Luton van converters - any tips?

Welcome to UKHIppy2764@2x.png

UKHippy is a long running online community and of likeminded people exploring all interpretations on what it means to be living an alternative lifestyle -- we welcome discussions on everything related to sustainability, the environment, alternative spirituality, music, festivals, politics and more -- membership of this website is free but supported by the community.

  • I've taken the plunge and just put a deposit down on a 2005 Sprinter Luton! :happydanc

    I've had a read through some of the posts on here and see a few of your folks have made what sounds like a great Luton conversion so if anyone can help with the following initial questions, that would be great.

    As we'll be stealthing, are there any MOT/legal implications of cutting an access hole through the cab? What would we need to reinforce it with?

    For the wall and floor insulation, I had originally planned on a panel van so I was going to use XPS board on the floor and Ecoquilt foil on the walls, but as the walls of the Luton are aluminium (currently with vertical wooden batons running down each size), would I need to consider an alternative for better insulation? Our first year will be in the UK so we will definitely need a good level of warmth. I have heard those aluminium walls can be pretty noisy but the only soundproofing I'm aware of is mass loaded vinyl (v expensive) and flashing tape.

    As for the roof, it's one of those semi-opaque ones and very blue! I'd like to put a Seitz light in and we'll have solar panels so again, it will need reinforcing...but what with?

    Weight is a bit concern but as there's no tail lift, I think the payload is about 1.5T. We plan to clad with softwood timber and use a vinyl wood effect floor.

    Thanks in advance!


  • Thanks Colin - any special reason (cost, effectiveness) you didn't for for EPS or XPS on the floor?

    Do you have a vapour barrier underneath your floor Celotex? I'm really confused about floor insulation as thought it had to go across batons so it wouldn't touch the steel floor - if that's correct, wouldn't it sag? Very new to this so lots of Qs! :)

  • Main thing with 3.5 ton Luton vans is weight. It's less of a worry on newer shorter ones but still a tight game. Don't underestimate the weight wall cladding and furniture. In combination with potential water tanks if you're going to have a water system and a couple of gas bottles that's the main worry weight wise. It obviously also depends on how much tat and tools you own of course.
    I know of a few people in 3.5t Lutons that have built relatively light interiors and when going onto a weighbridge were surprised how heavy they actually were.

    Also into account should be taken the driver, passengers and a potentially full fuel tank. Two passengers and a driver at 80kg each and a full 60 litre diesel tank is already 290kg down. Add 2x200W Solar panels at 20ish kg each and two Leisure batteries, thats another 100 kg down.

    I reckon just panelling, passengers and a full fuel tank will leave you with maybe a ton to play. Not a lot for all of ones furniture and belongings.

    If you need to reinforce the roof use aluminium. There should be enough crossbars to support the roof mind.

    Cutting through on Luton vans isn't particularly worrysome as cab and Body sit usually on the same suspension and the cab doesn't tilt on van bases trucks. Different story on forward control trucks that tilt and often have the cab suspended separately.

    I'd use Celotex or Kingspan joined with aluminium tape for insulation, 4 inches if you can loose the space, two if you can't. 4 inches gives you a chance to overlap two layers of two inch insulation wich should make for less gaps in the insulation.
    Lutons are nice and square (mostly) so fitting rigid insulation shouldn't be problematic.
    I personally don't bother with floor insulation and generally insulating too much, I have a burner that basically stays hot most of the winter including nights. Insulating ceilings is really important mind, that's where lots of heat escapes. People used to live in coaches with lots of windows but they also used to have way larger burners including range cookers in some cases. More fuel intensive mind, so if getting wood or coal is a concern for you insulate more.
    The best trick against condensation apart from well joined insulation is regular airing and heating by the way. Lots of people ignore the airing part in winter because it's cold and are then surprised when their walls go green. One has to let the moisture escape somehow.

    Sorry for the slightly incoherent response, typing on my phone on a campsite in Iceland.

  • I used eps in the walls (25mm) and roof (2sheets thick of 25mm) and lined the lot with bubble foil, it seems to work ok but I've not slept in it yet,
    I'm on a tight budget and eps saved me alot of money.

    For the floor I'm going to use a thin foam maby camping sleeping mats with rugs on top so I can regally remove it for drying and cleaning, it's very likely water will get into gaps or cavity so needs to be able to dry. (might be water dripping off a coat or spilling a drink but it would be hard to stop some getting under whatever floor you choose.)
    Mine is still untested but I'm hopeful.

