Installing a Dometic Heki Midi skylight

The ambulance came with a small skylight. It was an opaque one that looked fairly dirty, but functioned well and seemed to be waterproof.  However on closer inspection it was all but fine: At first glance it looked like leaves were stuck to the top, but this turner out to be a bodged repair job with fibre glass smeared over the fixings. It was only when we went on the roof that were saw the atrocious job of mastic around the skylight and when we removed the ceiling, saw the mouldy battens securing the skylight from below. It had to go!

Old skylight looking rather grotty

Old skylight looking rather grotty

Campy Van rooflight installation Mumonthebrink 5

What a beautiful job the original installers had done, right?

 

We dithered on what to get and what size. There is a good choice out there. In the end we went for a Midi Heki made by Dometic. This well-established brand has proven itself in the market many times over and I like the features- built-in blind and mosi screen.

With the sizing came the challenge: Our old window cut out size was 350mm x 400mm, the new size was 700mm x 500mm…but the width between the two van ribs was only 460mm. Can we cut into the rib without compromising the structural integrity?

On the end we decided that we could, especially as Campy Van for steel reinforcement plates to level the ceiling along all it’s ribs in the original conversion. So up we went to the van roof. (I’m not very good with heights, even as far as a van roof, so I asked my uncle to help out with the rooftop side of the job.) We figured out roughly where the new opening was to be and drilled a small pilot hole to double check.  A jigsaw wasn’t going to fit by the front edge of the old window, so after making out the square to be cut out we grabbed and angle grinder.

 

Campy Van skylight dometic midi heki Mumonthebrink 8

Despite working a lot on the van by this time, taking things apart, this was my first cut into the body work.

I was nervous!

I shouldn’t have been!

Cutting the straight lines was straight forward ? and for the rounded corners we used a graduated hole drill piece.

Campy Van skylight dometic midi heki Mumonthebrink 7

Campy Van skylight dometic midi heki Mumonthebrink 6

Hole cut we tested the skylight frame: Perfect on first round.

Campy Van rooflight installation Mumonthebrink 1

Next challenge: The van has ribs on the roof for added strengthening. How are were going to for a flat frame to the ribbed roof and ensure our midi heki doesn’t leak?

After some research and asking on SBMCC forum I went about cutting some little infill pieces from some acrylic sheet we had lying around. These were stuck in place with a flexible mastic glue, Sikaflex.

Campy Van rooflight installation Mumonthebrink 3 Campy Van rooflight installation Mumonthebrink 4

Next we applied the Sikaflex to the underside of the window frame in the allocated slot, making sure to go evenly and give it plenty.

Campy Van rooflight installation Mumonthebrink 2

Then we pushed the window outer frame into its place, clearing the excess mastic from places and filling in where we hadn’t put enough.

Campy Van skylight dometic midi heki Mumonthebrink 5 Campy Van skylight dometic midi heki Mumonthebrink 4

Campy Van skylight dometic midi heki Mumonthebrink 3

Usually one would secure the frame down to the framing battens and ceiling cut out at this point. As we had neither in place, we weighed down the frame overnight, till we were sure the Sikaflex was well set.

 

Bright and clear

Bright and clear

It rained next day, so we’ve had a chance to test the watertightness of the installation.

Couple of days later I got to the point of refitting the old ceiling- measured up the cutout with the help of the underside cover piece and made the cut out.

I added the frame securing brackets- screwing them into the frame and the ceiling.

Campy Van skylight dometic midi heki Mumonthebrink 2

And clipped on the frame from below.Campy Van skylight dometic midi heki Mumonthebrink 1

Campy VanDometic Heki rooflight installation Mumonthebrink 2

I love the look of the new skylight!  It gives a lot of light, yet I can shade it or use on hot summer evenings too, but keep bugs away.

I’ll have to grab a picture from above too, ‘coz it looks great.

