Presenting… our diy campervan

Well the deadline was Christmas, and apart from a few final tweaks, our campervan is finished. YAY!

The festive corner

Fridge nicely stocked

We still need to finish some edging, paint the inside of the back door and make some tiebacks (ribbon will do for now, in keeping with the season) but this can all wait until the Christmas break.

Of course I’m biased, but I think Paul has done a stunning job – the van is unrecognisable from its days as a minibus and I can’t wait for lots of campervanning mini-breaks.

And the maiden voyage is not far off; we’ve booked one night on North Stradbroke Island at a beachside campsite called Adder Rock. We’re hoping the name is not prophetic, but just in case we’ll be requesting a pitch far from any rocks.

We’ll let you know how it goes. Merry Christmas everyone!

Who knew making a wooden seat could be so complicated?

Well ours has been very complicated, but having spent the last couple of weekends playing with hinges and bolts and sliding locks, Paul has now fixed and secured all the campervan seating. Let’s hope we’ve finally seen the last of the comedy seesaw moments.

The seats needed a bit of adjusting from their original position to allow for a 28mm overhang all around to protect the cupboard doors underneath. Once the seating panels were all screwed down, Paul turned his attention to the backrests.

Because the engine is underneath the driver/passenger seats, we had to hinge the backrest behind the cab to allow the front seats to still lift up and provide access to the engine.

And because the backrest doesn’t lean up against anything, Paul also fixed a small arm hinge at the side and a sliding lock at the back to strengthen it when it’s in the upright position.

The other backrest also had to have a sliding lock behind it to stop it falling forward. It’s this backrest which pulls over to form the bed support, and it’s really quite heavy to lift. To make this job a bit easier, I did attempt to fashion a handle out of a few scraps of gingham I had lying around (as you do). Unfortunately though, while clearly very beautiful, my handle was not up to the job and suffered major structural failure on its first outing. We might just buy a metal one from Bunnings.

The final stage in the seating was to make a trap door (with fully functioning custom-made handle) above the battery compartment to give easy access to all the electrics.

Here’s the bedding configuration:

The kitchen work surfaces are also now secure, having been screwed down to the cabinet shell underneath with small right angle brackets. Paul fitted a gloss white side panel onto the cabinet containing the fridge, and added a water indicator, which will link to the fresh and wastewater tanks.

Then on the outside of the van behind the fridge cabinet he fitted an air vent:

We also saw the first splash of red above the fridge:

So the seating is completely finished. Stay tuned for phase one of the plumbing!

Converting a campervan – our favourite Google searches

If you have arrived at this post from Google or ‘another leading search engine’, I am wondering if you’ve found what you were looking for. When I first embarked on this blog, I had the rather lofty ambition of producing a kind of campervan oracle for people tackling similar projects. I have a sneaking suspicion that something has gone awry along the way. To test this theory though, I have developed a (not at all egocentric) fascination with the WordPress stats page. This is where, under the dubiously respectable guise of ‘professional interest’, I can find a list of search terms that have led people to this blog. (Fear not, I can only see the words you typed into Google rather than your postcode or inside leg measurement). Theoretically, this should tell me the topics that fellow campervanners need help with.

Interesting things I have learned:

  • There is definitely demand for a blog solely about campervan toilets. They are remarkably popular.
  • Campervan cabinets seem to be the nemesis in most people’s campervan conversions. (Just go to Bunnings!)
  • There is surprisingly high interest in gingham curtains. Maybe we could form a clique.

Some of the search terms have actually provided great inspiration for our own project:


‘DIY campervan bath’
– Now this is a fantastic idea, seats are overrated anyway. A bath would neatly fit in the living area and would require no cushions!

‘Tiling a campervan bathroom’ – what, the whole thing? That is dedication. I was planning to just stick a few mosaic tiles around the sink but maybe we should put a bit more effort in.

‘DIY slide-out room on campervan’. Now there’s a thought. I quite fancy a study. Unlikely though, seeing as I’ve been campaigning in vain for a slide-out roof for several months.

Some search terms have been more concerning:


‘Mould in campervan toilet flush tank’
. Hmmm.

‘Campervan toilet won’t flush’. Oh dear.

‘Campervan toilet still won’t flush’. This person was getting desperate.

