90,000 Miles to Me

Adding the Floor and Carpet

With all the metal and most of the woodwork finally done, with no more shards of materials or hard tools to fall on the floor and damage or dirty it, I finally put in the flooring.

I’ve watched a lot of van conversion videos on Youtube and read a lot of those blogs, and gotten some great advice from them, but could never figure out why so many of them put in the floor early on, especially if they put in wood flooring. Tools will drop on it, sawdust get in the cracks, coatings or adhesives drip on it, all of which has the potential to damage and dirty the very nice floor that took so much work to put in.

Which is why I saved this step for as late as possible.

Installing the floor went like this:

  1. clean and degrease it again
  2. put in carpet and cut it to fit
  3. remove carpet
  4. seal carpet with AFM Safecoat Carpet Seal
  5. slather the entire floor in two coats of metal protectant
  6. cut and insert vinyl strips to fit in between the floor’s ribbing to level it out
  7. add another layer of metal coating over the vinyl to seal it all in
  8. add insulation
  9. then finally put in the carpet again. Floor done.

Putting carpet on the floor instead of something easier to clean may turn out to be a mistake, but I like the feel and warmth of carpet and its sound-deadening properties, and am willing to do what I have to do to minimize dirt.

It has been about ten months now, and the carpet still looks great because I don’t track in much dirt or mud. I got used to taking off my shoes and boots in the doorway—the wide step is my “mud room.”

I used a sheet of foam padding that came with the solar panels as a kneeling pad to move around the carpet, working in two coats of the carpet sealant. The carpet was a remnant from a carpeting warehouse that let me have it for cheap just to clear out some old stock. I couldn’t afford the non-toxic or natural carpets, and carpets are full of nasty chemicals, so I compromised on sealing them in.

Coated with the metal protectant, the floor was tacky even after dry. I tucked up the edges of the walls so as not to get black gunk on them.

I needed something to fill in the gaps between the floor ribbing that would not hold water if it got wet, so wood was out. I found these vinyl strips, meant for the thresholds of doorways, at the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store.

Every single rib section was a slightly different width, and cutting them all hurt my hands, but it finally got done. It’s not perfectly level, because I ran out of the vinyl strips and my hand ached too much to want to go get more, and I was running out of time anyway, but it is pretty close and doesn’t bother me when walking on it.

After this I put in the insulation layer and then the carpet went back in.

I had planned on insulating the floor with the same cork underlayment that went in the walls, but used more than expected on the walls and ended up resorting to anti-fatigue floor mats instead. It doesn’t meet my non-toxic requirement, but at least I coated it in the carpet sealant and it is covered by the carpet, so I shouldn’t be breathing it in.

In hindsight, this is one of the few things I wish I had done differently, or at least I wish I could easily fix. The floor mats provide a little cushion, but very little insulation. It is probably better than having the carpet directly on the metal floor, but not by much. This didn’t bother me until late fall, at which point the floor got really cold and partially defeated my other insulation. I could touch my walls in the middle of the night and they weren’t very cold at all, but the floor would be radiating cold just like the windows.

Someday, when I have the energy and will, I will get around to taking everything out of the van, pulling up the carpet, removing those floor mats and putting down a much better insulation—maybe cork, like originally planned—and then put everything back.

For now, it is on to building the rest of the inside.