Making Progress on the Van

We’ve both been busy for over a month now on our van. After the initial hassles of buying it and worrying whether we made the right choice we got right to it. We ended up with a 2008 Dodge Sprinter, with about 90k miles. The body was in decent condition (although there were some small rust spots), and the engine checked out fine when we got it inspected at the local Mercedes dealership. We took out all the interior paneling and floors, so we started with a bare metal shell.

Progress has been slow, with lots of trial and error, but I suppose there is no other way on the first DIY conversion. Trips to Home Depot and Lowes are happening almost daily. Here’s a quick list of things we’ve done so far:

  • Fixed the right headlight, which had about a half-quart of water in it. After the Mercedes dealership quoted us nearly $500 for a new one, we took out the headlight (you have to remove the grill and a metal brace first to get to the screws) and then saw that a plastic cap was missing in the back. After drying the light for 2 days and ordering a spare plastic cap, turns out we fixed it for $15.
  • Installed a Fan-tastic Fan. This was scary as we had to cut a hole in the roof. We followed instructions from the sprinter-source forum, which were incredibly helpful. We still have to install the auxiliary battery, but it’s ready to be hooked up.
  • Had an additional window installed. We bought a CR Laurence window with vents, and found a cheap one at
  • Replaced the stock flooring with our own. We used 1/2 inch plywood, with wooden slats to account for the larger grooves in the sheet metal floor of the van. We also added rubber mats at the bottom to reduce noise and provide some cushion. The plywood was painted with Redgard for water proofing. We’ve added sheet vinyl to the floor for now, but may make some changes there.
  • Insulated the van. We wanted to go with non-fiberglass insulation, so recycled denim was the material of choice. Unfortunately we had to take a 2-hour trip to get it. The material was easy to work with, as you can rip it apart by hand. The denim was then covered up with plastic sheets (4 mil thickness) as a vapor barrier. We put 1/4 inch plywood on top to cover up those parts of the van that will be behind furniture. For the ceiling we used insulating foam, since it was easier to attach.
  • Installed sound proofing. We bought Fatmat Rattletrap (Amazon), which seemed like it was the best value for the money. The stuff really works. We applied it to the rear wheel wells, the foot area of the driver and passenger seats, and parts of the wall panels. The van is now a lot more comfortable to drive, noticeably quieter.
  • Constructed a bed frame. Our inspiration came from an Instructables guide, which is awesome. We used the same 2×3 inch studs (turns out 2×3 inch means 1.5 x 2.5 inch in the US!), but our bed frame is about 40 inches high to allow for bike storage underneath. The bed frame has been really solid so far, and probably even provides some stability to the van.
  • Installed a safe. We bought a cheap one from Amazon, and bolted it to the frame of the car. Another scary moment to drill through the metal.
  • Made window coverings. They’re made from Reflectix (Amazon)and we used rare earth magnets (Amazon) to stick to the frame of the car. Eventually they’ll be covered in cloth to give the van a more cozy feel.

Right now we’re working on making furniture – it’s all custom to fit specifically for the frame we have built.

It’s been a huge learning experience for both of us so far, since we both spent the last few years in front of computer screens rather than making stuff out of wood and metal. But it’s been a lot of fun.

Posted in Van Information.


  1. Aloha! My husband and I were wondering what shower solutions you have preferred and if foregoing a toilet has been worth it. We were thinking a composting setup but wondering what you have found most beneficial? We love your design by the way! And absolutely adore you for the cook book compilation idea!! Bravo!!

    • It varied by location. In the US, we never really missed having a toilet. In cities you can just go to public restrooms or fast food places. Internationally its a bit more difficult in cities, so having a toilet is a nice luxury to have. Out in the woods we’ve never missed having a toilet. We’ve seen others who just used a bucket and plastic bag setup, I think that’s something we would consider. Putting in a full toilet just seems to use up too much space for what you get, but it depends on your preference.

      We took a helio shower (link in the gear section) with us on this trip, but frankly hardly ever used it. There’s usually plenty of shower opportunities in camp grounds, truck stops, sometimes even at park headquarters. Mostly we just used those. It was just easier to do that than having to heat up water to fill the helio shower.

  2. Hello, so my boyfriend and I are converting a Sprinter van right now. We are in the process of laying down the plywood floors. We used 2 layers of insulation. The first layer is Reflectix (we used spray adhesive to keep it in place), then on top of that we did a layer of 1/2 inch foam board insulation, and the 1/2 inch layer of Plywood. So all in all everything is a little over an inch thick. We were wondering what you think is the best way to put the floors in place. We’re not sure whether we should use screws, if so do you have a recommendation as to what kind we should use, or if we should use some kind of adhesive instead?
    Thanks so much. Cheers!

    • Savannah,

      Thanks for your question, and great to hear you decided to take on this project. We didn’t pay nearly as much attention to the flooring as you did – that said, yours will probably turn out much better than ours. To the extent you can, I would just use the existing bolt holes from the aluminum track and tie down hooks to attach the floor. You can use metric bolts that are available in any hardware store. If you combine it with some form of adhesive (that doesn’t melt at 100+ degree temperatures), you’ll probably be fine. We just bolted down the floor, and it worked fine.


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