Build Chronicle: Converting a 2006 Mercedes Sprinter Van

A post shared by Kaya Lindsay (@onechicktravels) on

Where did you find and purchase this van? What’s the backstory?

I had an if this then that (ifttt.com) alert set up on Craigslist so that when a Sprinter Van showed up in the area in our budget, we could act quickly.

It just so happens that right before we bought the van I was in Vermont finishing up my last residency for my undergraduate degree.

I get an email on Thursday that there’s a van for sale in Sacramento, which is about three hours from my hometown, Santa Cruz, California. I immediately call the guy and we agreed to meet that Saturday. I fly home Friday morning, planning to reach Santa Cruz that night.

Amid a series of travel and bank difficulties (I needed to pay $11K in cash), I arrive home at 9pm after 12 hours of travel. I pass out, only to wake at 6am, drive three hours to Sacramento, do a pre-purchase inspection, take the leap and buy Lyra.

The rest is history.

What were you aiming to do with this build?

Being climbers, we initially wanted to have the van as a ‘dirtbag’ vehicle. However, as we talked more about it, it became clear that it was going to be a home.

When we were designing the van we took great care in focusing on the color of the wood (light), the brightness of the lights (warm lighting), and the location of the storage (low) because we wanted to make sure the clean uninterrupted line of the back of the van was preserved in the final design.

Also, there had to be room for a bulky climbing/bouldering pad and we absolutely needed solar.

A post shared by Kaya Lindsay (@onechicktravels) on

How did you insulate your van?

We used a combination of rigid foam insulation board—adhered with 3M High Strength 90—and then filled in with Great Stuff Spray Foam.

After doing our insulation, I realized that we probably should have applied treatment to the inside of the van before installing the insulation. I’ve done some research and found the following materials are highly recommended for preventing rust:

If you do use an undercoating, make sure that the entire surface is very clean and very dry, or else the undercoating will actually promote rust by trapping moisture.

What did you do for wall paneling?

We have cedar paneling for the walls … it’s heaven. For the construction, we used wood glue, self-tapping screws, and also an all-purpose construction adhesive. To protect the panels, we applied Minwax Polycrylic Satin Finish.

A post shared by Kaya Lindsay (@onechicktravels) on

How about flooring?

The flooring was the first thing we did. We just went to the local flooring store and bought their leftovers for I think, $1 a square foot? It wasn’t too expensive. And having hardwood floors is so, so nice.

Directly below our hardwood we are using Roberts Moisture Barricade, placed over TrafficMASTER Underlayment.

A post shared by Kaya Lindsay (@onechicktravels) on

What’s in your kitchen?

I’m actually not too jazzed about the Johnson Pumps Faucet/Pump Combo we’re using in the van right now.

The electric pump is really loud, it uses up a lot of water, and the force of it is so strong it actually sprays water everywhere and makes for an annoying amount of clean-up. So, I’d suggest opting for a hand pump instead.

Underneath, we have two Scepter 5-gallon water jugs: one for fresh water and one for drainage.

I think my favorite feature is the TruckFridge refrigerator. I am a huge fan of cold beer!

Let’s hear about your electrical setup.

The electrical setup was a lot of fun to do, especially since we had a friend who does this for a living come by and show us how it’s done, all in exchange for pizza and beer.

I have an LG 210 watt panel on the roof of the van (we purchased this second hand), two XS Power 120 amp hour AGM batteries, and a Midnite Solar battery meter. This setup also required a number of circuit breakers and we purchased a CNBOU 600W pure sine wave inverter.

Other specifics that we used:

As always, do your own research and my advice is to ask for help … find someone who knows this stuff!

A post shared by Kaya Lindsay (@onechicktravels) on

What mistakes did you make?

I think I would have sprayed a moisture sealant inside the van before putting in the insulation. I’m always worried about rust and mold now.

Also, do not get an electric water pump. Hand pumps or foot pumps are the way to go. The electric pump takes up way too much water, electricity, and it’s noisy as hell.

Last thoughts …

Ask for help when you need it! Don’t worry about making everything perfect and let yourself make mistakes. Also, don’t buy a Sprinter without doing a pre-purchase inspection.


For Your Build

Get top picks from Kaya's conversion

Vent fan

Fan-Tastic 2250


Refrigerator

TruckFridge TF130


Batteries

XS Power XP3000


LED dimmer

 Triangle Bulbs


Now to you

Do you have questions about this build? Experience or thoughts about anything mentioned? Add your feedback in the comments below.


Want more? Get our Vanvaya Journal, delivered monthly.


Explore More

Related articles you'll love

Best Van Conversion Equipment: Top Picks for Solar, Refrigeration, Kitchen, More…
Van Life Profile: Gavin Elliot of Lakefield, Ontario
Van Life Profile: Alexis Beaudet-Roy of Quebec
Build Chronicle: Converting a 2012 Mercedes Sprinter Van
How to Convert a Van into the Ultimate Camper

Tags from the story
, , ,
More from Kaya Lindsay

Mercedes Sprinter vs Dodge ProMaster: a #Vanlife Conundrum

So you want to buy a van and convert it into a...
Read More