“An active mind can not exist in an inactive body”
We were fortunate to find a 2020 Renault Master LWB courier van with 8000 klm and still under warranty for an extremely good price. It was then a matter of planning out the conversion and ordering the components. We are of the mind if it can be reused, recycled or reinvented we will. We also knew that we had a very tight budget, short on time and we only had limited skills. We are not builders or tradies.
Taking all of this into consideration we read many blogs and watched hours of YouTube on Van Conversions, the things that came to the forefront with all of these builds was the need for careful planning from the outset of power source, storage, weight, ventilation and insulation without these components carefully considered our Van just wouldn’t be liveable. No different to living on a boat or planning a container house really.
Buying items on eBay and MarketPlace may save you money but it takes time to find the right stuff, research prior to looking was the key. This was in our favour as Karen could research, look for items, purchase and then store them awaiting the building phase. For example we knew the installation we wanted to use and waited to find it, when it came available on Marketplace we bought 11 bails, mmmm a few to many for the van conversion. We purchased the 11 for $100, saved 2 for us and sold 9 for $250 within 2 hours. Bargain! and so it continued.
We are not cabinet makers and new our limitations in this area. To have that professional finish to the van we needed to concede somewhere that we couldn’t totally DIY. This is where flat pack furniture came into our build. The only items of furniture we built from scratch was the water tank / seat, fridge box / seat and the annex box. All other items, kitchen, overheads, storage boxes, and garage storage were all prefabricated that we could alter to suit our needs. We sourced kitchen cabinets from IKEA and the overheads from Kmart.
When it came to the fit-out, the framing timber was much cheaper from a lumber yard than from the local Bunnings, however the ceiling tongue and groove proved cheaper from Bunnings. We searched internet wholesalers or secondhand for just about everything else. The lining boards for the walls we went straight to the manufacturer and we were surprised at the number of alternative profiles we had to choose from. The stove we had picked out Karen sourced on Marketplace in a Camping Bundle. For $300 we got the stove, camping chairs and a whole bunch of other stuff that we have on sold leaving us with the stove and Chairs and money in the bank.
There are some items in the build where we needed the professionals regardless. If we wanted everything legal for our modification plate, registration and insurance. These items are our 240 volt and 12 volt electrical systems, and gas lines. Now some of the prep work we did do ourselves. We ran all electrical wiring and had the professionals check it prior to wall linings going in and the the professionals did the final fit off for legal requirements, but it saved us $$$$$. The gas lines needed to be done by a licensed gas fitter, but we fitted the gas locker and insulated the stove recess ready for installation, again this saved us lots of $ in hourly fees that a qualified person isn’t required for.
The items we didn’t scrimp on were the electrical and plumbing systems. After lots of research we went with the Renogy Energy system DC/DC, 2000w Inverter/charger, Solar Controller and the new technology 400W SunPower Maxeon all hooked up to our 200 amp hour Invictor Lithium Battery and smart charger alternator. After living on a boat for 10 years, we have discovered the importance of living off grid, power and water you can not do without. On the boat we have our own desalination unit but in the van we have maximised the space in one of the seats for 166 litres of water. Yes its not a lot but with good water saving techniques this will give us enough for our requirements.
There was a huge debate on whether to have a shower and toilet onboard. We certainly like the idea of the convenience of our own facilities, however it comes at a big price. That price is on space. As we wanted our bed length ways in the van we were already taking up extra floor space. Karen could not get her head around a slide out toilet into the galley area or standing in the mud for a shower.
This is where thinking outside of the “Box” helps. Our fold down slide out ensuite was developed. We constructed a fold down deck that incorporates a shower tray that can drain into a grey-water tank.
The shower screen is your typical camping foldout screen with the base securely hooking onto the deck providing privacy and water protection to the inside of the van. The joolca instant hot water system hooks onto the barn door, quick fasteners for the water and gas are at the back of the van.
The toilet when required, simply slides out into the shower screened area, again giving you the privacy required. We feel we have developed the best for both needs, when required we can utilise our own facilities without taking up valuable floor space internally. But the coolest thing about the deck is we can back into any parking bay, fold down the deck set the table up and take in the view.
What about wet weather guys? Again in our research we fell in love with the barn door annex and imported one directly from the UK. It sets up in 12 minutes provides a secure anti room plus an extra room for the ensuite. It can easily be unhooked from the van and you can drive away, tour for the day and return to your reserved camp spot.
Weight was a huge consideration throughout the build. Two things we found were critical, insuring that the weight is distributed evenly and that we allow weight for the extras we are bound to carry. Flat pack items are an easy way to calculate weight as each items weight is clearly listed on the box and in many cases we found that the weight was on the webpage in the items description. This was mighty helpful when deciding on the kitchen cabinets. For example under the bench we were planning on having two sets of narrow drawers. But two sets were heavier than one larger set this we were able to calculate prior to ordering.
Our intention was to do all the planning, research and ordering before we were in a position to start the build. We would have all the components ready to go, eliminating delivery delays. This worked great in our circumstance with the actual build only taking 8 weeks.
So now that we are on the homeward stretch we are starting to look at our options for our first road trip. Stay tuned for the fun to begin ❤️🚐❤️
We plan to do a walk through video so watch out for it in coming weeks.
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We love to read your comments if you have any questions pop them below, we will be sure to get back to you.
If you are interested in the products we used on our build on our product page is a list. Many of these items we sourced secondhand, others we purchased from the manufacturer or retailer. We have found them online and listed them for you. Some of the links supplied we have an association with and we will receive a small commission if you purchase through the link, but it is free to look and do your research 😊 we can not promise all links to work as retailers may remove items, but we will do our best to update them 👍