We have to apologise for the lack of updates on the display van, the last couple of years have been our busiest to date so not had enough spare time to dedicate to the van. It is however still in our warehouse shop and to view if you wanted any help with the stages covered so far.
Hopefully we will be able to get some time on it over the winter and keep you all updated as we do.
We have purchased an extra long wheel base high roof Mercedes Sprinter for a display van in our shop
This is a non runner but the body is in good condition so a great base vehicle for a display conversion
We are going to convert this as a display unit to show how our products can be used and how we would install them
Probably one of the most important aspects, although most people these days will use some sort of computer drawing package Ken & Tom here are still old school and are convinced a tape measure, marker pen, pencil and paper are the best way to decide on their layout. Once they have decided on the main layout then measure it out and draw everything on the floor of the van to give them selves an overall feel for the room left in the van. (Not the most advance system, but here we bow to their experience)
We very carefully marked out the size for the cut out, in this case we are using a a Seitz S4 900 x 500 Window
For the Seitz windows the size you order is the hole size, so this needs to be a 900mm x 500mm cut out
We make a wooden template at 900mm x 500mm to draw round and ensure accuracy
Once we marked on the van the correct size and made sure it is level, we drill the corners to allow access for our jig saw
Then using masking tape cover the cut out and put plenty outside the line, this will stop the van getting marked with the vibration from the jig saw
Once you have the holes drilled big enough to allow the jig saw blade in you can start cutting!
We use a good quality normal jig saw with steel blades in, you will get through a few blades as the vans steel is tough, however doing it this way gives you control and is something most self builders will have access to.
Before you start cutting, just check 1 more time that you are happy with the markings on the van and then you can crack on !
Slowly cut through 1 side at a time and on the last cut have someone on the inside of the van to catch the cut out piece so it does not cause any damage when it falls.
We always advise cutting along the top line last so the panel can hold itself in position while you are doing so
Then you have your first cut out done! Now you can sit back and be proud of your achievement!
At this stage, as our van is inside we can leave the cut outs until we are ready to install the windows
Before we make the cuts for the rooflights we are going to frame the roof ready to take rooflights, fixings for top lockers & ceiling boards
As we have a high roof vehicle we can afford to drop the roof slightly, this will allow us to make a flat roof, making the finish look nicer and making it easier to fit furniture to.
You will notice in all vans there are the roof ribs which you do not really want to start cutting if you can help it
To make the flat roof, on the bench we make timber frames to fit between the ribs, this timber frame consists of 4 outside edges a couple of strengthen bars going across. There is also an additional blocks in the centre of these supporting the middle of the frames. We also add at this stage any additional timbers to allow for any rooflights or fixings for top locker to screw to.
With each frame it is a good idea to make sure they are running level as you progress, this will ensure you end up with a good looking finished product
For the rooflight themselves, we have made some sub frames which will be ideal thickness for the rooflights we are fitting. These then sit within our main frames to make the whole thing a complete structure
This seems like allot of work and we are aware others simply screw plywood to the ribs, but this allows us to have a flat roof which we feel looks better when finished and also much easier to get a good finish on the furniture.
As we are using White Lopez roof boards which are 4ft wide we also need to make there there is a timber at the 4ft mark to allow us to get a fixing for the joints between the boards.
We have listed this installation separate as it is different to the other side windows
As the finished wall thickness on the sliding door will be around 30mm then this install is particularly straight forward
We have previously cut the holes in the van (See stage 2)
We have then made a timber frame with internal measurements of 900mm x 500mm to match the hole in the van
This was made from 22mm thick timber framing
We bonded this in place from the inside with Sikaflex 512 (It is not a necessity to bond them in place, you can let the window hold it in position however we had time to let the glue go off before we needed to install the window) It also make the installing of the window allot easier as it is 1 less piece to have to hold into position.
Once this timber frame is installed we then cut some 6mm raw plywood to the shape of the inner panel, and cut the 900mm x 500mm hole of this plywood making us a internal timber frame
We then carpeted this frame using Beige Smooth Vel Trim and High Temp Spray Glue, by cutting the carpet bigger than the frame. Spray the glue on both the carpet and the frame, let the glue go touch dry and then bond the carpet and the frame together. We then cut the 900 x 500 opening out, and round the edges again glued the overlapping piece and the back of the timber and wrapped round. On the radius corners it is sometimes necessary to slit the carpet on the back edge to stop the carpet creasing.
