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.