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Thread: Making a small van livable without losing too much space

  1. #1
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    Making a small van livable without losing too much space

    Hi I've got a small van (MB Vito) that's going to be converted into a campervan & I'm looking for the best solutions to optimise the small space to make this livable. I figured this is the best place to come & seek advise as there's genuine people here who live nomadically
    It'll be lined with carpet inside but what insulation should I use before that which will be effective without losing too much space? Any advise is much appreciated thank you.


  2. #2
    Hi. Kingspan seems like the favourite. Available in various thicknesses and easily cut turn size. Try and fit some kind of vapour barrier too to keep moisture out. Cork tiles are also good, lightweight and thin but naturally warm. Good luck with your project, hope it goes well.

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    Thanks Bigbear67 that's really helpfully do you think Kingspan with vaper barrier & flowed by carpet be enough on the walls? Should vapour barrier be applied on the inside & outside of kingspan or is one side sufficient? Effective & minimal space lost is essential as the van's like a shoe box inside. The van is being converted into a 4 berth with a high top now fitted & to come is a double bed top & a bench bed bottom, units with a stove, sink, & fridge & portti potti/box seat all in will make it a tad cosy. I know I've got the wrong van to live in it indefinitely but I do plan on going on short & lengthy breaks away in it. The conversion is being in the main by a mechanic I use to work who now converts vans & campers. The guy wanted to just fit carpet on the inside walls & roof so I want to be sure of the most suitable insulation to tell him to fit so thanks for the heads up.
    When this van is converted it'll help me live with some independence for the first time in 12 years since paralysing my arms in a motorbike crash. There's a lot of things I'm unable to do these days but I'm slowly adapting to my new life. I drive with my feet now & type with feet also. I believe that'll I'll be able to get away for a few days on my own without the help of carers which will be a massive life change for myself. I'll be able to travel on my own for the first time since '05 & get away from all the carbon monoxide I breath in daily from this hellish main road I live on. I have a son who will be coming exploring with me in the holidays which will be great. Travelling to beautiful places in the middle of nowhere & exploring on foot & connecting with the elements is essential for our spirit. I'm currently lacking that right now but not for too long
    Last edited by sunshine85; 13-09--2017 at 12:21 PM.

  4. #4
    Heavenly Creature
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    Good luck with keeping space, i started with a 14ft by 7ft bus inside and im left with about 6x3 ft of floor space but i wanted a permanent bed. As said above use kingspan for insulation, get the thinner stuff and it will fit into the walls between the ribs without taking up any usable space. I think 50mm should fit in, if not it comes in loads of thicknesses. Try http://www.siginsulation.co.uk/ they are about the cheapest. 5.5mm ply on the walls is strong enough to line it with and attach lightweight things to.

  5. #5
    Shed Junkie alices wonderland's Avatar
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    King span or similar. If your considering cooking on LPG inside, you may need to consider ventilation. (Skylight/window/vent)
    With Gas and for safety a simple floor vent near the appliance or gas bottle.
    Try searching the web or Pinterest for micro campers to get ideas. If you require a good size bed or a bed perminantly out and ready. Your space will be restricted. I've built bed hoists in my last three conversions. The first two bed designs were simple which set ups. My last design incorporates a 360 degree swinging, hanging brackets and a winch. Allowing a double bed to be up tight against the ceiling when stowed and suspended just above the steering wheel when down.
    even a gypsy caravan is too much settling down.

  6. #6
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    If the kingspan meets use the foil tape you get for it and if all seams are taped up you dont need a vapour barrier. The kingspan foil layer is a vapour barrier, use an old saw to cut it as its think aluminium not foil and will blunt a new saw quickly. Cork tiles wont give you near the insulation that kingspan will

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    Heavenly Creature Ecobob's Avatar
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    I used cork tiles on the floor of my van, over the top of the original ply. I couldn't tell you how effective they are insulation wise but they are nice to walk on, a little bit more 'au naturel' than plastic wood effect lino and easier to sweep or wipe than a carpet. If using cork go for the sealed ones as they are more hard wearing, I just sealed the joins with silicone but you can use laminate floor joint sealer.
    Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens.