We now have a neatly trimmed and finished panel, all we need to do now is place the finished panel in position over the timber frame, put a couple of screws to hold it in place then install the window
The Seitz S4 Windows do come with a rubber around round the outside edge so on a perfectly flat surface in theory you would not need to add any additional sealant
However as our door on this van in not perfectly flat and as it is important to ensure not leaks we add a good bead Black Sikaflex 221 to the outside frame of the window
We then got a second person to hold the outside frame into position while someone on the inside screws the inner frame to the outer frame using the screws supplied. This then traps between the inner frame and outer frame, the exterior metal of the van, the 22mm timber frame and the finished carpeted panel together making a solid and finished item
The Black Sikaflex does squeeze out of the edges of the window, this is a good sign as it is showing that the Sikaflex is making contact between the window frame and the metal of the van. To clean this up and rag, some white spirit and a bit of patience!
It is normally a problem installing Seitz S4 windows into panel vans as the ribs inside the vehicle, mean that your wall thickness exceeds the recommended thickness for these windows. However there are not allot of alternatives on the market so you will find just about everyone fits a S4.
You will see allot of people simply discard the screws provided and use longer screws to make up the gap, then trim the gap between the inner and out frame. The only problem this can cause is that the outer frame had a nice smooth surface of the blind and flyscreen to roll against this stops the possibility of them becoming un tensioned. It also goes against the manufacturers instructions and if there is ever a problem with a blind or flyscreen it may invalidate your warrnaty.
How we do ours is to make a frame from standard 25mm timber, in this case we are installing a 900 x 500 Opener, so the frame wants to be 900mm x 500mm internal.
We then build a sub frame from the 900 x 500mm timber frame, so our new sub frame finishes level with the internal ribs. What this allows us to do is recess the window into our walls and makes the frame surrounding this window flush with our finished internal wallboard.
We then bond the frames to the inner of the vehicle, (this is not really a necessity as the window will hold it in place, however as we have the luxury of time so we can bond overnight, meaning we do not need to hold it in place when installing the window)
As part of the frame and sub frame will be on show we have then lined it will some of the same wallboard which we will be using to line the whole vehicle, we do this before installing the window so it will fit nicely behind the frame rather than us cutting round the frame
All that is left to do now at this stage is again using Black Sikaflex 221 put a bead of the sealant round the outside window frame, get someone to hold the outside frame into position. Then from the inside locate the inner frame and screw together using the screws provided.
As easy as this screwing up of a window sounds there is still a nack to getting it just right, if you over tighten the screws then the blinds and flyscreen will not slide freely, so check after each screw that they are not causing any problems
You should also have some excess sealant squeezing out between the outer frame and the van, simply use a rag and white spirit to clean this up and point up the sealant
The electric on the vans can be quite involved so we have decided to show you them in stages, so firstly the 12V
We will be using Sargent EC155/EC51 control unit, this makes the job allot easier as all you need to do is run all your 12v and mains cables back to the unit and it does all the hard work for you.
We do the first fix electrics at this stage as it helps to have all the cables in before lining the van so they are all hidden. This does mean a good bit of planning is needed (But never fear you can always add bit at a later date) It would be better to get in as much as you can at this stage.
For all the lighting we will be using 12v 14 Strand cable
We are going to have 5 ceiling lights, 2 in the front, 2 in the rear and 1 in the bathroom. To achieve we have run 3 separate feeds from the Sargent unit out to these 3 separate sections. We will also have some down lighters in the under the lockers and above the kitchen unit, plus some additional decorative DOT LED's in the kickers of the seating area. We will therefore run 1 feed for all the down lights and 1 feed for the decorative DOT LED's so we can isolate these if required.
