of the sq footage, so $30 to $40 plus some screws. Terry used 15/32" plywood. If the sheet of plywood you already bought is thicker and more expensive you could use it for your bunk and maybe a table top.

You don't have to do that. Your idea of underlay and carpet would work. The floor would not be level and it would be a bit spongy so you'd have to be aware of that so that you don't stumble if you have to get up at night. My "tent" comment meant that the lifestyle would be similar to tent camping. You set up camp when you park and then pack stuff up when you leave. It would be luxurious compared an actual tent. Keeping it "tent like" would allow you to transfer all of your gear to a another van if the need should arise.

I don't think the stick-on floor tiles would work in the long term. They contract in the cold and expand with the heat and a vehicle can go through a whole range of temperature in a day. You'll end up with gaps or buckling.

Customs vans are harder to sell in my opinion so you don't want to put too much money into it because you probably won't get it back if you sell the van.
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Old 11-24-2011, 06:58 PM   #7
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Default Re: Flooring question: How to deal with small spaces

The van exterior looks good in the photo and I like the high ceiling height inside for extended living.

This post re: curtain tracks might interest you: http://www.classbforum.com/phpBB2/vi...hp?f=12&t=1926
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Old 11-25-2011, 01:56 AM   #8
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Default Re: Flooring question: How to deal with small spaces

Thank you for your suggestions, marcopolo. I wish I could afford one of those Bs but I can't; my budget was only about $2,000 and I spent most of that on the van. I have enough left for a very minimal conversion, but I also have to budget for registration (probably in South Dakota), a mail forwarding service, and probably different internet (I have Cricket and it's notoriously bad outside of big cities). And probably also some things I can't think of right now. So I think I'm stuck with this setup for a while.

To go in order of your post: The metal seat tracks are bolted down somewhere under the van; I wish I could remove them because I think it would make the floor more even and covering it easier. But I've looked at them and can't see a way to get them out from above (getting under the van is not an option).

I did buy one sheet of plywood but it was really expensive - $32 for just one 3/4" 4x8 panel (discounted from $45 because it was slightly damaged). So if I buy any more I'm hoping to not need even another full sheet. I don't want to waste any of this. (The plywood is made with a soy-based glue that doesn't have formaldehyde in it; I think that's why the price is higher. There were cheaper options but I didn't want to use something that could release a toxic gas into my living space.) And I do have one question before I go any further: what would I use screws for?

Moving along - what you said about transferring to another van is actually the plan; that's partly why I'm not doing anything major to this one (the other reason is, I don't have any building skills). If the van had come with carpet I'd be using it as is.

Thanks for your opinion on the tiles. I was thinking of returning them anyway, just because I don't want to walk on a hard surface, it's really hard on my feet (I had plantar fasciitis for almost 2 years; hard surfaces aggravate it). Knowing that they'll shrink and expand just makes that decision easier. I'm still looking for cheaper carpet, like remnants; I wish my contractor neighbors hadn't moved away, they had some really good contacts.

I also appreciate your honesty about putting carpet down without the wood; that's pretty much what I was thinking it would be like, but to hear it from someone who knows more than I do really helped. But if I keep the wood I'm still left with what to do with the small spaces. I took a couple more pictures that I think show the inside better: (please excuse the "blueness"; I think I had the light setting wrong on the camera)





The white part in the very back is where I removed the mat for cleaning; I just haven't gotten around to putting it back down. I think there was padding there at one time; there is still a piece off to the side by the spare tire. But most of it's gone now; maybe it was removed when the lift was installed.

About the wood - I think I'd need a piece about 4'x5' for the back part and then a few little pieces for the driver's side in front of the wheel wells, and maybe a tiny piece in front of the passenger wheel well (behind the side entrance). I could maybe talk Home Depot into cutting those pieces, if I go at a time when they're not busy (they already told me that). But I don't think they could do anything other than straight cuts and I think curves might be better in some of those areas. I wish I could do this myself but I can't; it doesn't make sense to buy power tools now when I'm getting ready to move, even if I knew how to use them and had the work space (which I don't).

Question: For those smaller pieces, how do I connect them with the big piece - and with each other? Is that what I'd use screws for? Or will they be heavy enough to stay put without that, especially once they're covered?

And finally - yes, the interior height was important to me. I have a bad back and chronic neck tension and walking around stooped over would have made all that worse. I wish I could have found a conversion van with a high enough top for that; then I wouldn't have had to worry about flooring, they're already carpeted. But the only ones high enough to stand straight up in were the "handicapped" vans, and they're all plain passenger vans with no carpeting. Sigh.

