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Curtis73 (Forum Supporter)
Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
2/15/21 1:10 p.m.

Candy needs a roof rack  (my friend named my Express Van Candy and it stuck)

Primary uses will include lumber/materials transport, cargo transport while overlanding, an observation deck for events, and a camping platform for nice evenings.  So it needs to be sturdy, walkable, but not oppressively heavy, of course.

a few aftermarket overlanding companies make a proprietary roof rack for the Express/Savana, but they are wicked expensive... like $4000.  And this is GRM.

So, I have some ideas about building the structure with aluminum t-slot extrusions and some re-purposed dunnage racks from restaurant auctions.  Basically it would look like this, but with more crossmembers.

So I need ideas on making the platform walkable without A) deteriorating rapidly in the weather, and B) not being excessively heavy.  The easy button is some PT deck boards, but that's pretty heavy.  I'm thinking about some foam in between and laminating something on the outside.  I have a vacuum pump and wouldn't mind investing in some big laminating bags.

So if you had a big aluminum frame (approx 5' x 12') and wanted to make it a platform without adding lots of weight, what would you suggest?  Looking for brainstorming.  Build and laminate the center section first, then attach to the extrusions?  I would need to leave access holes in the bottom to bolt it on I guess.  Sources for larger-than 4x8 sheet goods?

You need some 80/20. You could probably build it with that and have it be plenty strong enough for anything you wanted to load on it. I have picked it up at industrial auctions before for below scrap value. 

https://8020.net/

 

EvanB (Forum Supporter)
EvanB (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
2/15/21 1:33 p.m.

I'm planning on building a Nonack/Irish44j style roof rack for my express van. The chicken coop floor seems like a good option for a walkable platform. 

https://grassrootsmotorsports.com/forum/grm/the-nonack-grm-budget-safari-rack/128714/page1/

Side rails out of something like this: Amazon Link

Cross rails out of something like this: Another Amazon Link.

californiamilleghia
californiamilleghia SuperDork
2/15/21 1:38 p.m.

If you want to go cheap and heavy duty

How about 12ft pallet rack crossbeams    ?   $20-$30 each used

and 5 ft wide uprights for the ends ,   $25-$50 each

pinchvalve (Forum Supporter)
pinchvalve (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
2/15/21 1:44 p.m.

A company I used to work for made Gator Jaw extrusions.

This was a side business that they never fully developed, but the stuff was awesome. The new owners have allowed it to die I am sure, which is a shame. 80/20 is the industry standard, but this stuff was easier to work with and held up great.

 

I have also worked with C-Channel. You can buy most of what you need a the big-box stores or Grainger. The advantage here is that it's off=the-shelf, no welding, and you have tons of slots for bungee cords and nets. Lot's of info on Sprinter and ProMaster van forums.

 

 

 

Curtis73 (Forum Supporter)
Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
2/15/21 2:13 p.m.

I LOVE 8020 stuff.  I have built with it a fair amount.  The theater has a 12' x 8' projector screen that I made from it.  Bolt the corners together, stretch the fabric, done.

If I do it all with virgin 8020, it will be in the neighborhood of $1000 before the platforming.  Not cheap, but a lot cheaper than a pre-fabbed platform.  Then I would just need to deck it with something.

My actual first thought was EXACTLY what Toyman suggested, but I was going to use the triple stack for the side rails.  If you notice in that picture I posted, the labels have 8020 part numbers of what I was going to use.

My second thought was (instead of burying that gorgeous 8020 with epoxy and sheathing was to buy cheap used dunnage racks, cut off the legs, and bolt/weld them together to make the cross pieces.  Then I could skin it with something really light and fill the voids with urethane expanding foam just so my foot doesn't go through the skin.

Example of a dunnage rack:

See the source image

 

Curtis73 (Forum Supporter)
Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
2/15/21 2:17 p.m.
californiamilleghia said:

If you want to go cheap and heavy duty

How about 12ft pallet rack crossbeams    ?   $20-$30 each used

and 5 ft wide uprights for the ends ,   $25-$50 each

I actually have some steel pallet beams here at the theater, but they are ridiculously heavy and only 9' long.  I can't imagine what a 12' beam would weigh.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
2/15/21 2:20 p.m.

Two aluminum ladders off CL, bolt together. 

I'd kinda want my "floor" to be porous for both drainage and aero. Something like a big lattice instead of a sheet. You'd need to put something on it before you threw a lawn chair up there though.

For something fairly cheap and strong - swing by your local gravel pit and ask if they have any old crusher screen. Basically wire mesh that is really strong and you'll have your pick of opening sizes. You'll probably have to bash it flat again.

Curtis73 (Forum Supporter)
Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
2/15/21 2:21 p.m.

In reply to pinchvalve (Forum Supporter) :

Yeah... Unistrut.  Or as we call it in theater, Unislut because you can use it for anything and it's always good to go.

You can get it galvanized, but I have a feeling it won't be too long until it will start leaving rust trails on my pretty van.

californiamilleghia
californiamilleghia SuperDork
2/15/21 2:23 p.m.

In reply to Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) :

I think the 12ft ones I just got were about 75 pounds each , you can lift them but they are a "Grunt"

I built a shelter to cover my 11ft long Fiat 600 

 

Curtis73 (Forum Supporter)
Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
2/15/21 2:25 p.m.
Keith Tanner said:

Two aluminum ladders off CL, bolt together. 

I'd kinda want my "floor" to be porous for both drainage and aero. Something like a big lattice instead of a sheet. You'd need to put something on it before you threw a lawn chair up there though.

For something fairly cheap and strong - swing by your local gravel pit and ask if they have any old crusher screen. Basically wire mesh that is really strong and you'll have your pick of opening sizes. You'll probably have to bash it flat again.

