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I remember when we first had the van I could NOT wait to get something done. I was so excited to get moving on the project I did not care if logically doing the floor last was the best idea. I wanted to get it done now! It was one of the first things we did after insulation and really it should have been close to last.
In an ideal world, you will get your framework in for everything else and then add finished flooring in where needed. In my world I got it done as soon as possible so it would feel more like the beginnings of a home. So the pictures and instructions are mainly for how WE did it. You can still apply the principles without doing exactly what we did.
Step 1: Prepping the floor
To prep your floor you want to go through and completely clean out your base floor. If you have a factory sub floor take it out and clean it as well. Get all the dirt and grim off and make sure it is completely dry before moving forward.
Rust on your van floor
If you find that you are unlucky and do have rust on your van floor don’t panic. There are several things you can do to prep it. We personally had a few spots of light rust. If you have light rust you can simply use a wire brush and scrub it until the rust is no longer showing and you have steel. Then you brush or preferably vacuum out all the little pieces of scraped off the rust. Then add Rustoleum or a rust inhibitor to ensure no rust can form on it.
If you have a TON Of rust then I recommend checking out The Vanual to getting rid of rust and follow their steps. DO NOT ignore rust! You will end up rotting your entire floor and will find yourself out of a home!
Step 2: Installing Your Sub-Floor
We got lucky and had a sub-floor from the manufacturer that was still intact and in good condition. We simply pulled it up and cleaned it out. If you do not have a subfloor in place, you can easily make one out of plywood.
I recommend using cardboard to make a template and then mimic it on your wood.
Step 4: Insulation
Flooring insulation seems to be a debated subject as many parts of a van build tend to be. I’ve read that whether you have a 1/2 inch or 2 inches the floor is still cold. Whether that is true, I can’t tell you as I have only had the one van.
We used 1/2 insulation and rattletrap hoping that would keep it warmer (I have written a detailed guide of insulation in the entire van you can read here once complete.). Let me tell you it was not enough! Our flooring is freezing in the morning. However, when we build a second van I don’t know that I would do more than an inch. Every inch of height counts and again I haven’t seen solid evidence that it makes a difference.
Step 5: Flooring
When deciding what kind of flooring we wanted to use Gnomad Home‘s guide was of great use to use. They break down using vinyl, cork, and laminate options. After some mold problems, they ended up using Vinyl flooring the second time around as Vinyl is more waterproof than other options.
Vinyl ended up being what we used as well due to the fact that it is waterproof and although it’s not necessarily the cheapest option we didn’t want to risk having any mold issues.
Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Floor & Decor all have great options. If you are on a budget you can check the clearance Aisle at Lowe’s or Home Depot and often find a great deal. Another great option is Habitat for Humanity (ReStore) but you really have to be willing to go often to find several boxes of the same flooring.
When I saw my Heather Gray planks at Floor & Decor I FELL in love. It was everything I wanted in a flooring. Not too dark but not too plain either. When we went to finally purchase there were ZERO in stock. I was devastated (everything was life or death in the beginning), they didn’t have any in stock and it was such a popular color that they wouldn’t have any for 4 months. We didn’t have 4 months (or so I thought) and I could not wait. So we left defeated and opted to purchase some another day. Luckily Shawn had the idea to go back a week later and as luck would have it they had 5 return boxes! We couldn’t believe it. We snagged up those boxes and I thanked the universe for the bone it had sent me. (about $60 dollars)
Moral of the story, if you aren’t in a rush, go back and check again. You never know what will come back into stock.
Putting your flooring together
Items Needed for Van Build Flooring:
- Flooring of choice (about 3 boxes depending on width)
- Soft Face Mallet
- Table saw
- Tapping Block (Shawn said this is a must, he laid the floor in a 1300 sq ft apt after our van and it was so much easier with this block)
- Carpenter’s Square
- Utility Knife
When I got ready to put my flooring in I realized I had no idea what I was doing. My SIL came to the rescue and taught us how to put flooring in. We assumed you could just grab them and lock them in without cutting anything but the ends. Unless you want all your lines to be perfect, DON’T do this.
What you do:
- Decide how many “lines” you want in your pattern.
- We chose to have three different sizes so the lines would never match up.
- Cut these three as models and start building from there.
- After you have cut these three you won’t have to cut anything until the end piece.
- Ensure that you are not using “dead ends” A dead-end cannot be connected to another piece because the rubber bottom has been cut off by the skill saw. You only want a dead-end on at the end of your van floor.
When you start your first row, make sure each piece is in there tightly. The tighter you can get it in the less likely you are to have gaps later (this is where we later learned we really could have used that tapping block). If you do don’t fret, we have one spot in the van you can see where it wasn’t perfect.
After finished your flooring I highly recommend getting stair covers to finish off the edges. It helps to keep out moisture and gives it a more finished look. You can find these at Lowe’s or Home Depot in the INSERT WHERE SHAWN.
- Floors are cold even with 1/2 insulation. Honestly, we will probably pay for spray insulation next time.
- If possible wait to do flooring until later in the build.
- The flooring probably won’t fit perfectly width wise so have a Jigsaw handy so you can easily cut it in the odd places if need be.
- GET A TAPPING BLOCK & SOFT FACE MALLET
What we would do differently
- I love my flooring and I wouldn’t change the look at all.
- I would, however, do it later in the build. It’s much easier to have the flexibility to run wires later. Plus you save money by not using as many planks.
I’d love to know what questions you have about our van flooring. If you have already build a van put your Flooring Van Build tips below!