Joe+Van

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Van Build: Flooring

The flooring was the first thing I tackled in building out the van. Since I had been dreaming about doing this for a couple years, I already had a good idea about what I wanted and how to do it, so I stopped at Home Depot on the way home from the dealer and picked up the materials to get started.

Here, I elected to just use some pseudo-wood, laminate flooring on top of a subfloor and underlayment, but, like any part of the build, there are a few different ways to tackle this. It just depends on what you need. Because I am afraid of trapping moisture and creating rust, and because I will be in moderate climates, so I decided not to insulate the floor and went a more minimal approach. (I talk more about the insulation in the next post).

Flooring

Materials

  • Subflooring
  • Underlayment Material
  • Flooring

Tools

  1. Subflooring

    The purpose of the subflooring is to simply provide a level surface for the floorboards to rest on. Lucky for me, my van already had a 1/4" plastic floor cover in the rear. I am not sure if this was an optional, or just comes standard, but I decided to use it.

    Alternatively, you could put down sheets of about 1/4" plywood, or thicker if your floor isn't completely flat. Some people choose to also insulate the floor, below the subflooring, and if you'll be in any colder areas, I think thorough insulation is probably a good idea. But, the more material on the floor means the more lost vertical space in the van: Adding another 1/2" of material on the floor means that I would hit my head that much more ofter. So, since I am just planning to stay on the west coast of the US, which has very mild temperatures year round, I skipped the extra step.

    van flooring
    The rear with the 1/4" floor cover peeled back. I dried and cleaned the metal floor beneath it.
    van flooring
    Blank slate.
  2. Underlayment

    If you are using laminate flooring, you will probably want to put down underlayment material between the base and the flooring. Depending on the flooring you choose, though, you might be able to skip it, as some laminate flooring has it pre-installed with the flooring pieces.

    If you are using real wood, then here's the first link I found on Google for installing them, but I have only installed wood flooring a couple times and am not willing to offer any advice.

    I chose this underlayment. I am not sure how much of a difference it makes in a van, but the choices for underlayment vary in sound insulation, heat insulation, and waterproof properties. I chose one of the more sound-dampening ones that is also waterproof, to avoid any mold or rust from condensation or a spill.

    Whatever underlayment you choose, just follow the instructions to attach it. I also used some duct tape in a couple places just to make it easier to work with.

    van flooring
    With the underlayment out.
  3. Flooring

    Now for the fun part: Install the flooring on top of the underlayment. To start I laid out the pieces to get an idea of the textures and colors, and roughly situate them how I wanted, since each flooring piece is a little different. Next I just started in a corner and worked my way left-to-right, and front-to-back, starting each row with the piece cut from the end of the previous row. This kept the seams pretty scattered.

    van flooring
    Laying out the pieces to get an idea of the colors and textures. We also had just removed the plastic wall covers.

    Around the wheel-wells I used the jigsaw to notch the flooring, but the whole process is pretty simple; sort of like a big, easy jig-saw puzzle. There would be more work with real wood flooring, which might be another reason to stick with laminate.

    Unfortunately I did end up with an awkward gap at the rear. One too small to rip a flooring piece to fit, yet large enough to be noticable. Since I only open the back when I get climbing gear out, I don't mind, but if you take more pride in your carpentry skills than I do, then you might want to measure the length of the floor-covered area, divide by the width of the floor-boards you are using, and ensure you start in a sport that will give you a decent finishing length.

    van flooring
    My brother being super helpful.
    van flooring
    Finished floor!

Total time for floor: 3 hours.

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