Building a Headliner

The is the heavy piece of wood in my van. It’s a 1 x 6 x 10 so it won’t affect gas mileage.

I used drop ceiling wire to get the strange shape of my van’s ceiling. Ceiling wire is flexible enough to bend with the hands and stiff enough to hold its shape.


I mounted the drivers side of the headliner to the spice rack.

I used a tent pole (temporarily) for holding the curtain.
The passenger side of the headliner has a 1 x 2 mounted to the 3/4 inch plywood floor.
The passenger side of the headliner has a 1 x 2 mounted to the 3/4 inch plywood floor.

The finished work of the 1 x 2 includes a 3 way switch to control the kitchen light, decorated with my lovely Walmart adhesive carpet tile (works wonders with Velcro).

Now we add a shelf.

The bottom of the shelf will be 5 inches.
This is the passenger side post. Notice the switch. From the bedroom view (of the tiny office).
Headliner from the bedroom/tiny office
Kitchen light switch 1 or 2.
This is one of two switches that control the lighting above the kitchen sink/stove
The switch next to the digital display is the other switch.

Having a switch at the back and front of the van works really well, especially when I wake up in the middle of the night and need to make a snack run. I can turn the light on in the bedroom or tiny office, then turn the light off as I leave the van.

The kitchen lights

I’m really proud of this kitchen., especially the lighting.

Common Van Life Questions:

Q: Does anyone know where I can get a tent that attaches to a full size van?

A: Napier SUV/Minivan Tents

Q: I’m new to solar can you help me.

A: There are two places you can go to get the answers you need. Solar usage calculator is helpful if you want to know how many hours you can run your electronic devices before your battery is dead go here. The second are is my blog.

Chinese Diesel Heater Planning

Because your van is your home everything you own and would like to own has to fit in that space. Each item you add changes how you navigate around your van. My articles specialize in tiny spaces. My builds are about solving problems.

What am I trying to overcome

  • Humidity
  • Mold
  • The cold

During the winter, if you live in Washington State you get lots of rain. If you have a toilet in your van and no heat, going to the bathroom is a challenge. It’s COLD! So I thought, I’m gonna have to change how often I took in fluids so I limit how often I have to go.

My van has a kitchen, with running water and a propane stove. I love the idea that I can cook right in my van. But there is one problem. Humidity!

In the summer, no problem. To cut down heat building up in my van from cooking I decided to use camping pots and pans. camping pots are thinner so they substantially lower cooking time. So the shorter cooking times lowers the amount of humidity but its enough to be concerned about mold build up.

Running the engine gets costly and opening the windows means dropping the temperature in the van.

What I tried

The Buddy Heater

I owned several versions of the buddy heaters. I settled for the single canister because the dual canister’s lowest temperature was too hot. I had additional concerns and will list them below.

  • I didn’t feel comfortable leaving the heater on while I slept.
  • The longer I kept the heater running the more difficult it was breathing.
  • The longer I kept the heater running condensation began to build.
  • The heaters size made it difficult to find a permanent or temporary spot while using it. There just wasn’t a lot of open space.

250 Watt 110 Volt Desk Heater

I thought getting a small heater would work. I must confess I was fairly new to how much heat was needed to heat that amount of space.

  • Barely puts out heat.
  • Solar batteries are completely drained in 5 hours, just on the heater alone.
  • Not enough sun to restore solar batteries fast enough.

Electric blanket

This is a great investment. Although it took a long time to heat and uses small amounts of electricity it could not heat the air.

Chinese Diesel Heater

I purchased my Chinese Diesel Heater from for $116 plus tax.

This is my 5000 watt Chinese Diesel Heater –

What size should you get?

I reviewed the 2000, 5000 and the 8000 watt versions. The 8000 was over kill and the 5000 was a little too much for my little space. Based on the size of my van I needed the 2000 watt version.

If your in a small caravan, a 2000 watt is still too much, but works perfectly. Just control the temperature or turn it off.

Why I got the 5000 watt version?

When I compared the price between the 5000 & 2000. Amazon recommended the 5000 watt at $116. The 2000 watt was $169 and up. I was also thinking about the future. I eventually wanting a bigger van. So that’s why I end up with the 5000 watt heater.

Installing The Heater

Unboxing – Chinese Diesel Heater unboxing

On the table is everything that came with my kit. There were parts that came in the kit that I didn’t use. For example the metal fuel tank line, I choose the shorter of the two installation option.

Why plan first

The diesel heater is a permanent install. Planning where to install it is important. I’m gonna walk you through how I was thinking about my install.

My biggest challenge was the gas tank.

Preparing to cut the paneling that the tank mounts too
  • The tank is 4 inches higher than the floor.
  • Can become a tripping hazard
  • The width makes it difficult to get items around it.

I noticed the fuel line was extremely long. So I sat my concerns aside and started work on installing the heater. We will come back to the tank later.

Locating a spot for the heater

I had two choices.

  1. The back stowaway area
  2. The front stowaway area under the sink

I settled for the rear stowaway because it made sense.

  • The exhaust for the van is located in the rear.
  • If I install the vent under the bed, it will heat the wood frame of the bed, which storing heat long after the unit is turned off.
  • Easier to access and do maintenance.

Modular Build

As you know my van is built in modules. Each piece is a module that can be removed or upgraded without disturbing the other parts of the van.

Removing the bed

Preparing to remove the bed. Screws are removed.

Setting Setup For The Install

Cut the carpet ready to trace and cut
I drew on the metal plate to prevent confusion when I trace and cut.
Started by drilling several holes so that I can use metal shears to cut away the metal.
Here’s the hole for the fuel, exhaust and air inlet

Preparing The Heater

Assembled the metal plate. Notice my writing.
Assembled the fuel line, exhaust and air inlet pipes.

Preparing The Fuel Tank

Fuel Tank To The Fuel Pump

Heat (Floor) Vent

Installing The Controller


The van’s kitchen has been completely redesigned from its original.

Original design
A more recent design as of 10/2019


Notice the baking sheet and the bolts and screws.

I drilled holes in the top and put 1/8 screw and bolts to raise the burner off the wood cabinet.

Between the wood and the burner is a baking sheet to act as a heat sink and preventing the wood from heating up and catching fire.

The fan distributes the heat so that it does not build.

I also layered foil underneath the carpet. I use Velcro to hold stuff in place.

Food Storage

Food is stored in two places. Under the bed and in these storage bins. The kitchen also includes it’s own light.

Some food storage.
Carbon Monoxide detector
Oops, gotta clean the paint spots.
The original idea was to have a way to cook and to have running water.

Items you can get on Amazon

Ozark Trail Single Burner Propane Stove
Ozark Trail Single Burner Propane Stove