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Old 04-08-2017, 01:55 AM   #1
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Default Newbie build OR buy

OK After all of this reading it almost looks like I should buy some type of Sprinter and build my own....
I like the idea of a bed that you can raise to the ceiling and have couches/storage etc in that space. I'm not that handy at this time so I'm thinking about starting out with a KISS build.
I know I want a stove, fridge, shower, solar, storage for my Yak, a safe place for my smoke pole, etc.
Opinions, thoughts, help???
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Old 04-08-2017, 01:47 PM   #2
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I was thinking over (build or buy) the same thing. I did a lot of reading and research online and after considering the cost of a later model used cargo van and the cost of materials needed for the conversion, I decided I might be better off buying a used B and fixing it up. I am not that handy and I thought I might have a better shot at repairing and restoring a class B instead of building one. Good luck what ever you decide.
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Old 04-09-2017, 02:34 AM   #3
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A DIY conversion would be a terrific project (at least for me). I do not think saving money would be my motivation, more so selecting quality components and creating something I would know inside and out. But the biggest deterrent IMHO is resale value. Seems to me that the market for a homemade motor home would be pretty limited. Would love to here from someone the has gone through the whole cycle, from build to use to selling.
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Old 04-09-2017, 01:25 PM   #4
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Once you have built out a van to suit yourself, the thought of selling it could make you nauseous, like the thought of selling your child. I frequent several forums for such and I have never heard of anyone starting a self-build, then giving up to purchase a commercial unit. It is common for folks who have had commercial units eventually to build their own.

I've seen people with virtually no skills or tools build out vans that fit their needs nicely at a fraction of the cost of commercial. What you need is patience--it doesn't happen all at once. Throw in the bare essentials and start using it. You will soon establish your priorities and get caught up in the thrill of the process.
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Old 04-09-2017, 02:24 PM   #5
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I have never built a rig from scratch, but I have made so many mods and major additions to our current GWV Legend that I am having the kind of "how could I ever sell this?" feelings that @MsNomer describes.

I have been tempted to do a B-van from scratch, now that I understand exactly what our "perfect rig" would comprise. What I keep tripping on, though, is the shower unit. This is a "big ticket" item both with respect to cost and more importantly to the use of precious space in the van. The carefully-designed one-piece shower unit in our Legend is the best I have ever seen (although still not perfect). None of the ones available to the DIYer that I have seen come close. I just don't know how I would match it in a scratch-built rig. A one-piece unit isn't a good candidate for home fabrication (at least for most of us), and you can't even come close with materials you can buy at Home Depot. I wonder who ended up with the GWV tooling?
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Old 04-09-2017, 03:19 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MsNomer View Post
Once you have built out a van to suit yourself, the thought of selling it could make you nauseous, like the thought of selling your child.
After two Class Bs with some gnawing compromises that could not be physically fixed, I just simply bit the bullet and went with Advanced RV to finally get exactly what I wanted with no qualms about quality. So far after two years I haven't done anything to change it but add a lot of 3M Command hooks. My only qualm is a desire, not a need, in that I bought about 6 months too early for 4 WD.

I do understand about selling your child. I'm going through that right now in selling my mortise and tenon, wood-pegged joined heavy-timber frame home I designed, cut and built myself 34 years ago.
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Old 04-09-2017, 05:24 PM   #7
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Avanti, the biggest hurdle for a self-build is the lack of molded plastic. Some people construct elaborate shower enclosures, but most use curtains.
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Old 04-09-2017, 05:37 PM   #8
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Avanti, the biggest hurdle for a self-build is the lack of molded plastic. Some people construct elaborate shower enclosures, but most use curtains.
Yes, exactly. Either of those alternatives seems like just too big a compromise for me. A big part of the equation for us is on-the-road cleaning and maintenance. I shower every morning, and a seamless, corner-less proper shower enclosure is just SO much less work to keep clean than anything that I could imagine building myself.

