Trim screw modsRead Now
After more consideration, I decided to modify the trim screws for the ceiling. I really didn't like the idea of piercing a wire with a screw when attaching the tongue and groove to the backing plywood. The mod wasn't really hard to do although it did take over an hour to complete. I screwed a pile of 1" #6 trim screws into a scrap piece of 5/8 baltic birch plywood until the head was flush with the surface. Then I used an angle grinder with a metal cutting disc to shear off the ends of the screws. I touched up the ends with a grinding disc in an angle grinder and then removed the screws from the wood. Now I had a bunch of 5/8" long trim screws. I know what you're thinking - "How are those going to go into wood with a flattened tip?!" My plan was to drill an appropriately size hole (3/32") and counter sink for the screw head. Because of the pre-drilling and counter sinking, my hope was that the threads would still bite and allow me to secure the tongue and groove to the plywood. It worked! :) I replaced almost all of the screws I had used yesterday with the modified screws and continued with installation. In the front of the van where there is a large curvature and either some space behind the tongue and groove or some thicker attachment points I left the full length 1" screws in place. Also there is not much wiring at the front to be concerned about.
Installation of the ceiling support panels is complete. I started installing the tongue and groove slats and ceiling lots as well. It was a bit tricky working around the shape of the van roof. Using the Cross-nuts (a.k.a. Plusnuts) worked well for securing the marine fir plywood panels. The panels have an inherent flex to them which made them much easier to install. Rather than try to fight with a single piece spanning the entire roof east-west, I used either 2 or 3 pieces (the three was because I was trying to use up some of the plywood that was used to ship the fridge.) Some modifications on 1" L brackets was also needed. I used a tap and die set to thread a hole on each bracket to 1/4" 20 t.p.i. so that I could use the same bolts to screw into the brackets and Cross-nuts. On the other side of the bracket a hole was enlarged so that I could use the same nuts to secure the brackets to the Cross-nuts I installed in various locations of the van. Most of the Cross-nuts went into the roof ribs but at the back part of the van there is no cross rib to attach to. In that location I installed Cross-nuts into the side and end walls so the modified L brackets could act as anchor points for the bolts. To install the tongue and groove slats I'm using 1" long #6 black trim screws. I wish they had come in a shorter length (1/2" would have been ideal) but they'll have to do and I'll have to be careful with wire locations and screwing (both the plywood backing and TG slats are 1/4" for 1/2" total thickness.)
Water supply side completedRead Now
The "final" tweaks to the water supply system were finished today. After checking the connections for moisture, I found the same spot had a tiny bit of weeping (less than a drop of water was present.) This was after I had installed shut off valves in the system on either side of the pump anti-vibration hoses. What I realized was that I had a brass male fitting going into the plastic connection of the vibration dampening hose. This is the third time now when I had metal connected to plastic and it didn't seal properly (even with teflon tape.) So my recommendation is to always go plastic to plastic and metal to metal. If you have a mix in your system that's okay but do the transitions via PEX. So today I removed two pieces replacing that with one plastic male connector to the hose and it all worked out better in the end anyways - I'm happy!
Water system supply installedRead Now
Finishing up the last of the utilities supplies. The supply side of the water system was installed today. Plumbing is very challenging as there are all sorts of different standards for thread, tapered, non-tapered, pipe types, etc. If you're working with a poly tank, be careful not to force any metal parts in that might ruin your threads! I couldn't get the metal spigots to go in cleanly so I decided to use plastic fittings into the tank and then PEX out from the plastic. We ran the first test filling the fresh water tank and running the pump to pressurize the system. No leaks on that side as far as I can tell. Oddly, while I was filling the tank my father-in-law who was checking things out under the passenger side and said, "What's this water?" I looked and replied, "You're joking, right?" Yes he was - phew! But then he went and look under the driver side and said he saw a drip. I checked that out and sure enough, there was a drip. We both went inside and couldn't find the source. I slid under Redford and saw a drip coming off the end of the muffler. I checked around a bunch more inside and still couldn't find anything. I figure maybe it was either residual water from my testing the other day or sometimes you see water dripping out of the tail pipe of a car... I had started the engine a few times driving out of the work bay, to the water source, and around the yard a bit. I left the system pressurized overnight and the van is outside so I'll see what things look like tomorrow.
Ceiling install beginsRead Now
We haven't had rain for over 35 days! Nothing but a heat wave. After revising the vent system for the black and grey tanks I really needed to know if there were any leaks in the roof before starting an installation of the ceiling. Ideally this would meant leaving Redford out in a lot of rain and also going for a drive on the freeway in some heavy rain. You never know where water can sneak in. Go figure that we would be having a record heat and dry period. I did discover a leak in the vent system - I thought the way the external cover gather air and water that it would be funnelled into the vent tube - nope! There was a drip. I removed the ABS pipe going into the stack and used SikaFlex to seal the stack to the vent cover. After water testing as best I could with a hose everything seems fine. (I put toilet paper onto the screws and other pipes penetrating the ceiling to collect moisture - no evidence of any water entry:) However, what I did find was that all the water running down the front of the van ran into the rain gutter below the windshield and funnelled all of the water directly onto the wiring harness inside the engine compartment! The gutter was also very loose and came off. I installed an aluminum pie plate folded in half and covered with some heater duct insulation over the harness. Its zip tied in place. The idea is the shield the harness from the water flow while still allowing air flow over the harness. Hopefully it works! I also drilled hole high up on the loose rain gutter and zip tied that to a wire harness to keep it from falling off the gutter system.