  • The holes are in a cheap 2mm correx style plastic. I decided to try it as it's cheap, light and easy to fit, if it causes too much condensation I'll replace it with wood next year when more money should be available.

    But I can pick up 20 sheets of 2.4m *1.2m easily with one hand so I hope it works ok as it frees up alot of weight for other stuff.

  • You could always carpet the corex with really thin carpet. We chuch hundreds of square metres of that stuff away at festivals and gigs, most tent and marquise companies on posher/bigger gigs just leave the stuff after one use and are happy for you to have it. Quite often they also leave the end of rolls around as they are not worth taking back for them.

    Could be a lightweight and free option to stop condensation for you.

  • Thanks Colin - any special reason (cost, effectiveness) you didn't for for EPS or XPS on the floor?

    Do you have a vapour barrier underneath your floor Celotex? I'm really confused about floor insulation as thought it had to go across batons so it wouldn't touch the steel floor - if that's correct, wouldn't it sag? Very new to this so lots of Qs! :)

    If I'm 100% honest, price was the main factor - Mavis is 28 feet long, 8 feet wide and the box is over 8 feet high - I had to look at the price I could get for the quantity I needed, and weigh that up with the reports I had read and my personal experience.
    The floor insulation I put onto the existing floor, with batons to prevent bounce and sag, and to ensure that I had a fairly constant 25mm gap between the celotex and the new flooring.
    So far so good...........


  • Great - thanks everyone! Lots of useful information here. Yeah, the weight is a bit consideration and we're definitely going to have to revise a few things - my OH is taking the van to get weighed today so we can get an accurate idea of the kerb weight with the box on the back. We will definitely have a wood burner but as we'll be stealth initially, I'm conscious of having that on the go too much! We're going to make face frame cabinets with thin ply skins so hopefully they won't be too heavy.

    For EPS or Celotex, what kind of gap do you use between the wall and the insulation, and is the gap on both sides? Is it work covering some of the aluminium walls with flashing tape?

    As for the flooring, I'm waiting for Kingspan to get back to me about the XPS as don't know if you can lay that straight down or if you need a vapour barrier. If there's not much of a difference between that and EPS, I may go for the latter.

    I'm wondering the thinnest wood cladding I can get away with - hoping for 5mm and will maybe just restrict to 2 side walls.

    So the flooring could go something like this + bitumen/soundproofing + batons + gap + PIR/EPS/XPS + 1/2" ply (or bubble foil for extra insulation) + vinyl/lino?

    I have been using Van Dog's ebook and also the Sprinter sourcebook for a bit of guidance but they do offer very different approaches in a few areas.

    Sometimes I wonder if I'm overthinking everything but as you can probably tell, I'm pretty clueless when it comes to any building work - lots to learn! Thanks again all :)

  • Kingspan is water proof, it is a closed cell foam. No gap at all between the insulating and metal body. Glue it on, fill gaps with expanding PU foam, it is the same stuff as kingspan, but leave a gap to the wood so the wood can breath. Even a cm is enough. As long as some air can get behind to circulate.

    It has enough compression strength for light use on a floor.

  • Thanks LV. Does anyone know how to lay the XPS floor? I've emailed the manufacturers but no one has responded. The floor is thick plywood so I was thinking of laying a polythene sheet to act as a vapour barrier and then putting the 30mm Fibran XPS on top (no glue), followed by vinyl planks (again not sure if these should be floating, or glued down)?

  • Pot calling kettle black, as I'm just as bad, but you seem to be overcomplicating this. I appreciate understanding your materials is important and you want to make a good job but if I went into that depth of detail with every material I chose during the build my mind would explode!

    I started with a layer of 9mm ply (because I took out the original ply) coated with Bitumen underneath. I made a frame of batons and cut Kingspan to size and wedged it between them. I then covered the whole lot in a layer of foil bubble insulation taped at the edges. I then covered all with 9mm ply sheets. It feels solid enough but time will tell.

  • Exploding minds..yep! The thing is I know absolutely nothing about DIY and as we'll be living in this, I'm concerned that if I don't get the "foundations" right, anything I do on top could potentially be a write off later down the line!Thankfully, I pretty much know the materials I'm using as well as the suppliers for everything else so hopefully this will in many ways be the most stressful part...she says.