Van shelves to keep ladders and drapes in their place

When we would load up the van to do an install, we’d put the ladders in first, a sheet on top of the ladders, and then gently lay the panels, roman shades, valances, or cornices on top.  The tools, steamer, etc. would go wherever there was room.  We knew there had to be a better way.  We tried a few arrangements but weren’t satisfied until we thought of an insert that we could slide in through the back hatch and rest on the folded down seats.  It worked great.  We don’t use it on small jobs because it is a little bit of a pain to take it in and out.  On big jobs, it works excellent in our Toyota Sienna.

We wanted it to be fairly light weight but strong enough to handle the load of two ladders, 7 or 8 heavy drapes, and the hardware.  After measuring the back of the van, we knew we could fit two shelves.

We started with two frames and two pieces of plywood that will get secured to the frames.

Next we built the side frames to hold the shelves apart.  We could have used plywood all around but that would have been heavier.  We wanted the struts to be angled at 30° so we had to figure out how long to make them to get the shelf separation that we wanted.

Our geometry teachers would not be happy but we finally got it.  With the ends but at 30° and each piece being 8.1″ long, we should get a separation of 7″.  Whew!

So here are the shelves attached together.  The cut-outs on the left are to fit around the rear seat side walls that are not as wide as the rest of the interior.

We didn’t want the drapery fabric to catch on the plywood or slide around so we covered the top with flannel.  We added a side panel so that the drapes wouldn’t roll off that side.

Here are the completed shelves in the van.  Since it takes up only half of the van, we still have room for three people.

Here it is in action.  Everything in its place.