Bathroom - Making the frame work for shower & toilet
Welcome to Part 1 of the bathroom conversion!
I will start by saying that this is the pinnacle of the van's design - everything is centred from this point and a lot of the services have to run around and through this area. This made it a particularly challenging task. The design of the van has now been set and so it is on to the building of the walls and interior furniture. I laid out on the floor masking tape positioned precisely in the right spot showing the boundary areas. This was helpful to see how big the bathroom would be so that I knew if the design would work or not. I am using a Thetford C263 Toilet in combination with a 670x670 shower basin which makes the bathroom a great size. You can purchase an all in one shower basin and Thetford toilet base but I found the look of these a little small and restricting. I also wanted to create something a little more unique and less plastic looking. In any case there is so much choice out there about what you can purchase. There is an amazing UK online shop called www.leisureshopdirect.com and they sell just about EVERYTHING caravan/motorhome related! I have used them throughout this project as their products are good quality and cheaper than a lot of other online stores! So to start this off I had to build a stud/partition wall to separate the lounge/bed area from the bathroom. I wanted this to be a solid wall fixed to the bottom and top of the van as I didn't want to fall over in the shower and take the whole wall out! I also wanted to hide some of the services in the partition wall.
Make sure you use a right angle tool to align all of the joints as nothing in the van is level enough for a spirit level!
The wall did not take too long to complete. It needed to be study and screwed into the van securely. I used spacers between the wall and the upright joist to ensure that when I screwed the wood to the wall it was perfectly straight and there was no 'air' gaps. I used metal L brackets to secure the wood to the roof support.
Next I placed the shower tray back in place to see the amount of movement I would have when in the shower. I made a small wooden frame for the basin to sit in so that it would mount up nicely against the stud wall, van wall and the outer door wall. I wanted the toilet to be raised off the ground slightly so that it was a good height to sit on once the shower basin was level. I plan to put a wooden shower tray inside the basin so needed to take into account the height of that too.
I made a wooden toilet spacer and ensured that the mounting holes of the toilet lined up with the wood supports in the spacer. I then varnished it all and made a top plate the toilet to sit on top. I plan to cover this whole area later on in a white vinyl plastic shower board so this step may be necessary but I didn't want any water getting into the wood.
To finish off the van wall we cut out the insulation (Dodo Thermal Liner from Sound Deadening) panels and stuck them on top of the sound deadening panels that we had already stuck to the side of the van. This is step two of a three step process that is recommended to keep the insides extra warm during extreme conditions.
This insulation foam is super sticky! It takes a while to get used to but does an amazing job! As I was kneeling on the foam to cut it out with a stanly I could feel my knees almost instantly start to heat up where the the heat was being reflected back into me. Amazing stuff - and looks like a spaceship!
Cable laying behind the scenes was the next step. I needed to run the entire electrical system for the van behind this wall and so a lot of thought had to be put in to make sure that no cable was forgotten about as it would be difficult to get back to this area again to run another cable. I am going to make a separate blog about the cable laying as its such a big topic to talk about. For now I made holes in the bulkhead walls to run a conduit cable through so that I could trunk the cable through it. This is the recommended way to run cabling so that sharp edges don't catch on the metal.
The van wall is a large area that is indented and so this area needs supports to support that shower wall that is going to go up against it. I made these out of strips of wood which I cut out using a jigsaw.
This completed area now will happily hold a ply board up against it without any bending. The van is slightly cured inwards so the more places to screw the board into the better.
The heating ducting also needed to be hidden behind the framework as I didn't have any other way to get it to the back of the van. A lot of people don't bother with this sort of heating as they mainly use their campers in hot countries or summer months, but I want to take this to the alps skiing so heating is essential! I want to have two heating outlets in the rear bedroom and so this pipe leads past the shower and on into the bedroom area. I had to cut another hole for this pipe to pass through in the bulkhead. This is a very small space and I was extra careful not to pass though any major welding joints. This is not an ideal location to pass the tubing but there was really no other choice other than to make an ugly box go through the shower... I knew that the wooden partition wall that I had made adjacent to this hole would help support the van should it need to load bare but I am confident that the hole will be fine.
I have recycled the marine ply wood that was originally inside the van when I bought it. These are only needed to glue the shower plastic board onto and so it doesn't matter what they look like as they wont be seen. It took a while sizing it up to get it to fit properly. We took a million measurements and did it that way using the outside wooden support strut as a reference. I am sure there are easier ways!
The next issue was hot and cold water (there will be another blog on this topic in more detail). The cold and hot taps will be next to the toilet and so plumbing is required to that part of the bathroom. The water heater is located in the front lounge area and the water tank is located in the rear area... So a nice line of plumbing pipe is needed from front to rear. I used 10mm colour coded pipe to do this. The previous holes that I cut in the bulkhead I used to pass the pipe though. I used some left over conduit cable to protect the tube in the holes. I sealed them in place using sikalfex caravan sealant. Once the cables were in place I insulated the hot pipe with a foam surround. I don't think this was actually necessary in the end as the walls will probably be insulated enough for it not to need it, but every little helps.
Step 3 of the insulation process is to pad the remaining air space with a recycled plastic fleece. This stuff is 100% water resistant (as is all of the insulation material) and also mould resistant. It is made from plastic bottles that have been recycled and simply put its great! No fibreglass fibres stuck in your hand or face masks needed. It pulls apart or cuts off easily. The great thing about all of these materials is that you do not need a vapour barrier. A lot of websites, particularly from the USA state that these are essential - and they are if you use non waterproof materials. However a lot of the UK firms that make insulation for vehicles only really sell the waterproof materials now-a-days and so vapour barriers are just not required.
...and its done! I am going to paint the outside of the ply with a light PVA and water mix just to give in another layer of waterproofing. It might well be overkill but I don't plan to get into these areas again and I want this vehicle to last a lifetime!