In addition, if your aisles aren’t wide enough, you could be subject to complaints or lawsuits under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA requires you to have aisles that are at minimum three feet wide. If you’re reported to be non-compliant, you could be fined if you don’t widen your aisles and remove obstructions. Learn more about the ADA’s retail store requirements here.
Expanded polystyrene (EPS) is an open-celled foam board (think styrofoam) that is the cheapest of all the foam boards. It does work, but we generally don’t recommend using EPS in your van. It insulates less than XPS (R-4 per inch), and the gaps between the foam cells allow moisture to penetrate, which degrades the insulation over time. Polyiso and XPS are much better choices for a slightly higher cost.
In our opinion, the best kind of fridge you can get for a DIY campervan is a portable 12V fridge/freezer. These fridges are built for adventuring on 4x4 vehicles and boats. They’re very rugged, and they don’t need to be kept perfectly level like mini-fridges. They can run off 12V power or regular 110V. They keep your food as cold as you want, and they can operate as either a fridge or a freezer.
“Beware suppliers bearing gifts. That ‘free’ refrigerator from the drinks supplier is never really free. You can quickly find yourself tied into sub-optimal deals because of a reliance on this hardware. If you have access to the capital, do yourself a favor: Buy your own fridge and negotiate from a position of strength.” — ShopKeep Founder and Experienced Small Business Owner
I grew up in New Jersey and now live in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. Good thing, too, because we certainly need that extra property space to store the leader of the Auto­bots.Back in 2013, I founded an Internet company called AmericasFootprints.com, which gives people an opportunity to preserve their most precious memories (in private) for the current and future generations of their family. That’s because I believe everyone has a story and I also believe everyone deserves a chance for their story to live on.
To simplify this process, hire professionals with experience helping business owners by assessing their needs, developing their budget, and negotiating their commercial lease. Managed by Q is a company that not only assists with pre-lease planning, but also provides help with renovation project management, space planning, and even administrative support. Managed by Q offers an array of services that can help save you time and money. Click here to set up a free account and get started.
Hey Brett! Awesome to hear that your own plans are coming together. I can’t really recall seeing any dirtbags rolling around in a Pruis… I wouldn’t imagine it to be the ideal vehicle for transporting gear and living out of, but the gas savings would really add up over 6-7 months on the road. In general, I’m in favor of going with what you’ve got and finding creative ways to make it work. Maybe you can add a rooftop box? On some vehicles, people even remove the passenger seat(s) for extra storage space. The biggest problem with the Prius that I see would be finding a place to sleep while you are on the road… But I guess that’s where your gas savings and cheap hotel would come in. I know Gina Begin has been living in her little car for a long while now, check out her stuff, and maybe reach out to her. She’s a veteran at dirtbaggin’ it in a car: http://www.ginabegin.com/2013/05/the-ultimate-guide-to-living-on-road-15.html
The final size I decided on was 1800 sq. ft. Yeah, that’s big! I actually balked and second guessed myself after we received the estimate from the contractor. Sure, more space is nice, but at what cost? I then asked for a second estimate, bringing the shop down to 1500 sq feet, which is still huge. As you might expect, the savings just weren’t that substantial. By the time you get over 1000 sq. ft., the price per sq. ft. is really low, making it very difficult to justify down-sizing. So I bit the bullet and stayed with my original choice of 1800 sq. ft.
The number of windows, as well as their sizing and placement, depends on your orientation, view, desire for ventilation, and needs for daylight and solar gain. Orienting more of your windows towards the south side of your shop and placing them high enough that they are shaded by the eaves in summer, but allow lower-angle winter light to come in, will increase your ability to get free light and heat from the sun. If your goal is to take advantage of passive solar opportunities, make sure that you carefully research the type of glass that is in your windows and look for something with a high solar heat gain coefficient. Higher windows generally allow for benches and tools beneath them, and relatively win­dowless north walls may be a place to arrange wood storage or mechanicals.
A good portable air conditioner will also remove excess water from the air, which is critical for keeping your stockpile of wood in good shape. Lumber should be stored in dry conditions so it doesn’t warp, so look for efficiency features that allow you to run the unit overnight in the summer as needed —without worrying about blowing up your electricity bills. Other good features to consider include a thermostat and variable settings that allow you to set your workshop temperature to the perfect level for your comfort.
A track saw, such as those by Festool and DeWalt, makes things even easier and offers greater accuracy, but these saws are also quite a bit costlier. With a circular saw, you have to keep the shoe pressed against a guide while pushing the saw forward. Track saws, on the other hand, pop onto their tracks and need only to be pushed forward. Track saws often feature splinter guards to help reduce tearout as well for smoother and straighter edges.
In my shop I use a large number of Jorgenson F-clamps. I use many of the small clamps, the most useful being the 12" version. Large F-clamps are essential for cinching down parts on bending forms. I also like aluminum bar clamps because they are much lighter than steel clamps, and therefore less likely to damage a carcase should you bang into the wood dur­ing a glue-up.

