Week Six

We are almost half way through the 90 days the insurers allow us to complete the work. Seven days a week and decent weather and we are making good progress. There is a lot to do but it is nice when job after job gets done.

We started this week finishing off the seat bed mounting. It is solid and we can see how the boards need shaping, the squab to go around the be pillar and the back to cope with the curve of the wall. Our idea is to leave 10mm – 15mm at the sides to be able to pull a fitted sheet over it. I am contemplating remaking the diary’s in ply for added strengths and a better fit. At the same time we have bought seat belt receptacles on straps that we can easily hide when not in use.

Fitting the side step was always going to be awkward. The diesel tank is on the left side so on a right hand drive, left hand kerbside van the step has to go beneath the tank. The underside of the tank is 30mm below the cill and 20mm above anything else but the main problem is that it negates many fixing possibilities. Having solved the later with some 6mm aliminium angle and lengths of Unistrut I have lost 50-70mm of ground clearance, something that will need watching carefully.

It doesn’t end there because powering it is just as entertaining. There are no fuse diagrams or lists available. Getting the cables to into the van and the passenger seat base was fairly easy and as luckwould have it, and some trial and error, powering it was easy. I needed both permanent and switched 12V both of which are available on busbars in the fuse boards beneath the passenger seat. Those with big red cables come from the battery and those with black from the ignition switch.

The idea is that you can operate the step, in and out, by the switch on the B pillar but if you start the van without retracting the step a buzzer sounds and / until the step retracts automatically.

While we were in this area I added the 100A cable that will go from the starter battery to the charge controller and 2 signal cables from the battery and ignition switch.

In the meantime some very expensive German ebay T nuts arrived so I was able to bolt the solar panels down and fit an seal the cable pass through.

Back to the inside we finished the floor insulation and refitted the floor and insulated the wheel arches.

With the floor fitted the batteries were installed in an aluminium floor frame with a ratchet strap holding them tightly in position behind the seat bed.

Something that bothered me on Saturday. I started the van for the first time in 10 days and got errors from the ESP, the parking sensors and the Auto Stop Start. I hoped this was simply because the battery had been disconnected. Once off the axel stands and a drive out on Sunda the Errors cleared themselves.

And finally on a glorious sunny Sunday afternoon we were able to try out the Fiamma rollout awning for the first time.

Week Five

This is turning out to be quite a week. The van is up on axel stands to make it a little more comfortable working underneath.

Monday’s first job was fitting the water / waste tank, it is a single split unit with 80ltr fresh & 50ltr grey from Shaun Barratt. I started by wrapping the tank in foil Dodo just to make me feel better. I cut the level sensors holes and trimmed the sensors to length. They need calibrating so I did that by using the console and and a jug of water filled to tank depth. I got them to bang on 100% as I can’t do that once installed. Finally once I got the right length hangers I lifted it into place and made up and fitted the fill and drain lines from the under cill location.

Next job was fitting the intake / exhaust for them Wallas XC Duo. It was a lot of trial and error – no other examples to follow. Then I lowered the fuel tank to get the sender out and got covered in diesel only to find the pick up kit that came from Eberspacher was wrong. I eventually got a replacement and it’s fitted and the tank back in place.

Whilst all this was going on I set about fitting the solar panels. The panels are 1240 wide and the distance between the roof rails 1380. It seemed like an easy job to make brackets with some 4×2 ally angle but unfortunately they clash with adjacent roof ribs so I am waiting for a length of spacer material tomorrow. A word of warning to others – finding slot nuts for the roofrails is impossible. Unistrut are too big and T-Slot are to small. ATM it seems the best I can find are on their way from a German ebay shop. Tomorrow the cable and some StSt self drill screws arrive so it will be time to fit the cable pass through on the roof. Meanwhile Sue is almost there with insulation and we are contemplating doing the floor this weekend.

I offered up the Thule step – a new project in itself. There is not much to hang it from as the diesel tanks is in the way. Another lump of aluminium billet is on its way next week that will hopefully solve the problem.

The weekend came and it was time to start working inside. We startd by setting out the floor drilling’s for the seat bed frame. We layed a few 6mm ply strips with 2mm double sided foam on top of the ribs with 12mm Dodo in all the valleys and finally 8mm Dodo Thermomat.

Then it was time to refit the OE floor, at the moment we are concentrating on the front part. We quite like the material, it is 9mm resin coated like buffalo board but the top finish suits our design. We relaid it with a bead of Stixall on the ply battens and reused the OE tie downs – the ones b6 the door might be useful I future. When the floor was in place we drilled through the holes in the steel floor to refined the seat bed rail fixings and then, having marked the channels, cut slots in the ply.

So now it is all in place but the U channel needs a bit of “adjustment” and I need to pick up a few special fixings in the morning. However all in all a lo5t of ground covered this week. Let’s see what week 6 brings.

