Richards Outstanding Van Conversion: Part 2–Insulation, Flooring, Solar
This is part two of a story on my good friend Richards Dodge van. As I said last week he is selling his wonderful van because his plans changed suddenly and he is able to return to his wife in Thailand Here are the details on the van:
it’s a 2001 Dodge Ram 3500 1 ton extended camper van 5.9 liter, automatic,136,000 miles. I’ve lived in this home on wheels for the past 2 months while touring the US almost 13,000 miles. It has been very dependable. I was planning to live in it for up to 5 years so was getting it comfortable and invested over $20,000 for the build, tools any repairs and appliances. However, my plans have changed and will be moving back to Thailand much sooner than expected. All appliances, stove, sink, fridge/freezers, heater, tools and solar system are all new purchased since June 2013 and I have all receipts.I am asking $9500, but since I’m in a hurry to get back to my wife in Thailand I will consider any reasonable offer. I’m currently located in southern California and headed to the Thai Embassy in Los Angeles on Tuesday morning and would love to leave soon after. My cell # is 903 573 2982.
In this post I want to look at details of how he converted the van because I think he did such an exceptional job.
Insulating and Covering the Walls
Covering the Floor
Installing the Roof Rack, Vent and PVC Tube
Building the Interior and Bed
As usual, this post got too long. So I will have a third post on Richards van covering his solar power install.
Very nice job Richard.
Bob thank you so much for these photos. When I do my build out I will be using some of these ideas, especially how he insulated the walls.
Also a floor vent seems to be a very smart idea.:)
Thanks Curtis, I have very few good photos of insulating the van so I thought these made it very clear and would be helpful.
Glad they worked!
Nice job & great photos of the insulation! I hope you get what you want from the van and the rest of your travels go well.
Okay, I admit it, I don’t know what a floor vent is. When I lived in my Dodge van ( back in the 80s) it was drafty enough I would have never thought of a floor vent. And most cars and vans are vented while moving. Positive air flow.
So if someone could help, what is it? Is it vented (open) all the time? I would think not due to exhaust fumes. Is it in the floor because cooler air is under the van? It almost looks like it’s for draining water. But also looks big enough for a small animal could enter the van. I know someone will straighten me out on this.
Lots of great information, just baffled by the floor vent.
Tom, in the one photo you can see that the vent has a cover that comes off–it is laying beside the open vent. In the other photo you can see it in place. So you would screw the vent in for travel but if you need to get some ventilation once you are stationary, you just open it.
An example of why you would need a vent is if you were using a heater like a MR. Buddy. They burn oxygen so you MUST replace what they burn or you will DIE! Having an intake vent on the floor will pull in cool air where the heater can burn it and the warm air from it will rise. I think it will keep the van warmer that way because the cold air will pool on the floor and the warm air will rise.
If you have a roof vent like Richards van does then opening the floor vent will let ir draw air from the floor and blow it out the roof. In the summer that means the air under the van should be cooler than the air in the van–keeping you a little cooler.
Thanks, great info.
When parked in the sun on a hot summer day Bob’s explanation of the cool floor air should help keep the interior cool. Hot air rises. With the vent open it should draw air movement through the van. The air below the van should be cooler and will be constant shade.
My thanks, that all makes perfect sense. I believe that factory vent systems are passively closed during non operation or not driving. On my Toyota Rav 4 these are rubber flaps located behind the tail lights. When the car is driven it creates a low pressure area and opens the flaps. Likewise if your idling and drawling air in from the outside using the heat or A/C system, this creates positive air flow through the vehicle, that can exit through the rear flaps if all the doors and windows are closed.
By the way, this is why cars don’t float in water.
This has been a safety feature on cars since the mid 1970s to provide fresh air to the driver and passengers. Many, when first introduce on cars like the Chevy Impala you couldn’t even turn the fan off, providing continuous air flow so long as the key was in the run position, and of course the fan had power.
This is why you see cars today with a recirculate feature on the heating and A/C systems. It looks like a “U” laying on its side with an arrow located on the dash. But this will default off when the car is turned off.
I wonder if there would be any negative effects to placing a screen over the floor vent. This would help keep out flying bugs and such. I guess it’s possible road dirt could clog the screen after a while.
