We bought an empty cargo van with plans to customize it ourselves. The floor needs to keep us warm and support the weight of our gear, bed, and maybe in the future a kitchenette.
Our floor has five layers: The top is a continuous laminate coin grip gray flooring, second is 3/4 inch plywood, third a one inch rigid foam layer cut into strips that are two inches wide and are set in the valleys of the van floor, fourth a blanket of Thinsulate, fifth a layer of Kilmat sound deadener.
First remove the tie down attachments to make room to layout the floor. The notches for the tie downs will be cut towards the end of the process.
Cut your plywood at the longest measurement from one side of the van to the other. Remember that vans get wider as you move from front to back. My first width measured 68.5 inches and then as I moved towards the rear my second measurement was 69.5 inches.
So I cut my first piece with a slight taper with the front edge at 68.5 and then getting wider to the 69.5 measurement.
Use a circular saw and straight edge to make the slightly angled cuts on each side of the plywood.
Make adjustments to the edges by marking them with pencil and then taking the piece out and make the smaller adjustment it’s. Try to maintain a 1/4 to 3/8 gap between the plywood and the van wall. You need to give it room to move a little and expand or contract. If it is tight up against the walls then you will have squeaks.
Test fit all pieces and keep making small adjustments. I probably took these pieces out and back in again about fifteen times to get it all to fit.
Preparing to install the sound deadener mats. Make sure the surface is clean and free of grease. Use mild dish soap and follow up with a rag and some acetone to make sure it is ready.
Test fit the mats and plan for their location. You don’t need to cover the entire floor with the sound mats. The most important areas are the wheel wells and the floor area in between the wheels.
I chose this Kilmat product because it was fairly inexpensive and had good reviews for quality. Turned out to be an easy install and I had no problems with the quality of the product.
Since it had snowed the night before our outside temperature was much too cold for the mats to adhere to the van floor without some help. So the whole family joined me for this install. We used a heat gun and a roller to apply the sound deadening mats to the van floor. I suggest having a helper for this process if the outside temperature is cold. You will heat the metal floor and the mats before applying them.
The install for the Kilmat took about 2.5 hours total and we were happy with the result.
Next: Measure and cut out the seat rails for the bench seats. I chose to only cut out enough to get the seats in and out.
Tools: 2 inch hole saw and jigsaw
I wanted the floor to sit all the way down firmly on the one inch strips of rigid foam and the seat rails were about 3/8 inch higher than the rigid foam. So I decided to use a router and take off the 3/8 from the underside of the plywood. It’s important to measure the space from the seat legs to the van floor to make sure your layers of flooring will fit underneath. The floor barely fit under the seat rails and if it had been 2/16 of an inch thicker the seats would not have been able to latch.
It worked to use the router and remove wood from the bottom of the floor so seat tracks didn’t get in the way. The floor now sits on the foam and not on the seat rails.
This floor design is intended to limit any thermal bridges and I didn’t want the plywood in direct contact with the seat rails. Later, the sheet of Thinsulate will go between the metal seat rail and the plywood to prevent heat transfer.
Connecting the floor pieces
Cut rectangular pieces from the extra plywood and screw then on the bottom with 1.25 inch stainless steel screws. These will be the connection points to tie the floor together once all three pieces are finished and in the van.
Cutting the rigid foam into strips. Used a carpet knife and a propane torch to cut the foam. Made a few three inch wide strips and a few two inch strips. And then a few short pieces with one inch width to fit into the corners and edges of the floor.
Lay out the strips to measure their total length. Later you cut them again to fit on each of the three floor pieces.
Trace the spot where you want to place your L tracks. I used two 4 foot sections behind the seats and three one foot sections of L track in the front.
Use a router set to 3/8 depth and cut along he lines using a straight edge and clamps to guide the cut. Remember to include the end caps in the router lines.
Test fit the L track and drill the bolt holes through the floor. Remember to check under the van before drilling so you don’t hit any wiring or the gas tank. I put three grade 8 bolts on each 4 foot track and then I put two bolts on each of the one foot tracks. The bolts are 3 inches long.
Here is one bolt that barely missed part of the main chassis under the van.
Paint the holes with rustoleum paint to prevent rust.
I made some large rectangular washers to go under the van and ensure the bolts don’t pull through the thin sheet metal. I painted them on front and back to prevent rust.
Seal the underside of the plywood to prevent warping, moisture, and mold. Be sure to apply the sealer on all the edges of the plywood since plywood tends to soak up moisture if not sealed.
I purchased the Thinsulate floor insulation from Adventure Wagon and this version is compressible. It works great for my build since the insulation will be compressed in the area under the rigid foam. The remaining area will be open under the floor between the rigid foam and the Thinsulate will expand in those areas.
I set these out so you could see the thickness of each layer. You can see the one inch rigid foam on the bottom, the 3/4 plywood in the middle, and the Thinsulate on top. When expanded the Thinsulate is about 2 inches thick.
Lay out the Thinsulate like a big blanket so it covers the whole floor. I needed to cut another long strip to fill in the edge.
Finally! It’s time to prepare the coin grip vinyl flooring. In roll the coin grip and place it in your plywood floor cut out. For this step I had the plywood out of the van to make it easier to cut.
Make sure to leave at least 2 inches on all sides of overlap. The final cuts will happen inside the van after its glued down.
Pour on the marine grade glue and then spread it with a dry wall trowel. You have 5-10 minutes to get all the glue spread and then layout the floor. You will need some extra hands for this step.
Then trim the edges of the floor with a utility knife. It’s important to get it trimmed right away to make sure the floor lays down flat on all sides and corners before the glue dries.
Installed aluminium 1 inch angle trim to finish out the edges. I used brazing rods and a propane torch to create the corners.
Watch the video linked below to see how to connect the aluminum edging by heating it with a propane torch and applying a brazing rod.