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Van Build decisions and why we made them

Updated: Oct 6, 2020

We have the van and I have a plan! Previously, I listed a few of the items we purchased for the build-out. Here I want to let you know why we chose them and if we would do it differently today. The last post had affiliate links for the products or similar items that we used and I’ll do the same here. Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something we may earn a commission, at no additional cost to you. Thanks.

First let's talk about Fatmat rattle trap, this stuff was new to me but once I researched it I knew we had to have it. Basically it changes the way the van sounds, reduces that thin tin sound and makes it sound like you are in a room instead of a metal box. The difference is incredible, we strategically placed it in all the bays and open areas of the van wall and ceiling. Of course we had to remove the headliner to do this which was a little tricky. More shopping was required afterward because we broke some of those plastic fasteners/clips that held it in.

Lots of folks replace the stock headliner with the material they are planning to use for the walls but we decided to keep it. It looks good to us and serves the purpose just fine. Besides, if we damage it, we can always replace it with something else later. Now this headliner had to come out several times as we progressed, and it was a real hassle, still I’m glad we kept it. After the rattle trap was in and we had the general layout planned, we ran wire for the items that need power and placed the denim insulation in the walls and that foam board insulation in the ceiling. The reflectix was taped over it all to create a barrier and aid in temperature control

If we ever replace the headliner we will redo the ceiling insulation and use the denim there too. The other headliner related work was to install the MaxxAir Fan, this requires cutting a HOLE in the roof and the headliner! Who cares about the headliner... but the roof?!?!? Of a brand new Mercedes Benz Sprinter Van! Ugh, No do-overs, this had to be right. Lots of planning, reviewing and crossing of the fingers went into this. These photos show that scary hole we cut and the next one shows the fan in the ceiling.

Moving on, we planned our bed to be tall enough to accommodate lots of storage so we also kept that cheesy looking plastic wall that came in the crew van. Knowing it would not really be visible and that it too had its own plastic fasteners, why waste money and time replacing something that was functional. The bed style we decided on was based on a piano hinge in order to maintain a walk through. I personally didn't like the idea of having to go outside to get to things at the back door and Darin uses the van as his daily driver for work.

If we ever remodel, the hinge will go on the opposite side. We stack our mattresses on the side with the hinge so that requires us to remove the mattresses to set up the bed. Not a huge deal but would have been better the other way. Next came the toilet area, Darin still wasn't convince that we needed one but it was a must for me. He pretty much shut me down on an indoor shower but I stood my ground on the toilet. This requires another hole to be cut in our van but thankfully it's a small one and no crazy plumbing required. This toilet is absolutely amazing and I would not trade it for anything.

This brings us to our maiden voyage and the end of this segment of our Van Build. Our maiden voyage was to celebrate the graduation of the beautiful Chelsea. I mentioned earlier that this is a Crew Van, meaning there is a row of seats directly behind the driver. We started our build with the intention of keeping this seat for a while in order to accommodate at least three people in the van at a time. Sacramento bound, our Crew included Darin, Pops, Uriah and me. Pops is Darin's 94 year old dad with early to mid stages of Alzheimer's and Uriah is Darin's nephew. Darin, Pops and Uriah stayed in a hotel while in Sacramento and I stayed in the Van. Please stay tuned for the next chapter in our VanLife journey. We will progress in our build and start traveling.

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