Therefore we have 5 separate runs from the Sargent unit to all the lights. The back ceiling lights we have run 1 cable to the first light, leave a loop, the run it to the second light and finish at that second light. (No need to return back to the unit as the cable is twin cable)
We repeat this again for the front lights
The same process applies to all the down lighters, run the cable to the first light, loop the cable at this light, run the next light and leave a loop and so on, finally finishing at the last light
This wires in very much the same way as the lighting, the only major difference is the size of the cable. It needs to be bigger cable as the draw on 12v sockets can be larger that lighting. Therefore we are using 12v 28 Strand cable for this, the plan is to have 4 x separate 12v sockets located around the van, because of the location of them we have decided to run them on 3 separate feeds form the Sargent unit.
We have 1 near the kitchen wall, 1 in the side of the kitchen unit accessible form the end of the kitchen unit near the sliding door, so we take the 28 strand cable form the sargent unit, loop it at the first socket and then finish at the second socket
The other 2 sockets are on the opposite side of the van and as they are far apart we are running these on separate feeds (Also as the feed for the 12v sockets is constantly live we will be using this same feed for some 12v items near by - See below)
The Sargent units have a dedicated connection for the pressure pumps so we will run a separate feed from the sargent unit to the pump using 12V 28 Strand cable.
We are using a 12v flush toilet so this needs a 12v live feed, as there is a 12v socket close to the shower room we can use this feed to connect the toilet form the same cable
As with the above toilet there will be a 12v socket near by, we will therefore use this feed to connect the 12v on the water heater
Again there is a 12v socket near by the cooker so we can use this feed for the ignition on the cooker
This is not close to any 12v sockets but still needs a constant 12v feed for the fan and igniter so will run a separate 12v 28 Strand cable from the Sargent unit to this
As mentioned in the 12v section of this stage we will be using a Sargent EC155/EC51, this will help us control all the mains and 12v electrics.
The first thing we did is work out how many mains sockets we wanted and their location, also we will need a mains feed for the water heater. On this van this is all we need on the mains side, sometimes if you are using a 3 way fridge you need a separate run for this or any other mains appliances you are planning on using.
Firstly the Sargent unit needs a mains feed, we have therefore cut a mains inlet into the side of the van and run 2.5 Mains cable from the inlet to the Sargent unit. We have decided to put the mains inlet on the opposite side of the van to the sliding door, as we will be adding an awning to this van we don't want to have the mains inlet on show if you are sat in the awning.
We have used a black Rectangle mains inlet, cut a hole in the van to the correct size and made a little timber frame so when we screws the mains inlet it has something to screw
We have taken some 1.5 mains cable form the Sargent unit to the first socket, leave a small loop of cable, then run this onto the second socket leave a loop and so on until you reach the final socket and terminate your feed at this final socket
This is again quite simple, we will be using a Truma Ultrastore, these come with a switched fused spur. There is cable coming out the side of the heater that needs running to the switch, then our feed form the Sargent unit also need running to this switch (We have used 1.5 mains cable for this feed)
Sorry the photos are not quite so detailed on this stage, however there is not really anything to take a photo of other than cables
We are going to use a Prostor 600 awning on this van a 4m with silver case
The brackets for the Mercedes Sprinter need to be bolted through the roof so we need to get this in position now as we are nearly ready to put the interior roof boards in. Once the roof is up we will not be able get access to the under side of the bolts.
Prostor sell a specially designed bracket kit to fit the Prostor 600 Awning to a Mercedes Sprinter, although they are specially designed kits, it does not fit quite as well as their Ducato kits so we have deviated form the instructions slightly
We have spoken to Prostor regarding their instructions, at present they do not intend to make any changes but hopefully some amendments will be made in the near future. (Having said that the kits are great quality, but instructions needs a little work)
In the kit you get 3 brackets (2 x large and 1 small) with a selection of bolts and screws, you need to position these brackets evenly. The front bracket we have positioned 300mm from the front of the awning case, the back bracket again 300mm form the back of awning case and the middle smaller bracket as close to centre as possible. (You many need to move slightly left or right in order to miss the vans strengthening ribs but as close this as possible would be ideal)
There is a void between the brackets and the gully on the van roof. Prostor supply rubber pads to fill this void, as there is a a curve to the van at the front brackets we only need 1 pad, at the rear we need to double up these pads. The intention is to position these pads in that void and bolt through the bracket, through the rubber pads & through the steel of the van, the idea being these pads will stop any potential leaks.
