90,000 Miles to Me

The Walls

Next came the walls. I like the look of wood, but the pictures I have seen of it from other van conversions, while gorgeous, seemed a bit overwhelming to me in the small space of the van. I also wanted something lightweight, which wood is not, and something that looks homey, so not an industrial look. I went through a number of traditional and weird ideas before settling on this one. Maybe it also belongs in the weird category, but maybe it will turn out to be brilliant, too. I’m honestly not sure myself yet.

The basic idea is that I needed something relatively firm to cover the walls, both in order to provide an extra layer of support for the insulation, should my other adhesive measures prove insufficient, and to provide aesthetic properties, and maybe as a surface to hang a few light decorations.

I settled on hardware cloth bolted to the wall frame. I grew up in a house with a seamstress, so calling anything metal “cloth” bothers me, but that is the official name for this stuff. It is basically wire mesh, like chicken wire, that comes in rolls. I got the biggest rolls I could find.

The hardware cloth is the giant roll on the top. The smaller roll below is also a wire mesh that I found cheap at the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store—by the way, a great place to shop for conversion stuff, I got a lot of things there—but it kept fraying and I took it all out.

Instead, I used leftover pieces of cork to cover the holes in the bottom of the wall and the top ribbing to keep the cellulose in place.

The pile of floor mats is holding the hardware cloth up so that I can screw it in.

Here is the hardware cloth up close. It is bolted every six to eight inches around all sides and provides a sturdy, firm frame.

One side finished, it looked like this.

The thin strips and small pieces of vinyl scattered around are another great find from the Habitat Re-Store. It is vinyl stripping for the thresholds of doorways that they had a huge lot of, and I got in order to fill in the ribbing in the flooring. It turned out to be useful for all sorts of other odd jobs around the van, too. Here it is acting as makeshift washers because my screw heads were slipping through the hardware cloth and I didn’t want to go to the store again or spend the money, so I improvised.

The cellulose insulation in the walls is now finished as well, filling in all the wall cavities. Soon it will also be stuffed into the ceiling ribbing, capped in with more cork scraps.

The white tube at the top of this picture is housing for the solar panel wires. They come in at nearly the center of the roof, under the forward panel, and go through this tube, along a rib and into the wall, down the wall and back out the bottom of the wall, where it will plug in to my battery system.

So the framework is up, but it isn’t exactly pretty. To get rid of the industrial look, I covered it in two layers. First, a layer of quilt batting for added insulation and to soften the texture of the wire when I touch it, covered with a layer of canvas. I had a bunch of canvas from an old project that didn’t work out, so cut it up and repurposed it for this. I also dyed it blue to give an impression of the sky.

It turns out that in dying large, sheet-sized pieces of cloth, it is really hard to get a consistent color. I used my bathtub, as the largest vat around, but it still ended up blotchy. According to many other people on Youtube trying similar things, that is normal unless you have an industrial operation.

However, I really like it this way. It gives even more of an authentic feel for the sky than I had expected, and no two parts are the same. It also took a lot of ironing.

Here is the first layer, the quilt batting, in progress. After dying the canvas, I dunked the batting in the bathtub of blue dye before draining it, for no good reason other than it was there, but it didn’t absorb the dye very well. Doesn’t matter; it won’t be seen either way.

I sewed the batting and canvas to the hardware cloth along the entire top and sides, and then tied it to the frame at intervals of about every six inches across the entire cloth.

To tie it, I used waxed 100% cotton thread from my bookbinding supplies. It is very sturdy and not likely to come out anytime soon.

Once again, here is an example of keeping multiple steps in mind at all times.

I couldn’t just sew the entire batting and canvas to the frame at this point, because the bed frame will need to be bolted directly to the wall of the van, and if I sewed it all down now, I wouldn’t be able to see where to make the holes for the bed supports and would have to take my work out to do so.

So I had to switch gears briefly and cut and install the bed frame supports now, then I finished the wall and will come back to the rest of the bed later.

The other side.

The cloth did get tucked in nicely around the wheel well, I just don’t have a good picture of it.

So these are my walls. They are extremely light, extremely thin, and very sturdy. Only time will tell if this was a good idea, but so far (about 10 months later), they have worked very well for me and still look great.

On to the ceiling.