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"Humble Beginnings"
(08-29-2017, 05:30 PM)HumbleBeginnings Wrote: And since I mentioned the MaxxFan... I'm always open to advice on location. I was going to put it in the back to leave room for (potential) solar in the front, but 1) the (potential) roof rack would be easier to access if it were in the back, and 2) even though many say they have no water problems with the MaxxFan, I do wonder about having it over my bed.

I'm leaning towards putting it in the center, with room behind for a rack in the future, and room in front for solar in the future. Because the prospect of full-time is so far into our future, it's hard to know what we will eventually want, so I'm just trying not to make any mistakes that will prevent us from doing what we want in the future. The good news is my roof is HUGE so I'm pretty sure I could have a rack, fan, and four 100 watt solar panels all with room to spare.

The ribs on top of the E350 are particularly annoying to me. There is not 14"x14" flat spot anywhere. So I've got that putty tape stuff and lap sealant and maybe I'll sprinkle some holy water on it after the install and hope for the best!

The fan would be better placed NOT over the bed. After 40+ years around vans, I have seen way too many van owners who left their roof vents open, went somewhere and came back to a wet bed caused by a sudden unexpected (or unplanned for) downpour.

I really recommend putting a vent cover over the roof vent. This allows you to drive down the highway with the vent open and leave it open during all but the hardest of monsoon downpours. Monsoon type rains will bounce off your roof and you'll end up with a fine mist coming in!

The best way to install the vent on the uneven roof is to layer the butyl tape where needed to build it up. BTW, try to get the beige marine grade butyl tape as opposed to the gray stuff that RV dealers sell. It has twice the life expectancy. You shouldn't need any other sealant than the butyl tape. Be careful not to use silicone sealant if you do decide on something extra.

Some people put their roof vent underneath the roof rack and have it covered with solar panels instead of putting a vent cover on it. Others work around the vent opening with multiple smaller panels.
Worry is a misuse of imagination!
Build link:
Full-timer again as of November 24, 2015 - 14 glorious years on the road before that!

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The following 2 users say Thank You to Almost There for this post:
This world isn't home (10-17-2017), HumbleBeginnings (09-05-2017)
We spent a lot of time working in the van this weekend. Somehow, my girlfriend's parents still seem entertained by this whole thing.

First, I ran the wiring for the LEDs; since the paneling was going to cover that up. I had to make an educated guess where our cabinets will end up and hope it works out later! I have a hard time seeing the whole finished product. I want to focus on the current item, then re-evaluate and plan before moving onto the next step. So, I feel like I have to see our bed platform finished before I decide exactly how tall or wide the cabinets will be. 


You have no idea how excited I was to see the little LED come on! (Even if it did take me three attempts and two blown fuses to get the dimmer switch wired properly.) The battery and fuse block are laying on the floor for now. They will eventually be installed inside the cabinets that don't exist yet.

When I first saw build posts where people used tape for their wiring, I thought I was going to do mine cleaner, maybe even run conduit throughout the van so I can run new wiring later. Yeah... no. That wasn't gonna happen. I taped it up to hold it long enough to cover with insulation and walls, and that will be just fine. I would have spent the whole weekend just trying to run conduit if I had gone down that route. 

Anyway... I realized at this point that I need to run my fan wiring. Also, I had been trying to decide if I would rather panel the entire roof, then cut through it all for my fan, or install my fan and build the paneling around it. In the end I decided to put in the fan first and panel around it. (And I'm still not sure which way is best.)

After months of contemplation, I finally pulled the trigger and cut a hole in the roof! No turning back now!


As much as I wanted to believe "I'll just make sure I do a great install so it won't leak" I decided to follow the words of the wise and NOT put the fan over the bed.
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(09-05-2017, 10:47 AM)Almost There Wrote: ...
The best way to install the vent on the uneven roof is to layer the butyl tape where needed to build it up. BTW, try to get the beige marine grade butyl tape as opposed to the gray stuff that RV dealers sell. It has twice the life expectancy. You shouldn't need any other sealant than the butyl tape. Be careful not to use silicone sealant if you do decide on something extra.

I just noticed this part of your post (after installing my fan this weekend). I used the gray butyl tape because I didn't know about the beige. I had to stack it up to try to create a dam in the channels in the roof. As I was doing it I was feeling pretty skeptical about how well it would work. I had my first leak last night. I was parked on an incline and a puddle of water was against that stack of butyl tape for about 24 hours. Even then only one or two drips came through, but I would like to improve that seal. My thought was to use a bathtub caulk, which I believe is silicone. Why is silicone a bad idea? And is there something else you would recommend? I need to basically build a vertical wall of sealant to 

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Moving on with the build...

Next was insulation and paneling. I went with the polyiso, with some crack filler sprayed into some of the beams for good measure (and three days later I still have some of it stuck to my skin). I bought the 3M glue that everybody talks about (77? 90? I can't remember which one it was). But, it seemed easier to treat it like the wiring: tape it up for now, then the planks will hold it in place, no glue required. We stuffed some pink attic insulation in the lower half of the walls where we couldn't fit the rigid foam insulation.