At this stage it is crucial that you make sure all the bracket are level if they are not it cause problems opening and closing the awnings as it become under tension.
So we have the brackets into position, we have cut the pads to size and thickness, we have checked that where we will be drilling there are not ribs in the way, so we pre drill the brackets, the pads then the roof. We then drill the larger correct size hole for the bolts supplied. Once we have these drilled we remove everything. Clean up to make sure there are not metal shards form the drilling and the area is clean, apply Wurth Bond & Seal under the pads, apply more Wurth bond and seal on top of the pads, apply more to to brackets itself then place into position. Finally before putting the bolts through we have added 1 more circle of Wurth Bond & Seal to where the bolt head will be sitting. We then drop the bolts through the holes and tighten up from the under side.
This does seem a little excessive however with this being a heavy item sat on these brackets there is the potential for these brackets to leak so we want to protect against this at this stage.
We then repeat this procedure for the other 2 brackets
Once your sealant has had time to set (Advise 24-48 hours) then get a friend to help you place the awning into position onto the brackets. These simply hang on the brackets, and then the additional fixing plate at the rear stop the awning from coming off the brackets
Insulation is one of the few items we do not sell and since looking into it for this project we realize why, its hard to find exactly what to use.
There are all sorts of insulation available, and all of which seem to have their positives and their negatives. After researching with several insulation companies and with the help from customers and the SBMCC forum we finally made a decision.
Initially we thought the bubble foil would be a great easy to apply method, however when looking into it in detail there appears the insulation properties claimed cannot be verified and therefore not suitable on it's own. However we had purchased the bubble foil before we discovered it.
We finally settled on Rockwool style insulation however they suggested that vapour barrier would be crucial to avoid moisture. as we already had the bubble foil here, we have therefore used the bubble foil as our vapour barrier and then the Rockwool for our main insulation.
The bubble foil we glued straight back to the steel of the van using our High Temp Spray Glue. As the foil is very flexible it easy shaped round the corners and shapes of the the van.
Next we used the Rockwool to stuff all the small crevices along the bottom and the top of the walls. Rockwool is easy to cut by hand using a sharpish knife, so we simply measures each crevice and then cut the Rockwool slightly bigger than the crevice to ensure a tight hold
Please note always ensure not to hide any cables that need to "pop through" for second fix electrics. Simply make a small hole in the Rockwool and pop through any cables as required
We then cut the Rockwool to size for the wall panels, using spray glue sprayed the foil vapour barrier and then stuck the Rockwool into place (The reason we glued it back was to ensure the Rockwool does not sink over time with the vibration of the van while travelling)
Once the majority of the van is covered we then used all off cuts and cut another sheet to fill all the very small gaps in between ribs
Not being insulation experts we are relying on allot of advice on insulation, however having spoken to Rockwool, Super Foil, 3M, Kingspan, the SBMCC plus some of the smaller converters who build 4-5 vans per year we feel we have as sufficient insulation for a van to be used within the UK's weather range
Now we have the insulation in we are just about ready to put the roof in.
This is quite a final bit so before we go any further we need to make sure we have all the cables in the correct positions, also the timber frames in our roof are going to support the furniture lockers so we need to make sure the timbers are in he correct place before putting the decorative board up.
We are starting at the front of the van, as we have used our own sub frames we have an end to work to, so we measure form here to 4ft (the width of the Balboa boards we are using) At the 4ft we make sure the 4ft falls on half a timber so when in position we can fix staple along the edge of the board to hold into position. If there is not a timber at the 4ft then we insert one now before it is too late.
So, we have all timbers in place, all cables in place now it is time to cut the board to shape, using home made timber props we get the board roughly into position and scribe around any odd shapes and edges.
Part of this board will cover the rooflight sub frame however this is not a problem as once the board is into position because we used a sub frame we simply router it out (See Photo 4) We have also made a small hole in the correct position for the lighting cable to pop through
Now the board is cut to shape, using the Wurth Bond & Seal we put a bead on every timber the board will be coming into contact with, position the board, pull the cables through and press up into position. While holding in place using our props we support the board on both edges. This then allows us to make small adjustment to make sure the position is final. Supported on the edges by the props, when apply some pressure around the middle of the board to make sure it is making contact with the timbers covered in the Wurth bond & seal.
