I used 80/20 half profiles for framing my van to keep the conversion robust and lightweight. I thought it was a better option for durability, since driving vibrations would wear wood connection points down much faster. I would really like to prevent my van coming apart, and this seemed like the way to go!
Though it is more pricey and required a larger time investment, I am happy to have this as a skeleton of my van. In the case that I ever need to change or replace something in the van, I believe this make it a lot easier to do.
Total Cost: $
Total Time (hrs):
* Disclaimer: This page contains various affiliate links that provide a small kickback to me, at no additional cost to you.
The framing was done over a collection of different days, and in between other van projects. It was honestly pretty cumbersome, I found the holes to be difficult to drill with a hand drill, and my tolerances were off a good number of times. That said, I'm still happy I did it.
I occasionally got some help from willing volunteers -- since I wanted to minimize steel chips getting everywhere in the van, vacuuming while drilling was pretty important. I went around the van and marked off all the holes that needed to be drilled, and my mom carefully held the vacuum for me :o)
When I was flying solo, I also used a magnet to help catch the chips. I wrapped it in plastic wrap to make getting the chips off the magnet a little bit easier.
Once I had the holes drilled to the correct size, I installed riv nuts in all the holes. The lower framing of the van has 5/16 - 18 riv nuts, while the upper framing has 1/4-20. I used larger riv nuts for the lower framing since it would be supporting significatly more weight than the upper ones would.
I had a couple of different ways of trying to mark hole placements on the 80/20 half profiles. One of them was using masking tape, punching out the holes through this, and then transferring it onto the extrusion.
Here's my little drilling stand I made out of 4x4. I have to say, these 4x4 have come in EXTREMELY handy during my build. I use them all the time when cutting large sheets of plywood too. They are just the right height to support plywood on the ground, but still give my circular saw and jigsaw enough clearance to cut.
I used a 80/20 drill jig to make all the holes. Without this, making the holes would have been near impossible for me. I had to additionally drill them out from the back with a larger drill to accommodate the 5-16 bolts.
My first piece of framing was a success!
Looking at all the framing for the lower half was a bit overwhelming:S
I got excited to have the two sides up, and decided to test out my bed support structure. I could hang off of and sit on the middle bar shown here without issue!
Lower framing of the van complete!
Now comes the framing for the paneling. I was only planning on using the half profiles to support cabinetry and anything that is load bearing, but I still needed a way to attach my paneling. Some people do plywood panels and attach them directly to the wall, but I like the look of paneling and the cabin-feel it gives.
I bought some 5mm plywood from Lowes, and cut it into ~3in strips.
I also bought these aluminum sheets from Home Depot. I also cut out 3in strips from this using shears, and then adhered the plywood to it using 3M Contact Adhesive. Since the plywood is super thin, I wanted an additional layer for structure and to drive screws into and make sure they don't wiggle themselves out.
I drilled holes in the van and placed riv nuts in vertical lines. I then used transfer screws to mark the location of the rivnuts on the back of the plywood, and drilled out and countersunk those holes.
I was then able to attach each strip to the rivnuts directly. Doing it this way allowed me to create additional attachments points for the paneling, which otherwise would have needed to go long spans unsupported. It also minimizes the total number of holes that need to be made in the van (read: rust points), and is #supergoodenough for the lightweight cedar I was using.
For the ceiling, I similarly created the same plywood+aluminum assembly and mounted it to the ribs with rivnuts. I think this is about as minimal as you can possibly make a ceiling in the van! My friend who is 6' is able to fully stand up :o)
Here's what the paneling looks like as it's going onto the framing.
Click on the image above to go to the full data base.
The Notion Board is my brain-dump database. I've been keeping meticulous track of every purchase, complete with receipts.