Steps and Procedures
So have you glanced thru the basic “12 Steps to Successful Upfitting?” If so, thanks! Now let us move onto the systematic guide; it is a more in depth list of the steps required to starting on your build. While we feel confident this offers a very solid start, we are not perfect and are always open to improvement. Please consider this guide a perpetual work in motion and as things change, we will update it as required to keep it as accurate and as beneficial as possible. If you have suggestions, please let us know, we would greatly appreciate your input and feedback!
Even if you are just beginning, do not worry, there is quite a bit a novice can do, to a whole lot a garage/back yard/ part timer can do, with only a few required tools. Based on your skill level you can find great savings allowing you to invest in the necessary parts and supplies you desire!
Roof & Sides - To start, at some point you are going to need to make holes in your vehicle. It is best to determine exactly what is going on top of and what is going on the sides of the coach. Roof racks? If your van does not have them, there are existing “punch outs” on the roof channel where a rack must be secured to the roof. I did a small video that we will post that will show you exactly how to build your own roof racks using Unistrut. You can also purchase prebuilt racks from a variety of dealers and install them yourself or bring them to an Upfitter like ourselves for a professional, watertight install. What about Maxxair Fans? Yes, there are other models available but the Maxxair Deluxe 7000 (white) and 7500 (smoke) are the only ones we sell. Why? They are the best. 10 Speed, can be used in the rain, ceiling fan mode, remote control, 900 CFM’s, check them out here. These (along with most other fans) require a 14” cutout to create access for the units to mount on the roof. Do you want an Air Conditioner? There are many styles available, but like in your home, they are electricity hogs, so if you plan to go this route, you had better plan to have a big battery bank, a portable generator (or both). There is also a mount to run your wiring for Solar Panels. On the sides, depending on the configuration of your van, you may want to add additional windows, side flairs and/or more!
By determining in advance the direction you are going, you can install, seal and then water test your Coach for leaks. It is extremely important it is 100% fully sealed before moving on to the next steps. Water penetration is a vans worst nightmare. I have read horror stories that a leak can go unnoticed for months or even years before the rust started to show through but by then, it is too late, you are doomed for high priced repairs.
Now, let us go inside the Coach.
Soundstop 45, Ancor Wiring and SM600L Thinsulate are a combination of the next three steps. First, is Soundstop 45, which lessens road noise by adding a peel and stick aluminum backed butyl onto the interior wall surfaces. This is a very easy install; you cut your Soundstop 45 to size, peel and stick to the inner walls, roof, cab, wheel wells and floor. You want to be thorough but do not have to go overboard.
We recommend installing Ancor Wire before Thinsulate because it gives you an easier space to work in. Thinsulate will fill the wall cavities so get that wiring done first, but before wiring, you need to know what is going into your Coach and where you are going to put it. This way, you can pre-run the appropriate gauge wire sizes to the correct locations. Ancor Marine Wiring is the only wire we use or recommend because all the wire they make is fine stranded copper that is individually tinned and shielded for a far greater corrosion protection barrier than regular wire.. All Ancor wire is manufactured to withstand the harsh salt-water marine environment and will creates a better current flow with little to no degradation over much greater periods of time.
Now that your wiring is completed, you can move on to insulation. We are proud to state that we are the newest and one of a few only, resellers that offer 3M’s SM600L Thinsulate. It is an excellent sound deadener and insulation material. When paired up with Soundstop 45, it will not only increase the Sprinters Insulations R Value, it will greatly reduce road noise and ambient outside sounds by a large volume. It is also mold and mildew resistant as well as easy to cut and install. You just cut it to fit, spray on an adhesive glue and stick it to your walls, ceilings, doors and more.
You have finished your wiring and insulation, now it is time to close that baby up!
We suggest the next item on the to-do list is the ceiling and upper cabinetry. Depending on who you are, skill level and tools/machines in your shop, you may very well need to bring it in to a professional. In our build outs, we like to use aluminum-framed cabinetry that we can secure to the floors and walls easily. It is lightweight, can be cut and shaped to size and then your finish products (cabinet facing for example) can be back screwed in for a clean professional appearance. Concerning ceilings, there are many different ways to proceed. I have seen a vast array of ceiling throughout the sprinter community. Some I liked very much, some not so much. This is a personal taste (along with pretty much everything else from here on out) so here I suggest to do what you like. Molded plastics, factory original headliners, cloth or fabric wrapped plywood, tongue and groove hard wood are all various options on what you can do. Once again, I will remind you to search the forums, facebook pages and youtube to find out as much as you can to determine what you like best (and your pocketbook can afford!)
Something to keep in mind about your entire build is “off gassing”. Sprinters (and all coaches for that matter) are small closed-in tin cans. Several species of wood emit toxic gases that are definitely not suited for tight confines. So from here on out, whatever it is that you should decide to do, make sure you confirm the products you install are not dangerous to your health!
OK, now that my caution flag has been waved, lets talk about Underbody Mounts. These can include black, grey and potable water tanks (we will soon be releasing a line of these) along with horizontally fitted propane tanks which are used to heat hot water, run your cooking appliances and potentially even run a BBQ for cooking outdoors (I love to BBQ)! These all require holes in the Coaches flooring for the piping to go through and you will need definitely need to seal these holes, not so much for water penetration factor but more to prevent the pipes from moving due to vibration that would cause them to wear potentially leading to trouble over time.
Once your tanks are in you can begin on your lower cabinetry and flooring.
There are two rules of thought in this regard. The first is putting your floors down first and covering the entire floor of the coach. Many prefer this method because it offers a nice level floor that you then install your cabinetry above. Alternatively, and one that I conform to, is framing out your cabinets, installing them, and then only installing your floors up to the outer edges of the cabinets. My thoughts are A) if you need to replace your floor in the future it makes it much easier to remove them and B) there would be a cost and weight savings (albeit minimal) by not needing or installing flooring that is not going to be seen or used.
When you designed your van (hopefully months ago) you laid out the place were everthing goes. Now its time to work on your Energy and Power compartment. To be honest, I am NOT the guy who wants to give advice here so please go here, join, read and then ask the community. They are informative, inspirational and always willing to help.
This will take a minute or find an Upfitter who can accomplish the job for you but I will tell you know, it will not be cheap. The average cost of a Lithium Ion 100 amp battery is close to $1000 dollars each and depending upon your energy requirements, you may need several and this does not even include the inverters, chargers, solar panels, (and so on) required to get the system optimized. IF you want to do it yourself, here is one more link I can share. He is Bob, the “retired Guru” of mobilized solar charging. Open his blog and read, A LOT, then go to sleep, get up and read some more, for like weeks, and do not ask him any questions until you think you got it 100% down. Then, when you are informed and have a grasp on things, you can probably pose to him a well thought out question and if it is, he may just get back to you!
Bed mounts, Lighting, Cabinetry and Appliance Installation are all finish work. They are the things you will see (outside of the floors and ceiling) on any Upfitting job. Getting things installed and then dialing them in and looking pretty is my most favorite part. Take your time with this and do the best possible job you can, because whatever this turns out to be, you will be living with it until you decide to rip it all out and do it all over again! Lol
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