The Build · The Van

My Story – Cleaning

The Executive Summary

Now that I had my new van, it was time to get to work. I first removed all of the shelving and then the sub floor. Once I had stripped it down I scrubbed the inside so my new working space would be nice and clean.

The Details

I’d finally purchased a van that I felt great about! The purchasing of which ended up a little differently from how I had pictured it in my head. When making grandiose plans, nothing ever goes wrong in my head. Reality always makes quick work of fantasy, however, but this was one circumstance where I felt that the journey was worth it. After purchasing that big red van down in Eugene, OR I was thrilled that the past vans I’d looked at fell through. I felt as though I’d found my diamond in the rough and I couldn’t have been more pleased with my new purchase.

Up until now, I had intensely focused my efforts on researching vans and little else. I had some idea of how the build out phase was going to go, but I hadn’t paid the process much attention. With my new van in hand now, it was time to get to work.

I knew the first thing I had to do was get it cleaned up. It was in great shape and had far less dirt and grime built up than others I’d looked at. Nevertheless, it was a 13-year-old van and it needed a little TLC.

My first order of business was to remove all the shelves. It had a pair of heavy-duty steel shelves, along with a locking cabinet, cargo straps, and a smaller shelf that was attached to the bulkhead. What I didn’t realize, until I had unbolted all of the shelving, is just how heavy they were. I mean, these were some seriously heavy duty shelves. I thought I was going to be able to haul these out no problem, but now it looked like I was going to need to recruit some help. As luck would have it, my dad showed up just in time to help me remove all the shelving.



Next, I needed to remove the sub floor. This appeared to be factory installed and it had been riveted through the metal floor below it. I didn’t have much experience with rivets (I still don’t, really), but some quick Googling told me that I could remove the rivets by drilling out the inner pin in the rivet and the popping out the rivet with a chisel. So I got to drilling. This proved to be a little trickier than I initially anticipated because you want to you a drill bit small enough to fit through the center of the rivet without making a whole any larger than you need to. Using such a small drill bit, however, means it doesn’t have the strength of a larger bit and so I ended up breaking two drill bits while trying to drill out all of the rivets in the floor (sorry, dad!).


Once I’d drilled through all the rivets, I tried chiseling out a few of them. This didn’t work very though because the sub floor is so soft by comparison. All I really accomplished with this technique was marring up the wood sub floor. So I had to switch tactics. After some huffing and puffing trying to pull the sub floor up on my own, I ended up using a tamping bar meant for breaking up concrete. If you’re not familiar with these, they’re basically a very long, steel crow bar typically used to pry apart concrete as you break it up with a sledge-hammer. With the breaker bar, I was able to slip it far under the sub floor while still retaining enough leverage to pry up the floor. Despite this, the floor still gave me a surprising amount of resistance. As the rivets began to give way, they would pop out of the floor and shoot up to the ceiling. It sounded like metallic popcorn.

Shelving removed and floor gone I could finally get down to cleaning. This part needs little explanation other than, perhaps, tools used. Cleaning consisted of automotive wash, a sponge, a bucket, a bottle of Simple Green concentrate, and far more hours than I had originally anticipated. Once fully cleaned, though, the van shined! It reminded me of a newly polished firetruck.



After (err… almost. There is still some soap on the floor):


One thought on “My Story – Cleaning

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