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The Van

Our plan to have a home in Scotland and then rent whilst working in Bath was kicked into touch when we just couldn't justify paying ridiculous amounts of money on rent - especially knowing what each months outgoings in Bath would buy in the way of building materials - 'Pay rent on a tiny top floor flat or have the kitchen of my dreams'? - it really is a no-brainer.

So that was decided - no rent - therefore an alternative solution was needed ...........

My suggestion of buying a canal barge was met with stoney silence - Andrew suggested putting our sailing boat into Bristol docks, but that involved more work and the commute/parking could be problematic - living in our little camper wasn't a solution either - so with our thinking caps now well and truly secured a plan was hatched........

We have enjoyed living in our little van but it was now time to move onto a bigger and more capable version - something we could live in full-time if we wished, could take us to wilder places and be 'off grid' for extended lengths of time. So whilst we were visiting Inverness - B&Q for flooring for our pod - we hot footed it over to the VW showroom to look at secondhand vans and see if we could pickup something a a lot bigger to convert. There were only two secondhand vans - one was too small and the other had seen some rough times, the alternative was to spec-out a new one but the lead times were stupid - at least 18 months if not longer.

Feeling a bit despondent we decided to scour the free ads and see what we could find - so many looked like we were just buying trouble and time was now running away from us for fitting something out for the new term - nails were seriously being bitten!

Then out of the blue - I think we really do have guardian angle - we got a phone call from VW two weeks into August ....... A brand new van, practically the specs we wanted, had arrived but the purchaser had changed his mind and did we want it? .........Heck yes we did - we were there, money in hand the very next morning.

We now had a 4 week window to convert a commercial panel van into something habitable for the winter - not an easy task but we were up for it......... and the weather was on our side with amazing hot & sunny days - very unexpected for the Highlands.

First thing we did was order and order and order - we needed to get all the materials and items delivered ASAP - it's not easy to pop out for parts when living in the Highlands and we rely heavily on the delivery service - keeping our postie onside is a very important business - So the first few days were spent planning, measuring and hitting Amazon very hard.

Thankfully, one of the first items to arrive was the privacy film for the windows and that was the first job on our list. Over the previous evenings we had watched endless youtube videos on how to best attach this film to the windows - it seemed simple enough - cut to size, peel off the backing and then smooth out onto the inside of the window - ha not as easy as it looked - but we got there in the end, using loads of soapy water to act as a lubricant between the glass and the film, credit cards and plastic grout trowels helped to smooth out the water. This method left a perfect coating - no crease, bubbles or scratches - it looks fantastic, actually very professional and we are really please and proud of our start - best of all no one can see inside!

Next to arrive were our solar panels - two large beasts - we set them up initially in the 'garden' wired to a battery to charge - we spent hours watching the programming app, looking to see how much solar power we were generating at any giving time - it became addictive, especially when clouds scooted across the sky - and we became 'solar bores' to anyone visiting - but the novelty of having power from the sun is a wonderful feeling especially when it runs a fridge/freezer - I had ice in my evening G&T for the first time in months!

Once we were happy that our wiring for the panels was correct they were hoisted up onto the van roof - easy to say but these panels had now been joined together and lifting them, on our own, was not easy - but a couple of ropes with me taking the weigh as Andrew hauled and guided them onto the roof seemed to take not time at all.

These panels now supply power to the van and to our pod, topping up the batteries everyday - even in the winter when the sun pops outs briefly.

At this point we were still only in week one - thank god for these long summer days in Scotland - we have done the windows and the solar - next up we needed to get the van insulated - this week it actually became too hot working in the van - the sun was beating down on the roof and adding the first layer of insulation actually helped cool us down but the same material was going to keep us warm during the autumn and winter so it needed to be done. The silver layer (easy cool) was the first layer followed by two layers of 3m insulate and we were also adding a thick layer of rockwool finishing up with a vapour barrier. We then put up the finished walls as fabric covered birch ply.

A long process - but by week one we had finished the silver easy cool insulation, two layers of 3m insulate and most of the rockwool layer - which took forever - I was stuffing handful into all the pillars and behind any reinforcement beams. We did not want any bridging to take place - giving us cold spots in the van - so every nook and cranny I could find was insulated to some degree.

And just to make it even more difficult for ourselves we decided we didn't like the bulkhead blocking off the cab from the rest of the van, so half way through insulating we spent a day unbolting and the chopping up the bulkhead with an angle grinder.

Next up was the wiring ............that was week two be continued.........

Oh I forgot on the weekend we attached a ladder to the rear door

.........the perfect place for drying boots!



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