Converting a campervan is a very satisfying project if you are brave enough to take it on. Designing and building a tiny home on wheels is interesting, great fun and the results achievable speak for themselves. Not many people get to drive around in a home they built themselves! So, what exactly is required to convert a campervan?
In this blog we will be overviewing the steps needed to convert a van into your home on wheels so that you can get a better understanding of what’s required.
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There are many steps in the conversion process to take a vehicle from an empty panel van to your tiny dream home with all mod cons. Some parts of the process are labour intensive and repetitive, some are more intricate and complicated and no doubt there will be times when you might need to call in an expert, like installing gas lines for your cooker and heater or running electrical wires to sockets and lights.
Gutting the Van
After you have bought the van, insured and taxed the vehicle, and have found a secure place to store it during the conversion, the emptying out process can begin. Remove any fixtures like seats and shelving, take up carpets or floor mats and thoroughly scrub the interior. This is a good time to measure your van properly, when it is empty, as you will need the measurements to purchase your conversion materials and to order basics like a heater, water tanks and windows. Begin planning the layout in more detail and make final decisions!
Body Work and Exterior Components
Check the body for rust and seal the entire van floor, walls and ceiling. Decide how many vents you will need, depending on the size of your base vehicle and other considerations like the weather. For a medium base van and full-time dweller, two roof vents should suffice, one above the toilet to expel smells and keep the space fresh, and another above the kitchen area to help the condensation created by cooking escape. Measure out the hole, cut, install the vent and seal in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. For windows, it is a matter of preference how many you will require in your van. Measure carefully, cut the hole, put the window in place and seal following the guidelines provided. Seek help if you need it, installations like windows can be tricky to get right and you don’t want leaky seals to cause you problems down the road.
Water & Plumbing
Plumbing holes may be needed in the underside of the vehicle if you plan on having sinks or a shower in your rig. Measure out your bathroom space, mark out the drain and cut the hole. Install the freshwater tank and outlets to the sink and shower taps and connect the plumbing. A grey water tank should be installed underslung, that is held in place under the van, for the taps to drain into. For your shower cubicle, you can choose materials like fibreglass or watertight sheeting. Build the cubicle and install the shower tray. Add a portapotty for ultimate convenience.
Walls, Ceiling, and Flooring
Install the wooden batons to frame and hold in place the walls, floor and ceiling. Insulate between the floor batons and lay your chosen flooring on top. Marine plywood is a great option, with vinyl, lino or carpet laid on top to take the chill from your toes!
Now it is time to insulate the walls of your van, using your chosen medium, and install any sound-deadening material you desire for your build. By now, you should have a clear idea and a great plan for the interior layout.
With a floor installed, walls and partitions erected and the ceiling covered, your little van is fast becoming a little house!
Heaters are optional depending on where you like to drive to. Choose your heater and the space it will sit in and construct a frame to house it. Vent the heater according to the manufacturer’s instructions, wire it up and mount the controls in a convenient place. Don’t forget to install a carbon monoxide monitor nearby!
After insulation and wiring is in place, clad the walls of your new home in wood, panelling or whatever material you choose. Cut holes to install the sockets and lights and the mounted heater control panel. Screw in the roof lights and hang a smoke detector!
Onto your tiny kitchen. Depending on your needs, you may or may not install a fixed gas cooker in your van. Carrying a larger volume of gas for cooking and heating is cheaper and will keep you off grid and self-sufficient for longer and if you do decide to, consider installing a gas safe stainless steel box, vented through the underside of the van, for ultimate peace of mind. Fixed gas appliances installations and set ups should be signed off by a professional. Next, install your sink and taps, counters and worktops, and build any other kitchen storage units.
Your electricity set up can be as easy or as complicated as you need it to be. Wire up a battery to a solar panel or use a split relay on your alternator to charge as you drive. Decide where you would like your sockets and roof lights and run the cables to these points and secure in place. Don’t forget to wire up a plug beside the bed for night-time lamplight and to charge your phone!
When building a bedframe, be sure to leave enough room to sit up straight in it. Beds with couch configurations are super flexible and ideal for a van. Using aluminium extrusion, wooden batons or angle iron, construct and install your bed and bolt this to the floor. Allowing airflow through your bed base will reduce condensation and moisture, so bed slats are the perfect material to sleep on. At this point, you might want to add a comfortable mattress, a warm duvet and consider taking the van for a test run!
For underbed storage, chose baskets that slide in and out easily. Hang curtains that cover the entire window or back door to prevent breezes. Make or buy a set out black out blinds to provide privacy, add a couple of decorative touches like shelves, wall hangings, blankets and cushions, a couple of stickers and even a house plant. Now stand back and admire your hard work, your van is ready to go on your first adventure and to provide you with all the comfort of a tiny house on wheels!
For detailed step-by step van builds and instructional videos covering a range of conversion topics, enroll in Van Life Academy.
There you’ll learn how to build your own van from multiple different teachers.
What’s more is that you can even choose between 3 different Van conversions and completely replicate them.
Enabling you to transition to van life efficiently and affordably through making fewer mistakes.