THE D.I.Y. VAN CONVERSION
Heng’s 13” diameter drop-in stainless steel sink - $37
EverFlow Junior Duo Strainer - $9
EZ-FLO 10796LF Single Basin Faucet - $20
Whale GP4618 Manual Freshwater Galley Foot Pump - $48
Ozark Trail Desert Patrol 6-Gallon Water Jugs - $37 (for 2)
Home Depot 5-gallon pail with cover - $5
Flexible 1” clear hose, 10 feet - $10
Reinforced 2” hose, 2 feet - $8
Aluminum Recessed Drink Holders 3.5” diameter - $28 (for 10)
3” Recessed Grommet Outlet with 2 AC Outlets and 2 USB Ports -- $23.99
Water. All life on earth depends, directly or indirectly, on water. Even fish.
So far, I’ve been a carpenter, an electrician, an auto body worker, and a painter. Let’s try plumbing! How hard can it be, right?
To be fair, this is hardly what would properly be termed “plumbing.” Water will be moving from one place to another through enclosed tubes, so, technically, it qualifies as plumbing. It will only move a total of maybe eight feet from start to end, so no big whoop. But it’s more plumbing that I’ve ever done before!
In the current configuration, the best location for a sink is between the bed and the passenger side sliding door. A frame of 2x4’s, 33” wide by 18” deep by 29” high is a perfect fit. I keep the depth to a minimum to preserve precious open floor space.
The water jugs will fit snugly in the 15” between the front and back horizontal studs, so they won’t slide and tumble around (which would suck).
The 18” top leaves plenty of room for the small 13” round sink. The simple one-lead faucet fits in the corner near the door.
As a bonus, I decided to sink (pun intended) a couple of recessed 3.5” diameter cups through the countertop. One would be next to the sink, to hold, I dunno, toothpaste, toothbrush, that kinda stuff. The other is at the front back corner, a perfect drink holder for when I’m fatassing in bed.
The original plan had this whole assembly built right up against the wheel well cage that the bed rests on. That would provide a lot more stability, but it would also create a scrunch for the bedding. Leaving a 2” (or so) gap there leaves room for the sheets and comforter(s) to fall neatly into place. I’m sure that gap will come in handy for something slim.
As for the height of the ensemble, 29” sits it right along the somewhat-recessed bottom of the “waist” of the van: that thick horizontal rib below the window spaces.
And that’s where I started, by attaching a 30” stud (2x4) to that recessed, flat metal surface. There were openings in it, so, just like with the cabinets above, I opted to bolt the stud into the frame. Four 2.5” bolts hold that thing tight.
That 2x4 is the anchor, not the sink assembly frame itself. That came next. I laid a 33” stud against the anchor stud and secured it with dual 2.5” screws at 5 places. It’s not going anywhere.
From there, I laid/stood all the pre-cut wood to make sure they would all line up correctly and began attaching them to the floor and to one another. I used a crapload of various ZMax corner braces, securing each with six screws. On the floor, I used ½” screws because the plywood is ¾” thick. For stud-to-stud, I used 1” screws for greater strength.
Content that the frame was solid, I added the ¾” Sande plywood top. I had already stained it (cognac, to match the cabinet trim), so it was a simple matter of attaching it from underneath with a few more ZMax’s and ½” screws.
By this time, I had trekked up to Brian’s Mainland Workshop for multiple reasons, only one of which was that he knows more about plumbing than I do. The other reasons were all much more fun. =)
But we did set to the task to knock it out of the way and give the beer more of a congratulatory flavor. A sink requires holes: in this case, an 11” one for the drop-in bowl itself, a 1” one for the faucet, and a few optional mediums.
I was getting hole happy. I used the hole saw to cut out the 1” hole, the four 3.25”-diameter hole saw for my black aluminum recessed holders, and three more of the same size within an 11” circle for the drop-in sink itself. They served as starting points for the jigsaw, which did a pretty good job, but not exactly spot-on the line in places. The rim covered the roughness anyhow, so no biggie. We surrounded the rim with caulk, inserted the sink, and tucked a bead of clear silicone around and under the rim.
We had to use Brian’s small Dremel sanding gizmos to widen the cup holes out to the 3.33” that they apparently needed. That took much longer than we expected, but we were soon able to press/pound them into place. Likewise with the faucet hole.
I then decided that a polyurethane coating (matte finish) on the top of the sink counter would be dang good idea. Anything that would deter water from damaging a plywood sink counter might be downright useful. It brushed on easily and dried astoundingly fast, so I applied a second coat. I chose matte finish to better blend with the bare cedar.
We then filled up the 6-gallon water jugs and let them stand in the sunshine for a couple of hours to make sure there were no pinhole leaks. They passed the test, so I hefted them back into the van (filled, they weigh 48 pounds each). They are a perfect fit; I have no worry about them tipping or toppling.
We clamped 5’ of the 1” hose to the faucet and inserted the other 5’ into the neck of the freshwater tank. I was ready to clamp the free ends of both to the foot pump and close the circuit, but… I couldn’t find the pump! I knew I had packed the damn thing, but it was nowhere to be found. Grrrrr. Where did it go??
The pump presented another problem too: where should it go? The most practical location would be at the front of the little space between the sink box and the wheel well box. It would be easy to run the hoses through the open side, and I would not have to cut through any of the framing 2x4s or to interfere with the doors.
The downside to that was that the sink was on the left side of the box and the pump would be on the right, a whole 33” away. I have long legs, so it shouldn’t really be an issue, just a tad awkward.