The first couple of ceiling tests were unsuccessful. The plywood that was flexible enough to conform to the shape of the front compound curved section was not self-supporting A single piece of 1/8" steel strapping was also not strong enough to support itself (let alone the mass of the wood as well.) The best solution was that I found a piece of rectangular channel aluminum in "inventory" (probably from some old door/window system.) I curved that by rolling it over a large roller (for a table saw to support long pieces of wood coming off the table) until I got a shape I was happy with. I did have to enlarge and align the holes in the roof metal extensions so that I could bolt the aluminum channel in place. I used self-tapping 1" flat head screws to install the pieces of wood across the front ceiling area. This will give me something to screw into when I install the finished tongue and groove 1/4" pine as the final ceiling. Trying to find the right screws to install the tongue and groove planks into the plywood as not been easy. We want something that is 1" long, has a small head, and is the "right colour." Unfortunately, the local Home Depot and Canadian Tire did not have anything suitable. Amazon.ca didn't have what I wanted either. I ended up ordering from Amazon.com and got some 1" black trim screws with small head. Hopefully it won't look too busy.
So much time searchingRead Now
I really didn't think it was going to be such an ordeal. Remember in my previous post I decided to change the air vents for the grey and black tanks and run them separately to the roof vent? Two days, four trips to Home Depot, and one trip to Andrew Sheret (plumbing supply store) later... Trying to connect systems in plumbing can be very challenging. You go to the store to be confronted by entire walls of choices that "mostly" fit together one way or another. The "funny" thing is that I spent hours working through a series of parts one step at a time. They had 1/2" flush bushings to go on the end of the pipe I had. They had 3/4" flush bushings. They had 1/2" threaded male straight to PEX. They had 3/4" threaded male straight to PEX. They had 1/2" threaded male 90° to PEX. But of course the ONE thing I needed - 3/4" threaded male 90° to PEX does not exist. The fellow at HD figured that Andrew Sheret would have it so off I drove. The counter person there said, no, actually never seen that before. Even online such a beast didn't exist. The funny thing is that when I was at HD today, another fellow was looking to connect something for his pool pump system at home and was perplexed. We looked at each other and laughed about the sea of too many choices but none really working. When I asked him what he was trying to do, I took him to the flush bushings... He was happy and got confirmation from his "pool guy" that that should work. Then he laughed and said he was sorry that he couldn't help solve my problem. Well, in the end I modified something to our unique situation with the ceiling, bathroom wall, and vents. I'll post pictures tomorrow but my test fit today seemed like everything should work better than my previous plan. The solution to my problem: just a little work with a drill press, hole saw bit, round file, table saw, ABS-PVC transition glue, PVC cement, rubber sealant,... LOL! It has turned out great though - zero clearance so no bump out needed now and the two tank vents don't merge until just a few inches from the ceiling vent exit. It took two days and some "modding" but a better end result. Yay!
Testing water and lightingRead Now
Almost ready to start installing the ceiling:) Today I checked the lengths and locations for all of the ceiling lights and wiring. It all works (three way switch and also a dimmer.) Also happy to report that the main PEX water lines are installed and today they got pressure tested - the system passed. No leakage anywhere in the main system lines. Of course plumbing isn't finished yet as there's all of the cabinets, wall, and plumbing fixtures to go in. But it was definitely best to test the main lines before things get closed off inside walls and cabinets. The other thing we were a bit worried about was the amount of light that was being produced. When I only had two of the LED lamps in to check that stage of the wiring, it didn't seem like a whole lot of light. Today with all of the ceiling lights (temporarily) wired in the lighting was fine.
The other day I picked up the fresh water tank (39 US gallons) and installed a piece of base plywood as the metal bracket that is holding the floor system to the main van D-ring bolt holes was in the way by 3/16". Thank goodness I was able to use a piece of the $200 shipping box the fridge came in as the base piece (LOL!) Something that I decided I'm going to change is the vent system for the grey and black tanks. While they will still share a common vent out the roof of Redford, I decided that I want to have the join between the grey and black vents much higher up. My original plan was to join the two systems under the floor but I was always a bit concerned that in a "disaster", i.e., an over full tank or some serious splashing due to driving motion, could cause some of the black tank sewage to get into the vent and sit at a low point. Now that I know how the fridge is being installed, I can run a separate 1/2" or 3/4" line to vent the grey tank and have it join the vent to the outside near the ceiling.
