How to convert a van to a camper van

Written by jane smith
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How to convert a van to a camper van
Convert a van into a comfortable camper van. (Nigel Roddis/Getty Images News/Getty Images)

Vans are less expensive than campers. However, they are usually basic and the facilities they offer aren't necessarily the ones you need for your favourite destinations. If you're not intimidated by the prospect of several days of hard work, any van can be turned into a camper van.

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Things you need

  • Fibreglass high-top or flat-bottom skiff that fits the top of the van
  • Reciprocating saw
  • 2.5 by 5 cm (1 by 2 inch) rubber weather stripping
  • 5 cm (2 inch) long, self-tapping sheet metal screws
  • Power drill
  • 3 mm (1/8 inch) drill bit
  • Structural adhesive
  • Carpet for walls, floor and bed surface
  • U-edge trim
  • 60 by 120 cm (2 by 4 feet) stock timber
  • 6.5 mm (1/4 inch) thick plywood
  • Desired amenities (propane stove, fridge, chemcial toilet)

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Remove the dome light and wiring from the roof of your van. Use a reciprocating saw to cut a hole in the roof of your van that's 5 cm (2 inches) smaller in length and width than the fibreglass high-top or flat-bottom skiff. Although not as aesthetically appealing as the high-top, recycling an old flat-bottom fishing boat into a camper top is creative and will save you money.

  2. 2

    Run weather stripping around the edges, where the topper will sit. Put the topper on the van and secure it by drilling 3 mm (1/8 inch) pilot holes every 15 cm (6 inches) with the self-tapping machine screws. Cover any sharp edges of sheet metal with U-edge trim.

  3. 3

    Lay new floor with the plywood. Measure from the console to the back door, side wall to side wall, and around the wheel wells. Transfer those measurements to your plywood sheet with a carpenter's pencil to create a van floor template. Cut along the lines to make a fitted floor from as few sheets of plywood as possible.

  4. 4

    Build a bed frame with the timber. Cut four legs to your desired height, plus two long sides the width of your van and two short sides the desired width of your bed for the top frame. Use rebate and dado construction to make the top frame. Secure the legs to your top frame and the entire bed frame to the plywood floor using 56 mm (2 1/4 inch) sheetrock screws.

  5. 5

    Run wiring to install new overhead lighting. Get a qualified automotive electrician to inspect your wiring before you try using it for the first time.

  6. 6

    Use 1.25 cm (1/2 inch) diameter sheetrock screws and structural adhesive on wood and self-tapping sheet metal screws on any metal supports to secure carpet to the floor, walls and bed surface.

  7. 7

    Install the desired amenities according to manufacturer's instructions. This is an arduous process, because amenities vary from one manufacturer to another.

  8. 8

    Hire a professional technician to install an underbody propane tank and run your propane lines. No matter how many times or how little the camper is used during the year, it should be taken to a qualified propane gas or motorhome dealer for an annual checkup to keep the system running properly.

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