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Old 09-01-2015, 04:54 AM   #1
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Biggest hassle when starting your first build

I was thinking the other day...everyone that is in here has obviously already built their first van or are in the stages of building their first van or are researching their first van.

I was wondering, what were your problems that you ran into while researching it? Like, your biggest road blocks.

For me, it was a lack of high quality, specific information.

Yes, I got a ton of ideas from looking at finished build pictures, but if my dad weren't a master craftsman to help transform a finished picture into something we could build, it would have been incredibly difficult.

Other than a few recent posts on here, I still haven't been able to find what size propane tank would fit under my van because there were no resources that specifically stated: an E350 with rear HVAC can only fit an X-diameter tank.

Shit, until my last peruse through here, I didn't even realize you should have your propane refrigerator lines located away from the fuel filler lines.

So I'm wondering, has anyone found any good centrally located resources? This forum is A M A Z I N G, but sometimes when you're in the middle of a build and you need an answer ASAP, it can take days to get it. And then you end up just winging it and hoping for the best.

If there were a guide or how-to's or videos showing everything I needed and exactly how to build or install something, I think the build would go much more smoothly. Anyone agree, or does everyone just love problem solving and beating their head's up against the wall when they run into an issue until they figure it out on their own?
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Old 09-01-2015, 08:17 AM   #2
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Re: Biggest hassle when starting your first build

I think the reason there is not super detailed how to' sand dimensions etc... Is because there are so many variables that differ between the vans... What engine size? body size? 2wd/4wd? what 4wd converter did the work? propane/gas/diesel for appliances? pop top/hardtop/no top? stealth build or full out camper build? Rear heat/Ac or not? Dual fuel tanks?

There are so many different configurations that everyone simply has to figure it out as they go. I would love to have more specific information but it simply isn't feasible and would be tough to organize even if it were available
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Old 09-01-2015, 08:46 AM   #3
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Re: Biggest hassle when starting your first build

Quote:
Originally Posted by sandeld


If there were a guide or how-to's or videos showing everything I needed and exactly how to build or install something........

What fun would that be??
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Old 09-01-2015, 09:24 AM   #4
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Re: Biggest hassle when starting your first build

http://www.rvaahq.org/m/
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Old 09-01-2015, 10:13 AM   #5
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Re: Biggest hassle when starting your first build

How did we all live before the internet? This forum has provided more guidance and how-to than I would have ever hoped for. Even if someone decided to produce a tutorial on building a van camper (there are a few video blogs with a LOT of detail if I remember correctly), it doesn't always make it the right way (or at least the right way for YOU).

There are a handful of items (such as LP, electrical, etc.) that take some skill, research, or at least due diligence to ensure you won't be a hazard to yourself or others. If you can't find the right tutorial to make you comfortable tackling a certain system, perhaps this is something best left to a professional.

MY biggest hassle was figuring out how everything was going to lay out so that I minimized wasted space, and then making the first hole/cut. After that it was just cruising along two steps forward and hopefully only one step back. I was inspired by many of the great builds here and tried to make sure I did everything as good as I could given my skillset and resources available.

I think it took me a good week of evenings underneath the van with different size pieces of pipe and various cardboard pieces to figure out what would fit for an LP tank. It's all part of the process.

BTW - your van is looking great, just got updated on the thread. Thanks for documenting your work so others can benefit!
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Old 09-01-2015, 08:09 PM   #6
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Re: Biggest hassle when starting your first build

Quote:
Originally Posted by sandeld
I was thinking the other day...everyone that is in here has obviously already built their first van or are in the stages of building their first van or are researching their first van.

I was wondering, what were your problems that you ran into while researching it? Like, your biggest road blocks.

For me, it was a lack of high quality, specific information.

Yes, I got a ton of ideas from looking at finished build pictures, but if my dad weren't a master craftsman to help transform a finished picture into something we could build, it would have been incredibly difficult.

Other than a few recent posts on here, I still haven't been able to find what size propane tank would fit under my van because there were no resources that specifically stated: an E350 with rear HVAC can only fit an X-diameter tank.

Shit, until my last peruse through here, I didn't even realize you should have your propane refrigerator lines located away from the fuel filler lines.

So I'm wondering, has anyone found any good centrally located resources? This forum is A M A Z I N G, but sometimes when you're in the middle of a build and you need an answer ASAP, it can take days to get it. And then you end up just winging it and hoping for the best.

