Today we tackled the wall battens, put the conduit in place and started on the recycled wool insulation. It was a long day, or at least it felt that is was, as we ended on the first problem we have encountered during the build thus far. The day started at our local timber merchants, getting ply for the floor and lengths of wood to be used for wall battens. We pretty much knew what we were after, but the guy was really helpful and found out what we wanted it for before making some suggestions, cut it so we could fit it in the van and helped us carry it out. Got to love an easy shopping experience! Then the real work started…
We have already decided the rough layout of the van, and therefore know where the leisure battery is going to live and where certain appliances are going to be. We want to make sure the van is finished as tidily as possible and so decided to run conduit through the various spaces and channels in the outer shell, from where the battery is planned to live to the other side where (at the moment) we think the kitchen area will be. The conduit, which is essentially a tube to house/protect the wiring, will be completely hidden behind the insulation, foil vapour barrier, ply and carpet.
Before we could put it in place, we threaded string through the full length of the conduit, we will be doing the electrics and the wiring at a later date and this will allow us to tie the string to our wires and easily pull them through… in theory… fingers crossed! Threading the string was no easy task; we tied a wee piece of the insulation to the end, as a way to catch the air, and then used the vacuum cleaner to pull it through. This method did work surprisingly well, except the horrendously loud, high pitched shriek that was emitted. Thinking of our neighbours and our ear drums we decided to try and suck the string through without the vacuum. This ended with us inhaling lots of fibres, we should have seen this coming but sadly we didn’t and very quickly moved on to a different method. We fed a length of the string through and then puffed as hard as we could down the conduit pushing the string through, it took a lot of puff and it was slow progress but it was quiet and it worked!
We had to bend a couple of pieces of metal to fit the conduit through but on the whole it went quite smoothly, a fiddly job as the grooved edged would catch at various points but not too difficult at all and will make life a lot easier/neater in the long run.
We made a start to insulating the walls; the bulk of this will be done when we are ready to put the foil insulation over the top. However, in the meantime there were plenty of hollows and voids to be filled. We bought a couple of rolls of recycled plastic wool insulation – we had considered using sheep wool insulation but the price tag was a little higher and the one we were looking at warned that it did smell of sheep, especially in close proximity, and you cannae get much closer than a 2m x 1.5m metal box! We also knew to stay well away from the much more affordable but horrible stuff that is fibreglass – hurray for middle ground.
The insulation itself is easy to cut and tear into the required size, you never get a perfectly straight edge or an exact size but it is pliable in use. I spent a good part of the day tearing off small amounts and poking it through all the gaps and holes, trying to fill as many of the hidden empty spaces as I could. It was a fine balance of pushing more and more through, hoping the wool would be pushed further into the spaces, but trying to avoid compressing the wool too much so that it is not as effective. I think I struck the right balance, hard to tell when it is hidden behind a layer of metal, but I got a good feel for it as I moved through the van.
We got two different sizes of wood for the wall battens. The shape of the various areas of the van meant that to get the ply to sit as level as possible we used thicker wood in the middle and at the bottom and thinner at the top. We measured out the various lengths we needed and cut to size. It was a straight forward job, the panels were cleaned with methylated spirits, and our silicon based adhesive was applied to the back of the battens which were then held in place and screwed into the metal using self-tapping screws. We started in the middle which went in easy-peasy, as did the lower ones.
The top is where it all went a bit wrong; the self-tapping screws which had been working perfect all day were completely useless when faced with a double layer of the thin metal. We used the adhesive and tried to screw in as normal, but this time to no avail. This left us with grey gloop all over the panel, drying, whilst we rethought the situation. They day was drawing to a close and we were both feeling quite tired, so we made the decision to wedge the glued panel in place, so it would at least be stuck on and we would face the rest next time. This was the first time we had to put off a job as it hadn’t worked – and although progress has been swift so far, I’m sure we will come across plenty more in the coming months!