  8. #8
    Sounds like your keeping top side of your problems there bud. My son lives with me too and I'm looking at hopefully full timing on the road with him next year. Cork tiles should be good on floor if you board it out first. Try some 25mm battens spaced at maybe 400mm centres bonded to bare floor with no more nails should be on. Then infill the gaps with 25mm king span, then board over with 12mm ply or similar. Then stick cork tiles down on top for a warm feel. Remember to seal them with some sort of sealer. Should be plenty for part time use. Personally I would fit king span to walls, sealing the joints with aluminium tape, then use visqueen or bubble wrap or similar then cover with either 6mm ply, or 7mm tongue and groove timber. Danish oil or beeswax rather than varnish for a good looking and easily recoverable finish. Just my personal thoughts matey, other forum users may have some thoughts they can add. Hope that helps for now.

  9. #9
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    I wish you luck, this must be a huge challenge given your health issues.
    Forgive the indelicacy, but do you need the toilet? In town there are many places to 'go', from supermarkets to bars. Out in the wilds, do as the bears do!
    Remember it's not just the actual place to put the loo, it's having space to use it. Then also it will have to be emptied.

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    I have roughtly have about 4/5 litres of MDF seal sealer would that be suitable for non sealed cork tiles? I ask as unsealed cork tiles seem more easily available? I'll keep looking online for the right sealed floor tiles & look to seal with silocone? After kingspan is fitted to the walls is it imperative that it's boarded out with ply or can units be securely applied when only kingspan & carpet has been fitted? Would the ply board be going in between panels or over them & lose a lot of width? The guy doing the conversion does top class campers but he wanted the insulation to be just carpet which obviously won't do alone for living in it. I'm trying to find the easiest option to optimise the very limited space & appease the guy doing it as he's always mad busy & trying to keep the cost down if possible. I'd love it to be all wood inside as you said Bigbear67 but that's not what this camper conversionist does so that'll have to wait many moons later. I've spent 2 thirds of my life able bodied before my spinal injury so I'm very limited in what I'm able to do due to my disability. As regards to the toilet I'll pee outside where possible & try No 2's at service stations but there will be a time where a porti potti is needed being in the middle of nowhere in bad weather. I know bears poo in the woods but I wouldn't want to have my rogue poo's scattered about lol
    As a temporary heater has anyone used one of these gas heater? https://www.amazon.co.uk/PORTABLE-HE...ble+gas+heater
    I'll be back on this evening as I need to go out but thanks again for everyones input & help so far it's very much appreciated Cheers.
    Iain
    Last edited by sunshine85; 13-09--2017 at 02:52 PM.

  11. #11
    Heavenly Creature realnutter's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sunshine85 View Post
    but that's not what this camper conversionist does
    Ummmm.... it's YOUR conversion, mate!!! If it your ideas don't fit with his and he wont change to suit you, the client, then you shouldn't be using him.....

  12. #12
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    Those cabinet heaters are huge. In a small space, it will take up a lot of floor space, about 0.5m x 0.5m. They are about 1m high. You might as well run the gas hob. In a small space it should take the chill off.

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    Shed Junkie alices wonderland's Avatar
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    And the condensation from it will be vast. If I were you, I would halt all plans to have this conversion started and before you go out buying things. You clearly don't have a clue and most of this stuff has been thought out times many. To start with, you really need to get out and about in your vehicle. Use it and you will discover things that only you can identify as a need/a must have and where and how you would like it.

    Research micro campers/micro trailers etc on the internet. https://www.pinterest.co.uk/. You will get a good idea of what can be done in a small space. You say you have a spinal injury? So like me, you will need to consider laying flat out stretched, a place you can stand to get dressed, cook, stretch etc. Once the vehicle is insolated it's too late to be thinking about where you need cables and power points/lights etc. Where the gas bottle and water lives, how you access it. If your hoping to change the classification to camper for insurance purposes, they do insist you abide by a format. Gas pipes secured etc. On the internet you will find hundreds of really well thought out designs and you can nic the bits you like to include in your build.
    No point having any work done now if it's to be ripped out later. But often that's how we self builds go. Learning on the job. If you have to pay someone to do the construction, you can't afford to make mistakes, no short cuts and if 'this guy' doesn't insulate or fit boarding, then he is half cowboy and you can find others who will do a better job. Rewire, plumb in, insulate, board out, decorate, fit fixtures and fittings. Consider buying ready assembled components off eBay if unsure. Move them around. Use them and resell on if your own design spec can be identified when living in it for a while.
    Last edited by alices wonderland; 13-09--2017 at 04:21 PM.
    even a gypsy caravan is too much settling down.
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    Heavenly Creature Jester's Avatar
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    Matey just do it how u want \ need it done. It must be a hard life for you as it is . One of my arms stopped workin after motorbike smAsh and I had it took off . Never looked back but I feel for you mate , goodluck with life

  15. #15
    If the guy doesn't the conversion is considered top class yet uses just carpet to insulate, I would suggest he isn't in the same post code as top class. It is utterly inadequate to full time in. Also any time you burn gas in an enclosed space you will pour water into the air at an astonishing rate and use up all the oxygen, then kill yourself due to lack thereoff, it is not a great idea. Something like a propex heater is amazing for a small van, or a diesel night heater like a webasto.