But, anyway, with no pump to attach, we proclaimed ourselves finished and hit the fridge on the way to the pool.
(Well, I found the pump after I got back home. I had packed it, but it had tumbled out of the box that I expected it to be in. I found it when I was clearing out the other side to build the desk/dresser.)
The 1” hose I bought was not especially flexible, and it was also quite bit larger than the post on the pump itself. My screw-clamps would only close it so far with the flathead screwdriver. Fortunately, I had a 5/16” nut driver with which I could grind that thing down to water-tight status. I tested it before I secured it to the floor. It worked great! I can’t exactly call it “running water”; it’s not like the smooth flow of a siphon, but you get a good sploosh out of each stepdown.
But the water has to go somewhere when yer done with it, duddinit? I bought some pretty thick, rigid reinforced hose – only about 4 feet of it – with the intention of somehow securing it to/through the lid of the 5-gallon bucket, then maybe add a spigot and hose down though the floor to drain it without having to haul the bucket out.
That seemed like a real lot of effort though, so I held off till I was more in the mood and started working on the driver side desk.
Meanwhile, I was in AutoZone and saw this long black funnel with a deep and reasonably wide bowl and a hard-plastic, semi-flexible hose. Heyyy, wait a tick! That just might be my so-lution.
I made the impulse buy and took it out show Maxx. There was a bunch of random crap in the 5-gallon orange Home Depot bucket, so I pulled it all out and put on the lid. It sealed really tight. My razor cutter did a nice job of slicing a reasonably round hole in the center recess of the lid. It was just slightly narrower than the end of the hose, but just big enough that I could jam the hose through the non-rigid plastic. The funnel stood up perfectly under the drain with no tape or fasteners of any kind and it was pretty much watertight. Done! Ha!
Maybe I’ll add the drain hose through the floor some day. We’ll see how much I actually use the sink and how much of an issue it is to dump the gray water.
I’m also thinking about doing a 2-gallon gas can instead of the orange bucket. It would give me more space, and it would be a lot easier to take out and dump. We shall see. I like it as is. If I start liking it less, I might make some changes.
I looked at a 36” strap of 1x3 that I had lying nearby and thought, “That dog will hunt.” I laid it in diagonally -- without fastening it to anything -- and it was held nicely in place by the frame and the jug itself. I just lift it out to remove the jugs. Perfecto.
Last thing to do was to enclose the frame. Originally, I thought that sliding doors, like on the cabinets above, would work, but – two things – first, they wouldn’t slide open wide enough to remove the 6-gallon jugs easily (though I could just remove the doors too, I reckon), and second, I could easily picture destroying that bottom track with 48-pounds of water container when I’m trying to put one of those suckers back in.
So, hinges it would be!
The side panel next to the sliding van door was a simple slab of ¼” cedar plywood screwed into the 2x4’s. The doors would be the same material, but I was concerned about warping, so I cut up a few of my 1x3’s and created a frame for the inside to give the panel some rigidity. They also give me something to screw my door latch into, though I hadn’t yet decided what that would be.
I chose black hinges, in a rather traditional style. I didn’t think gold looked good with cedar and had decided long ago that Maxx would be gold-less. I considered silver, to match the puck lights, but I didn’t see any silver ones at HD that day. Anyway, the black hinges would complement the black drink holders, as well as the black power outlets that I’d be installing.
Rather than try to recess the doors, which I felt was a fast track to failure, I laser-cut a 1”-wide cedar strip for each of the front upright 2x4’s so the door would sit flush with it. To assure that all four pieces be aligned properly, I used blue painter’s tape to hold those strips and the two doors exactly where I wanted them. With them stuck like that, it was cake to screw and hinge them into their correct positions on the first try.
The right-hand stayed in place well, but the left-hand door swung way too freely. A latch of some kind was going to be needed. I thought about some kind of magnet, but no matter how I looked at it, I was going to have to sink some screws from the inside out, and with just a quarter inch of depth, it just wasn’t going to work.
I decided on a slide bolt in the middle. It didn’t work well at all. Too loose. I’m sure it was my bad, but I deemed it not worth a re-try.
So, I went to my go-to device, my laser, and cut two 2” x 1” rectangles, two 2” x 2” squares, and one 6” x 1” dog-bone shaped piece. I use strong 2-sided tape to secure the rectangles to the doors, more tape to attach the squares to the rectangles, bottom-aligned. That left a 1” high gap, exactly ¼” deep, into which the dog-bone fit perfectly. The curved outer ends hold it snugly in place. I lift up the bone and the doors open. And no screws to mess with. [Note: after a couple of weeks, the tape began to weaken so I screwed the rectangles in.]
Then one more idea hit me. I already a DC/USB outlet with dimmer switch on a temporary panel under the cabinets, and I fully intended to keep that when I finalized that wall, but I did not have an AC power on this side of the van. There was a long extension cord that I had snaked through the upper recesses, over the back doors and down by the bed. It was functional but laaaame.
I had been looking for some kind of outlets to put on the desk, whenever I got around to that, and I found a really cool drop-in grommet outlet with 2ACs and 2 USBs. What a bonanza.
And I got to use the hole saw again! Woohoo! Love that thing!
So, right beside the bedside drink holder, I cut another 3.25 hole, and dropped the outlet into place. It’s actually not much more than a specialized outlet on the end of a 6’ extension cord. I stashed my existing e-cord within the back corner panels and plugged this into it.
Zingo. We have AC power bedside. And running water just an arm’s length away.