The Van, how she got a wooden floor

Last episode, the van was getting fixed to be driven around. Done! Next step is to make it into a moving home. First things first, you need a floor for your home. The floor of the van needed some TLC before we could do anything to it, build anything on it. Loads of rust patches and a few holes needed to be delt with. And so we did, got the grinder out, got the rust seal, got the bodyfiller.

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All the gear’s here, ready to go!
We ground down all the rust patches back down to clean shiny metal and covered that with body seal.

Whenever we found holes, we ground back all the rust and filled the hole with bodyfiller, sprayed it with red oxide and then covered with body seal. This will stop any rust from spreading!

Slightly long and grimy process, but it’s really important to do this job if you want your van to last! The floor is where all the water comes through and where rust accumulates and eat at the van’s steel. And obviously, you need to do this job before putting a floor in! We didn’t want to have to take the floor off after putting it in, and discover mighty holes and rust patches. Also, we wanted to protect the insulation from any disastrous humidity!

So whilst grinding away, the other job was to dismantle our collection of pallets to recover the planks with which we were going to build our floor with. Also a lengthy, tricky job, trying not to split the planks but keeping them a good useful length. We found a variety of tricks, using wedges, crowbars, hammers and wooden mallets. We had foreman Angus to oversee the whole process.

Foreman Angus making sure the workers are working.

Foreman Angus making sure the workers are working.

We’d been collecting pallets over the year, for a variety of projects, building chairs, benches, bits of house furniture, so we had a large enough collection and got to dismantling them. With the help of few friends along the way, we finally had enough planks to get to work! We set them out on the floor, just to check we had enough. Foreman had to give his consent too.


It was finally time to start building the floor!

the van and all the materials ready to go

the van and all the materials ready to go inside

The first thing to do was to screw in the basic frame of the floor boards, using 1*0.5” batons. After that, we could put the boards on, and see where we would need more batons to support the floor. We had to keep in mind to have as minimal a frame as possible: more frame means more holes to drill in the van body, more entry points for water and rust, more weight added to the beast. So, a minimalistic frame, with a few unattached supports scattered in the least supported parts of the floor.


Basic frame with batons screwed into the van floor. We drilled pilot holes for every screw, didn’t want to split the wood or brake screws in the metal of the body.

After screwing the frame in came the jigsaw puzzle. How to cover the whole floor, using the few supports we had, with a mix of floorboards of different lengths, widths and thicknesses? We also had to consider to stagger the planks, as this help the floor lock itself together and not move too much. Difficult puzzle it seemed to us to start with. Not so much after all, as we set out the planks, filled the gaps, cut them to size and to fit. A fun game of geometry and sawing. At the same time, we had to assess where we would need extra supports to stop the planks from bending too much as we walked on the floor. We figured it out as we went, and we were lucky to find that we had all the planks and sizes we needed!

Rob playing the game of jigsaw. The focus on his face.

Rob playing the game of jigsaw. The focus on his face.

And we ended up with a truly awesome wooden floor ! All planks fitted to size nice and snug. All that was left at this point was to figure out how to keep track of the planks’ arrangement, take them all off, cover the floor with insulation, and put the planks back on, drill’em and screw’em!

Floorboard assembled

Floorboard assembled

After taking off the planks, on went the glass wool insulation in between the frames.


For insulation, we used this recycled glass wool.

Over the wool came a second layer of insulation, a waterproof insulating membrane. The idea is to keep the wool and the floor underneath dry from any spillage or general wetness from weather that might occur on the wooden floor. That’s the shiny yellow stuff.


Once we covered the whole floor with wool and membrane, back on came the boards, screwing them back in following the marks guiding their arrangements (harder than it seems in the dark!). We had to feel through the insulation where the supports were, to know where to drill screws in, and try to avoid screwing into the loose supports scattered here and there on the floor.

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Night came before we finished, but we didn’t stop. Onwards with headtorches, we were not going to stop until the whole floor was down and screwed in!


By 23:00, we were done! Floor is all in and finished. And it looks amazing, adds a great feel to the van already, even though she still is mostly naked on the inside. A wooden floor changes the whole atmosphere, though. She’s getting more and more beautiful!

In the morning, after revelling at our success, the next stage was to begin: planing !


Here finishes the story of the installation of the raw floorboard, a fun and easy job, and cheap as well if you use recycled materials !