the bathroom

We ummed and arghed as to whether we needed a shower and toilet. As one of our aims was to try and be as self sufficient as possible for the trip through Europe, we decided that – although it takes up a lot of space – it would be a good idea to have it. This was the first unit we secured in the van. It probably takes up a fifth of the floor space.

We were constantly testing our forward thinking ability, which was often rather tricky as we didn’t know what we needed to think about! This resulted in us discussing virtually every possible outcome to every possible situation, way too often and way too in depth. Where the good old kiwi attitude of ‘she’ll be right’ went, frustrated the hell out of Paul!

We built the frame first, attaching the base through the chassis at the rear with a couple of bolts and with a few screws that went into the OSB floorboards down the sides. We then built up from this, leaving a (small) gap to fit a door at a later date.

Firstly we attempted to mould the upright pieces of wood to fit around the roof’s unique shapes, but this ended up resulting in it being impossible to get anything square, so in the end (and we had to dismantle half the frame one day to do this) we just cut them a little short, but it meant the unit was square.

We learnt a good lesson here about getting the units square and managed to achieve a much better result if we were to build the frame of the unit outside the van and then secure in place. From here, we would add strengthening horizontals and verticals where needed and as we went we re-enforced all the joints with little bits of wood to ensure maximum strength.

Once the frame was mostly done, we set about ensuring the bathroom floor was good. We laid down a few layers of a flexible and waterproof insulation paste and once dried – which took a very long time in negative temperatures – we glued linoleum to it. We used polycarbonate for the walls and with precision mathematics and patience we cut these out to very specific shapes, so we had one piece per wall.

We cut a hole in the van’s roof with the jigsaw to fit a ventilating fan and then used a piece of OSB to provide a solid surface to glue linoleum to for the waterproofing. This whole procedure proved a little tricky as the ceiling was on an angle and we had to improvise with the fan installation as the depth between the outside of the van and the inside of the bathroom roof was too far apart. With perseverance and some cursing we managed.

We ran the wires for both the fan and the light – from the switch outside the bathroom – between the roofs OSB and the insulation, before popping through to connect with the consumers. Zsu had an awesome idea to paint the inside a vibrant orange….see for yourself the result…

We then siliconed 90° PVC angles in all the corners, to protect the joints. The toilet installation was rather tricky too, as we didn’t have the ready made ‘shower tray’ to secure the toilet in place. If we were to do something differently next time, it would definitely include getting a shower tray involved! We made a frame out of wood that we screwed to the floor of the bathroom, and sat the toilet on top of this so it couldn’t move in any direction. 

We had a custom grey water tank built, which we installed directly under the shower unit in the space we did have the spare tyre in – this found a new home on the roof.

Briefly on our water system which, if we ever did this again, we’d put a lot more thought into. We have a 70L fresh water tank, installed at the rear of the van in conjunction with a Shurflo trailking pump, which we use for our cold water, splitting after the pump into a pipe for the shower and a pipe for the kitchen taps. Our hot water system is a single black pipe, 2cm in diameter and 100m long – giving us 25L! – curled up on the top of our roof. It is connected to it’s own pump, splitting to the shower and the kitchen. Our hope is that this simple way – using the sun – will heat our water and avoid us the cost, space or worry with the complexities that lie with a hot water heater.

As we tested the water system, we experienced our largest setback of the project. Every joint leaked. Water spurted out by the kitchen taps and on both sides and ends of the shower head. Hot and cold. We re-did all the joints, the kitchen ones successfully, but we couldn’t get the shower to work.

We were three days away from leaving as we had arrangements to meet a friend in Milan, so we called in a plumber. He helped us get the shower head sorted, but at the same time advised us to be wary of using the unit if we couldn’t be sure it was 100% water tight. This we couldn’t, so defeated and swallowing our pride we reluctantly decided to put the shower unit on the rear of the van, with a plan to take showers out the back – in reality this is much harder to do.

Regardless of this horrific, gut wrenching, disastrous and life threatening news, we carried on and figured we can sort this issue at a later date.

A couple of months later, on a return to Hungary, we put the shower head on the inside and sought some further advice on the best way to waterproof the shower unit. We found a product and lathered the corners and the tight, fiddly, hard to reach places with an elastic product that dries waterproof. Not too pretty, but it’ll be watertight.

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