Somebody should cut a deal with one of the big upfitters to sell their shower enclosure into the DIY market. I guess maybe none of them would be interested, since the shower design is one of the few true differentiators among the brands.
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Old 04-09-2017, 06:41 PM   #9
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Depending on your physical size, a shower in a class b actual usage is the main factor. Even in our class A, I seldom used it as it was too cramped. If you are under 6' it will be realistic to use comfortably.
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Old 04-09-2017, 07:37 PM   #10
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Depending on your physical size, a shower in a class b actual usage is the main factor. Even in our class A, I seldom used it as it was too cramped. If you are under 6' it will be realistic to use comfortably.
I'm 6'3". That is why I am so sensitive to this issue. The shower in our old Airstream Interstate was Chinese torture. Our current one is a pleasure. The secret for tall people (other than good design) is a properly-placed skylight.
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Old 04-09-2017, 08:41 PM   #11
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I do understand about selling your child. I'm going through that right now in selling my mortise and tenon, wood-pegged joined heavy-timber frame home I designed, cut and built myself 34 years ago.
Have you posted photos of your TF home online? I love timber frames and have been curious about yours ever since you mentioned in on the forum ages ago.
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Old 04-09-2017, 08:46 PM   #12
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Somebody should cut a deal with one of the big upfitters to sell their shower enclosure into the DIY market. I guess maybe none of them would be interested, since the shower design is one of the few true differentiators among the brands.
The European market is large enough, I'd think importing a shower enclosure would be possible for one of the online eurovan accessories retailers. Maybe they can't get the price down low enough to ensure they will sell in a timely fashion?
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Old 04-10-2017, 02:25 AM   #13
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Great debate. We are 18 months into converting a brand new (empty) Sprinter. And think we might be done in time for big family events in the Pacific NW this summer.

Plan, plan, plan. Have as good an idea as possible how the systems are going to work, where they will be installed, and in what order that installation will occur. Much, if not most, of the time we've put in has been headscratching.

I am still working more than full time, and have other commitments; so it has been mostly Saturday construction. Lately I sacrifice some sleep and get 2 to 3 hours in before work on 3 or 4 mornings a week.

Avanti has a great point and we spent some time trying to get suppliers in Australia and England to ship to us the kind of shower unit he enjoys. We're looking at some convoluted combination of thin plywood and poly-wall. Although I'm still harboring thoughts of fiberglass and gelcoat - which I have some experience with.

Start with your basics - we said no generator and no propane. Avanti steered me to Rixen's for heat and hot water via diesel fuel. Someone else hooked us up with Adam Nations secondary alternator, Lithionics batteries, and Xantrex inverter/converter. The batteries and inverter/converter were tested together before shipping them to us. but what we did isn't as important as you knowing what you want and comparing what is available "already assembled" vs. the time and stress of building.

I'm 6'3" and we had a pretty good idea what we wanted in a floor plan. So it made a lot of sense for us to buy a 7' high Sprinter and get busy. I don't regret the decision, or the time put into the project; and I've learned a lot - especially from the guys on this blog. But we are ready to be done!

Good luck with your decision making.
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Old 04-10-2017, 12:07 PM   #14
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Have you posted photos of your TF home online? I love timber frames and have been curious about yours ever since you mentioned in on the forum ages ago.
Yes, on Flickr.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/davydd...h/31069327045/
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Old 04-10-2017, 01:27 PM   #15
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I think the most important thing is whether you enjoy the process. If you enjoy the challenge, the head-scratching "figuring-it-out," then go for it. If the process seems like just a lot of work, then buy what somebody else made.

As for me, as I reach completion, I keep looking for things to do in it. Over two years, I've spent half my time working on the van and the other half traveling in it. If I "finish" it, I may have to revert to cleaning the house.
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Old 04-10-2017, 02:33 PM   #16
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Patience AND TIME. Are you a working person? If so, then it will take a long time to get even a simple van built properly. My husband and I would love to build a van - but neither of us are retired. It would be a suicide mission with both of us working. We get done with the work day and the house chores and we're lucky if we have an hour or two to focus on anything else. And a person has to have at least a bit of relaxation time on the weekends. Otherwise, there is burn-out.