If there were a guide or how-to's or videos showing everything I needed and exactly how to build or install something, I think the build would go much more smoothly. Anyone agree, or does everyone just love problem solving and beating their head's up against the wall when they run into an issue until they figure it out on their own?
To me the hardest part was detemining if I could live with a van that was JUST a glorified RV. It would have been way cheaper to buy a small class B and upgrade the drivetrain to 4x4 system if it was. To me having a van that can't be used for passenger, cargo and camping and travel parkways seems limited. Perhaps it's a space thing. In NYC space COSTS so multipurpose convertible stuff just seems better.

As for propane I got scared off. Once I understood how bottles can (and do) off-gas in tunnels it just seems like another restriction I couldn't be bothered with. GPS is NOT tall truck friendly and it's too good with dogs puking and kids screaming to give up.

I'm building a 4 season dry camping van, and I am planning on heating with electricity. Yes the panels are that good now for it to be sustainable. More on that when I do it. I still do a water heater and outdoor cooking that runs off 1 lb bottles but there are no valves for gassing on those. In those applications the little bottles can last. I do carry 20lb converter hoses just in case.
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Old 09-02-2015, 04:53 AM   #7
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Re: Biggest hassle when starting your first build

To date I've outfitted 4 different vans to suit my needs----the biggest challenge each time out was determining my real needs vs wants. Because my van is for work only, intended to serve as a rolling tool box matching its set up to fit my work flow caused me to re-think both parameters, wondering if one or both could be/should be modified to make the best of the finished van.

As with such projects over those 4 vans many, many changes in materials and processes have by now been pretty much refined to the point I have an exceptionally easy-to-use work van, nearly everything accessible just by reaching inside, either from back or side doors----no need most days to every crawl inside.

I'm also the type who seems to have at least one or two prototype builds, mentally designing something and then actually building it. Too often after something is built I see a better way, not a bit shy about tearing it out and starting all over again.

The huge advantage here on SMB is seeing how others have gone about something and deciding if their scheme etc would fit another's needs or wants. Because most everyone is more than generous in sharing info its entirely possible to cruise the Home Built forum, devise a great plan and build it---just once.

While that's an unheard-of concept for me it doesn't have to be that way for those more eager to use a SMB-like vehicle rather than work on it very, very regularly.

And then we have the issue of finding that just right van---another topic altogether!
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Old 09-02-2015, 06:10 AM   #8
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Re: Biggest hassle when starting your first build

Quote:
Originally Posted by boywonder
Quote:
Originally Posted by sandeld


If there were a guide or how-to's or videos showing everything I needed and exactly how to build or install something........

What fun would that be??
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Old 09-02-2015, 10:21 PM   #9
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Re: Biggest hassle when starting your first build

#1 Finding the right van for you. I looked for a month plus, some folks here looked for years.
#2 Pulling the trigger on said van, I bought mine site unseen after a 3rd party inspection. To say I was nervous when it pulled up on the trailer would be an understatement.
#3 Floorplan. Lots of drawings. Then lots of tape, measuring and sitting in the van on milk crates. Where do things go? Be prepared to move things around, that cabinet gets bigger once it's in.
#4 Window(s). Dear God, that a big hole to cut. Measure 18 times. Cut smaller, than you think cause you can always make it bigger.
#5 Pop top, Awesome, but it was another big check to write.
#6 Stop working/looking/critiquing at it long enough to sit back at camp and enjoy all your time and money.
#7 Start thinking about the next one...
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Old 09-03-2015, 04:54 AM   #10
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Re: Biggest hassle when starting your first build

Quote:
Originally Posted by Waterski02
#1 Finding the right van for you. I looked for a month plus, some folks here looked for years.
#2 Pulling the trigger on said van, I bought mine site unseen after a 3rd party inspection. To say I was nervous when it pulled up on the trailer would be an understatement.
#3 Floorplan. Lots of drawings. Then lots of tape, measuring and sitting in the van on milk crates.
#7 Start thinking about the next one...
Exceptionally salient points! I swear I wasn't even near finished with my current daily driver before thinking of the next one. That's just waaaaaaaaaay too true a comment for many of us I'm sure?

Another member who has somewhat vanished of late---or perhaps enjoying his creation----detailed his build-out here: http://www.sportsmobileforum.com/vie...p?f=24&t=11990 What I liked most was his pre-delivery mock up of the imagined finished lay out---seemed to help him finalize his ideas. For a first timer that process might be extremely helpful.

Even after the van is in-hand a cheap & easy mocking up would continue being helpful---cost and time savings alone more than worth it.
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