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    Shed Junkie alices wonderland's Avatar
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    even a gypsy caravan is too much settling down.

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    I had a layout that I felt would work well before I got the van but I've not been able to find a twin swivel seat base like it's predecessor so there has been a layout change. Without the twin swivel seats base turning the front seats to face the rear rock & roll bed seats that layout would make it unlivable IMO. It would probably drive you mad also. The frustrating thing is they're available so many vans such as VW T5 & 6 & Vito pre 2014 have them. If the pic's uploaded here was the original layout although not as hideous style as the example shown .unit layout.....jpg
    I had my 2 carers build me a self assembly unit for my hob, sink, cupboards which helped me play about with the design & find out my minimum to optimum bed size. van unit lay out - Copy.jpg van unit lay out option 2.jpg The toilet would of been in a cupboard with the porta potti rolling out on a board with runners anchored to the floor to allow it to slide out for use. The other layout would be instead of the twin R&R bed would be a L shape bench seat that pulls out into a bed ( a bed in the high top roof in be in regardless of layout). The downside to that is I won't be able to carry 2 passengers in the back with a seat belts & no children at all. The conversion company makes vehicles appear of a good standard when I've seen a lot of his work so he's either cutting corners for all conversions with insulation or he's trying to rip me off. I will be going over the plans with him & if he doesn't do the insulation properly I'll need to go else where. He's ordered the windows in so that'll have to be done first if that's the case. I intend in getting a propex heater when I've saved enough money for one. I have used a light gas ring from a stove in my old caravan once as a emergency & it worked wonders but I didn't feel too safe sleeping with it on (nice & warm & no condensation in the morning). That's a option but I'm not 100% if I'd use that method for sleeping in. Thanks for the kind words Jester & a awesome avatar btw just noticed it
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    Shed Junkie alices wonderland's Avatar
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    Swivel seat bases do come up for sale often enough on eBay. I've got a RICON 6 way electric seat in one of my vehicles. It's the second electric swivel seat I've owned and think they are the bees knees. They also come up for sale second hand. If you contact Adaptacar they may have a few secondhand for sale http://www.visitsouthmolton.co.uk/po...try/adaptacar/
    even a gypsy caravan is too much settling down.

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    Thanks for the link alices wonderland if they can do a twin seat swivel base for my van that could be a game changer in the design of my van & mean I could carry 5 passengers. I'll make some enquiries tomorrow cheers. Here's hoping to a solution & a more livable van to escape in.

  20. #20
    Swivel seat bases can be adapted from cars like the Peugeot 806, some of which have swivel front seats, not all, the comfy with arm rest swivel front seats from an 806 is a no mod swop out into Peugeot experts as is and an easy swop for most vans, it does raise the seat height though, but all swivel seat bases do.

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    I spoke to them alices wonderland but they told me they didn't do them but passed on another company in Sailsbury to ask & I got the same response. I've tried 4 companies today to no avail. Currently I can't find a twin swivel seat base for my van or anyone who could mod & fit one so it's looking like I won't be getting one anytime soon. That means I will have to go for the bench seat/pull out bed design instead.
    Last edited by sunshine85; 14-09--2017 at 10:41 PM.

  22. #22
    Non of this matters NomadicRT's Avatar
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    I know theres a twin seat swivel base for VW T5 Renault.Ducato and.Vauxhall etc so there.must be one available for a merc


    update...there ebay number 112559284797 bit pricey but there is one available
    Last edited by NomadicRT; 14-09--2017 at 10:53 PM.
    Hebridean at heart..everywhere else is just somewhere on the way back there...

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    I think that one is for a Sprinter I have a Vito

  24. #24
    Non of this matters NomadicRT's Avatar
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    Ok but the seats and bases wont be hugely differing sizees...but what about adapting a twin seat swivel for a vw t5 swivel as theyre similsr size van 292252835047
    According to one of the merc forums the kiravan t5 drivers seat fits vito so maybe the double pass does too?

    Have you spoken to clearcut conversions in Devon ?
    Last edited by NomadicRT; 15-09--2017 at 12:26 AM.
    Hebridean at heart..everywhere else is just somewhere on the way back there...

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