‘Campervan toilet leaking water on floor’ I’m hoping that Google swiftly directed this poor person to a mop and bucket and they’re not now standing up to their ankles…

I also feel I might have lured some unsuspecting audiences here under false pretences, because quite a few people have arrived at the blog having googled ‘calming colours’. This must hark back to our early interior design plans to create a zen like atmosphere; I’m sure anyone hoping to be faced with a calm and serene environment beat a hasty retreat at the sight of our eventual fabric choice. Hopefully the people who googled ‘fun campervan upholstery’ left feeling a bit more fulfilled.

Over the course of the project I’ve tried to include most of the popular themes along the way, but there are some specific questions that keep popping up, so I’ll try and answer these in separate blogs. First will be how to attach cabinets to the shell of the campervan. After that, I should finally be able to report on the electrics because after several weeks surrounded by wires, apparently we’re almost powered up.

Incidentally, if you are converting your own campervan and have any questions or comments, please post them here!

Ps Thanks for everyone’s comments and messages about the cushions; I’m under the impression you’re getting a bit concerned. Luckily I’m not the sort of person who turns into a procrastinating perfectionist when faced with a bit of pressure* and I’m making steady progress. Photos coming soon!

*this might not be completely true.

The quickest route to a relaxing weekend?

Straight down the Pacific Highway, of course. After a busy few weeks at work, Paul and I had been craving a quiet, relaxing time over the five-day Easter break. So I think we were both a little surprised to find ourselves not heading to the coast, but ensconced in a crowd of other frazzled couples being herded along the pathway at Ikea. A pathway from which there is no escape. No early exit strategy. Everywhere you look people are frantically searching for a little pink card that says ‘Move directly to marketplace. Do not pass go. Do not collect £200.’

Anyway, the plan was to look for a wooden work surface for the campervan kitchen. This was an about turn really; we’d always been keen to avoid the traditional pine look that you see in so many pictures of converted campervans, and were planning to use a pale laminate for the kitchen surfaces instead. But Paul loves working with wood, and was concerned that the interior was starting to look too white and sterile. I am inclined to think once we introduce the red cupboard doors and stripy seat cushions it’ll be hard to see any white, but I do quite like the idea of a solid wooden surface. Like one huge chopping board. So we’re hitching a brief ride on the pine-look bandwagon and have bought an Ikea Lagan worktop. It was almost 2.5 metres long, weighed over 30kg, and only just squeezed in the car (barely leaving room for my Ikea purchase: a single fluorescent dishwashing brush, which was looking a bit forlorn at the bottom of my huge yellow bag).

Paul’s cut two pieces of wood to fit each side of the kitchen and has given it about five coats of timber oil. He chose a Danish wood oil in the hope it would get along nicely with its Swedish wooden companion.

Wood before being oiled

In other news, Paul’s been doing some finishing touches on the cupboards and has boxed in the wheel arch at the back of the main kitchen cabinet, using the same laminated wood he used for the walls.

He’s also completely secured the toilet to the floor, which I am relieved about because I find it quite a comfy place to perch while Paul’s working, and as our driveway is on a slope, I was always in slight danger of sailing off down the van. Fixing the toilet was quite tricky, we couldn’t get long enough screws to drill far enough into the floor, and the limited space in the base of the toilet made it awkward to get the drill in to screw down. So Paul went underneath the van and used long bolts to drill up through the base of the van and through the floor, and secured the bolts with nuts in the base of the toilet.

Finally, the prize for this week’s most interesting photo surely goes to:

This is the steel box that Paul has resized for the gas bottle, so it will snugly fit our 2kg gas bottle rather than the 9kg one it was intended for. A bit of hacking and a lot of sticking has saved us sending the original box all the way back to NSW.

Earlier this week we had a bumper delivery from Caravans Plus which included a stove, kitchen sink and roof fan, so Paul’s going to tackle some of those this weekend.

A final word about gingham curtains

I’m sure there are plenty of craft blogs out there and I have no intention of turning this into another one. However, at the risk of confusing everyone who arrived at this blog having Googled ‘how to fit campervan cabinets’ (and alienating everyone else) I am going to indulge in one final post about my affiliation with gingham fabric.

A few weeks ago, I bought some beautiful red gingham material, which would be perfect for the quintessential campervan curtain.  Since then, I have been looking, unsuccessfully, for some upholstery fabric to match.  The stripy fabric that Paul’s so keen to use for the seat covers would clash horribly. Plain red fabric would work well with the gingham, but next to all the red cupboards might create an ambience more ‘brothelesque’ than would be desireable.  So I have reluctantly admitted defeat. There will be no gingham in this campervan. We have bought the bright stripy fabric for the seats and I am now on the search for a plainer fabric for the curtains.