 

 

Campervan Insulation with closed cell matting

The ambulance came panelled and insulated.  Sadly, the old insulation we had in Campy Van- rockwool haphazardly shoved in behind panels- was inadequate and prone to condensation. It needed attention if we were to enjoy using the van in more extreme temperatures.  Therefore the insulation has actually been the main reason (besides the excess weight) for stripping back Campy Van to the bare bones.

I weighed up the different options and then decided to go with the material professional van converters tend to use: a closed cell matting, like yoga mats. It’s manufactured in Europe, by Trocellen.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t come as a self-adhesive option, though that can be ordered apparently in larger quantities.

For insulating the van I’ve taken a three pronged approach:

– expanding foam injected into hard to reach areas

-15mm foam boards glued to the body of the van

– finally, 5mm silver foil backed Polifoam covering all surfaces, bonded to the first layer and sealed around the edges with tape.

Expanding foam

A big issue with insulating a campervan can be cold bridging- where the insulation is inadequate and cold spots appear, which then causes condensation in those points.

Campy van has ribs, which, if I’d have insulated the over with the 15mm foam, I’d have eaten into our living space.  I decided to tackle the ribs with expanding foam.

Campy Vanclosed cell insulation with Polyfoam Mumonthebrink 9

Expanding foam was injected in the small crevices, behind metal supporting studs and in stud cavities.  The van has gobbled up 10 cans of expanding foam. I used a the expanding foam with a special applicator gun. This is a must: the application is much easier to control, it’s easier to be more precise.  Again this is something I learnt the hard way, by buying the cheaper spray version and struggling to control the quantities coming out.

After injecting the hard-to-reach areas with expanding foam, I had to wait 12 hours for the foam to go off and harden.  Then came the tedious task of carving off the excess which flowed into the wrong place. This took another couple of hours.

Expanding foam had to be applied in a couple of stages:

  1. large cavities needed to be filled in a couple of goes, as a single application would be mean that the core would not set, but remain a guey mess doing nothing for insulation.
  2. some cavities needed to be filled before the first layer of closed cell insulation went up, as afterwards I wouldn’t be able to access them to apply the expanding foam.
  3. I’m not always precise with measuring and had left little gaps in places between the closed cell insulation and the metal ribbing.  I applied tiny squirts of expanding foam into these crevices too.

I probably spent a day and a half applying the foam and then carving it back.

Base insulation

The 15mm polyfoam is stuck onto all the flat and accessible panels of the van. I’ve used a strong adhesive to hold it in place.

It’s a fiddly job measuring, cutting, glueing panel, glueing the insulation and then adjusting it into position.

Campy Van closed cell insulation with Polyfoam 2 Mumonthebrink 1

Initially, I was cutting the matting straight off the roll, then I realise I was struggling to make straight cuts vertically. Then, I started using a large table for measuring the insulation out, cutting and applying glue to it. I’d measure it up, then cut along the a long ruler joining my 2-3 measurements along the length of the cut.  I used a sharp stanley knife.

As I’ve gained expereince, I was then cutting lots of panels at once, then moving onto the gluing phase. It made more sense than running back and forth between measuring, cutting, gluing.  The glue was going off or not being ready to stick yet.  The batch method worked much better.

Campy Vanclosed cell insulation with Polyfoam Mumonthebrink 4

The process of insulating the panels with this layer took about 3 full (wo)mandays in total.  This was stretched over a 2 week period, while I also tended to other tasks.

 

The closing layer: Reflective closed cell insulation

The 5mm silver backed foam insulation was the final layer to apply.  To be truthful this was a task I had dreaded: I had electric cables and other elements – screws, posts, etc to consider.

The silver foil face was used facing into the van.

I put it up with the combination of glue to all the metal elements and welding – with a heat gun- to the 15mm insulation already glued to the walls. In places it looks super, following the contours of the van’s wall beautifully, in some places it’s sagged where I didn’t heat it well enough or didn’t press in in the right place to weld the two layers together.

Campy Vanclosed cell insulation with Polyfoam Mumonthebrink 7

All in all the task was more difficult than I’d anticipated, yet went quicker.  It took about a day and a half.

I’ve taped all seems.

