Nissan NV Stealth Camper: The Floor

WICKHAM CP, FL—It’s hard to believe, but it took me a full eight hours to lay in the floor. I’m starting to understand why Glenn was so often off in his Vanagon conversion estimates. Still, I wasn’t in a hurry. Usually when I don’t know what I’m doing I just sit down and stare and wait for an idea (a whisper) to hit. So subtract a couple hours if you know what you’re doing. More below the break (huh?).

Cardboard Template For Doorway

Cardboard Template For Doorway (from the rear)

I used cardboard to create templates of the various curves around the side door and wheel wells. This turned out to be easier than I expected and gave me confidence when I was doing the actual cuts to the plywood—knowing that since the template fit, the wood should too.

Results From Using Template

Results From Using Template (from the side)

As I was working on the templates, as I was cutting the wood, as I was laying the pieces in and screwing them down and admiring the progress, I realized that I felt good. It’s rewarding to see what was become what is—to see new form and function evolve from something more primitive.

Tools Used To Lay The Floor

Tools Used To Lay The Floor

I used the above tools to install the floor. One of my goals is to only use tools that I can easily carry with me, and the Craftsman Bolt-On System is ideal for the RV’er/Van Dweller. Black & Decker also makes a set that is compatible with the Craftsman (my sander is Black & Decker and fits my Craftsman Bolt-On… handle—whatever it’s called).

I gotta tell you, being able to swap out any of the power tools in less than a second is very handy. It is nothing to go from circular saw to saber saw to sander like that. Bang, bang, bang.

Notice I also use two batteries. When the one I’m using dies, I stick it in the charger, slap in the second and continue with what I was doing. The dead one would be fully charged before the new one was used up. I never had to wait on the batteries to charge.

I used two sheets of 1/2″ pre-sanded plywood for the floor. To attach the wood to the deck, I used these Teks 1 7/16″ self-tapping wood to metal screws. What is nice about the NV (and maybe other vans, I dunno) is that the body lies on top of the (about) 3″ frame and all the other stuff under the van bed lies below the frame (including the don’t-drill-a-metal-screw-into-the gas tank). This gives you about three inches of a safety zone so that you can drill into the floor without too much worry (I did a quick eyeball check each time anyway).

I had considered insulating the floor—laying down bubble wrap under the plywood—but (and this is where the Mystic and the Mind often argue, though in this case they agreed), in the summer you want to block the heat (block the heat coming in through the roof) and in the winter you want to retain the heat (block the roof to hold the heat in), so my mind said “Screw it, the floor’s irrelevant” and the Mystic—listening to Her whispers (see below)—said, “Screw it” so I screwed it and didn’t put down insulation under the floor.

She's An Excellent Carpenter

She’s An Excellent Carpenter

Turns out, during this project, I had an occasional assistant—She (if you don’t follow my blog, you might call Her “God” but that’s only half accurate…) helped me out a couple times. The photo above is a piece of scrap wood that was left over from some prior cuts. Notice how the width of this piece of scrap wood fits the template exactly. I didn’t have to cut the width at all—it was perfect. There were two other incidents like this, the first I just wrote off as coincidence, but after the second occurrence it became apparent that there was more going on here than just random chance. When it happened a third time, well, I just had to take a picture of it. Pretty cool, right?

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10 thoughts on “Nissan NV Stealth Camper: The Floor

  1. If you go to http://www.skoolie.net/forum/ you will find a wealth of information about how to convert a vehicle to a motorhome. Yes, this site is dedicated primarily to school bus conversions, but the concepts are the same. You may prefer to reinvent the wheels for your own reasons, but I thought I’d send you the link anyways. Regarding the insulation of the floor, I think most people on that forum would not agree with your logic. There is a reason refrigerators and ovens are insulated on all sides. Without insulation under the floor, you will have cold feet in the winter, and heat gain in the summer. For insulating a floor, people almost universally use rigid foam insulation (like this: http://tinyurl.com/qa9rlud) of the the greatest thickness they can afford, given headroom issues. By the way, I’ve been reading your blog periodically for some time. I’m also a spiritualist and vehicle converter (though I try not to identify myself with these things, ha ha). I have a bus that I have converted to a motorhome. I used red rosin paper and 1/4″ thin insulation under my floor due to headroom issues, but I wish I had more room for thicker insulation. Perhaps “she” agreed with your non-insulating thought for reasons other than practical climate management, but if you want to be comfortable and not have condensation problems, I would suggest you pull up the floor and put insulation under there.

    • Thanks Dan. Pulling the floor up is really not that big a deal, just a few screws. Still, I don’t expect to live in really cold weather. When it gets too cold, I’ll just head south (or back down the mountain).

      I’m expecting this first build out to be quite temporary, with most things easily removed, so if I do need to add insulation under the floor, it shouldn’t be too much trouble. Here’s hoping not. 🙂

  2. Looks like you’ve made a great start on your conversion, Wayne. I’ll have to keep that toolset in mind, in case I do any reconstruction in the future. I like the idea of snapping everything in and out of one power handle thingie.

    Don’t take nine months on this like Glenn did! 😉

    • Thanks Ted. My schedule is to be out of here by October 1 (a little over a month). A quick, temporary build, a month or two on the road, then a more refined build (maybe, and if I need it/feel like it).

      Hope to meet up with you on the road someday. I follow your blog!

      • I’m sure we’ll bump into each other eventually. Nearly did in late spring. Just as you changed heading to Florida, I started off from Oregon to northern NM where your original plans had you going. Almost like you were avoiding me. 😉

  3. I think you’ve got it pretty much figured out! Floor: Perfect. 1/2″ plywood provides plenty of insulation for your needs. Roof rack: Yup. You can order the desired size from any of several online metal vendors if you can’t find it locally. As narrow as 1″x2″x10′ rectangular aluminum tube for the side rails and 1″x1″ for the cross members to support the solar panels. Be sure to verify the height of the sides by putting a (2″ in this case) block on either side of the van and running a straight edge across – you don’t want to be .001″ too short 😉

  4. I agree with the fellow about insulating the floor.I ruminate as well, thinking and looking at what the project is. It works for me, my boss hates it when I take to long. Sometimes days. I have for 22 years installed radios and safety equipment into police vehicles, crown vics mostly. I understand greatly the looking under the vehicle to check for space for the self tapping screw. Every time. Also I consider the battery powered tools as one of the greatest tool advancements for obvious reasons. Lastly I have for years referred to myself as spiritual but not religious. So all the writing you do is good with me.

  5. Why not use the cardboard pattern for insulation? Sorry if this is a silly question, but I am very interested in becoming a van dweller and want to learn as much as I possibly can before I try to sell my house and make my commitment.

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