insulation · The Build · The Van

Van Build – Interior – Wheel Wells

The Executive Summary

I framed out two wooden boxes; one for each wheel well. I insulted the wheel well with some leftover Reflectix and lined my boxes with fiberglass insulation. I attached the insulated boxes to walls and floor. The bed was going to rest on top of them so I needed them to be structurally sound, but I wasn’t too worried about them pulling away from the wall.

The Details

It was a far cry from what I would consider a complete shell, but I’d drawn myself a line in the sand long ago and there was no turning back now. I had set a deadline to rent out my house and move into my van. I had hoped Boyd would be further along by now, but life often plays out differently than we plan it to. If I had more time, I would have likely progressed on to the doors of the van at this point. Insulating them in a similar fashion as the walls and paneling them in cedar just the same. Next, I’d do the ceiling. But it was summer and weather was warm. I could forego the additional insulation for at least a few months. I had a deadline to meet and so that meant it was time to begin building out the interior.

I had grandiose visions in my head of what Boyd might look like when finished. Of course, that was back when I’d first purchased him in March. I was now halfway through June with a July 1st deadline on my hands. My visions of grandeur would need to wait. I had to make some game-time decisions, and fast. I’ll spare you my long-winded descriptions of what my original plans might have entailed as those still may make up a post in the future. It wasn’t that I wanted to build something luxurious, the entire project was a pursuit of a simpler life. But I wanted the interior to be well thought out; to make good use of space with ample storage. Those plans would have to wait though. I had two weeks to create a minimum viable product while also working my full-time job and prepping my home for its new caretakers.

With all of these things in mind, I decided that building a bed would be the next best use of my time. The easiest and quickest option would be flat, stationary, lofted bed. This was a popular design choice and left plenty of room for storage underneath. If I could just get a bed built, I felt I would have a minimum viable product. I could sleep on top, and my stuff could go underneath. It would be perfect!

The bed was going to take up a huge amount of space and would be in the back of the van. So before I could build the bed, I needed to address the wheel wells. I’d ignored them while doing the walls, but now that I was going to slap a bed on top, I needed to address them first. So it was back to the hardware store for me to buy a few 2x4s and some thin plywood. My plan was to frame the wheel wells with the 2x4s, wrap the frame in thin plywood, and stuff the thing with insulation. That would not only help reduce heat loss through the metal of the wheel well but would also help to reduce noise. I’d had a lot of help in doing the walls, but I was starting to feel pretty confident in my ability to perform simple tasks like measuring and marking the wood and cutting it with the miter saw; tasks that sound so simple when described but are somehow much more difficult in practice. I had all the tools that I needed and so I figured I could handle this one on my own.

My first realization that this was going to be a more difficult task than I’d originally anticipated was when I placed the first board against the wall to get a measurement for it. The floor and walls don’t make a right angle and so I was going to have to angle my cuts to have my insulated box sit flush against the wall (Challenge # 1). Once I had my basic frames built, I wanted to make sure they were even. If the bed was going to rest on top of them, I didn’t’ want my bed to be slanted (Challenge # 2). I then realized that a table saw would be the best way to cut the plywood that I was going to use around the outside of my boxes. This meant that I didn’t have all the tools that I needed (Challenge # 3).




I tried to angle my cuts as best I could. As you can see from the images above, my first attempt left a small gap between my frame and the wall, but my second box turned out much more flush; I was pretty proud of that! Before I nailed the frames together, however, there was the trick of getting them level. I wasn’t so confident in my measurements that I trusted the length of the boards to tell me how high each box was going to sit relative to the other. If the measurements of each box were the same, they should, in theory, be pretty level; each box being the same height and width. To be certain that they would be aligned with each other, I got out my level and tried to get them as close I could. Some of you are probably already realizing the error in my judgment, but for those of you who are still following my thought process, let me tell you where I went wrong. I probably spent an hour or more measuring and re-cutting the boards of my frame in an attempt to get them just right. After several frustrating attempts to match them up, it occurred to me that my driveway in which Boyd was parked was slanted towards the storm drain. So leveling out my box frames would actually mean they were mismatched height to compensate for the slope that I was parked on. In addition to this, if one side of the van was heavier than the other, the suspension would be compressed further on one side. Lastly, even with a level bed, I would be subject to any slope that existed where ever I was parked for the evening; a really “duh!” moment. And so after a lot of wasted time, I moved on to the plywood that I needed to cover my frames.

Without a table saw, it was going to be tricky to make straight cuts in large sheets of plywood. But I had made it this far so I wasn’t going to let a little thing like lacking the right tools stop me. I measured out the cuts I needed to make and marked up my boards, making sure to try and minimize the waste. I had only purchased two boards at the hardware store and I sure as heck wasn’t about to make another trip up there. I ended up cutting the first sheet with a jig-saw I had on loan. As you can see from the above shots, this didn’t lend itself to the cleanest of cuts. You can see where the gaps are along the edges, but I made do. Once I had everything cut it only took a few minutes to through a few nails in it to fasten the cut plywood to my frame.

With the frame done, I needed to insulate my boxes. I still had some construction adhesive left over from insulating the walls and so I cut some fiberglass insulation and sprayed the paper facing of the insulation with the construction adhesive to stick it to the inside of my boxes. I also cut up some Reflectix and glued it to the metal of the wheel well. I’m not sure how much this actually helps, but I had the materials lying around so I figured it couldn’t hurt. With the wheels and boxes insulation, I simply angled a few nails through my boxes to adhere them to the walls and floor.


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