HOW DO I CONVERT MY VAN INTO A CAMPERVAN?
Welcome to the conversion guide! Here you will discover the process of converting your empty panel van into your dream camper!
Before starting your conversion make sure you are aware of your limits, electrics and gas are two jobs that should be undertaken by professionals and will need signing off before use.
Planning stages will always differ, however, this stage can be as detailed or as brief as you want it to be. There are four key questions we always ask customers when planning their conversions.
1. How many people will be sleeping in the van?
This space in a van needs to be considered. If there are more than two people staying in the van you might need to think about adding space such as a pop-top or awning.
2. Where do you plan on doing your cooking?
What ventilation do you need in your van? If you are planning on cooking outside then you need to plan a safe and secure storage solution for when you are on the road. If you are planning on having a gas cooker or hob inside of the van then you need to work out where you are going to secure the gas bottle, where the gas bottle vents will go and where the piping will route. You will also need ventilation close by to the hob or cooker.
3. Will you be camping on campsites or off-grid?
If you are planning on staying at campsites, then you need to plan for what you do and do not need. You might need to fit a 240v mains inlet socket and fused system to be able to take advantage of the campsites 240v hook up. You are less likely to need to install shower and toilet systems as these will typically be available where you are staying.
4. How long will you be staying in the van?
The duration mixed with whether you are planning off-grid or campsite camping will determine electrical system spec, shower and toilet systems as well as heating and storage.
It's best to get the messy jobs out of the way first, if you need to cut in windows or are having a pop-top fitted, now is the time! These jobs require space in the van and can also create a lot of sparks and mess so the emptier, the better.
Once you have your van and have a plan, it is time to clear it out and start with a fresh slate! When removing items such as the ply, assess it and see if it can be reused.
If you've just driven your van out of the dealership then this will not take too long. If you've just bought your van from a builder or gardener then be prepared to be at this stage for a little longer!
Usually, a good sweep and hot soapy water will do the trick, the aim is to eliminate odours and have the van clean and grease-free, ready for the next stage.
It is ideal to start working on the cab early on, as there is a chance this area will need a clean too. If you are going to require the vehicle during the conversion we would say to leave the cab alone until the end.
However, for most getting the cab started now will allow a route to the engine bay to be assessed before any electrics are run and to give the area a good clean.
SOUND DEADENING AND INSULATION
The first conversion job is to sound deaden and insulate the van. We recommend covering the sides, ceiling and doors with the appropriate products. If you don't know what products or quantities you need you can check out this blog or our sound deadening bundles.
We recommend leaving the floor as you will likely ruin the insulation on the next step if it is already fitted. Put it to the side for now and we will let you know when to fit it!
PLY PANEL MOCK UP
The ply mock-up stage is very important for a couple of reasons. Firstly, you can make any modifications to the ply; cutting holes for electrics and second, making sure your fixing points are adequate.
This stage is longer if you are making your ply panels from scratch, as this requires a lot of taking panels in and out to make sure they are 100%. We recommend buying pre-cut panels or using old ones as templates to save time.
LEISURE ELECTRICS PART ONE
You are now at the stage to start running your electrical cables. Make sure you do not connect anything up until everything is safely terminated, also we do not recommend electrics to be fitted with no prior experience or understanding.
The electrics won't be able to be finished at this stage, however, this is the best time to run the right cables to the desired locations.
We recommend carpeting the ply panels and remaining metalwork separately for most applications. There are two reasons why. The first being, it is easier to fit and secondly for future-proofing the van, as you will be able to remove the panels if access is required.
Firstly, carpet line the metalwork that will be exposed once the ply is fitted. Once this area is carpet lined you can then cut away any spare and use this to carpet smaller panels.
Carpet line all the ply panels and then fit them using either trim clips or screws that you have pre-drilled at the mock-up stage. (Make sure to poke your wiring out so these can be terminated later.)
Once you have carpet lined the sides, ceiling and wheel arch's your attention can turn back to the floor, install the insulation and sound deadening on the floor and then fit the ply floor either by screwing it into the floor of the van or by bonding in battens.
Leave your floor covering for a moment as it could get damaged if it's fitted too early.
If you are building a camper please skip this step!
If you are building a day van you can mock fit any seating, fit the floor covering, final fit the seating, terminate the electrics and connect them to the system. Once the system and seating are safe and tested, your day van is ready. You can now add any additional items such as curtains and styling pieces.
FURNITURE AND BED MOCK-UP
Before you start fitting your interior make sure to fit any splash panels or curtains and blinds.
You can now start mock fitting your interior units in the van. You want to make sure it is scribed to the van and also mock fit the bed to make sure it all fits before it's installed. Test everything opens and operates as it should.
Now that the majority of bed and furniture moving has been done, we can fit our floor covering. Most campervan flooring is fairly hard-wearing, however, we leave it till later on in the process to give it the best chance.
Make sure to sweep the ply before fitting the floor covering.
FURNITURE FIT AND APPLIANCES
Once you know that the furniture fits and everything is going to operate as it should you can look to bolt down and fix the interior.
Once the interior is fitted you can route cables and pipes through the furniture and start final fitting the electrics and appliances such as fridges, hobs, sinks and heating.
ROCK 'N' ROLL BED
The final job is to fit the Rock 'n' Roll bed! Once this is done there may be additional jobs like adding a cupboard under the bed or turning your attention back to the cab; you could fit a swivel base to increase space or fit a cab carpet to make the space feel more comfortable.
If you have any further questions please take a look at our online forum, we are building the forum to become a space for people to share ideas and gather inspiration. If you would like detailed bespoke advice with your build then please consider becoming a paid site member. Membership perks don't just stop at advice, you also gain access to some exclusive forums.