Do you have all the tools? Because if you don't, count on a significant expense there. Same goes for hardware. You would be amazed at the sheer volume of hardware that goes into a van build, or even a van modification. Our receipts would stack a few inches thick and all we've done is upgrade an existing Class B.

Do you have a place to build such a thing? Some builders choose smaller vans of the type that would fit into a conventional residential garage. I've never understood that - the labor is comparable either way, so I'd build a high-roof version for maximum live-ability. If you don't have a sufficiently tall garaging facility, count on many weather delays.

There are many considerations, in other words.
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Old 04-11-2017, 07:34 PM   #17
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I camped next to homebuilt Chevy Express at Floyd Bennet Field. (See New York City for $15.00/ night with a geezer pass)
He had more money invested and less utility than I did with a used Roadtrek. He started with a new vehicle, I started with 44,000 miles. No generator, no water heater, no shower. Not sure what he did about the toilet. He was silent when he asked how much I had invested. Must have been much less than he had spent.
My vote is to buy used and use your skills to upgrade the thing. Worked for me.
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Old 04-11-2017, 08:24 PM   #18
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Depends on your budget but what you describe (platform bed that can be raised with seating underneath) can be done by any number of custom shops including Van Specialties, Moorehead designs, etc.

If you aren't handy I think it would be tough to really be able to build a van that was beyond super basic, but people have done it. Check out the build threads on the Sprinter Source forums there is a ton of info there and you could gauge your handiness vs. what others have done. For me a DIY would be great but I am not handy enough to do it, dont have the space (live downtown)... also more importantly the time is not worth it to me... I would rather be out using the van. I could see myself starting the project and then never completing it. Instead we would buy a custom van from one of the vendors mentioned above.

However, as mentioned in posts above, another alternative would be to buy a well made used van and then modify or restore it to your taste and needs. I did that with my sailboat and it was a great project for the most part within my skill set (learned some good new skills too) and while it was a large project for me it only last 3 months or so. I was on the water at a fraction of the cost, learned the systems of the boat, and was able to complete it in a reasonable time...

You could easily do the same with a Sprinter van. Also regarding the bed... if that is your big requirement buy a standard layout Sprinter RV (e.g. Pleasureway, RT, etc.) and remove the couch and cushions in the back and add the platform. Buy the platform from RB Components (or build your own) and you are done...
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Old 04-11-2017, 10:23 PM   #19
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Another thing to consider is the reoccurring expense is the license/registration fees depending on your state. From near nothing to over 10% of the value per year.
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Old 04-12-2017, 04:55 AM   #20
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In 2013 we decided to DIY after an extensive search for a new van meeting our objectives. Would we do it again, perhaps not with new options of vans, camper manufacturers, and appliances. All windows around was a must, this objective eliminated windows blocking structures. Shower was not on our list based on our over 40 years of camping experience. Safari Condo has one model with the dinette converting to a large shower.

I saw a video of one month of the conversion work in 10 min. Over 3 min. was trimming. So to have all windows and to reduced my effort of trimming we got a passenger van. The factory trim cannot be matched by small manufacturers or DIY folks.

I decided to use aluminum framing for all cabinets, the galley, and O/H cabinets. Strong and light weight frames allowed to use any light material for panels, my choice was HDPE not requiring any finishing steps. All cabinets are bolted to the floor using factory seat mounts.

For space heating we have diesel powered Expar D2, for water heater Isotemp Marine heater combined with Expar Hydronic D5 - diesel or 120V powered, compressor fridge, 300W PV panels, 230 An batteries, microwave, 1000W and 300W invertors etc.

I researched Webasto Dual Top, Rixen, Propex if going with LPG and decided to go with D2/D5/Isotemp, if doing again with diesel I would do the same, D2 is superior for space heating, D5 is great for the boonies but louder than D2, Isotemp has 4 gal. of hot water which I get in a couple of second at the sink faucet. Today, with Truma I would seriously consider LPG, using rubber hoses commercially terminated is easier than hydronic systems.

Doing a DIY camper is building a prototype so planning, CAD, using CNC services, having raw materials precut at a factory to your drawing dimensions, staying away from technology bleeding edges will help to make your first and likely the last prototype successful.

George.
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