If Vaniel were a cheese, he’d be Swiss: A build update

From zero holes in the van to three, it’s been a productive few weeks so we’re checking in with a build update. With the holidays, we haven’t been at our usual six days/week routine but we have gotten a fair amount of research and prep work done on our “off” days. While progress may feel slow at times, we remind ourselves that any job worth doing it worth doing right. There are thousands of steps in the build process. Every step we take, every move we make, every single day, every time we …wait, where was I? Oh yes, the build update. Every step in the process requires a lot of behind the scenes work: researching the best products to buy, learning the proper install, and lastly, the install itself. Sure, we could have outsourced the van build to someone else, but where’s the fun in that? (Also, it’s a lot more Benjamin’s).

So! With those disclaimers out of the way, let’s dive into what this dynamic duo has gotten done since the last update:

Install a roof fan: Our first hole! A little nerve-wracking but not bad! Thankfully, the directions that came with the fan were crystal clear, making the install of our Maxxair fan quite simple.* The fan is installed above the bed and can be set to intake or exhaust to help move air through Vaniel (fresh air, or uh, *cough* Colin’s air…).

Finalize insulation: With the roof fan installed, we were able to finish our polyiso insulation work on the ceiling and upper corners. We also added thinsulate insulation to our wheel wells. Vaniel is going to hold in some HEAT!

Install our heater: Speaking of heat! Colin hooked up our Webasto heater. Webasto is pronounced “wuh-bah-stow” for most of the world, but “wah-BASST-oh” to Chicagoans. The install was no small task as the heater connects to the fuel line under the van, requiring a new hole in the floor of the van and the removal of our heat shield and catalytic converter.* The heater is located underneath the passenger seat and we’ll route the heat into the main cabin to keep us nice and toasty. The only downside I foresee here is that my excuse for not getting out of bed as early as Colin is now removed. The heater shall be my best friend and, yet, my worst enemy.

Wheel well boxes: With the wheel wells now insulated, we needed to cover them up to help protect them. The boxes will also come in handy to maximize our garage storage efficiency. Lastly, the passenger side wheel well box was built a little bit longer so it could hold our water tank.

Mount fresh water tank: In order to help us stay off-grid for a longer amount of time, we opted for a 25 gallon fresh water tank. This water will be used for our sink, drinking water, and external shower. How long will it last us? Well, we’ll have to wait and find out together. 🙂 Weighing in at a solid 208 lb’s when full, we needed to make sure that if another deer unexpectedly jumps in front of Vaniel, the water tank won’t go anywhere, unlike my underwear. Colin worked his construction magic with aluminum brackets and more.* It’s going no-where!

Install our window: Let there be light! And one less blind spot! While we want Vaniel looking as stealth as possible, there’s no denying the benefit a big window can bring to a tiny home. There’s also an air vent at the bottom of the window to help us move air through the van. This eliminates the need for two roof fans – and it brings us light, win win!

What’s next?: Solar panels, electrical, plumbing, ceiling, etc. With that said, plans can always change; we’re learning as we go and damn, there’s a lot to learn! Stay tuned for the next build update; until then, we’ll keep cranking.

*Colin provides a very technical build update on the tried and true Promaster Forum. This forum has been an irreplaceable tool for us in our research and planning. If you want to learn all the nitty gritty details, check it out here.

Author: Lisa

Over one year in van life and loving it. Hiker, rock climber, novice mountain biker, and professional napper. Official “documenter” of our time with Vaniel. Favorite podcast: Stuff You Should Know.

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