Building Out The Ford E250: Floor Is Down. Sorta.

Floor is down. Sorta.

Disclaimer: I have no idea what I’m doing. Not a clue.

There was only one thing that I knew I wanted in my new-to-me van build – a hardwood floor. A nice floor. One that would make me feel connected to nature when I stood or sat with my bare feet touching its planks. A floor that was durable, sustainable, and could take the punishment of living on the road.

Typically when people think of putting floors in their vans they usually think of using vinyl because it’s cheaper and easy to take care of. But you know what? I’ve been living this way off and on for over thirty-five years and this is my third, and possibly last, van that I’m going to build out, and, dammit, I deserve a nice floor!

Most people probably first think of oak floors when they think of hardwood. I’m so over oak. It’s a nice floor to have in a house. It might even be nice in your van. But after spending a lot of time looking at wood floors, every day all day for about a week, it came down to bamboo. I don’t know why I didn’t immediately choose bamboo. I love it and have often visualized using it in my non-existent dream house.

I bought the flooring at my local Lumber Liquidators. I know. Everyone was concerned about the formaldehyde and outgassing. But seriously, I let the boxes sit open for a few days, and then decided that if the floor was the first thing I was installing, the planks would be fairly aired out by the time I was finished with the bed and ready to move in.

The floor of the new-to-me van seemed fairly flat at first. Until I laid a plank across it. Crap. I needed to level that out a bit. I was thinking of laying the boards across the van instead of lengthwise, thinking they would be more supported by the metal floor underneath. The guy who sold me the flooring said I would waste a lot of wood that way, and probably even need an extra box, so I set on figuring out how to level the floor a bit and fill in those gap valleys in the metal.

At first I thought of using wood slats in the gaps. But the sides of the gaps were angled and it was difficult to size – once getting into working on the floor I realized that the gaps were all shapes and sizes and wood was just not going to work. During one of my trips of wandering around aimlessly at Home Depot looking for solutions, I realized that I could cut up some vinyl mat – not only would it fill the gaps fully as they would be cut for each shape, but
it would give a little, as well as insulate both sound a cold.

So the first part of the job was filling the gaps. I actually glued the vinyl mat strips into the valleys with E6000 so they wouldn’t slip out.

Once that was down, I laid down a single layer of moisture barrier layment – more so the floor wouldn’t rattle against the metal than for insulation, but also to protect the metal against water damage. The wood floor could always be replaced, but to replace the metal underneath is not so easy.

Once the layment was down, I took the lumber guy’s advice and installed the floor lengthwise. It was easy peasy, locking planks. I had to make a few cuts around the wheel wells and the gas tank, and those took forever considering that I was using only hand tools. When I had the floor completely laid out, there was an overhang out the back door. My neighbor saw me contemplating how I was going to cut it and got out his miter saw and made some quick chops for me. I even have a few planks leftover for making steps for the cargo bay doors.

The lumber guy also told me to make sure I left room around the edges for heat and cold expansion and when I asked him if I should bolt the wood to the metal he looked at me quizzically. I decided to run an piece of aluminum stripping along the front a back edges and will also run one along the steps when I make them. Kind of like weather stripping, but not. Eventually I will screw each end of those to the metal floor so the floor doesn’t skid forward.

A lot of builders would have created the walls first, but I knew what I wanted on the floor, and not so much on the walls. I wanted to get to work, so I went with what I was sure that I wanted.

Poll: Cultural Reasons For Traveling

We all travel for different reasons. I love to just walk around new places and explore, stopping in to galleries and museums as I see them, trying out the menus at local eateries and cafes, and investigating history at archaeological sites.

If you are a reader of this site, you probably do too.

Take the poll – choose as many answers as fit your style!

What are the cultural reasons for your travels?

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Add to the discussion in the comments area below. The reasons for traveling are usually not cut and dry – tell us about what you like to do when you are out and about!

Poll: How To Publish Press Releases?

One of the main goals of artist-at-large.com is to inform travelers of exhibitions, performances, and cultural events that will be happening at their destination. I go through phases of publishing the press releases that I receive from galleries, museums, festivals, etc. I usually publish only the meat of the release in the content, and then separate out the locations, dates, and time.

As someone who has written press releases in the past for other’s projects, my understanding is that the press release is just a release of information, for a publication to use as they wish – reference for an article, or as a complete post in and of itself. I have never been emotionally attached to the press releases that I write. I always wrote them to be used by whoever wanted to use them.

So that’s how I felt about the press releases that I received. Use them. The galleries, museums, festivals, etc. will be happy for the coverage.

Until I was accused of plagiarism.

So instead of sorting through the press releases and picking out the troublemakers, I decided not to publish them at all and give the galleries, museums, artists, festivals, etc. their own place to publish their own announcements. But only a few have taken me up on that offer.

So here is the poll.

Given that I only publish the meat of the release – I cut the first and last paragraphs – and I do the translations on the foreign language ones that I know – and sometimes I will edit into plain English from the ArtSpeak – here are my poll choices:

What should I do with Press Releases?

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Please add your comments below. Seriously. I am very confused about how to use press release announcements.