Now we are happy it is firmly in place we can then secure the board by stapling the edges which will eventually be covered by D-Mould Joint Strip. We run a row of staples down both sides of the board.
As this board is covering a rooflight we can now router out the rooflight hole, using a router cutter simply run round the sub frame and it will give you a perfect finish every time. Once this is cut out we then staple round the frame of the rooflight to give extra support, and as it will be covered by the trim round the rooflight it will not be seen.
Now all that is left to do is keep propped over night to ensure the adhesive does its job. Then onto the next board!
Before & After
We are now ready to start lining the walls, we have all the cables required in, we have all windows cut outs and all other cut outs we will need (That we can think of for now, I'm sure we will have forgotten something!)
We start by lining with raw 6mm plywood, we then line over the top with 3mm decorative boarding, this way we have at least 9mm of fixing at any position on the walls. This is an advantage when fitting furniture and bits to the walls.
The 6mm plywood we have used is a finished decorative plywood (the only reason for this is is some old stock that we have had and it was cheaper than us buying in some alternative 6mm plywood)
The full boards are an easy job, the next few need some scribing and cutting, for example the board shown has to be cut round the water heater so we hold the board into position and scribe round the water heater. The next board is a little more difficult as it has the wheel arch in it. But basically the same process as shown, simply offer up and scribe round whatever your obstacle.
Finally we need to make sure any cables that need to pull through the boards are done, we need to make a small hole big enough for the cables and pull them through
As we have a nice flat roof on this job we can cut the boards to height as there is no scribing to do at the top or bottom.
Once the sheets are cut to size we can screw direct to the steel ribs to make sure we have a good fixing. As we are screwing to steel we need to pre drill the ribs, so we get the board into position mark 2 lines, 1 at the highest rib and 1 at the lowest then drill and screws along these lines. This gives us a good solid fixture on all wallboards.
As we have already made some "Sub Frames" for the windows we simply fit the boards over the window frames. Put a couple of screws through the board into the window frame to secure it into position. Then as with the roof lights we can then router the board out leaving a perfect finish
Now we have everything lined with our 6mm raw plywood we are ready to cut and fit the finished boarding
We have decided to use Balboa Wallboard, as it is a nice neutral colour that goes well with the woodgrains, it is also suitable for use in the shower room so we can use the same board everywhere on the van
So a similar process is used as with lining with raw plywood, however as this is the finished boarding we need to be a little more accurate.
As we have the roof as square to the base as possible, we can cut the boards to height, following the curve of the wall the height was 1905mm, we therefore cut the board to 1910mm hold it in position and scribe the top of the board to get a nice finish (See Photo 1)
We also scribed round anything in the way like the wheel arch and make sure it is cut as perfect as we can get it. We also make sure that we drill any holes for any wires than need to show through the board.
Next we put a even spread of Wurth Bond & Seal where the boards will be bonded and hold firmly into position. Making sure the beads of Bond & Seal are even to prevent any waves, apply pressure all over the board to make sure the board makes contact with the adhesive.
As the board shown is being fitted over a window so we need to cut round the window, as with he 6mm lining plywood we use the router for this. Because we have the sub frames already in place we simply take the router and trim the excess board away giving us a perfect finish
Finally making sure the board stays in position we staple where ever we can that will not be seen. So down the joints of the board (which will be covered by a joint trim) and round the window frame which will be covered with angle trim
Repeat this process down both sides of the van
Fitting rooflights can be complicated on panel vans, doesn't matter what base vehicle you use they all have ribs and ridges on the roof making the sealing of the rooflight difficult
We have to be honest we actually cut the holes for the rooflights right as the beginning of the build and have lost the photos so cannot show you these. However we will still talk you through how we went about it.
