DIY Van Conversion

Written by al heurung
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DIY Van Conversion
Doing your own van conversion can be economical and give you a custom vehicle. (Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

Doing your own van conversion can be a fun and economical way to get more out of your van. Whether seeking a miniature RV, a place to camp for a quick weekend out, or a comfortable vehicle with multiple uses, van conversions can be the ideal way to achieve that goal. Since conversion van production peaked in the 1980s and then began to drop off, fewer and fewer conversion companies remain in business. The Do-It-Yourself conversion is becoming a popular, inexpensive and sometimes necessary way to create the right vehicle for any particular need.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Measuring tape
  • Planning pad
  • Saw
  • Drill
  • Self-tapping metal screws
  • Adhesive
  • Insulation
  • Furring strips
  • Plywood

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  1. 1

    Measure the internal dimensions of your van and make a list of all the things you wish to include in your conversion. Draw a floor plan of the items you want on a piece of paper to see how and where they will fit. Lay out cardboard or newspaper in the van itself, matching the measurements on this plan to get a visual idea of the space required. Make a list of all materials you will need to complete this conversion. Do not forget lighting, wiring and plumbing costs if you are including those amenities.

  2. 2

    Insulate and frame your van. This is the foundation of a good van conversion so time should be taken to do it well. Lay furring strips on the van floor between which insulation will go, as well as attaching them to the steel "ribs" of the walls and ceiling. These strips will help to attach walls and floors securely. Lay insulation with a vapour barrier to prevent condensation between the wood strips in the wall cavities and on the floor and ceiling. You might need to glue the insulation in place. The best insulation will not trap moisture against the metal of the van. Remember to leave space for any dedicated furniture mounting points included in the base vehicle.

  3. 3

    Run any electrical wiring, conduit or plumbing essentials needed for light fixtures or water sources. Make use of the corners between ceiling and walls for easiest routing. Be aware of the depth of any plumbing or conduit should you need to run it over the supports in the van walls. Too thick, and your wall will not attach properly to your furring strips.

  4. 4

    Attach your wood panels to the furring strips on the floor, ceiling and walls. Typically, floors use ½-inch to 3/4-inch plywood. Walls and ceiling use 1/4-inch panelling board. Once mounted, apply the finish treatment for your inside walls. Automotive fabric is a popular choice for walls and ceiling. Floors can be carpet, vinyl or even hardwood laminate flooring. If you plan to use pre-installed furniture mounting points included in the base vehicle, be sure to cut out flooring appropriately to keep them accessible before installing.

  5. 5

    Mount the internal furniture fixtures you planned. Place the furniture in the van unmounted at first to be sure it will fit. It's much easier to adjust furniture fittings before they are fixed in place. Be sure that all furniture mounted in a van is properly secured either to the supports or to the pre-existing furniture mounting points within the van.

Tips and warnings

  • Consider how much you need for your van's intended purpose. Adding more can mean more expense and maintenance.
  • Look at the weight of what you are installing. Packing in too many heavy components can reduce the van's efficiency.
  • Don't forget storage.
  • Simple always is better.
  • Do not run any electrical wiring to a live power source without having a qualified professional look over it first.
  • Make sure there is adequate ventilation should you be installing any heat source.

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