May Van Update + Why We Painted Our Van

Van Conversion

I feel like I haven’t updated you all on the van in forever, and now that we have it back from Register’s all painted we are starting to make progress waay faster, so I am definitely overdue for a van post!

Back up… painted? Yes, we decided to do a full-body paint job on the van. Yes, it was expensive. Yes, it was 100% worth it. I did talk a little bit about this on the Living Without Walls Instagram, but I have the space to go a little more into detail on here. So, for starters when we bought the van this is what it looked like (not including photos of the 8,000 motocross stickers baked into the paint on the back):

You can see how the paint was completely worn off on the hood, but what you can’t see is how the paint literally came off on your fingers like a powder when you touched the van. This thing is going to be our house, and like a house you don’t want to have a shitty roof on it (just recently had to replace my roof, I might still be having some PTSD, ignore the bitterness). Naturally, we really wanted the whole outside to be as watertight and rust-free as possible. With our plans to spend a lot of time up in the mountains or by the ocean, we knew salt was going to play a huge factor, and with that bare metal showing on the front… let’s just say it wouldn’t be pretty.

We originally looked into doing Line-X across the entire van, but with a quote starting at $8,000 we had to change our minds on that real quick. That would have been almost half our van budget gone. Poof. We took it to Register’s and he quoted us between $5,000 and $5,500. For a vehicle this size, we felt that was more than fair. Plus – we got to pick what color we wanted. At this point, we realize our van is pretty much never going to be incognito. We plan to have surfboards strapped to the side, a cargo box and solar panels on top. People are going to know it’s a camper – so sticking with white seemed pointless, especially if we had to do an all-over paint job anyways. Toyota Quicksand it is, and holy crap it came out so good. They really did a great job, and spent a lot of time making sure that there was no rust or anything that could compromise the paint. We are amping! I think Reilley likes it too.

The only downside of the paint was that it. took. FOR. EVER. In between I took that unexpected trip to Spain, then another unexpected trip to Florida, where Zach joined me. It took that entire time plus some for them to finish, so at that point we were almost completely out of van mode. We hadn’t talked or thought about it in forever since it had been gone out of the driveway and our lives for so long… but, now it’s back! We are sooo excited to share with you guys what we have been working on since then. I always try to include links to everything we use in the van, but if it’s an Amazon link please know that if you purchase through that link we may make a small commission. This doesn’t cost you anything, and basically just helps us put diesel in the tank for more adventures.

The first thing Zach did was put in a shelf for our fresh water tank. We decided on an absolutely massive one of 40 gallons. This may or may not be overkill, but we had a couple trains of thought on this. 1) We plan to spend a good bit of time off-grid and exploring Mexico. We don’t want to have to stress about finding water every single day. Also, we are going to have a shower in the van which, due to the fact that we both have an obscene amount of hair, will use a good bit of water no matter how much we try to conserve. 2) We don’t have to fill it all the way, but we can if we want to. Better safe than sorry.

Having all that water is great and all, but we also have to have our water stored inside. Unlike a lot of van-lifers we plan to spend winters in the cold mountains, so don’t have the option of storing our water outside and underneath since it would just freeze. Also, 40 gallons of water weighs, ohhhh, about 300 something pounds. Heavy AF. Taking all that into account, we decided to build a (hopefully) super strong shelf for the water tank to fit over the wheel well in the “garage.”


This photo sponsored by Sticky Bumps. Not really, but we wish.

As you can see, this shelf will also hold our water pump and tankless water heater, but leaves space underneath for storage. We went with the Girard water heater because it runs on propane, and we wanted to try to keep as many things off the solar power as possible. Zach built a little frame for it to keep it in place as we drive around, and installed the water heater door you need for it to vent by cutting into our brand new paint job! That was fun. Scary fun. This will eventually all be boxed in with access from a door, so it will look nice and neat when you open the back doors. Also, in the picture above you can see the water inlet which will be installed on the outside of the van between the water heater and the water tank. This will not only allow us to easily fill up our water supply, but we can also hook this directly up to a house and have a continuous flow if we are going to be stationary for a while. Helloooo long showers.

Speaking of showers, we finally have ours framed out!

The plan for the shower was based around this shower pan. It’s 24×36″ which is a fairly narrow shower pan as it’s actually made specifically for RVs. Zach made a video of this part of the build, which I will link below. He explains that we specifically used 2×4″s on the sides of the frame even though they would take up more space and be heavier because we wanted to incorporate shelving inside of the frame. There will be one on the inside of the shower for toiletries, but also two on the outside. One will be in the kitchen for stuff we need easy access to often, and one will be in the “bedroom” where I plan to put a little mirror for, you know, doing stuff you need a mirror for. We used 2×2″s against the wall since it’s already supported by the van and it saves us some space on the interior. We wanted the shower to be pretty long, because we have a Nature’s Head toilet that will be permanently in there on one side. This should give us plenty of space to shower and, for Zach, give him a place to sit since he won’t be able to fully stand in the shower. Silly tall people.

We are soo stoked to see the floorplan actually coming together, it makes everything feel so much more real! This weekend we are going to take a little camping trip to a nearby beach and take the van, so keep your eyes peeled for that Vlog!

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