I would like to get this flooring thing settled soon but I'm not going anywhere near any stores - even Home Depot - on Black Friday or maybe even this weekend . So I have a little more time to decide whether to keep the wood. I just checked HD's return policy and I think they might actually take it back, even cut, if I decide to return it.

Thank you again for all your help.

Meg
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Old 11-25-2011, 02:39 AM   #9
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Default Re: Flooring question: How to deal with small spaces

Wow, where to begin?
If you plan to situate the bed/couch at the rear, you might be able to build your bed platform without
a plywood base, but the bottom line is, you're going to need some power tools. At least a good drill, and
either a skill saw, jigsaw, or reciprocating saw to cut and drill 2x4s and the top surface, whatever you decide
to use as the base under the mattress. Then you'd only have to level the floor area between the seat backs
and the forward edge of your bed. I'd probably start building the bed, at the rear, first. I'm not sure about
sizing for water bottles and the height of a porta-potty, but if a porta-potty is 18" tall when not in use,
you might want to make the clearance under your bed 20" to allow you to store it under the bed. The spare
tire might also be better stored flat under your bed near the rear access doors. Unless you don't mind rolling
over in the middle of the night and getting a face full of Firestone.

Make a list of absolutely "must have" systems or equipment (for example: bed for sleeping/lounging/sitting,
porta-potty for obvious, water system for drinking/washing up, 12V DC electrical system for lights/chargers/
TV/Radio/DVD player, something to charge the 12VDC battery(ies?), curtains/trim for privacy, folding multi-use
table, etc.). You might think some of these examples are unnecessary or "nice to haves" but you'll have to
decide that as you go.

Then see what makes and models of that stuff you can afford. Places like Camping World and Walmart
may be able to supply some of it. You may have to visit an RV dealer, and see about getting the electrical
stuff added, depending again on what your budget is. An RV shop might have some used equipment that
might work for you (less expensive?) if someone else has upgraded something. Couldn't hurt to ask?
You'll likely need at least a battery isolator to charge the vehicle and the coach battery, and keep the two
separate. An RV service shop will be able to advise you on what you'll need, but you'll need to know how
many appliances you'll be running, and for how long. Appliances include lights/battery chargers/entertainment
devices/computers/alarm systems/smoke/propane/CO detectors and so on.

DIY-ing anything can be very frustrating, until you formulate a plan, get started and get your hands dirty,
and start to see things take shape. Then, it might just be the most satisfying thing you'll ever do.
I guess the last thing I'll mention, and the first hurdle to cross, is where to do all of this? Do you know anyone
who will let you use their barn/garage/business unit/building to start the project? Could you trade some of
your jewelry for rent or to lease a work area? This may be the hardest part of your project. It has been for
me, on anything I've decided to do that requires me to get underneath my van. I have a gravel driveway
and a carport, also gravel. Not convenient.

First thing, find your "RV factory" and then get thinking, and jot down what you need, and what priority each
system gets, then get started. Are there any "rent a bay" garage businesses in Denver? Maybe that would
work, if the hourly rent wasn't too bad. You just need warm and dry, for an hour or two, once in a while.
We had one out my way that charged $20/hour for your own garage bay, and they supplied some basic tools.
If you go this route, make sure you have a detailed plan before you drive it in and the clock starts ticking.

So, hopefully I've added some ideas, or a reason to sell the window van, and see if you can find an
in expensive pre-owned class B.
Either way, good luck.
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Old 11-25-2011, 02:51 AM   #10
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Default Re: Flooring question: How to deal with small spaces

Hi again,
I guess we must have posted at almost the same time. Having read your last post, I have a better
idea of your situation and budget. That said, you might be better off taking the wood back and hitting a
carpet store and getting the thickest underpad they've got and cutting it to size, around your obstacles.
Then lay something on top. Indoor/outdoor, or something that's also fairly thick and durable. The 2 together
will add insulation, and vacuumimg it sounds like the least of your worries. Then find an upholsterer that does
mattress foam, and see if they can cut and upholster a foam bed to your specs. If there are gaps between
the inside rear walls of the van and the bed, as long as it fits snug between the rear wheel wells, it should
stay put and that's the bed done. I had a local upholsterer create a 5'X6'X8" foam mattress for my 1979 E-150
cargo van and just used a sleeping bag on top as bedding. It fit flat on the floor between the wheel wells.
It was warm and relatively comfortable and cost less than $100, but that was 30 years ago. Measure the floor
between the rear wheel wells to determine your mattress width, and then decide how long you want it. If
you're tall, make it fit your length laying down (obviously?).

Does that make sense?

As for the rest of the stuff, toilet, water, power, cooking, craft table, that will have to fit around your bed
and budget. I'd start with the sleeping arrangement.
Hope this helps.
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