So this picture is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it means I finally managed to thread the bobbin on my new sewing machine and produce something resembling a tissue case. Hurrah! On the other hand, it means that my beautiful gingham, which had so much potential, is destined to spend the remainder of its days protecting packs of Kleenex.

So put your orders in now while my bobbin is still in place. I have samples of gingham fabric in red, lilac, navy, black and lime green. How I ever thought lime green curtains would match red cupboards, I’m not sure.

Another day, another trip to Bunnings

This morning, like most Sunday mornings this year, started with a trip to Bunnings. Indeed, Paul even leapt out of bed saying, ‘Got to get up, got to get to Bunnings’, with the sort of enthusiasm usually reserved for those days when you’re hoping to find an overflowing stocking at the end of your bed.

For people reading this blog overseas, Bunnings Warehouse is a chain of massive DIY stores. They have a sausage sizzle at the entrance and a cheery lady in an apron who welcomes you in. Paul visits at least twice every weekend. And not just because he doesn’t get fed at home (he doesn’t always have a sausage) but because he usually gets sidetracked and forgets something, so has to go back.

Although I probably don’t approach a trip to Bunnings with quite the same vigour, I still tag along every couple of weeks. Last time I spent the time wandering the length of the aisles trying to work out how many products they must stock. A serendipitous visit to their website later revealed the answer – it’s over 45,000. So there you go – it’s very big, and if you’re into DIY, it sells absolutely everything you could want. I am not into DIY, and still usually end up with an armful of treasures I didn’t realise I needed.  The trouble is, Bunnings uses the same technique as Ikea and places all the intriguing and bargainous bits at the end of the aisles. You know this is a cunning marketing trick. You know that you don’t really need another miniature torch for your handbag or any more self-cleaning eco mops, but somehow, they find their way into your basket.

Anyway, there was a point to this post, which is that so far, we have bought almost everything we’ve needed for the campervan from Bunnings. Along with three torches, this has included:

All the cabinets

Laminate flooring and insulation

Bathroom sink

Waste water and fresh water tanks

Panels for bathroom walls (sold as pantry doors)

3,000 jigsaw blades

Initially we thought we’d have to get most bits from independent suppliers and caravan stockists, but they’ve been much cheaper and more readily available from Bunnings. We’ll still have to buy the specific electrical parts from a camping store, as well as things like the water heater, but if anyone is approaching a similar project, try a DIY store first before spending a fortune at other places.

Having spent the morning extolling the virtues of Bunnings, I think I will email them now in case they would like to sponsor my site.

Campervan layout – a feat of architectural design?

Before we started work on the van and it was still an empty shell, it was hard to imagine we’d be able to squeeze in a kitchen, bathroom and living room without it all looking very cramped. Yet somehow, now the furniture is in and the walls are up, it’s like our little minibus was always destined to be a cosy campervan. Everything just fits. It is compact and bijou! Clearly all those Thursday nights we’ve spent watching seven series of Grand Designs have been worth it – Kevin would be proud! (Actually, Kevin would say it could have been even better if we’d employed an architect, but never mind.)


The internal structure is quite defined now, and the walls have gone up between the bathroom and kitchen. Paul bought these as pantry doors and used a cardboard template to cut them to shape around the side of the van. The bathroom door will be a bit trickier. Ideally we’d want a rectangular panel that slides across the gap, but the position of the wheel arches on either side means it could only open half way. So the options are to fit a double door that opens into the bathroom, or hang a few strings of beads. That one’s still on the drawing board.

 

The toilet and bathroom basin are now bolted down, and the back of the toilet is fixed to another panel to facilitate the rear-entry swivel benefits, as shown below.


The seating is coming along, and the next stage will be to construct and fit an extra horizontal panel that will hinge out to form a bed. This has been a more contentious issue than you would probably imagine, and the subject of many robust discussions between Paul and his various campervan advisers. Whichever method he chooses, it’ll be one of the next jobs.

A lot of the work coming up will be less visible and includes the wiring and electrics. My sewing machine has now arrived and I may attempt another place mat before launching into the cushions. Thank you to everyone who has expressed a preference for a particular fabric. Surprisingly, almost everyone chose the same one.

(I suspect a conspiracy.)