Turning a Van into a Rolling Adventure Mobile

7 Nov

Following the installation of the walls, the proceeding step was to get the Yeti a newly insulated interior roof, and covered wheel wells

Just like the walls, insulating the roof was an essential task, although unlike the walls, we used thicker 1″ Durafoam Insulation and it required a lot less work which I’ll explain. The reason for the thicker insulation was due to fact that it fit better with the van’s metal ribbing leaving the least amount of space between it and the wood sheets used to cover them. As I’ve read and seen through previous builds, leaving the least amount of space possible between the insulation, inter and outer walls can ensure moisture doesn’t have room to build up and sit (Nobody wants a soggy van!). Since the roof is almost symmetrical in between each section of the metal ribbing, cutting the foam was a breeze, we cut each piece just a bit too big so it fit snug enough where it just held in place without any help.

The wood we used for the roof was the same Mahogany Ply that was used for most of the walls since it’s aesthetically pleasing and easily manipulated. Managing to get each panel to fit properly had its challenges, the van isn’t a perfect square so it’s difficult to get the measurements bang on, and again like the wall, there was a lot of recutting/shaving down of each piece.

The panel above bed is covered with both a recycled carpet underlay foam and some basic (polyester/wool) fabric. This is to provide both a cushion for those times we forget the roof isn’t as high as we think it is and to absorb condensation after those stuffy nights. The foam was attached using a Spray Adhesive and the fabric was cut big enough to where it could be wrapped around the sides of the panel and spray glued to keep in place. Once the panel was screwed in place it helped keep the fabric fastened in place even more. Although, the glue didn’t work as well as we hoped, a day later the foam and fabric began to sag, we solved this issue by using everyday pushpins which worked great!

As for attaching the panels, we used the same Washer Head Self-Tapping Metal Screws as we did for walls, screwing right into the van’s metal ribbing. We made sure to mark and measure exactly where we could screw to ensure we didn’t mistakingly go through the van’s roof.


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Covering the wheel wells wasn’t as simple as we had hoped for. Through some deliberation, we decided to go with a trapeziodal box over a traditional square box since it would help maximize space. The toughest part was getting the angles to match up correctly. The side pieces were cut at a 45 degree angle to line up with both the floor and top section of the box. The pieces were attached to each other using a nail gun and wood glue. We only used screws for attaching the box to the sub-floor, helping it become that much more durable. As for the insulation, we used both DuroFoam and Roxul to fill in all the available space.



The floor and wheel boxes needed covering, the idea was we wanted something that was durable enough to deal with items sliding in/out, things falling on it, the consistent abuse from our feet and it being somewhat visually appealing. We eventually came across vinyl flooring that had a hardwood looking finish to it. Kayley luckily found an end piece at a local Lowe’s which saved us a couple dollars.

Cutting and laying the floor to size was relatively easy, and the extra pieces were used to cover the wheel boxes. Trim was added using a nail gun to help hold the sides/corners down from constant wear. All the necessary space/gaps were filled with silicon to ensure no water will get trapped and cause any issues.




Our next step was building the bed, figuring that once the bed frame was in it would be easy to map out the remainder of the build (storage, kitchen, etc..). We already knew the sizing of our bed from testing it what length and width would work for us, since we’re not big people a huge bed isn’t required (even though we had been sleeping in a Queen sized bed for the last couple years). We found a good deal on a bed at JSYK, well actually a child sized foam bed haha. Foam is the best choice, it is easy to cut down to your required size, super comfy, along with it holding in heat from below on super cold nights.

Bed Framing materials:  5 2x3x8 Finger Jointed Framing Wood, a sheet of 4×8 OSB Plywood, 2 piece of 1x2x3 Cedar Framing Craft Wood and 1 pieces of 2x12x16 Lumber.

With the help of an off-duty Professional Handy-Man (Thanks Dennis!), we were able to get most of the frame built in one night. The frame was built high enough so two Tupperware containers could fit underneath, I wasn’t too worried about it being too high, I figured I didn’t need to be able to sit straight up in the bed, I can move to the front seats if need be. The frame was anchored down by screwing the right side into the van’s ribbing, and the left side would be attached to the shelving frame which was fastened to the roof and floor with metal/wood screws, along with a couple of corner pegs providing extra stability. Also, putting PL (construction grade adhesive) on everything ensures zero chance of anything falling apart. We used the 2 planks of the 2x12x16 Lumber, cutting them down to five pieces in total, running them widthwise to provide weight stabilization for the plywood and our overall weight. The 1x2x3 craft woof ran lengthwise on the inside of the frame so those planks had something to rest on. 2 additional pegs were added down the middle to add a little bit more stability. The plywood was cut to the proper size (which took a couple attempts) and was fastened to the framing.







