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Old 12-28-2017, 04:06 PM   #1
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Making a larger rear-door storage area: Project write-up

I love the door storage cubbies with drop-down cabinet doors that SMB builds into the Ford E-vans. It's a great use of space that is otherwise wasted. The barn door cubbies have a lot of room, but on my van the rear doors had limited room (driver's side) and none at all (passenger side, due to the license plate area and lock mechanism).

Years ago I relocated the rear-door speakers to the front face of my rear cabinets (for better sound). Doing so left voids where the OEM 6x8 speakers were, and I've always thought that space could be used somehow. This write-up covers how I enlarged the existing driver's side rear cubbie to a much larger size. It's not terribly hard, but does take some prep and cutting of sheet metal, etc. This assumes that you do NOT have a speaker located in the rear door and can use the space.

Materials needed:

1. Piece of wood to serve as cabinet drop-down door. My van has oak-style cabinets, and 1/2" stained oak plywood matches almost perfectly.
2. Thin wire rope (cable) and crimping loops for drop-down door/shelf supports. I got this at my local Ace Hardware store. Get enough for two supports to support the larger-sized door.
3. Very thin foam or some sort of other thin padding (goes between wood door panel and outer fabric layer).
4. Gray felt, to line interior cavity of door.
5. Spray adhesive (to install #3 and #4)
6. Push-in panel clips, to match your OEM clips. Most of mine were older and broken anyway, so this was a good chance to fix.
7. Small piece of 1x3 pine, if you want an interior shelf (note: I'm pretty sure it was 1x3, but it may have been 1x4 - double check door cavity depth to be sure)
8. 3/8" screws to attach wire rope to drop-down door. Longer screws to attach interior shelf to sheet metal.
9. New fabric for the outside of the panel, if you don't want to re-use the existing fabric (I reused it due to time constraints, but at some point will likely put new vinyl fabric on if I can find stuff that matches).
10. 1/8" wood underlayment or similar, for new door panel.

Tools needed:

1. Jigsaw with good metal-cutting blades (or other tool to cut the metal interior door skin).
2. Panel removal tool (I use basic, cheap ones from Harbor Freight) or large flat-blade screwdriver to pop off the existing trim panel.
3. Staple gun and staples (short, like 1/4" or less) to attach fabric to panel.
4. Power drill/screwdriver, drill bit(s)
5. Sharpie marker

Procedure:

A) Preparing the door opening

1. Remove existing door and trim panel, hinges, screws, etc. I didn't do a "before" photo, but it's not too hard. Sometimes SMB hides screws in places that are hard to find, so take your time. Put all take-off pieces in a box so you don't lose any!

2. Decide how big you want the open space to be. In my case, I wanted as large of a door opening as possible, as I planned to store by 30-foot 15-amp electric cord in there, as well as water hose, tow strap, etc. That said, don't make the door TOO large, as you'll still want some "overlap" interior space to help retain the contents (in other words, if the door is the same size as the cubbie, everything will fall out when you open it up).

3. Carefully mark off the area to be cut with a Sharpie marker. I used the existing cut-out and just enlarged it. Drill holes in the corners to facilitate cutting with a jigsaw.

4. Cut the door opening to size. File rough/sharp edges, and paint the cut edges for rust prevention (they will be covered by fabric and/or the door panel and won't be seen).

5. If you want a divider shelf in the cubbie (recommended), take the 1x3" piece of pine and cut it to length. The depth of the 1x board should be the same as the door cavity depth to the FRONT of the metal door skin. Notch out two "ears" on the left and right of the shelf so that it tucks in behind the metal door skin. Test fit the shelf, but do not install yet.

B) Finishing the interior space

1. Apply the felt to the inside of the door cavity using the spray adhesive. This was a bit of a challenge, as the getting the felt to apply straight and not get all sticky was hard. Take your time. On my van there were cables that run up the inside of the door to the lock mechanism, which made the install not quite as clean (see the bunched-up felt in the top left of the interior photos). Just cover them up as best as you can. Wrap the felt around the cut edges for a finished look.