Week Four

This was to be window week. Time to be brave.

The Seitz S6 windows are made to suit a curved wall with a radius of 5m. Taking several dimensions off the van and setting them out in CAD I found that the radius varied from 5m to 10m but I guess the frame and window will take up what equates to a small variation and won’t be noticeable. I have after all seen flat windows successfully installed on to curved walls.

The RH window frame I made fitted the curve of the window and the blind perfectly so I made up the LH slider frame. The only difference being that the RH is as far forward as I can get it whereas the slider is in the middle. The frames are made up of 3 layers of 6mm ply and one of 3mm which gives 22mm and the steel skin will add 1mm so pretty much bang on the 22-23mm spec from Seitz.

The frame for the Midi Heki is different in that it has a stepped shape on top for the curve of the roof but a flat bottom for the blind. I am keeping it slim as I want to avoid losing head height so that with the roof curve and ribs I will end up with c.32mm. Installing this frame and the rooflight will involve quite a bit of packing and sealant.

While I am at it I decided that a large white roof light is going to look very out of place even if you only see a bit of it. So a can of Halfords grey bumper paint later and voila..

And the frame for the Fiamma roof vent is much smaller and simpler. It is small enough to ignore the curve and just needed a bit of “fitting” so that it will go tight up to the last roof beam.

The time came to bite the bullet and cut the window holes in the van. Fortunately I had the loan of a heated workshop for a few days which made it a whole lot easier. Taking an air saw to our shiny new van was a bit scary but seems to have worked well. Even though I left the corners to last the slider in particular got a bit wild and wobbly making the last cuts but it seems to have survived it OK. One important thing to remember is a few bits of gaffer tape to hold on to the cut out piece and avoid it falling on to the outside paintwork.

First we touched up the bare metal cut with some Hammerite before cleaning around the area with a dab of acetone. The window inner frame was bonded with Sikaflex 252 structural adhesive and clamped for a while until it grabbed. The window was sealed with a good bead of SikaLastomer 710 that squidged out nicely. Cleaning the excess the next day was easy – simply go round with a blunt table knife and pull the excess off. The blind is a temporary fit until we work out how to finish the wall around it.

Fitting the roof vents was similar but complicated by the ribs and the slight curve. The outer sides of the cut for the Midi Heki coincided with a rim so left a useful upstand. I found some 25 x 10mm rigid plastic that I fitted between the ribs and inside that outer rib. All of this and the frame were bonded again with Sikaflex 252 and then the remaining few millimetres of the curve built up with layers of 20 x 2mm butyl rubber tape. Finally the roof vents were lowered in with a good bead of SikoLastomer and once clamped does I went round with more SikoLastomer to fill any gaps. No it doesn’t look pretty but that will only bother you if you are 10ft tall.

It has rained a lot for 2 days since we fitted the windows and roof lights and, touch wood, no leaks. While it was raining I took a drive to TPS to fetch the last piece of B post trim that finishes off the post nicely. The cab headlining needs a bit of adjusting and I need to get a nice grab handle like one from a T5/6.

So then it was on to the floor. I was told about the big strip of glue up the middle so got prepared. A few lengths of 3 x 1.5in CLS one of which I cut a chisel point on to one piece and I soon had the floor up. Getting rid of the glue was another story. I managed to pick the floor clean quite easily but getting it off the reverse of the floor ply was very difficult. So much so that it pulled the skin off my thumb.

Week Three

The week started well on Monday with the delivery of our SmartBeds Evo II seat bed. It is a really neat pull out rock and roll bed designed for a Transporter. To make best use of the underbed space ours is for a LHD van and we have bought it with wider, 1200mm, seat boards and foam but unhupolstered. We are a long way from being ready for it but we need the frame to work out the installation.

On Tuesday with just 24 miles on the clock I set off to do 100 miles with a visit to SL Hardwoods in Croydon to collect several sheets of 6, 9 & 12mm poplar (light weight) ply. Good people they have or get all sorts at a couple of days notice. At the same time the Morland laminate and wall board materials were delivered to Cut’n’Edge who are doing the joinery. On the way I called in to TPS in Crawley to collect the off side B Pilar trim but but we are still struggling with a piece of upper trim. Once back home we continued insulating and cut away the panel supports on the window panels and the roof joist at the mid roof vent.

To set out the window positions and to get them level I drilled a 1mm hole from the inside through the middle of the window panel. Levelled this with the outside body lines and drilled a hole back from the outside, Miraculously this was parallel to the internal structure.

While Sue was working on the rear doors I got busy making the widow cut out frames. These were made difficult by the curvature in the walls. As a result I made up a jig and laminated several layers of 6mm ply to give a 5-7mm curve to match the windows and the wall.

Week Two

First thing this week, with a bit of help, we lifted the awning onto a very frosty roof. It sits neatly in the brackets OK but we haven’t yet rolled it out. Full marks to Stefan @ NoVa Lesiure who took the bracket handing issues on the chin.

