At a certain point in any van conversion the walls must go in to continue building. Like many steps in the process, this is a big decision where many things need to be considered before moving forward. Camper van walls can seem straightforward but become more complex depending on the chosen layout and design components.
This page is designed to lay out some of the key considerations with van walls and help make some of the decisions easier.
Putting walls in a van is not as easy as just screwing some wood to the inside. Like a house, camper van walls are made up of different layers that all serve different purposes.
We won’t go into too much detail here as insulation is a whole other topic in itself. The first layer should be some sort of insulation to help control heat transfer.
The next layer of a van wall will determine how it is attached to the van. It is technically possible to attach wall material directly to the van metal. However, the interior of any van, whether it’s a Transit, Promaster or Sprinter, is not uniform and it’s nearly impossible to get a smooth uniform finish. We recommend installing furring strips to level everything out so the wall material has consistent and uniform attachment points. More on this below.
This is the part that will be visible inside the van. We’ll get into material options in a minute. The real purpose of this layer is to provide a nice finish for the inside and hide all of the utilities contained behind.
The final layer is optional and totally up to personal preference and design. Coating the final wall material can help achieve a desired look while also adding a layer of protection. Many van builders opt for painting walls white while others leave them totally bare in their natural form.
There are a ton of options to choose from when it comes to wall materials for your van conversion. Here are a few of the common materials used for van walls.
This is one of the most common materials used as wall panels in camper van conversions. Typical sheets are 4x8 so only a few are needed to cover a whole van and they are lightweight when ¼ inch thickness is used. This can be a simple and cost-effective solution if the walls will be painted and the quality of the material is not important. Plywood is available in a variety of higher-grade woods but it can get pricey.
Finished Hardboard Sheets
These are a great option as they are very thin and come prefinished. The only step is cutting and installation. The downside of these panels is they aren’t as durable as solid wood and won’t hold much weight if items are directly mounted to them.
Shiplap or Tongue and Groove Planks
Plank style walls are often a popular choice for those looking for that cabin in the woods feel. They are also a popular choice for DIY camper van walls as the planks are easier to cut and shape around design elements without professional tools. Some downsides are that each plank requires fastening and they are often thicker than most plywood resulting in more weight.
Aluminum Composite Panels
ACP is composed of 2 thin flat sheets of aluminum with a polyethylene core in between. They provide an extremely smooth finished surface that does not require paint and are resistant to deforming, bowing, or warping. The polyethylene core also provides a small amount of additional thermal and acoustic insulation. The only downside is price as these panels can be the most expensive out of all the options.
We’ve covered wall materials. With decisions at every corner, fastening options for conversion van walls are no exception.
These are a great option for fastening van walls. They allow for threaded bolt holes to be installed in existing frame holes and pretty much anywhere else. One thing to note is these do require special tools to install and can be somewhat time consuming.
Self Tapping Metal Screws
These are the easiest, phone it in, option. Find some metal and sink the screw. The challenge with this is what we discussed previously around the interior metal van framing. There are bumps and insets that severely limit the locations where self tapping screws can be used.
Wooden Furring Strips And Wood Screws
This is our recommended method. Framing out walls first ensures there will be the necessary attachment points and provide a uniform place for screws to evenly sink into.
Things to think about when planning van walls
How walls are fastened and what materials are used should be driven by the design and build requirements. Here are a few questions to ask yourself that will help determine what makes the most sense.
What will be attached to the walls?
Walls serve more than just providing a nice clean feel to the inside of a van. They also serve as anchor points for things such as the bed and overhead cabinets. Determining how load bearing the walls need to be will help guide material selection.
How much wall space will be covered?
This is why figuring out the overall layout upfront is so important. A build with mostly bare walls will require a different material than a van conversion with lots of cabinets and other items covering them up.
Where will outlets and windows be located?
Another consideration is what holes will need to be cut in the wall sheathing to accommodate items like power outlets and windows. Outlets require attachment points behind the wall to stay secure and windows need framing for a clean finished look. Knowing where these items will be located will impact fastening and sheathing material decisions.
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Check out our DIY Camper Van Knowledge Center for more info to help you with your camper van conversion.