The very first project we did was floor prep. We bought our 2019 Ram Promaster 159″ (long) wheel base from Off Lease Only, which is a buy-as-is no-haggle company. When we bought it, they said that the van had been used as a rental previously, so we wanted to make sure that there was no rust or holes before we began to build. Prepping the floor included removing the factory installed floor, removing the adhesive and rust, filling in any holes, priming, and painting.
The first part of floor prep was removing the factory-installed flooring which was held down by big globs of adhesive. Luckily, it was pretty easy to remove. First, we removed the screws holding down the floor with a ratchet and a t-40 star bit. Next, we got a large pry bar and a piece of scrap wood (to give us more leverage when prying up the board). We wanted to re-use the factory flooring after floor prep, so we were as careful/gentle as possible when popping it up. After we removed the floor, we took it outside, and took a look at what was under it. It turns out that there was a lot of dirt and miscellaneous items, which you can see in our YouTube video. Luckily, there was very little rust, and only a few small holes, which were easily filled with JB Weld Steel-Stik.
We ended up pulling off each glob of adhesive with really anything we could. Our hands, pliers, a paint scraper. We got off as much as we could so that wire brushing/ sanding the excess, wouldn’t take as long. Removing the adhesive globs took a few hours– maybe 2? What a pain! This was definitely the most annoying part of floor prep. After that, it was time to scrubbing off the excess adhesive and any rust spots with a wire brush attachment for our drill.
The wire brush drill attachment was easy to use and quickly removed the excess adhesive as well as any rust spots, but it definitely created a ton of paint dust, adhesive dust, and even some metal dust, so a good dust mask and safety glasses are a must. Also, this will take the paint off of your van, so don’t be scared when you see a whole bunch of exposed metal– you will be priming and painting those areas with Rustoleum primer/paint! Once you are done with the wire brushing, make sure to give your van a really good sweep/vacuum/ wash. You do not want to have these additional pieces of metal hanging around your van. Plus you want a nice clean start for your painting/ priming.
A Note about the Drill:
Back in the beginning we really wanted to cut costs so we started off with drills that did NOT work. We HIGHLY recommend getting yourself a QUALITY drill from the get-go, because you will use it all of the time throughout the build and on the road. We LOVE our Milwaukee Drill/ Impact Driver, but Ryobi and Dewalt are good runner ups.
Surface Prep and Priming
The next part of the project was prepping and priming the exposed metal areas. If there were dirty spots on the walls that I had not hit, I used a small amount of rubbing alcohol on a towel to remove dirt. We used Rustoleum Rusty Metal Primer. This made our van look like a murder scene, but it was easy to find where to paint later. You are supposed to let the primer dry for 24 hours. We let it dry overnight. Remember that all of these Rustoleum paints are oil-based, so when you clean off your brushes, you will need mineral spirits.
Safety Note: Mineral spirits are crazy flammable and dangerous and toxic and all that jazz, so please, don’t leave it within reach of children, don’t ingest it, and if you get it in your eyes, call poison control. Also, remember to use masks when painting and have good ventilation.
The last part of the floor prep project was adding the Rustoleum White Enamel over the red primer spots. If you want your van to look perfectly white, you can do a few coats. However, we figured that we were going to be building over all of this, so we didn’t do multiple coats, and our primer showed through a bit. As a heads up, we used the regular paint and primer with paint brushes, but I don’t see why you couldn’t use these same paints in spray paint form. Seems like it could be less work! 🙂
A Last Note
The beginning of your van build is going to be a large up-front cost. Obviously, you will be buying the van and insurance, but if you are like us, you will also need to equip yourself with tools. There are a few tools that you will be better off spending the money on in the beginning such as pliers, a ratchet (socket wrench), and a drill. The price tag can be big and daunting, but your life will be easier if you have quality tools.
And that’s it! The first project. Congratulations! Here is our YouTube video about how we removed and prepped our floor. Enjoy!
A quick note: The links above are affiliate links, so we get a small kickback for anything you buy with our link at no additional cost to you. It’s a small way to support the channel/website if you plan to purchase these items anyhow. Happy building!
Looking for more? Check out our first van build post- Why Vanlife?