Planning a functional interior for an ambulance being converted to a camper, our tiny home on wheels, with a living space of less than 100 square feet is much more difficult than the videos on YouTube make it look! The above is our before picture. We made a temporary bed so that we could use the ambulance to camp, but it, and the fridge, took up the entire floor space which created the need for a total redesign.
We had originally planned the temporary bed to be a sofa/bed combo. After using the ambulance to camp in on a few trips, we decided that a fixed bed platform would work out better for us. We’re trading the functionality of having both a sofa and bed for the convenience of not having to make the sofa into the bed every day. This meant cutting out the two rear cabinets to make room for the queen sized bed and to open up quite a bit of floor space.
The picture on the left shows the passenger side rear compartment that Jeremy cut the top out of. We’ll cap it and close off the top so that we can still use the lower part of the outside compartment. The picture on the right is the driver’s side rear compartment that Jeremy only cut a portion out of so that we can continue to utilize this space, both as an outside compartment, as well as making room for the bed inside.
Rear Bed Platform
The above picture puts the rear bed and floor space gained into perspective. What we’ve lost in outdoor storage, we’ve gained with indoor storage under the bed. Many vanlifers call this space the garage. We plan to put a water tank in the space above the original bench and below the bed on the passenger side. The space under where the water tank will be can be accessed by a smaller outside compartment.
Fridge Slide Installation
The fridge slide is temporary so that we could still go camping and maintain as much floor space as possible. Jeremy will be making a similar, but more permanent version with steel. We ordered the 500 pound drawer slides from Amazon (no affiliation). We’re most likely going to turn the fridge so that the front will be facing the cab. This will take up less space while cooking at the counter and will open up more storage space behind the fridge.
Cabinetry and Floor Layout Plans
The beginning stage of planning our floor layout entailed creating cardboard cabinetry to give us a visual. We plan to raise the countertop on the driver’s side to a normal 36 inches so that we can cook and do dishes while standing. This was the reason for removing the original overhead cabinetry. The original cabinets hung too low and extended out to far.
We were going to keep a small bench on the passenger side, beside the curbside door, and figure out where to store a small table. The space was extremely small, but we’d both fit, even if we’d be elbowing each other while eating. However, now we’ve decided to remove the cabinet behind the passenger seat. Though I was reluctant to give up this massive amount of storage space, Jeremy explained his vision of having a swivel seat with a table mounted to the wall. There is a lot of underutilized space in the box behind the passenger seat and very little leg room. We also plan on installing an Airhead composting toilet under the table. Instead of the small bench, we’ll turn that into a sink cabinet (see below) and we’ll cook on the other side.
The above photo is a quick look into the electrical cabinet. We were very fortunate to have the wiring schematics, so the task of removing the unnecessary wiring wasn’t nearly as difficult as it could’ve been. It also helps that the wires are labeled every couple of inches. Excellance did an amazing job of keeping everything loomed and clean, but there was so much that we didn’t need. Though ambulance lights and sirens are fun, they’re not legal for us to run while driving, so we decided to do away with them. Rather than trying to make things work for other purposes, we took the advice of others living out of their ambulance, and removed what we won’t use. We can reuse the wires if needed, but eliminating as many possibilities of a parasitic draw was the end game.
Jeremy has amazed me at how quickly he figured everything out, tackled the task at hand, and completed it. Just looking at the cabinet was overwhelming to me!
Cabinet for the Sink
Since the entire ambulance box is aluminum, the framing for the sink cabinet also had to be aluminum to minimize any corrosion. Jeremy was very familiar with mig welding steel, but he had never tig welded aluminum. He observed a friend that does it professionally, as well as attended YouTube University, and has done a wonderful job of learning yet another new skill. Note to others: in order to prevent much unnecessary frustration, don’t try to teach yourself tig welding aluminum outdoors in the wind.
The cabinetry for the sink still has quite a way to go, but it’s great to see real progress with the build! There will be a seven gallon gray water tank under the sink and three drawers on the right side of the cabinet. Jeremy will add another leg in the middle, both front and back, to support the framing for the drawers. We purchased a four stage uv water filter system, but that will be shown in a later post when the water system is complete.
If you haven’t noticed, we tend to do things twice… We create a temporary version so that we can go camping and use it immediately, then build the permanent version the way that it should be built. I don’t recommend this for those watching costs; however it has helped us learn how not to do many things! This countertop proves the point. We bought the sink from Lowe’s and ordered the faucet from Amazon. Since Jeremy had the basic framework for the cabinet completed, he cut the hole for the sink into a spare piece of plywood so that we could do a dry fit. I went ahead and sanded, stained, and coated it with polyurethane so that as soon as we get the water hooked up to it, we can go on another camping trip. Double the work, double the fun?
Thanks for reading!!!
This brings us to current day. It feels like there are a million projects going on at once and it’ll be nice when we’re finally able to button things up for good. Until then, we’ll keep posting as projects get completed to keep you all up to date! If you haven’t read our previous posts, check out Ambulance Camper Conversion – Phase 2 – 6 Inch Lift and Ambulance Camper Conversion – Phase 1.
Thank you so much for joining us on this journey. We welcome any and all comments. I’m sure there are better ways to do things and we’re open to suggestions from those that are already living the travel lifestyle.
Happy and safe travels!
Simplify. Get outside. Live free.