We’re slowly approaching the end of our build and with it, the start of our vanlife adventure. It’s been quite a journey, trying to turn an old panel van into a cozy home on wheels.
Since we bought our van back 6 months ago, we’ve been working on many different things, most of which were new to us.
We have made mistakes (we’ve listed a few here), and by no means is this van perfect, but we’ve learnt a lot and we’re extremely happy with how far we’ve come.
Although we don’t have much money, we were able to create something amazing.
Today, we’d like to share a list of items we’d recommend not to save money on even if you’re on a tight budget like we were!
Before starting on our build, we did not own a workbench. We built a table out of scaffolding boards a few years ago, and we used our garden furniture to saw and drill everything together.
When we started working on our camper van, we were not in need of a workbench at first. We started off by stripping the van, cleaning the interior, treating the rust, and other similar things.
Once we started working on the insulation we needed a surface to saw the cork insulation plates. The first thing we found in our apartment was a plastic crate that we turned upside down.
We laughed about it and kept telling each other how we really had to invest in a workbench tomorrow, next week, next month…
Well, we’re still using that little crate.
Using that crate we did get the job done, but we really should not have done it. It is incredibly unstable, doesn’t have a large surface area at all, and has an awkward height.
Since we only have 5 days left to finish the build, we won’t buy a workbench, but if we ever build another home this is the first thing we’ll buy!
2. Sealant and adhesive
Once the cork insulation plates were cut to size, it was time to stick them to the walls and ceiling.
We went to a dollar store and bought six tubes of assembly glue. We generously applied the adhesive to the sheets of insulation, stuck them to the wall, supported them for 15 minutes or so, and they were in place!
Or so we thought…
A few weeks later, when we were installing the support structure for the walls, the insulation came falling down. We had to head to the home improvement store to buy some high quality adhesive. It costs at least six times as much as the cheap variety. But boy, was it worth it!
The brand’s slogan goes ‘I only build with Bison’. Well, now we know why!
Once the wall structure was in place, it was time to install the paneling.
Before screwing a panel in to place, we always pre drilled the holes to make sure that the wood wouldn’t split or otherwise be damaged due to the pressure of the screw.
The drills that we had at the start of our van conversion were relatively cheap, and it clearly showed when we started drilling. Quite a few drills broke off.
This was annoying on its own already, since on multiple occasions we had to head to the store to buy new drills before we could continue installing the walls (or whatever we were building that day).
The biggest issue however, was the fact that the head of the drill often stayed behind in the wood. We measured every hole to be on an even row, in order to have a neatly finished look. Every hole that we had to drill twice would hence end up a tad lower or slightly more to the side. Though it’s not the worst thing that can happen, it really did annoy us!
After a few broken drills we hence chose to use a more expensive variety and we’re happy we did! They haven’t broken to this day!
4. Paint brushes and rollers
Both the ceiling and the back of our wardrobe are cladded with large sheets of plywood. We decided to paint these with an eco-friendly white paint.
We headed to the dollar store again, and bought a few cheap microfiber paint rollers. We regretted doing so as soon as we started painting.
The microfibers were everywhere, and they didn’t stop coming! But, since we don’t like wasting stuff when it can still be put to use, we had to finish all five paint rollers before we could buy a different type.
And there we were again, at the same store, buying a foam-like paint roller, hoping that this would solve our issues. It didn’t. This time, paint splashes were everywhere and the sides of the roller left thick lines of paint at the edges every time we went up and down on the plywood.
Well, at least we no longer had microfiber strands all through our paint!
Needless to say, it was time to buy yet another version of paint rollers, not the cheap ones this time.
We went for high quality foam paint rollers with curved edges, and the issues were resolved. Oh, how we wish we did this sooner!
5. Protective clothing
One final thing we’d definitely recommend everyone to invest in, is protective clothing.
When we started converting our van into a home on wheels, Jordy’s father offered him trousers and a jacket he had left over from his work. Both are designed for construction work. They have numerous pockets in which he keeps measurement tape, pencils, a Stanley knife, and many other necessities. Luckily, Jordy still had his working shoes from working at his side job at the local construction store.
In addition, the trousers are designed to include knee pads, which really come in handy when you’re working in smaller areas.
These clothing items have come in incredibly handy, especially for Jordy, as he has done most of the physically heavy work on this build.
Other items that you must have at hand when building your own tiny home on wheels are safety goggles, a dust mask, and gloves! We’ve used ours more than we had ever imagined!
Share your experiences
Which items would you have wished you’d invested in sooner? Share your experiences with us!
If you’re in the process of building your own tiny home on wheels, or hope to do so in the future, we recommend heading over to our camper van conversion page. Here, we list all blog posts related to our camper van conversion in order from start to finish.