Every Time I Think I'm Done...
There’s always another empty space in need of insulating.
I have a bad habit of getting ahead of myself. Way ahead of myself. I can’t help but think about what I would do differently if I were to do another build. There are little things, here and there, mostly due to me not knowing how to use tools and learning a better way to do things as I go along. But there is one big thing that I wouldn’t do the same way over again if you dared me to.
The floor insulation.
In order to compensate for the weird bumps throughout the metal floor, we cut strips of 1" and 1/2" insulation, so the top of the insulation would be close to even and the subfloor could rest on that. There are several problems with this plan, and those of you who have some knowledge of carpentry probably already know what they are.
First of all, this takes forever. It took two days to cut all the 1" foam board, another full day to cut the 1/2" insulation, another full day to adhere them all to the floor, and another 12 hours of weighing them down. Plus, figuring out how to deal with places where the pattern was disrupted, getting more materials, and all the measuring and re-measuring that added another day and a half to the process. And now I’ve spent the last two days trying to fill all the cracks with spray foam insulation, waiting for it to dry, and then cutting off the excess.
Which brings me to the second major problem: cracks. My floor insulation is literally all cracks. There are cracks everywhere. I could spend another two days and another can of Great Stuff to make sure they’re all filled, but I’m already beyond schedule, and (frankly) I don’t want to. So there will be cracks, and that’s just something I’m going to have to live with.
Third problem: getting these strips to actually stick to the van floor is damn near impossible. Granted, I could have done a better job of weighing them all down. But there are pieces that had a cinder block sitting on top of them for 12 hours that still crackle like they aren’t totally stuck when I step on them. I think it’s because some of the pieces are really tight and the tension might create some lift along the edges of some of the pieces, and others just aren’t fit perfectly to the edges of the metal bumps.
And, for all of that, it’s not even flat. The 1/2" insulation sits slightly lower than the 1" and some of the pieces rise up awkwardly on one end or one side.
TLDR: It was a lot of work for not-stellar results.
If I were to do another van build, and the floor was uneven, I would just cut 1" foam board insulation to fit using as few pieces as possible, line all the deeper sections with spray foam, put the insulation on top, and weigh it down. That spray foam insulation is sticky stuff, to the point where it actually takes the top layer of my skin with it when I pick it off. I have no doubt it would work just fine doing double duty as adhesive and filler.
I’m officially calling the floor insulation done as of today, and any cracks I find from here on out are just going to go un-filled. I’ve got plenty more to get done, and just under two months in which to do it.
Considering in the last four months I’ve only managed to buy the van, install the vent fan and roof portion of the solar system, and put in most of the insulation, two months to do everything else seems insane. I think it’s doable, but I’m going to have to work really hard to get it done. The next two months probably won’t be much fun… even though I’ve been enjoying the build so far, I think working on it all day, every day only to come inside and work on the planning and the blog will be enough to stifle my enjoyment of the experience a little bit. But in two months, I will be on the road, and it’ll be worth it.
That’s my new mantra: in two months, it will be worth it.
I started working on the wiring today, too, which was good. I got one full circuit up, I think. I bought 12 gauge wire, which is a little big for the small circuits I’m working on, and its stiffness makes it difficult to work with. My arms and fingers are exhausted from trying to fit it exactly along the route I wanted.
Like anything, this has a learning curve. I’ve already learned that turning the spool to unwind the wire makes it easier to straighten the wire out, as opposed to holding the spool steady and unwrapping the wire like you would with twine or string. Also, I’m fairly certain I wired the circuit right, but I’m a little unsure [As of finishing this post, I’ve learned that I didn’t wire it right…. Shucks.].
Honestly, electricity is horrendous. It just doesn’t make sense to me, and it’s the most frustrating part of this entire build. I’m to the point where just talking about the wiring and electric system makes me want to throw a tantrum like a two-year-old. Part of me is tempted to hire an electrician, hand over all the pieces, and move on. But electricians are expensive, and I also really want to be able to say I built this thing myself, just with some help from friends and family. I want to understand electricity. I want to be able to fix things if they break.
Maybe, after fighting with the wiring another day or two, I’ll cave and hire an electrician. But I’m not ready to quit yet.
I went on an ordering spree on Monday, and a few of the items came today. It felt good to start looking ahead, and to seal the deal on a few items that I’ve been eyeing for a long time but had yet to go all in. I splurged a bit on the kitchen. I figure, if I’m going to live in this tiny space full time for the foreseeable future, at least I can have a nice kitchen and a nice bed. Particularly since (sans microwave and on a tight budget) I’ll be spending a lot of time cooking. I want to learn to enjoy cooking, to get creative with cooking, and to become a good cook.
I got a big stainless steel sink with a cutting board lid and a couple other accessories, which arrived today. I also got a top-of-the-line Dometic CFX fridge which should be coming on Monday, and a stainless steel Furrion 2-in-1 range oven that should be coming in the next couple of days.
I also bought a 10 port fuse box and six 3-gallon AquaBricks which both arrived today.
“Six water containers?” you’re probably wondering, “Isn’t that an odd choice?”
It is. Most people go with one fresh water tank and one grey water tank. I had several issues with that idea. Between drinking water, cooking water, daily hygiene water, and cleaning water, one gallon per day is a ridiculously conservative number. Two gallons a day is probably a better guess. I’m not a weight-lifter and I’m not planning on having a permanent traveling companion, so packing more than 5 gallons in a single tank would be difficult for me to maneuver. On top of that, the vast majority of 5 gallon tanks are round, which is a massive waste of space. So I found these AquaBricks, which are 3 gallons each (easy to maneuver) and basically rectangular. I can fit 9 gallons in the same space I’d allotted for a round 5-gallon tank. It will be a little bit of a hassle to switch the hose from one tank to another every time I go through 3 gallons, but it’s much less of a hassle than trying to work around a water tank that I can barely lift and which tanks up far more space than it actually needs.
So I’m starting to pick up plumbing components and think about the materials I’ll need for the next steps, wiring is going up, and the insulation is nearlyfinished.
Tomorrow, I want to insulate the step by the side door, continue filling the empty space within the walls of the van, and make a template for the floor to trace onto the subfloor. If I get that done, I’ll probably run to Home Depot to get more wire and try to finalize my decisions about wall and ceiling materials. It should be a productive day, and hopefully tomorrow night I’ll be starting to drift into the next stage of the build.