Step 1 is to measure, and cut out the rooflights. Once your design is final you can mark the rooflights onto the roof, in this case we are using
Fiamma Vent 28 in the shower room
Mini Heki Rooflight
Midi Heki Rooflight
For the Fiamma vent we need a 280mm x 280mm cut out, the Min Heki we need a 400mm x 400mm cut out and for the Midi Heki we need a 700mm x 500mm cut out
As we have already made sub frames in "Stage 3: Roof Lining" we already have the timber lining for fitting the rooflight. So all we do not is drill the corners with a small 3/16" drill bit, we then use a larger drill bit to make the hole big enough to fit the jigsaw blade through. We then cut along the lines between the holes using a Jigsaw (Fitted with steel cutting blades)
So for example now there is a 400mm x 400mm hole for the Mini Heki rooflight, which has a 25mm timber frame on the inside.
The biggest problem we have is the ribs on the roof, this is the same on all panel vans, they all have different shape ribs on their roofs. How we ensure that we get is seal is to build up the valley between the groves using PVC window boarding. This is almost perfect thickness to make the valleys between the ribs the same height the peak of the ribs.
Once we have all these cut to shape and size, making them wide enough for the lip of the rooflight to sit on we bond them into place using Wurth Bond & Seal and use clamps to hold them overnight while the adhesive goes off.
Once set we have as flat a surface as possible to bond the rooflights onto, we apply mastic sealing tape to the lip on the Heki rooflight, then drop this into position form the top, pressing down firmly to make sure we get connection between the mastic and the roof. With the Mini Heki there is a fixing plate on the inside, so we put this in place and screw together the inner and outer from the inside. Always trying to make sure we tighten each screw evenly to get even pressure. This will force the mastic to make a seal with the roof and give us a seal.
Now finally to make triple sure we do not get a leak we point up and fill any of the very small gaps with some more Wurth Bond & Seal, then apply a bead to the edges of the Heki lip and our PVC packing. We also apply a bead to the edge of the PVC packing lip and the roof. Then using a white spirit dipped finger we point up to make it look as nice as possible. However with the rooflight not being seen the seal is more important than the look.
All that is left to do now is clip the decorative blind and flyscreen to the fixing plate using the clips provided with the Heki rooflight. Please note we will be trimming round the sub frame when it comes to fitting furniture later in the build.
As the base plywood is down and clean we are going to use the existing plywood base.
A few people do fit the lino after furniture has been fitted, however we feel it better to fit at this stage, as it gives a more professional finish when looking into bed seats and lockers that the floor flys right through. (Also although very slight it does add as a bit more insulation)
We cover the floor in 6mm raw plywood to give us a nicely finished top coat with a smooth finish. We then top this with lino flooring.
The only thing we have had to make here is a small box, as our kitchen will be flying over the door some of it will hang over the recess for the step. So all we have done is made a small box which sits in the step and helps supports the kitchen unit. We then make this floor level with the rest of the floor and cover with the 6mm plywood.
Fitting the 6mm floor plywood is pretty simple, all we do is cut to width of the van and scribe round any shapes & wheel arches in the way. We then fix this into position using staples.
Next step is to cut the lino roughly to size, then using our High Temp spray glue bond this down on top of the plywood. As you go simply cut to shape along the walls and round the wheel arches. (Nothing too special here just simply fit the lino to the plywood base best you can)
We have our floor fitted we have our wall lined now comes the building of furniture.
We have decided to use our newest colour range Amati Walnut wood grain, it is fast becoming the more popular colour and we personally think it gives a much nicer, warmer finish.
With the layout we are having we intend to have a waist high, full width rear panel as the end of the beds, so this is our first job.
To get the correct shape cut we firstly decide on our height and using a plywood off cut and a strengthening timber to hold it in position we make a complete rear template. Once we are happy with this we we can copy this template onto our 15mm furniture board.
Cutting the front panel of the bed is simple enough, going form our layout drawing we know the overall finished width of the bed so cut to width and then simply cut to the desired height using our bench saw.
The opposite end to the back panel we need a "bed end", this is again made from the 15mm furniture board scribed round the wheel arch cut to desired shape and size and then finished with knock in edging. Firstly we scribe it round the wheel arch, as this bit will not be seen we do not need to be mm accurate here , however as a matter of principle we do like to get it as close a finish as possible. Once we have the scribe we to desired height and depth and put a smooth radius on the external corner so we can finish with our knock in edging. To fit the knock in edging we use a 2mm route cutter and cut a 2mm groove in the centre of the boarding, the plastic tee edging then knocks in and hold into position thanks to the barb on it.