Thanks again, Tom
I bought my Dodge Extended van on Aug 12th ! If I had of seen his van before, I would have bought it sight unseen…really! Just missed this awesome Dodge van by a couple weeks…aaarrrgh!! I could have been on my way much sooner.
I do hope he gets it sold soon at such a fair price, so he can go on his way toward his wife. He did do a lot of great planning and much hard work on his van. Whoever does buy it will be quite lucky too as it’s big and so comfortably liveable.
Thank you Bob for blogging and posting all the great photos of the van, there’s so many great ideas for me for my own van.
Your’e welcome Phyllis! We aim to please!
Thanks all for the positive support.
Just a brief update to the van: Good News Bad News; The good news is that it now has a newly rebuilt transmission at a cost of $1,700. The bad news is that I’m not adding to my sales price. Also I now have my Thai Visa and I’ll be flying out on Friday the 13th Whoo Hoo!
I’m back up at my cousin’s house in Grover Beach, Calif and if the van doesn’t sell by the 13th he has offered to sell it for me after I’m gone. I’m very flexible on my price now so give me a try, any reasonable offer will be considered.
It’s also a good idea that when you have the vent open that you have a screen in it to keep out any bugs,
Always close the vent before driving as you don’t want to take the chance of exhaust fumes coming inside. I’ve used this vent for a very good cooling effect as Bob has mentioned. With the ceiling vent open and fan running it pulls the cooler air from under the van. I also have the rain guards for my front windows and have sometimes used magnets to hold a screen across them to get air flow but the floor vent is cooler air.
Very cool idea with the screen and magnets!
Love the slide outs for the refridgerators.
Question… what is the product information on underlayment on the floor… is the felt backed???
How did you get all the insulating layers attached to the walls and ceiling? That wasn’t mentioned.
Also, same question asked by SwankieWheels, what is the product you used for underlayment on the floor?
I do hope you sell your van soon. It would be nice for you to have the money for your travels ahead.
Good luck Richard,
Hello Swankie Wheels and Phyllis Anne,
I’m not sure I understand the question about the floor underlayment. The felt has a blue plastic backing for moisture control and I’m pretty sure I purchased it at Lowes in the flooring section but could have been Home Depot.
The Tyvec and Bubble wrap as well as the Refextic were all attached using a 3M spray on product. If you need more info on the exact name let me know and I’ll go back through all my receipts and find it. The Styrofoam was attached with the wood furring strips.
The only way this van could possibly be better would be if it had a high top on it. Still, astounding work to be sure. Well worth 10k to buy, and I sure as hell would if I had it.
Whoa! This is such a professional, well done piece of brilliant work! I’m so green with envy on so many levels, though I’m deeply grateful for my dear “Green Queen”. My father and I both have limited skills and did the best we could with my van. I’m so thankful for what we could do with limited skills, him having the basic carpentry skills. I did learn alot working with him too, which was a great plus.
This is truly an inspiration and work of art. I hope my next rig could come close to something like this! Perhaps I could PAY YOU, Richard to convert my next van down the road. LOL. My van has given me the solitude I need for just focusing on work at this stage in life and someday I’ll be able to afford to pay someone and work alongside them. What say ye? LOL
Thank you McBeef and Gloria Brooks for your kind words.
Gloria Brooks, If I was staying in America I would have been happy to help you but alas I probably won’t be back once I leave on Friday. But there are many folks in this tribe who are much more knowledgeable and talented than me. If you ask Bob nicely he has many friends with the know how and if they have time could probably lend a hand. The RTRs seem to be the place to meet these wonderful people. I’m sorry that I’m going to miss this winter’s RTR, as I’m told that’s the biggest.
The piece of hardware for the floor vent, who’s the manufacturer? What’s the part number? What’s its name?
I’ve never seen anything like it.
The name of the vent is a 3.5″ Inspection Port, Black Screw-in Style w/ O-ring.
Item # VK1051
Purchased from Annapolis Performance Sailing in Maryland
Phone number is 800-729-9767
I think it was $6.14 each
Good news for me today, the van is sold.
Thank you Bob and all
That’s good news for you Richard! But, it’s also good news for the lucky guy who got it, they get to reap the rewards of all your hard work.
I wish you the best as you head home to the arms of your loving wife!!
