The Build · The Van

Van Build – Flooring

The Executive Summary

It was time to install the flooring so that I could then start building out the interior. I had my heart set on cork, but it turned out to be way too expensive for my budget. So I ended up purchasing some cheap wood laminate. It looks decent enough and was fairly easy to install, even though we had no idea what we were doing and ended up putting it in backward. Oh well!

The Details

The walls were in so it was time to finish the floor so that I could begin building out the interior. The insulation and sub-floor were already in place and so I only needed to decide what material to lay down on top. I suppose that any flooring option that you might find in a traditional home may have worked, but this was a special home and I wanted to consider that it might get a little more exposure to the elements than what a traditional home floor might see.

The first thing that popped into my head was laminate hardwood flooring. This stuff has become popular in recent years; it’s not terribly expensive, it’s easy to install, it’s durable, and it’s thin. I was constantly considering the thickness of my flooring options as I still wanted to be able to stand upright when everything was finished.

I’d been discussing flooring options with a friend and he mentioned that I should consider using cork. He had cork flooring in his kitchen and loved it. I started doing a little research on cork and I almost instantly fell in love. It was thin and it had a slight squish to it so it felt softer under your feet. It had insulating properties, a huge plus, and it was water resistant. It was also durable and, most importantly, sound deadening. This was a big win in my mind as I figured sound would become a big issue later when trying to sleep in different environments. It seemed like the perfect flooring option.

With my flooring material picked out, I went to a local floor shop to check out some samples. I leafed through the options they had on display and picked out one that I thought would look nice. I was so excited; it was going to look great. Unfortunately, while I’d been researching cork as a flooring option, I’d failed to research the price. To my surprise, cork was expensive! It was going to cost me almost $800 to lay cork down on my tiny van floor. This was a major sticker shock. Even more so than the cedar wood I’d bought for the walls.

When I started this project I had set out to do it cheaply and so far it had not been all that cheap. My decision to go with cedar for the walls drove up the price quite and bit and so I felt like I had to concede on the flooring. If money was no object, I think cork would probably make the perfect flooring option for any great van conversion. But I did have to consider my costs and so cork was not in my future.

With my heart a little broken, I was feeling a little apathetic towards my floor material and so I went back to hardwood laminate and ended up purchasing a cheap brand off an end-cap display at Home Depot. This stuff was going to cost me less than $100 to cover the entire van. So I loaded up a shopping cart and headed home.

Once back home I had a friend offer to help me install the floor. Neither of us had ever installed such flooring before, but it seemed simple enough. There was no adhesive or nails required. Each piece interlocked with the others and so each new piece you lay down would snap into the previously laid piece. Once all together, this creates a single layer of flooring that helps provide strength to the surface and prevents each piece from wriggling free from the rest of the floor. The instructions made it sound simple to install, you hardly even need any tools. In practice, however, we struggled with it quite a bit. We were finding it very difficult to lock each piece into the previous one. Before beginning the project I’d talked with a couple people I knew who had installed such flooring themselves and they all made it sound very simple. I felt like we were doing something wrong, but we were making progress and getting along, so what could be the problem. We couldn’t possibly be screwing up something so simple, could we?

As we were nearing completing a family member stopped by the house; he was one of the people I’d talked to before tackling this project. As he sat watching us install our most recently cut board, he pointed out to us that we were installing the boards backward…. *sigh*. That’s why we’d been struggling to lock the pieces together. Live and learn, I suppose. That’s the best way to do it. This was just another example of how you don’t need to know what you’re doing to tackle projects like this. We were clearly clueless and we still managed to get the floor installed. Sure, it might have been a little easier had we not installed it backward, but it wasn’t the end of the world. We even managed without the right tools. Installing the floor required us to cut some of the pieces to fit around the wheel wells and the step along the sliding side door. All we had was a miter saw and a jigsaw at our disposal, but no workshop to set these up on. We had the miter saw on the ground and had rigged up a workspace over top two garbage cans to use the jig to cut the boards for the side door. The whole setup looked quite comical. Check out the pictures below to see our rigged up workspace and how the flooring turned out.

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