Insulating the floor

The base van floor is ribbed for added strength and it is amazing how much the thin metal sheet on it can withstand!

The ribs, that provide the strength of the van’s flooring, are also the bane of one’s life when insulating the floor.  To overcome some of the height difference in the ribs, I cut and glued strips of the 5mm closed cell insulation to the floor.

Campy Vanclosed cell insulation with Polyfoam Mumonthebrink 8

I then used the same 15 mm closed cell insulation on the flooring.

Campy Vanclosed cell insulation with Polyfoam Mumonthebrink 1 Campy Vanclosed cell insulation with Polyfoam Mumonthebrink 5

I laid this in panels across the floor and slightly up the wall, welding it to the 15mm insulation on the wall, then I overlapped the 5mm insulation down over this floor insulation down to the wooden floor.

Campy Van closed cell insulation with Polyfoam Mumonthebrink 1

It seems counterintuitive to use a flexi material as insulation and I know that where the ribs are my floor won’t have the same insulation value as where the valleys are, since the insulation will compress, loosing the air and a lot of it’s insulation value.  I hope, however, that the level of insulation will still be adequate.

I’m using a 9mm compressed plywood panel, which is usually used in lorries for flooring. This will have a slight insulating value too and will possibly add a vinyl flooring.

If next winter proves my floor to be too cold, I’ll add some carpets, which can easily be removed to for cleaning.

 

 

And this this is what happens when you finish insulating the van:

Campy Vanclosed cell insulation with Polyfoam Mumonthebrink 6

You collapse into a big heap on the warm floor and admire your work. 😀

Campy Van- further deconstruction and back to barebones

It feels like I’ve made so little progress on the campervan conversion, yet I have: I now have a more or less blank canvas.

To get this far has meant some repairs to our 7 year old Peugeot Boxer- a new exhaust, a new passenger window raising mechanism and we still need a new EGR valve.

After taking out the bits wall and floor panelling there was LOTS of mastic removal and some minor rust remedy.

Ambulance electrics vs Camper electrics

I spent 2 days with a car electrician, who gave me his time for free. He talked me through the bits of the ambulance electrics he could understand and we worked through some bits which weren’t obvious.  Before we started I had no clue what was under the driver’s seat.  I just knew it was to do with the emergency start battery and some other bit.

Once the seat was removed we could see what we were dealing with: a battery, lots of relays and a large 12V fuse box with more relays.

Campy Van 2 Mumonthebrink 10

We figured out what leads where and where I need to add in the extra lighting and 12V sockets I want.

Campy Van 2 Mumonthebrink 8 Campy Van 2 Mumonthebrink 9

There has been some debate over what purpose the 13AH pure lead battery served.  I know for a fact it was used in giving the main vehicle battery a boost when it was flat, however my uncle thinks it was the back up power source for critical life support equipment. What do you think?

Auxiliary heating

In the height of winter the van heating on its own is not enough, we’ve learnt.  If the engine is not running and we are not on electric hook up then heating needs to be provided for.  Our van came with an Eberspacher D4 plus heater.  The control panel of this doesn’t seem to be working, but I have tested the heater and it works well.  I was rather pleased, as this will be very useful in the cold scandinavian winter next year.

However, as I learnt from a Eberspacher specialist, I need to reconsider the heater’s position and how I want to configure the heating pipes.  Currently we have no pipes.

In fact, when we went under the van to remove underside of the tracks on the floor we noticed that the Eberspacher’s exhaust system was missing. In preparation for relaying the floor I’ve removed the heater.  It will need a new exhaust and a new controller before I can reinstall it. Now, there is a large round hole where it used to be.

Campy Van 2 Mumonthebrink 3 Campy Van 2 Mumonthebrink 4

 

Remedial metal works

The back of the van had  big gaping hole from the old wheelchair ramp. This has caused us lots of head scratching.

Luckily, my uncle is extremely handy with metal.  He has now repaired the hole: it’s filled with 1.5mm steel plate shaped, welded in, reinforced from below. A new bottom latch point is made for the rear door latch.

