Cleaning, Patching and Preparing a Van Floor

Empty cargo van ready for van build

Disclosure: Some of the links in the article below may be affiliate links. This means that I may earn a small commission if you click on them and make a purchase.

When we purchased our van, it came with a mess of stuff bolted to the floor.  As I’m sure many people experience, we had to rip this stuff out and then worry with the holes that were left.

Had we realized there were going to be so many holes to fill, we may have kept looking and passed on the purchase of this van. 

However, we had been looking for a while and high top vans aren’t easy to find close to where we live, unless you want to order a brand new one from the dealer.  That’s not something we wanted to do so our search for the perfect used one led us to this one.

Everything else was perfect and to be honest, we didn’t even think about how difficult removing items from the cargo area and patching holes would be.  We figured that everyone has to go through this when they buy a used van.

The first order of business was to remove the 1 x 6 wood boards and the track system that was mounted to the floor.  

These were held in with a combination of bolts and pop rivets.  I knew I was in for a treat with the pop rivets.  In my experience, these things are a pain in the butt to remove.  The best way I have found is to drill them out.  

There are other ways, but this is the way I chose and it worked pretty well.

The bolts required going underneath the van and also required someone to hold the other side of the bolt from the top side while I loosened the nut from the bottom side.  

This wasn’t difficult but time consuming and frustrating at times as I bumped my knuckles, elbows and head on different parts of the van underside.  

In total, there were 128 holes from all the bolts and rivets that were removed.  

Holes in van floor
Example of holes in the van floor

Wow, if someone had told me at the dealership that there were 128 holes to patch, I would have probably walked. 

Having removed the bolts and rivets, I was left with all these holes to patch.  Before patching these holes, I wanted to clean, sand and paint all areas that were bare metal.  

The floor didn’t have any rusty areas, thank goodness.  However, I did plan to go ahead and paint the whole floor just to make it look nice.

I’m a perfectionist and I want to know that every part of the van was done right.  I wouldn’t feel right just covering up a scuffed up metal floor.  That’s not me.  

So my next step was to sand each hole along with the entire floor.  I then painted each hole with two coats of Rustoleum white protective enamel paint.  

After that had dried, I put two coats of the same paint on the entire floor and wheel wells along with any areas on the side walls that had paint rubbed off.  

I was on a mission to make the cargo area of this van look like it had just come off the assembly line.  I’ll have to say, the before and after was impressive and I’m glad I went through the trouble to make it look as good as I did.  

The next step was to fill in the holes and I accomplished this in a  variety of ways.  

My first choice was to put pop rivets back into the holes where they had come out of and this is what I did for about 60 holes.  

I feel like this provides a good seal and closed the hole up just as well as it was before.  I also plan to go underneath the van and put sealant around each rivet where it is poking through just to be sure it is watertight.

The rest of the holes I tried different options but finally settled on JB Weld Steelstik.  I had tried Permatex liquid metal filler and it was terrible.  It just cracked and fell right through the hole with the slightest amount of pressure.  It wasn’t suitable at all for this application.  The JB Weld dried and felt as though it was as sturdy as the metal floor was.  

A few tubes of JB Weld later, I was finally finished with all of these holes in the floor.

JB weld in the van floor
Patched holes in the floor

In the end, I was happy how it turned out.  It took far longer than I had imagined but that was only because I was meticulous and wanted to do every thing as correctly as possible.  

I feel like this is foundational stuff that needs to be done right.  

Now that the floor has been done to my satisfaction, I can move on to the next step in my build process knowing that I have done the best I could on the floor.

View the next step – Installing sound deadening material…

Dan Collins

I consider myself an outdoor enthusiast. I love to travel and go to places that most people don't get a chance to go. I want to see it all and live life to the fullest while I'm alive. My camper van is helping me to do just that. I write about my experiences to help inspire others to do the same.

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