There are some variances in the features and reliability of different model years, and differences between the Mercedes Sprinter, Dodge Sprinter, Ford Transit, and Dodge Promaster - so make sure to do your research. The Sprinter RV Conversion Sourcebook is an incredible resource on all things Sprinter (and van conversions in general), and it goes over all the options in detail.
Working on one side at a time, glue and nail the side to the back. Apply glue and drive three 1-5/8-in. nails into each shelf, attach the other side and nail those shelves into place to secure them. Clamps are helpful to hold the unit together while you’re driving nails. Center the top piece, leaving a 2-in. overhang on both sides, and glue and nail it into place. Paint or stain the unit and then drill pilot holes into the top face of each side of the unit and screw in the hooks to hold your ironing board. Mount the shelf on drywall using screw-in wall anchors.
There are benefits to either approach. Sharing a common wall with your house can require some careful soundproofing but can reduce heat loss and exterior fin­ishing costs like siding. A shop located in an addition is more likely to be allowed to have living space or storage space above it, and it may be easier to make use of the existing plumbing and electri­cal and heating systems of your home to service your shop space. Another advantage of an addition is not having to run to an outbuilding in minus-30-degree weather or a summer downpour.
Now, another thing we’ve recycled that’s kind of unusual, all the wood walls you see here were actually and old backdrop that we used on a show a couple of years ago, perfect for our wood walls we need. Now, to store some of the tools, we have we created this simple little shelf unit out of cedar. And you know it kind of adds some of that warm wood feel to a shop, which I wanted it to look more like this than just plain painted walls.
Just stumbled across your article and it’s right on time as I am about to launch a special events venue (ballrooms, meeting rooms, outside garden area, outsourced caterer, etc). Not sure what type of zoning this business falls under. I read that zones are usually for office, retail, industrial and leisure. Any idea what type of zone I should be looking for? Also first time trying to get a commercial space for this type of business, any specific suggestions?
The thing I wanted to mention was that I moved from Seattle to Loveland, Colorado north of Denver in July ’05. I brought my ’01 Dodge Ram 2500 with a 8.5′ Northland Grizzly slide-in camper. It was myself and my 9 year old Black Lab mix Lucy. One thing I had not anticipated was the temperatures here in Colorado. It was 105-106 degrees for the first week I was here. My job was in Boulder, which is known for its “bunny-higher” types. I couldn’t leave Lucy in the camper at the RV park because I didn’t have air conditioning in the camper. I took her to work with me and tied her long rope to the trailer hitch on the truck so she could crawl under it and get into the shade. I also put out plenty of cold water for her that I replenished often. By the afternoon of my first day at my new job I heard rumors that people were going to call Animal Control on me for having my dog outside in temperatures that hot, even though she had both shade and water. I ended up having to leave early my first day so I could go purchase a $600 air conditioner and install it in the camper so I could leave Lucy there during the day and I didn’t have to worry about her comfort.
That headline struck me as discouraging. As an entry fee, $5,000 seems high enough to exclude a number of potential woodworkers, myself included. Christiana softened the blow by saying that used tools could cut the cost roughly in half. That figure seemed much closer to my experience, which involved buying a mix of new and used tools. Having said that, buying the right used tools is much more difficult than buying from a catalog or dealer who stocks everything needed to build a great shop. It requires a bit of guile and a good plan, but the payoff is worth it. Through careful choices and good fortune, I was able to outfit my shop with a blend of new and used tools for around $2,000.
Nice setup Ryan. I’m looking more for the storage aspect than the sleeping in aspect. I like how you used the cap clamps to hold things in place. Do I understand right that those are the only things holding the side shelf units in place? That and maybe the ribs in the floor of your bed? So if you unclamp the cap, the whole side cabinets would just slide out?
When you design your workshop setup, climate control often gets ignored — and that’s a huge mistake! If your workshop or hobby room is in an unconditioned space like a garage or basement, you could find that it’s brutally uncomfortable to work in there during warm weather. You’ll be much happier with a solid fan — or several — to keep air moving for your comfort.

Non-Standard Miter Slots - This one is a downer.  One of the primary advantages of having a table saw is access to jigs that expand the saws functionality.  This is a major issue if you plan on buying after market jigs.  Given that we are limiting the cost of this buildout to $500, I am guessing that after market jigs are probably low on the priority list.  Your going to want jigs once you start researching what they enable you to do, my advice is to build your own - there are plenty of plans online.  

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