I had the extremely unpleasant task of  wirebrushing oodles of burnt on mastic left over from the ramp and then applying metal paint on the topside and chassis protection paint on the underside of the repair. It was an extremely messy and unhealthy job, but had to be done.

We’ve gone from this:

Campy Van 2 Mumonthebrink 7

to this:

Campy Van 2 Mumonthebrink 6 Campy Van 2 Mumonthebrink 2 Campy Van 2 Mumonthebrink 1

In case you are wondering why it is red: it was the colour hammerite paint we found lying around. 😀

Cab area tidy

From Campy Van’s ambulance life the front cab’s original Peugeot flooring was chopped up and bits were missing. I’ve attempted to insulate this area with closed cell insulation matting with a heavy rubber on top. It is working in progress to say the least. The rubber I’d sourced turned out to be too heavy and needs a rethink.

Campy Van Mumonthebrink 1

I was trying to tackle the whole of the cab area at once and to insulate above I removed all the lining and visors, etc. It wasn’t worth the effort in the end- not enough gain in access to tricky areas for all the work needed removing the lining and fixtures and reinstating everything.

I did, however, do my first 12V electric installation: a cigi lighter socket by the windscreen pillar. Super proud of my first electric work!

WP_20160403_17_25_42_Pro

Progress has been very slow thus far, but we have finally taken the ambulance structure back to the point where Campy Van can really start to emerge. It’s been a very steep learning curve and now I can start to benefit from some of the ambulance past of the van, which will hopefully make the fit out easier for our extremely multifunctional van.

Next steps, which I hope to do in the next week:

  1. replacing the broken rooflight
  2. insulating
  3. creating the seating and bed arrangements for our extreme camper

 

How to loose 500kg or 1100lb in a week

That is 500kg of NVW (net vehicle weight) on Campy Van. 🙂  NVW is what the vehicle weights, with no pax or luggage, but with fuel tank full.

The van at the last weigh-in was 2540kg…that’s 500kg lighter than when we bought her.

The week has been an exhausting one with lots of man hours, blood and sweat spent dismantling the ambulance. (And I do mean blood literally, as my hands are in tatters.)

We removed:

  • side panels
  • seats
  • seat & gurney tracks
  • wheelchair ramp

 

Removing cupboards and side panels

Like everything, it’s simple once you know how.  This was definitely true for removing the cupboards.  They seemed so secure and we just couldn’t figure out how to start removing them.  Then we prised out an internal panel and all became clear: the bolts were revealed.

Campy van ambulance to campervan conversion

Some of the progress was painfully slow as I fought against the holding strength of mastic glues securing panels in place.  I was trying to keep all the panels, so I could reuse them after insulating the van.  Alas in the fight, despite my best efforts, the glue often won and the internal panels only came off in bits, shattered.

It has been utterly disheartening to have some of the parts shattered.  I was close to tears for the first few:

I really wanted to keep these elements.  Afterall, these parts were partially the reason for choosing an ambulance as the base vehicle: they add to the sleek, easy to clean internal lines of the vehicle. With each breakage the cost of the build also goes up. We will need to replace.  And each breakage adds to the decision making and work: what to replace that panel with, then source it, travel to pick it up, measure, cut and finally fit it.

Removing seats

Some jobs which I was afraid of- removing the seats- turned into lesser jobs than thought. They were “merely” screwed through the floor to supporting brackets underneath.  With the right tools- spanners and the likes supplemented by brute force and WD40- it was just a couple of hours to remove the 3 rear seats still in the van.   Each of the folding seats weighed 37kg (81.1 lb) or thereabouts.

Removing unwin floor rails

On the other hand removing the 4 unwin tracks from the floor was a MAMMOTH task! Each track was secured every 10 cm/ 4 inches with a bolt through the floor to substantial strengthening elements underneath. Each of these securing points had a allen head (the ikea type of hexagonal slot), with a rusted on nut holding it on the bottom.  With the slightest pressure applied the head’s hexagonal pattern was sheered and the bolt didn’t budge. It was a question of drilling every single screw head off: first drill the hard stainless steel heads with a number 5 drill for a pilot hole and then use a heavy drill with a No. 10 drill head to remove the head.  This took about 12 man hours- over a day with 3 of us working on it with excellent tools, but needing to rest every 20 minutes or so.