I've read about vapor barriers, and some people in favor of them and some against (prevent moisture in the walls or allow moisture to escape). I decided to just put up my walls and not think overthink it too much. Remember, I started this fan with a "give it a go and let it be a learning experience" mentality. So if I end up wishing I had done it differently that will be a lesson learned which will inform modifications and/or rebuilds in the future. 

On top of that was some 1/4" cedar planking. I tried to figure out a way to screw it straight to the sheet metal without installing wooden studs behind it. I just didn't want to sacrifice the additional room inside. It's very frustrating when the exact spot I need to install a screw already has a hole in the sheet metal! All in all, it's gone reasonably well with as much as we've done. 

It's certainly not perfect but it looks and smells pretty nice! Adding paneling finally makes this feel like it's really happening!!!


The thin planking is very forgiving for the first couple of rows, but I've learned that after following the curves of the van for several rows I can't close the gaps in the tongue and groove anymore. Basically, picture trying to make a wooden barrel with staves that are perfectly straight. As they bow out around the widest part of the barrel there would be gaps between them. That's what I'm fighting now and haven't quite figured out yet. I may just need to run some shorter planks to make it work. And there will definitely be some type of wood filler, wooden slivers, or something in my future.
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Thanks for flooring details.

Maxx has a model with built-in vent cover, looks and works much better, but of course not cheap. +1 not ever over the bed!

Best butyl tape ​
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Welcome and look forward to following your progress
2016 Ford Transit 2500, 130" WB, Mid roof
Full time since Aug 2016
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The following 1 user says Thank You to BobBski for this post:
HumbleBeginnings (09-06-2017)
It's hard to see in the nighttime picture, but that is indeed a MaxxFan Deluxe! It's been very nice while working on van in the heat of Labor Day weekend!
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We didn't finish paneling the walls and ceiling by Labor Day like I was hoping. But we did take Sunday night off for a family party and we did get quite a bit done. We went back to work Tuesday and Wednesday after work for few hours, and we'll be back at it again tonight.

In order to be able to take the van out this Saturday, I've altered the priorities a little bit. We can sleep under a half-finished ceiling, but we can't sleep on a bed that doesn't exist! With that in mind, Tuesday's task was to panel the walls down to the floor, and last night I started what we affectionately call "Bed 2.0" (our first bed was a little... rough).

Here's a shot of me questioning where I went wrong in life that I'm now sitting here trying to figure out how to attach cedar paneling to the ceiling of a cargo van:
(If you look closely in the pic above, you'll see my girlfriend's father preparing his fishing reel while questioning where he went wrong in life that his daughter's boyfriend has been working on a van in his driveway for days on end.) 

A couple things to note about our build:
- we have no idea what we're doing!
- insulation is something we're doing, but not obsessing about. We live in southern California and, even though we will be doing some traveling, temps below zero are just not on our roadmap
- I'm 6'1" so I wanted to give up as little interior space as possible. For that reason, we are attaching the paneling directly to the sheet metal ribs. Doing it this way sucks! The problem is I can't always put my screws in the ideal location if there is no rib there or if one of the 1000's of holes in the ribs happens to be right where my screw needs to be. Also, the very uneven walls behind the paneling leave it a little less supported than I would like. Basically, don't lean on my walls because they move and the paneling is only 1/4" thick! But I know this is what we chose in order to save space. We could have built-out wooden studs which would have created strong walls but we chose not to so we can keep the interior as big as possible. It's a trade-off we made. 

Here's a shot from Tuesday night trying to finish up the paneling:
(I guess there are worse places to be working on a van conversion.)

And here you can see our van in Oregon a couple weeks ago for the eclipse, vs where we're at now with the van build: 

It was on that recent trip that we decided to build a fixed bed (vs a bench that pulls out into a bed, which was Bed 1.0) because we like having all that space for storage. Also, we're taking a gamble on sleeping sideways in the van even though I'm taller than the van is wide! In Oregon one afternoon I found myself laying across the bed sideways and I was comfortable, so I decided to give it a try. It's just so tempting to maximize our space for kitchen cabinets as much as possible. If this is all a huge mistake, be on the lookout for a Bed 3.0 post in the future!

And last but not least, here's a pic of the entire van crew as we set of for the 2,100 mile 5-day trip to see the totality near Prairie City, OR:

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Here's my rough idea for the bed platform to accommodate a full mattress sideways (it will be a tight squeeze, possibly with some trimming needed). I wrote in some approximate dimensions because I created this when I was not near the van; actual measurements will follow. The plan is to have two drawers that slide out the back, and the front space will be accessible via cupboard doors, or something similar. This design is a work in progress.


I started it last night using 1x3's for the main supports, basically the dark-shaded members on the bottom levels. I wanted strong boards to support the drawer rails as much as possible and I wanted to maximize the size of the drawers as well. I did sacrifice a little bit of space by the way I designed the center area (a 1x3 for each drawer sandwiched around a vertical 1x3) but I felt that would be much stronger than sharing 1 board for both drawers and also facilitate an easier install.

For the first time I'm using a pocket hole jig. I really like it! (I have to give credit to GnomadHome for introducing me to this.) It gives me more flexibility in how I want to attach my boards to each other, and is apparently a much stronger way to screw into wood (something to do with grain direction). All I know is my half-built bed feels really strong so far!

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I forgot to include a pic of the bed in progress:


More work to do tonight!
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