I have a bunch of ladder sections here that I got for basically free.  I was going to use them for a laminated ramp for a set but it ended up not working.  Can you expand on your idea?  I can't imagine the ladders bolted together would have enough joint strength for walking around.

Curtis73 (Forum Supporter)
Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
2/15/21 2:30 p.m.

I also have some aluminum I-beam extrusions here at the theater.  They were surplus wall studs from a sun room company.  They could work but I'm not sure how I would effectively attach to an I beam easily.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
2/15/21 2:43 p.m.
Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) said:
Keith Tanner said:

Two aluminum ladders off CL, bolt together. 

I'd kinda want my "floor" to be porous for both drainage and aero. Something like a big lattice instead of a sheet. You'd need to put something on it before you threw a lawn chair up there though.

For something fairly cheap and strong - swing by your local gravel pit and ask if they have any old crusher screen. Basically wire mesh that is really strong and you'll have your pick of opening sizes. You'll probably have to bash it flat again.

I have a bunch of ladder sections here that I got for basically free.  I was going to use them for a laminated ramp for a set but it ended up not working.  Can you expand on your idea?  I can't imagine the ladders bolted together would have enough joint strength for walking around.

I wasn't really serious about the ladder idea, that was just the most cheap-ass solution I could think of :) But they are sections of pre-built, umm, ladder frame. So maybe you could use parts for the outer rails?

The crusher screen, though - that's solid stuff that would make a good base for a roof rack.

vwcorvette (Forum Supporter)
vwcorvette (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
2/15/21 4:54 p.m.

Could you do something with ATV ramps?

kazoospec
kazoospec UberDork
2/15/21 5:04 p.m.

Nothing helpful to add other than totally not surprised that Curtis' van has a stripper name. laugh

ProDarwin
ProDarwin MegaDork
2/15/21 5:06 p.m.

Whats the budget here? 

I used to design mobile command centers, all of which have a robust walkable roof rack.  Many of the small ones are van-based (and share a lot of components with news vans).  If you have the ability to fab yourself, Grip Strut is the best roof decking material.  Every couple rows put in a length of 2" 80x20 for future modularity.  We used this with bent C channel edges, 2" inside dim.  Could put one together super quick.  The legs are a bit more difficult to explain, but they were basically 0.125" aluminum  trapezoid sections that went from the underside/sides of the decking down to the drip rail on the vans and spread the load out over a huge area.

Stuff like this:  

 

Curtis73 (Forum Supporter)
Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
2/15/21 5:20 p.m.

Well, the budget is as inexpensively as I can do it well.  You know the old saying, "good, cheap, or fast - pick two"  I'm down for doing the good and cheap, but I'm not in a rush.  I'm thinking $500 should get me a good, strong rack if I engineer and build it myself.

Curtis73 (Forum Supporter)
Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
2/15/21 6:02 p.m.

So I found new 1200-lb dunnage racks for $42 each on a webrestaurantstore.  They're 60" wide, 20" deep, and there are 4 cross tubes, so that suggests they're on about 7" centers.  I would need 6, so that's $250.  Need to find a weight for those dunnage racks so I'm sure   Then I could maybe cut the rungs off a ladder section and use the aluminum C channel from that.  That's free, but let's say $20 worth of saw blades, grinder wheels, etc.  I'll have to source some legs.  That might be a CL score, or find some stainless or aluminum plate.  I do have some steel z-plate from a truck nerf bar that I never installed.  If I do want to get saucy, I could upgrade to the 8020 side rails.  Might be worth it just to not be trying to remove ladder rungs and ruin a perfectly good ladder.

So, if a guy were to go that way and had 5' x 12' of aluminum cross braces spaced on 7-8" centers, what would you skin it with?

In reply to Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) :

Chicken coop floor is pretty popular with the overlanding crowd. I've never used it so I don't know how stiff it is. 

 

ProDarwin
ProDarwin MegaDork
2/15/21 8:05 p.m.

@Irish44j installed that flooring on his Sequoia I believe.  I tried to search for it, but no luck.  I think that would be fine to skin a roof with ~8" centers.

03Panther
03Panther SuperDork
2/15/21 8:18 p.m.

My company buys SS unistrut... Even galvanized dissent hold up in the "air" we have to breath here! But I hate to think how much that ads to the cost of a roof rack project. I'm sue it be way too much. Would look cool though. 

As long as your not using the new Candy van to hand out candy, the name shouldn't get you arrestedsurprise

Curtis73 (Forum Supporter)
Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
2/16/21 8:59 a.m.

In reply to Toyman01 (Moderately Supportive Dude) :

Found it.  One brand name is Dura-slat.  It has 1" holes which might not be comfy for a sleeping bag or walking without shoes, but worth a look.

DURA-SLAT Poultry and Kennel Flooring - 24" x 60" - Black Non-Overlapping | QC Supply

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
2/16/21 9:34 a.m.
EvanB (Forum Supporter) said:

I'm planning on building a Nonack/Irish44j style roof rack for my express van. The chicken coop floor seems like a good option for a walkable platform. 

https://grassrootsmotorsports.com/forum/grm/the-nonack-grm-budget-safari-rack/128714/page1/

If not the Nonack rack detailed above, it might be cheapest to start with an existing rack as a mounting base...

$200 Chevy ladder rack on FB

$300

$350

$500 with ladder!

 

Curtis73 (Forum Supporter)
Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
2/16/21 1:31 p.m.

I like that idea, John.  I'll have to research their weight capacities.  With the crossmembers spaced out like that I'm afraid I would have to do decking with someone pretty heavy which might reduce my overall capacity.

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