The weather this week has hardly been conducive to working outdoors but it had to be done. We started on the insulation, one layer of 6mm Dodo mat, second layer of 12mm Dodo mat and polyester wadding everywhere else. We are about halfway through with Sue’s more delicate hands with the 6mm reaching the parts I can’t to get to. I followed with the 12mm and polyester wadding. We had a struggle insulating over the cab. The roof lining simply would not come out because of some weird plastic fixing so we had to be a bit clever.

I fitted the first of the new B pillar trims. They look neat and cover the whole pillar. I did try insulating underneath but that gave me problems with the seat belts so I did without.

Week One

So now the van is here it’s time to dive in and start work.

Now the van is here we were itching to get started with some simple jobs. My plan had always been to get the awning fitted first as this would give us 8m2 covered workspace between the van and the house.

First on Friday I had to fit the roof rails, that should have been on the original spec, ready for the awning. The holes are all there just covered by painted over sticky tabs that once scraped off need a smear of Hamerite to cover any residual scratches and the bare metal treatment. No big deal as no one will ever see it.

So on Friday evening I discover that the Fiamma roll out awning installation kit is for LHD/RH Install – fat lot of use that is and thank you Fiamma for telling us. Saturday was remanufacture day a bit of cutting, grinding and welding and now we have a set of LHS brackets. Just waiting for a lift up with the awning next week.

Another simple job were the Aguti swivel bases, the only proper Crafter base the same as Westfalia use. A complete lack of instruction meant lots of deduction but I remembered how I saw the label on them in a Westfalia. The hand brake bracket and trim needed a bit of “adjustment” and I still need to trim the bottom of the drivers seat skirts to properly clear it.

Sue has made a start on the insulation exploring the voids and sticking the first layer to one panel. It’s going to be a very fiddly time consuming.

The Insulation Conundrum

I have had many conversations on various forums and with materials suppliers about the best way to insulate. In the main we are looking to insulate against cold because if it is hot we can simply open doors and windows. There is a plethora of available materials and methods but there is no definite right way to do it.

With the van being a big tin box as well as insulation you have to consider condensation. As well as the general atmospheric humidity moisture is introduce by us breathing and perspiring, by boiling and cooking and by the bathroom and washing. If you cook with gas, which we don’t, you will introduce a lot more condense from the combustion but I assume no one would consider actually heating such a small space with naked gas flame.

The warmer air is the better able it is to carry moisture. However when warm moist air meeting a cold surface the moisture will condensate. It will do this against the outer skin of your van and even the insulation and structure between the inner and outer skins if it is colder. Uncontrolled this condensate could build up, saturate your insulation, the ply lining and wall boards and even rot the outer skin of the van from the inside out.

Don’t let anyone pretend you can prevent this by installing a vapour barrier behind the ply lining thus creating a void full on installation. That changes nothing and may even make it worse. You cannot create a sealed void so air from inside will get in there. No, the best solution is, as in your home, to keep air moving. Condensation may still happen but it will evaporate again and move away as the air circulates. Indeed a perfect solution would be heat recovery ventilation but this is a small space and that is hardly practical.

As for insulation materials themselves the first rules are not to use anything hygroscopic (absorbs moisture) as it could end up as a soggy mess and avoid mineral wools that will discharge fibres. How to install the insulation is important too remembering that you have to get into all of the structural ribs and that years of driving on bumpy roads high shake your insulation to the bottom.

One extremely good solution would be spray foam which is a job best done professionally. Care needs to be taken to only spray as much as can expand into the space especially within box sections. Get this wrong and as the foam expands it will buckle the bodywork. However one big concern I have about it is the implication for body repairs should you have the misfortune to have an accident. Panels will no longer be easy to straight or replace and will add significantly to the cost of damage repair. As a result your insurance company will likely argue with you about the cost.

In the end we are going to use several methods.

  • Primarily we will stick self adhesive DoDo Mat, a dense sponge foam mat designed as sound deadening as well as thermal insulation, to all the flat panels we (well actually Sue’s small hands) can get at. WE are going to start with a layer of 6mm between structural members and into ridges such as the roof ribs. On top of this we will add one or more layers of 6mm and 12mm. In the larger voids below the waist line we will also stuff polyester insulation wadding.
  • The structural members will also be filled with polyester wool. This will be fed / pulled in using fibreglass rods to get at the very difficult and may even need a couple of new holes to get at some sections.
  • The ply floor will be lifted and strips of 6mm insulation laid between the ribs and then 8mm high density floor foam laid before fixing the ply floor back down.
  • All the doors and the cab area will be insulated with self adhesive DoDo mat.

Our accommodation windows are twin skin and they and the roof vents have thermal blinds. And finally we will use SilverScreen covers on the cab windows at night.