Poll: Field Trips

I’ve been thinking, for a long time actually, of doing simple walking “tours” of certain neighborhoods in San Francisco with the focus being on sketchbooks and photography.

One of the neighborhoods I’m thinking of is Chinatown because it is so full of energy and color, but also North Beach and the Ferry Building Farmers’ Market. We’d meet at a cafe and then wander around for a couple of hours, working in our journals or taking photos, and then go to a restaurant or cafe for lunch and a sharing of our images and findings.

So here are my questions:

Would you be interested in a sketchbook/photography walk in San Francisco?

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What is your creative interest?

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Which day/s of the week would appeal you? (Pick as many as you like.)

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I am thinking of doing this as a morning to lunch walk. Would you be interested in evening walks?

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How much is too much? I am considering a donation range + lunch (pay for own lunch). Group would be limited to 10 persons.

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Let me know what you think, and anything else can be added in the comments!

Starting Out With The Vanlife: The Build Out

The Escape Pod
The Escape Pod

Thirty-five off and mostly on years of camping and living the vanlife is no joke. I never really thought about how long it has been for me living in my pods until I noticed that on twitter and youtube the vanlifers seem to take pride in how long they’ve been able to sustain living in their nomadic vehicles.

It’s a thing now, this vanlife. This nomadic existence.

I had always thought that one of my missions in life would be to teach people how to live in vans, off the grid, once the shit hit the fan. Given the climate, the economy, our political situation, and the seemingly devolution of humanity, I didn’t think that this would be too far into the future. But it seems that the future is now.

As our climate changes, and the poles shift, and the next mini ice age comes upon us (no kidding, all of this is happening as you read this) the people who are well adjusted to a nomadic lifestyle are going to be the survivors. People are going to have to move with the seasons to find food, and sustainable weather.

I was thinking of actually doing in person workshops, but the youtubers beat me to it. There is no end of youtube videos about living the vanlife – build outs, day to day stuff. I even made a couple myself, but I haven’t really gotten into it. It didn’t seem like what I had to put in a video was all that important. I’ve got vanlife down. Nothing really changes. It’s difficult to know what people want to hear.

Plus, I’m better at writing.

It seemed most appropriate that I start off a vanlife series with considering a build out – the layout and materials used for turning an empty van into a home.

The first thing you want to consider is your simplicity or complexity factor. I’m all for keeping things as simple as possible, at least in the beginning. You can always add as you go along. I’ve done more than a couple of build outs and nothing is more depressing than when I realized the design in my head, the one that I built, doesn’t really work for the day-to-day living experience.

Start out with considering your bed positioning. In many vans this is almost a no brainer, given the width and height of most vans. But even so I made my first mistake with my first bed install. Considering the inside of a VW Bus tin top, I built a single bed platform that I installed along the wall, with my head right behind the driver’s seat. What was I thinking?

The obvious place to build a bed platform in a VW bus is over the engine compartment, with the head at the back hatch door. This means that because the engine compartment will be supporting half of the bed, you can use lighter plywood (I think I used 1/4 of an inch), and that you can put a single bed on it and use the extra platform as a base for shelving or storage. Or you can use all the platform space with a double bed.

The weight of wood that is used in a build out is important. Wood is heavy. But it is our standard material for building. The heavier the wood you use for your build out the lower your gas mileage will be. This is why tongue in groove knotty pine, while being really pretty, is probably not a good choice for flooring, walls, or ceiling. There is a reason why RVs use a lot of particle board in their buildouts – and while particle board is really cheap (in all meanings of the word) stuff, it is lighter in weight than solid wood. So think about what materials you can use for your build out that won’t add a lot of weight to the vehicle.

Instead of thinking “This Old House” remodel, think NASA.

When I think about getting a new cargo van and building it out into a more sustainable nomadic home, one that I can stand up in, I think about what alternative materials might work … Instead of plywood wall panels, why not masonite? It’s thin, strong, durable, can be painted, and if it’s just varnished, it’s a really nice chocolate brown color.

Do you really need permanent flooring? In my VW bus I have the original metal floor, with the original rubber mats (or at least they were the mats that came with the bus when I bought her in 1996), and on top of that, I have a bamboo mat that makes it seem like I have a bamboo floor – but it is removable should I ever want to switch it up. It also only goes between the cab area and the bed frame. Underneath the bed is just the rubber mat which is just fine for the plastic storage boxes to sit on.

One thing you really don’t want is carpeting. It traps dirt, moisture, and bugs.

I am based in California and never do snow travel so the lack of floor insulation is not a problem. If the floor and my feet are cold, I put on my slippers.

Considering environmental issues. I tend to like to be as environmental and eco-conscious as possible. Even though my house uses gas to run, I park and walk as much as possible. I try to use recycled materials or hand-me-downs if I’m building something. I go for quality over cheapness.

The order of building things is up to you. I put in my bed first, so that I could start living and traveling in the pod immediately and then added things as I went along. But I haven’t added much. I think it took me two years before I bought a cooler and a camp stove. My space is pretty much just a rolling bedroom.