Campy van ambulance to campervan conversion

The heavy, rusty U profiles securing the elements above.

Campy van ambulance to campervan conversion

Where the U profiles didn’t fit, we got rusty plates.

Campy van ambulance to campervan conversion

It was very satisfying to hear the clink, clink of the large supports fall to the ground underneath.  All in all we removed 27kg (nearly 60 lb) of metalwork.  The tracks were a mere 8kg (17.6 lb).

Campy Van 1 Mumonthebrink 9

 

Just the U profiles, bolts and other plates were over 26kgs.

Campy Van 1 Mumonthebrink 1

 

Removing the built-in rear rampCampy Van 1 Mumonthebrink 5 

Another task that has caused lots of head scratching was removing the second, original ramp.  A rear section of the body and chassis element has been cut away and modified to take this modification.  We ended up cutting the ramp out with a plasma cutter.  (An angle grinder would do the job too, but take a lot longer, though leaving a much neater finish.)

Campy van ambulance to campervan conversion

I’m left with a big gaping hole at the back, which gives lots of opportunities, but also lots of challenges.

This rear section has the rear doors’ latching point and underneath is the original location for the spare wheel.

The space also presents itself as an ideal place for two 70 litre water tanks- one fresh water, one grey water.

While I ponder what to do with the rear lower section of Campy Van I have removed the existing Rockwool insulation (which was haphardously applied) and prepared the walls and ceiling for rust treatment, where needed.

I have also spent about 3 hours(!) cutting off remaining bits of glue which will interfere with where I need to insulate the van.

Next tasks are therefore a thorough clean, rust treatment of areas and painting, insulation and electrics first fix.

 

 

Campy Van layout plans

The past week has been consumed by planning and deconstruction of Campy Van.

Thankfully the weather has been kind, even though I’ve had to do this work in my parents’ garden.  The workshop where I planned to do most of it still has another project being finished.

Over the week I’ve gradually removed the cupboards and ripped back the panelling of the ceiling. My work was slowed by doing things gently in order to be reuse the same materials and by naysayers doubting what I was doing.

 

I’ve had a chance to discuss my layout over and over again. People come up with great alternatives, usually along the lines of what traditional campervan and motorhome builders do. I have to explain that, as a multi-functional van acting as mum taxi during the week and weekend house on the weekends and holidays, Campy Van has to be more flexible. This flexibility will, of course, draw with it compromises. I’m happy to live with that…I think…but practical use will tell.

I’ve sketched the plans. (Tried using SketchUp, but the learning curve was too steep to faff around.)

The plan

Mum taxi:

that carries 7 possibly 8 passengers with seatbelts
Campy Van daytime travel layout

Our weekend bolthole

with 5 comfy sleeping places.

 

Campy Van sleeping layout plan

 

I have some big decisions to make about hot water and cooking:

  1. install gas to use for cooking
  2. install gas to use for cooking, a BBQ and heating hot water
  3. install a diesel hotplate to use offgrid and electric hob when we are on EHU; hot water only on EHU or solar shower out of a black bag.

Current budgetary and time constraints mean I won’t be able to fit solar panels immediately, and possibly not even the running water system.  Yet I have to make provisions for all of these to slot in, with relative ease, at a later date.

There are some brands that I have got to know and trust from using them in Campy, but I am still finding my way around the plethora of products available on the conversion market.  It’s daunting and research takes a lot of time.

I’ve spent a significant amount of time on some really good forums, my favourite being SBMCC, where I’m a paid up member. The advice and insight is invaluable, coming mostly from those who have been there and done that and often have papers to prove their competence too.

Are there any brands and accessories you highly recommend or advise to steer away from?

 

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