Plumbing lines startedRead Now
It's official, the black and grey systems under the van are finished. Today I drove Redford off the 2x12 wood lifts. The extra 1.5" of height was really hard on my knee for entry and exit (getting old is a drag!) While it was outside I took the opportunity to cover the tank sensor strips with rubberized undercoating sealant and also to spray the wire entry holes with the sealant to protect against water ingress (there's already Sikaflex 291 on the holes too.) The only possible work remaining under Redford are: 1) Installing a storage system for the tank draining hose. That would be nice so that the hose would not need to be stored inside the van. 2) Installing a running board or step off the sliding cargo door (I still need to source one that will go where our 26" wide opening is.)
Almost all of the electrical wiring is complete. The wiring for the under cabinet lights still needs to be installed but I'll get to that after I have finalized how overhead cabinet installation will occur. I tidied things up by making sure all runs are labelled and cables are bundled together, packing up electrical tools, and getting rid of garbage.
The first pex water line runs went in today. The cold water feed from the pump to the kitchen sink and onto the hot water tank were put in place today. I have to plan that out quite carefully because if I connect them in the incorrect order, I might not be able to get the lines into their channels. The overall system is fairly simple especially because we're only going to regulate hot water temperature at the tank, i.e., only one set temperature of hot water will come out of the shower head - there's no cold-hot water blending in the shower. At the kitchen sink there will be blending in the tap. I think the water line installation will go quickly!
The past week was very challenging around here. You probably heard of the "heat dome" that descended on BC and the Pacific Northwest - it was over 40°C around our house. I did go and work in Redford for two days but only did 30-45 minutes each day as I was covered in sweat after that time. I did decide how to run wires for the ceiling lights and managed to install the wiring for the front lights. Besides the heat wave it was just a busy time. Angela officially retired on June 30 :) :) :) Congrats to her after 30 years as a teacher. She did terrific and impactful work and the cards - especially the ones from students were wonderful. She's sad about the conditions this year and how it has affected her and the other retirees but she's also "ready" for the next phase in her life. The other "biggie" this week was that both of us got our second COVID vaccinations (me on Wednesday and her on Thursday.) We led off with AZ back in April and followed that with Moderna this week. We both got hit with lots of aches, pains, and tiredness a day after but fully recovered after the second day and are so happy that we're double vaccinated (also happy with a mix and match.) Extra careful for two more weeks and then just cautious with preventative measures when necessary. Yay!!
After installing the electrical system I was kind of thinking, "Hmmm, I hope there's no short circuit that starts an electrical fire..." I went online and ordered two fire extinguishers for Redford. There are many types of extinguishers and in particular I needed a class ABC type. Interestingly, the ones I bought are rated for BC (B: flammable liquids, solvents, oils, gas, etc. C: electrical, energized wires, appliances, etc.) but also handles common materials like paper and wood but isn't specifically rated for A. Given that we've got rather large (618 amp-hours) of lithium iron phosphate batteries I definitely wanted the "C". We needed something fairly compact as well. I found a nice tidy home for the extinguisher behind the passenger seat. I'm using velcro straps to secure the unit in place as the base of the seat has openings that I could thread the straps through. I may have to put in some felt pads if the extinguisher moves around too much when driving but I'm happy with the location; it is clearly visible, out of the way, but easily accessible.
It's interesting how each time I have to cut or drill a hole in Redford there's a bit of a delay/lag in the work process. It's partially being careful but it also seems to coincide with other life events that get in the way as well. After the grey and black tank heating pads arrived last week, today I finally drilled the holes into the floor and installed one set of wires. There was a fair bit of thinking to do as I had to learn how the elbow and tank pads got wired, i.e., how was I going to connect to ground, what gauge wires, how to install the switch, and also how the SeeLevel II tank sensor system worked. In the end I decided against grounding (for both the heaters and the SeeLevel system) to some point on the exterior chassis and chose to run a ground wire back into the van electrical panel. A 10 awg wire to the switch and then 12 awg wires from the switch to the components was what I ended up with. But then I also had to figure out what switch to use. Always another domino waiting to fall in a series of decisions. The switch for 20 DC amps was a different style than other illuminated switches that I already bought so I decided to also change the water pump to the same style (round rocker switch). The install of the pads went well - the bottom brackets of the tank came off easilyand the heater pads installed nicely inside the brackets. Part of working under the van meant lifting it a bit. This time I just drove the rear dual wheels onto some 2x10 pieces (cut with 45° angles) instead of using the Ford supplied jack. I did jack the front as that's much more accessible. The SeeLevel system was interesting - it did not come with any installation instructions! Just three sensor strips, a panel, and a wiring harness to go into the panel all inside a plastic bag. After a search online I did find a PDF of the manual. It is a programmable system - you cut out parts of the circuit strips for programming - a very interesting design. Thus far I have the grey tank heater pad and pipe heater pad and the SeeLevel sensor installed and wired.
Calvin here - after spending almost 33 years in education as a high school teacher, elementary teacher, and elementary administrator, it was time to retire! I did so happily and with no regrets; it was a terrific and fulfilling career. I do enjoy building projects as the design and building process is very therapeutic and you see a completed functional product in the end. Now to combine the build with another of Angela's and my passions - travel - is something we're really looking forward to.