2. Apply the felt to the divider shelf using the spray adhesive.

3. Locate divider shelf where you want to install it. Drill two holes in the metal door skin on each side to secure the shelf. Install two screws each side.

[ CONTINUED BELOW ]
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Old 12-28-2017, 04:09 PM   #2
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C) Creating and installing the door panel.
Note: this assumes you are building a new panel; if your existing door panel is in good enough shape, you could just reuse that, too.

1. Deconstruct your existing door trim panel. If you want to reuse the outer fabric, be careful removing the many small staples. Remove the panel push pins

2. Using the existing door panel as a template, trace the outline shape on the new piece of underlayment.

3. Be sure to clearly mark ALL holes from the existing door panel on the new panel, as these will need to line up with existing holes drilled in the metal door skin (for hinges, handles, etc.). Drill holes using appropriately sized bits.

4. Install panel push pins into wood door panel. Note that these will be covered up by the next steps and will be impossible to remove later without taking apart the door panel fabric outer layer.

5. Using spray adhesive, mount some sort of thin padding on the inside of the door panel. This serves to give the panel a "soft" feel rather than just vinyl fabric over wood. SMB used a very thin foam of some sort. I couldn't find anything to match, and was in too much of a hurry to order any, so decided to use thin quilt batting from Joanne Fabrics instead. BIG mistake, as when I put screws through the panel upon reassembly they caught the batting and made a big mess.

6. Cut the outer fabric layer to rough size, allowing for a good bit of overlap around all outside edges. Using a staple gun, tack down the edges. Cut the door opening in an "X" shape, leaving enough fabric to fold over the inside of the panel. Pull all sides tight and staple the edges down. Cut off excess fabric. As I mentioned, I reused my outer vinyl fabric due to time constraints, but as you can see it looks pretty ratty. I'm planning to redo it this spring when I have some time.

7. Install the door panel, hinges, handle, etc., using pre-existing screw holes in metal door.

D) Creating the door/shelf

1. Cut the wood piece to size to fit the door opening. Add 1/2"-1" around all four sides to overlap the opening. Round corners for a nice finished look and to mirror the other OEM doors. Sand edges. Stain if needed to match cabinets if you have woodgrain ones.

2. Using the mounted hinges as guides, drill pilot holes and install hinges to wood door.

3. Size the wire rope to support the drop-down door. Create a loop on one end using the crimping sleeve, and attach to the wood interior shelf. Size the support wire to support the shelf at the angle you want, and then create another loop and screw to the wood door/shelf.

4. Reuse existing snaps and strap to keep the door/shelf closed. (Mine shown in the photos is pretty shot; I just haven't gotten around to making a new one yet to replace it.)
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Old 12-28-2017, 06:49 PM   #3
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Fantastic write up, fantastic use of space and fantastic pictures, but it leaves me with one question... Doesn't it compromise the ability to insulate?
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Old 12-28-2017, 10:22 PM   #4
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Making a larger rear-door storage area: Project write-up

Not sure what you mean about the insulation. With the SMB-built door storage areas there isn’t any insulation to begin with. So, you’re not losing anything by doing this. But, yes, if you do want the door cavities insulated then you’d probably have to give up having any significant storage space in there. I’m willing to trade the insulation for the much-needed space.
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Old 12-30-2017, 08:23 AM   #5
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I have often questioned the isulation issue as well. Here's how I see it. Without storage cut in the doors you have an outer sheet metal skin and then airspace and then an inner sheet metal skin that is usually upholstered or has plastic trim, etc. When you cut a hole in that and add storage you do lose that insulating air space between the two metal skins but if it has a door on it you get it back when the door is closed. I've always thought a layer of Reflectix against the outer skin with carpet over it would be plenty good enough. All the junk you actually put in the new-found storage probably insulates a bit as well.

Anyway, who knows. I still think it's 'found' space and I'm a fan of that in a van.

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Old 12-31-2017, 03:10 PM   #6
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In retrospect the Reflectix glued to the outer skin and then covered by felt would have been a good idea. I think at least the felt glued to the other skin helps a bit as a thermal break of sorts.
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Old 12-31-2017, 04:44 PM   #7
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Agreed

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