The shelving unit materials: 1 sheet of 5/8x11x96 MDF White Shelving, 3 2x3x8 Finger Jointed Framing Wood, 1 sheet of left over Spruce Plywood, couple sheets of left over Mahogany Ply, couple pieces of left over vinyl flooring, car trunk netting, 1x2x3 Cedar Framing Craft Wood and 1x3x8 Framing Lumber.

The shelving turned into a 2 level unit, the below unit next to bed is where our clothes call home and the above cabinet unit holds everything from toiletry items to books. It doesn’t run the whole length of the bed, the back of it was left short so coats and other items could be hanged.

The unit was built in a similar way as the bed. the bottom unit was framed like a box using the Finger Joint wood, with pieces running width wise to provide something for the White Shelving to rest on. The back end of the frame and middle bars were fastened to the 1x3x8 Framing Lumber which acts as piece of ribbing screwing into the van wall. The upper unit was attached to both the bottom shelf and a piece of framing wood that was drilled into the van’s roof instead of relying on van wall. The top shelf was made out of left over Plywood we used for the floor and then covered it with extra vinyl flooring. As for the front covers, since the bottom unit is for clothing, we knew we would be going in/out of it a lot we didn’t want doors, but there needed to be some sort of cover to hold everything in. We built a small lip, put in some hooks and used the netting for car trunks, its stretchy, easy to manipulate and does the job! The upper shelf cover took some thinking, after a lot of deliberation we decided to go with a door the folds up, using left over mahogany ply, and old hinges laying around the garage, it locks shut with 2 sliding bolt locks and is attached to the ceiling with a single hook lock. The two ends were covered with mahogany ply and gave everything a nice coat of the Hemp Oil to add a nice finish!








Lastly came the kitchen. A lot of thought went into this section since it needed to store a variety of different items as well as being functional. Kayley’s mom, Carol, found an awesome countertop at a local Re-Store which provided the base for area. It really came down to where the cooler would go and how we were to store all of the food/cooking supplies.

The materials used for the kitchen: 3 2x3x8 Finger Jointed Framing Wood, 1 panel of 16×96 Whitewood, 1x2x3 Cedar Framing Craft Wood, 1 Refurbished Table Top, spare pieces of MDF, OSB, spruce ply and mahogany ply, and 4 door hinges

The kitchen consists of one drawer above the cooler and a double levelled cupboard. The unit overall is built very similar to the bedside storage, we ran some ribbing along the back which is screwed into the van’s wall to help with stability which is attached directly to both sides of the cupboard. The left side is anchored to the bedside storage unit as well as 4 leg posts which were bolted to the subfloor. The drawer is a simple box, it slides along two pieces of the craft wood, and stays locked in with a simple hook lock. The upper unit of the cupboard is insulated with some spare Durofoam on all sides (excluding the doors) to help prevent the chance of food freezing and the bottom section was created bigger to fit all of our pots, sink, bulk foods and other miscellaneous items. The table top was screwed into the frame once everything was set in place. The Whiteboard was used for the cupboard doors and drawer front, then coated with Hemp Oil.









As seen in the picture above, we built a little cubby for our Camper Toilet, allowing it to be accessible when need be. We also wanted the storage below the bed to be accessible from the cab area so using some extra 1x2x5 Framing Wood, two barn door style latches were put in to keep all the heavy gear in place and allow for easy access. Our window covers are Reflectix cut to size, covered in Black Duck Tape to hopefully pull in more heat from the sun, and Velcro keeps them in place.






Of course it snowed on the day we finished!

Of course it snowed on the day we finished!

Some important things we learned along the way:

  • Never expect to get anything done on the first try, there will be lots of recutting/remeasuring.
  • Have a plan, but don’t be scarred to deviate from it.
  • Layout what you plan on bringing with out before you build, it will help figure out how much storage you require and what you need to built to satisfy that.
  • Look up your Van’s GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) to know how much weight your van can handle and once you have filled your van with everything you plan on having with you, go to a weigh station to see how heavy it is to know if any changes need to be made.
  • You don’t need to use the most expensive materials to get the job done.
  • Take your time, rushing will only lead to mistakes and some mistakes can’t be undone.
  • Build things to be practical, not fancy.
  • Have fun!

