We chose Baltic Birch ply as our floor for a few reasons. We like the natural feel of wood, it adds a brightness to the interior living space, and because it also acts as the subfloor. We cut the floor from 2 sheets of 5’x5’ ply and it fits snuggly around the wheel wells and the slider door entry. We had to sand the bottom of the front piece that fits against the engine hump because the floor is not level at that point.The floor space that we actually walk on is not very large; about 3 feet by 4 feet. The cabinets and bed platform cover the rest of it.
Under the floor we installed strips of Neoprene ½” in between the ribs. On top of that we installed an ⅛” layer of polyethylene 4# density foam. The Baltic birch ply sits on top of both of those layers and we bolted them to the floor. We applied 4 coats Bona Mega Floor Finish to both sides and all the edges to protect against moisture.
We attached the Baltic birch to the vans floor by installing large through bolts from the inside of the bed platform to the under-body of the van. We used large 2” stainless washers and one rubber washer. The idea behind the rubber washers is that they will give the floor and the cabinet a small margin of flex as the van moves.
The floor fits under the plastic footstep which is great because we can re-use all the original hardware and it helps secure the floor better. We thought about making a custom footstep, but at this point in the build we were ready to get on the road and spend less time working on the van.
Thoughts Post Installation:
Well on the one hand we really like the feel and aesthetics of having real hardwood floor in the van. On the other it’s not very resistant to all the overlanding abuse that goes with the territory; partly due to the fact that the Bona Mega finish has not held up to its claims and partly because we live outside and outside ‘stuff’ gets in really easy!
I think if we were to do this again, I would choose a different floor material. I don’t really know what I would choose as I haven’t yet seen a material that impressed me in other van builds.
The neoprene insulation for hot weather is NOT effective for preventing heat from the engine to permeate through the floor. It gets really, really hot inside from the engine heat which means we have to plan when we arrive to hot climates because the van stays much warmer than the outside ambient temps. We could not find any 1/2” polyiso board in California at the time of our build and I think that would be a better material for blocking heat. Another product idea I discovered post build (of course) is a heat shield meant for putting under carpet in vehicles to block heat. It claims to reflect heat up to 2000 degrees. This would have been a better choice overall to reduce the amount of heat passing through the floor. I can’t emphasize enough how important this is when traveling in warm to hot climates!