I know the van is sold, but is there going to be a part 3 showing the solar install?
Really interested to see details of that high power system.
John, yes there will be, but I don’t know when. I have lots of blogs posts I want to get up first so it may get pushed further back.
Great job on the van build! I will be referencing this particular build while I tackle my 2003 e-350..I have your exact same roof rack plus the mount system it uses, however I’m missing a bracket, any idea where I can purchase this style of hardware?? Thanks
Hi Craig, that isn’t my van it belongs to my friend Richard so I’m afraid I don’t have an answer for you. This is the link he gave me where he bought his:
Maybe you can contact them about getting replacement parts?
Thanks Bob,you just put me on the right track,greatly appreciated sir.I will keep you posted with pics of my build,it’s the least I can do after all the sound advice I’ve gotten from your blog.
Thanks Craig! Have you joined the forum? Lot’s of very knowledgeable people there and getting different points of view is always a good thing.
Hi I hope someone out there reads this. I have had a recent idea due to a being marginalized from “civil” society as a result of a recent misdemeanor charge. I am currently unable to find employment that is commensurate with my level of education and, for this reason, have been forced to live on very little money. At first, it was actually quite depressing, but over time,has become somewhat of a game. I am even hoping to continue my education while working a minimum wage job. I was really happy to find a place to live here in East Tennessee in a trailer with a somewhat elderly recluse for $70 a week. I’m trying to find my way back up to Connecticut to work with the courts to see my kids. However, the cost of living there is much higher…to say the least. I’ve been thinking about trying to live in the back of a large van…something like a Dodge Sprinter…., park a highly fuel efficient scooter there, as well as have some type of twin long bed (I’m tall!) In CT, it can get quite cold. Is it possible to somehow run an infrared quartz heater off of electricity somehow? I just watched a few videos on YouTube about using solar panels and a converter in the van for electricity. If I could do this, I could get away from paying rent and save money for school. I suppose lithium ion batteries are simply too large for vans, correct? Thanks you scientists out there! Any suggestions anyone has would be much appreciated. thanks
Hi Anton, you’re idea of living in a van is a very good one and I’ve written a lot about how to do it on this site. I think you’ll like it a lot and it will allow you to save a lot of money.
Using electric for heat in a van is almost impossible. The only way to do it is to be plugged into an outlet somewhere like an RV park or a friends driveway.
The best way to heat a van is with a small propane heater. The two most popular are the Mr Buddy Portable Heater and the Olympain Wave 3 catalytic heater. Either one will do a great job for you.
Thanks for this awesome post! I just bought a ford ecoline and want to insulate it with styrofoam (I’m thinking I’ll skip the bubble wrap and reflectix. That being said, can the styrofoam go directly against the steal of the van or does it need a vapor barrier there, too? I thought the vapor barrier would face the inside of the van before the wood panels, but wasn’t sure about the need for house wrap between the steel and the styrofoam and was wondering if the vapor barrier would do the same thing (more or less).
I’d love your input!
Hi Alyssa, if I were you I would skip the Reflectix also, it does little good as insulation. The styrofoam can go directly against the steel of the van. It doesn’t pass much moisture through and with the plastic on the sides none should get through at all.
If you can afford it, polyiso has a higher R-value and is a better insulation, but costs more.
Some of the pics are no showing up. Is it possible to fix that?
Thomas, I’m sorry about that, it happens sometimes and I can’t figure out what causes it. I can fix it but I’m so busy I don’t know how long it will take. Sorry about that.
Okay, I got them all to display. I have no idea how that happens, it was perfect when I published it 2 years ago but somehow the HTML gets corrupted. I’m not very good with HTML so I fixed it as well as I could, the pictures and text are there now.
Thanks for letting me know!
truly awesome story, I could even apply most of this to building out a portable building into a tiny house, as well as turning my Ranger into a mini RV
(or buying a big ol van for the same purpose)
Miss the vandwellers forum and this brings back fond memories
Art, I have a forum on this site, you may want to check it out.
I think it’s very good
I will check it out, Bob, thanks
Insulation acts as a barrier to heat loss and heat gain, particularly in roofs and ceilings, walls and floors.
This is very helpful for those who wanna travel but cannot avail rv’s or campers. You just need the right tools and maybe build your adventure vehicle.