White light district

Timing is everything. As I stumbled in late from work the other day, Paul called out, ‘Great timing, I’m just ordering the lights for the campervan. For the entrance, I was thinking red would look good, to match the cabinets?’

Thank Crunchie I sneaked through that last set of traffic lights on amber.

‘Or blue, to match the curtains?’ he asked hopefully.

And breathe.

‘Red to match the cabinets or blue to match the curtains?!’, I may have shrieked, while having visions of pulling up at our first campsite under the disapproving gaze of seasoned caravanners curiously trying to work out whether we’re a fifth emergency service or mobile brothel.

Now usually of course, the key in all successful partnerships – be they in life or in campervans – is to compromise. On other occasions, one exasperated shriek is all it takes. Without further ado (and in the rather fortunate absence of a purple lighting option) we ordered white lights. The surfer-chic dream is still alive.

The ceiling lights are very cool. You operate each one individually just by tapping it – once to switch it on, another to dim it and a third to turn it off. It’ll come in very handy when we want to create our own mood zones in different areas of the van, although until I finish the curtains, romantic and atmospheric will have to be the default as the full beam is visible for miles around.

On the subject of curtains, well some familiar obstacles have surfaced – namely my uncooperative sewing machine and complete lack of sewing ability. Oh to have some more cushions to tackle – they were a DODDLE in comparison.

Post edited to add: if any of my fellow campervan diy-ers are still persisting with this blog in the hope of finding some useful tips (firstly, well done), we bought the lights from www.qled.com.au. They do a huge range of styles and colours. Each ceiling light is wired into the 12v battery via the main control panel, and the entrance lights are operated by their own retro switch – just to the left in the photo.

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A breath of fresh air

When we first started building the campervan, a popular discussion was whether to install a pop-up roof to give us some extra head height inside. Actually, I’m not sure it ever really evolved into a discussion as such, it was more a case of:

Me: Please can we have a pop-up roof?

Paul: I’m afraid not.

It would have been a huge and expensive job to raise the roof, and seeing as we’re never going to spend a lot of time meandering from one end to the other, it’s been the right decision.

Yesterday though, we did enjoy a brief taste of vertical freedom, and were momentarily permitted to uncurl ourselves out of a nicely perfected stoop and stretch out to full height.

Admittedly it was a bit restrictive, and we couldn’t move our head for fear of being garotted but it was exciting nonetheless.

The hole is for our ceiling ventilation fan, which will provide a welcome through-draft during the summer months. Our fan is a Fiamma Turbo Vent P3.

So, how to install it:

  • Measure out a cardboard template to make absolutely sure the hole you’re about to cut in the roof of your van is the right size.
  • Draw around the template on the inside ceiling, and cut a 50mm diameter hole in each corner with a hole saw:

  • Using tin snips, cut out the rest of the hole according to the template.

  • Position the fan in place on top of the roof.
  • Drill 20 holes, 5 down each side, through the frame of the fan into the roof. Remove the fan.
  • Rust proof all the cut edges and exposed metal around the hole with a heavy duty primer.
  • Squeeze plenty of silicon around the edge of the frame and around the hole itself – we hopefully used enough to withstand a Queensland summer storm.

  • Place the fan in position on the roof with the hinge at the front (to stop it flying off when you’re whizzing along) and use stainless steel bolts to fix it in place.

At this stage Paul was on top of the roof screwing the bolts down while I was inside holding them from underneath, and trying to dodge the long drips of silicon that squirted through every time he put a screw in. (I can attest to its waterproof qualities though, it is still adorning my hair three showers later).

  • Wire the fan into the 12v circuit via the master switch.

You turn the handle to open up the roof, then switch it on. Ours provides an amazing breeze and should cool the campervan down pretty quickly. It does sound like we’re about to take off if we turn it up very high, so it’ll be interesting to see if we can use it at night.

As the pictures above show, Paul has now also insulated the ceiling using the remainder of the flooring insulation, so thankfully our hair no longer starts to sizzle when we bump into the metal ceiling. Next stage is the lighting!