Installing the flooring in a Sprinter camper van conversion

Posted on Monday, Feb. 01, 2016 in Van Building

Materials List

If you read my post on insulation, you’ll remember that I mentioned having done the wall/ceiling insulation at the same time as I installed the flooring. This is partially true. You see, my first attempt at putting in the flooring was unsuccessful as I wanted to try floating a thin subfloor and vinyl flooring directly on top of the polyiso board. It didn’t take long to realize this was a bad idea as walking on it was still pretty squishy.

All the while I was building out my van, I was also taking weekend trips here and there to test out what I’d done so far. I spent a week in Moab just after I’d installed my first version of the floor and slept in the van on a piece of memory foam on the floor. I took a trip to Zion NP for a wedding after I’d installed the very beginnings of my bed platform. This worked out really well as it let me catch any mistakes I’d made before I moved too far ahead.

Moab My home away from home while I spent a week climbing and cycling in Moab, UT

White Rim Trail Me, somewhere along the White Rim Trail near Moab, still loaded down with 12 liters of water and feeling it.

After this aforementioned trip to Moab for a week, I ended up completely tearing my floor up and starting over. Nothing went to waste, however, I suspected this would happen so I hadn’t bothered glueing anything into place just yet.

Let’s move on and I’ll explain to you my final flooring choices and perhaps a few lessons learned.

The build

The first thing down is a floor frame made from 2x2’s. This is the part that I installed for version two of my floor. I initially did not install this frame and had just laid my subfloor on top of polyiso boards. After realizing this was far too squishy, I pulled everything up, installed the wood frame, insulated between the studs, then laid the subfloor and flooring back over the top of it.

Floor Frame Notice how my joists are not perfectly aligned to any center line. I laid the 2x2s down where they would fit among the ripples in the floor, then noticed where I’d have to screw in the subsequent layers.

Between the floor studs I used the same polyiso board that I used on the ceiling. Under this I applied a layer of reflectix. I’ve since realized the reflectix is not much use in this location. I wouldn’t do it again. These layers are all held together with spray adhesive.

On top of the floor frame, I needed some sort of subfloor. My van, as most do, came to be with sheets of 1/8” corrugated plastic sheets attached to the wall. This is the standard sprinter cargo van wall material. I’d pulled this off early on and set it aside thinking I might come up with a use for it later. Today is the day! I reused nearly all of this sheeting as my subfloor.

Subfloor Carefully cutting the recycled wall panels into the right shapes.

The material I’d chosen for my top surface was a snap together vinyl flooring. I’d evaluated several other materials and settled on this one due to costs, ease of install and also ease of uninstall in case I decided to make modifications. I’d read a bit about the snap together variety online and seen how incredibly easy it is to install with a straight edge and utility knife.

Vinyl Pardon my lack of nice photo for the vinyl install. Truth be told, this actually is a photo of when I was installing my vinyl flooring. I had a two-hour wait at the DMV to get the van registered, so I brought my tools along and got to work!

When I had everything cut exactly to size and was ready for my final floor install, I applied a big S-shaped line of wood glue between the subfloor and vinyl flooring. I didn’t want to apply enough that it would become impossible to remove the vinyl in the future, but I knew I’d need something there to keep the vinyl from sliding around as the van was bumping down the road.

My flooring went in before I built my cabinets as I’d planned my cabinets to have big open spaces on the bottom and I wanted nice flooring in these spaces. I also had to buy two packs of the vinyl planks, so I had plenty to spare.

Lessons learned

All in all, I’m very happy with my floor. One issue I have is during the summer when I leave the slider door open, if the sun is shining directly on to the floor, it will swell so badly that it unsnaps itself. My solution so far for this has been to be very diligent about keeping the door closed and to also use a rug to keep the sun off the floor.

Using the recycling wall panels as my subfloor as worked out great so far. If you know where to pretty (between floor joists) you can notice a little bit of flex in the floor. I don’t think this is enough to cause any concern, but in the future, I may consider using a plywood as my subfloor just to be safe.