Thanks to everyone for all the help! We really appreciate it!!  We couldn’t have done it without all of you!

If you have any questions about the build, let me know!

Check out: http://www.thecountlesswandering.com/vanlife-3/ for all the other steps of this build.

Total Cost of Materials Used:


The Yeti has Walls!

16 Aug

Getting the walls up was the necessary next step following the installation of the floor. Unlike the floor, the walls definitely required a lot more planning, such as what materials we were going to use, how the cuts were to be made, and how to insulate efficiently.

Insulating was more or less the easy part, like the floor, we used the same Duro-Foam insulation on the sections where it was applicable. The interior of our van, like many other types of Cargo Vans has an interior metal wall that is mean’t to have shelving and anything similar attached to it since the main users of these vans are either Hydro, Roofing, and Plumbing companies. The foam was able to fit nicely in certain sections but much of the interior wall is raised from the external siding of the van, making it impossible to use the foam everywhere without loosing more space. Luckily, Kayley’s mom had left over Roxul insulation laying around and worked awesome!! First off, it’s made out of recycled materials, Indoor Air Quality Certified, solid R value and it can be stuffed anywhere! Kayley was able to stuff it in every nook and cranny where the foam was unable to cover.


Kayley getting everything nice and insulated

Kayley getting everything nice and insulated


Trusty ducktape

Through the many of trips to Home Depot, research and sound advice from Dennis (Kayley’s step-dad) we decided to use Harvest Cherry Plywood for areas that will be visible (bed area, doors and behind the kitchen counter) since it’s aesthetically pleasing and strong, then the other spots were covered with MDF Pressboard since it’s less expensive and easily manipulated.

Cutting was the hardest aspect of this process, there were lots of recuts, trying to get each piece to fit flush with roof, floor, wheel wells and adjacent walls had its challenges. It’s fair to say my powertool and cutting skills increased during this time.

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It fits!


As for attaching the wall pieces, we used Self-Tapping Metal Washer Head Screws to fasten directly to the interior wall, the plywood is quite thin and under pressure due to the shape/angle of the wall, so having a washer-head ensures the screw doesn’t rip through the wood along with pulling the wood tighter up against the metal interior. On the passenger side, where the bed will be, we used a single wood strapping to help pull in the wall and allow it to sit flush since the interior had some odd shaping to it. Through some trial/error, the wood walls eventually became the supports for the foam insulation underneath. We were having trouble getting the foam to stick using both construction glue and duck tape due to day time humidity we’ve been experiencing this summer. We eventually figured out that the wood would be tight enough against the interior that it could secure the insulation enough from moving around and falling out of place.

The finish of the Mahogany Ply was nice, it was one of the reasons we bought it, but a couple weeks ago Kayley came across a Hemp Oil that could be used as a wood finisher. We decided to paint it on the Mahogany to see what happens and luckily it turned out great!! It really darkened the wood to a beautiful dark red and gave it a more protective finish along with a nice smell (Not the smell you’d think haha). We didn’t coat the MDF Ply since it will all be eventually covered by the bed and storage area.


Gettin' the good documented.

Gettin’ the good documented.



Mettrum Originals Hemp Wood Finishing Oil


Newly Finished Doors

Crew Chief sleeping on the job!

Crew Chief sleeping on the job!




Onto the next step!

Like I stated earlier, this step had it’s challenges. Getting the walls to fit straight and flush was difficult, we were constantly having to go back to make cuts. The van walls aren’t perfectly straight, meaning the walls have to be bent, making it hard to judge the length and shaping of the wood pieces. But we eventually got everything to fit accordingly. The creases between each piece are going to be covered by some sort of trim and/or strapping for the bed and storage units.


-2 Sheets of DuroFoam: $25.40

-2 Sheets of MDF Plywood: $38.68

-2 Sheets of Harvest Cherry Plywood: $72.00

-1 Bag of Roxul: Free! (If we did have to buy it: $50)

-100 Pack of 8×1″ Self Tapping Metal WasherHead Screws: $10

-1 Strap of 1x2x8 Framing Lumber: $1.02

-1 Can of Hemp Wood Finishing Oil: $10

-Total: $157.10

Next were onto the covers for the wheel wells, putting up the roof and laying down the vinyl floors!