Van Build Phases

Paneling

I chose to use cedar planks for my van walls because I wanted to drive the weight of the conversion down. I had framed the van with 5mm plywood topped with a sheet of aluminum, which was also only capable of holding up so much weight. For the upper corners, I used 5mm plywood, which I have to admit is a bit wobbly. For the lower 1/2 of the van I used 1/2" plywood.

I realize most people choose to use shiplap for the sides because it is more robust, and cedar only for the ceiling. I will update later on how the cedar fares with time and use.

Total Cost: $

1600.00

Total Time (hrs):

48

Completed side paneling inside a sprinter van, with white tongue and groove and plywood on the side walls, and stained tongue and groove on the ceiling and back doors.

* Disclaimer: This page contains various affiliate links that provide a small kickback to me, at no additional cost to you.

Resources

Materials

Tools

  • Hole saw
  • Jig Saw
  • Scribe tool
  • Drill and Driver
  • Tool belt
  • Transfer screws

Process

The first pieces of paneling I did was plywood to go behind the electrical system, since I needed to install that first. I thought it'd be an easy rectangle to make, but I learned that even though I used the factory holes to mount the framing, they were not perfectly square. It took a good amount of trimming to get it to sit nice and flush with the framing. I used transfer screws to mark my holes and attached the paneling to the riv nuts behind it.

Here's what that plywood looks like with the electrical on top. The upper section is 1/2" plywood, and the lower section is only 5mm to save weight. In addition to using the 80/20 to mount my inverter onto, I mounted the other components onto the 1/2" plywood.

You can check out my framing section to see how I went about creating framing for the paneling. Here you can see me start attaching the cedar planks to it. This was a pretty arduous process:

  1. Make a sketch of how you want the planks arranged so that the seams are "randomly" scattered.
  2. Make sure the cedar plank is straight (a lot of them are not)
  3. Cut plank down to correct size
  4. Drill pilot holes
  5. Countersink holes
  6. Drive the screws in
  7. Repeat 2-6 until done

Just this took me about 5 hours

I was taking a month long trip in the van and wanted to get as much of it paneled as possible, so I managed to do most of the ceiling, sides, and back doors before I left.

It was a lot cozier and nicer living in it with at least some wood surrounding me!

Then, 2 months after the last photo, I finally got to finishing all the paneling.

The rest of the paneling I did with 5mm plywood and 1/2" plywood. I used Xboard to make templates of the panels first.

Drew it out on the plywood...

And cut it out! Most of the time they required some additional cuts to make the fit actually work.

Here's what one side finished looks like!

Finished the other top corner too and I must say this really started to tie the van in.

For the bottom panels, I used 1/2" plywood since I would be attaching some things to it. I also think it looks nicer when finished, and some of it would be exposed.

I'm only attaching this as a pride token for my templating and jigsawing abilities.

And here it is, with all the paneling complete!

I was SUPER stoked to see it like this. It definitely started to feel more real, and this was one of the most rewarding parts of the whole project.

But I wasn't finished.. I still had to FINISH all the paneling... I started by removing all the panels from the walls, and prepped them for painting.

I also prepper the van for painting -- I did not want to take off the T&G, as that seemed like it'd be a nightmare.

I first applied a coat of anti-mildew on both sides of the plywood, and one the side walls of the van. Then, I applied two coats of cabinet and trim enamel, and two coats of polyurethane.

For the ceiling and door panels on the van, I applied one coat of stain, and two coats of polyurethane. The polyurethane came out a little bit white-washed, but thankfully turned out a color I like. I was worried the stain would be too orange, and one coat of polyurethane made it VERY orange. The second dulled it down.

Once everything dried overnight & then some, I put everything back together! Super pleased with the outcome :)

View from inside...

As part of this project I also wanted to do all the finishing details I could. I started with the metal surrounding the back doors.

I first applied 1/8th in" closed cell foam all around. I used 3M contact adhesive to adhere the foam to the metal, and then to adhere the fabric to the foam. I rectangular strips out of the foam and fabric that were too big, and then trimmed after I applied it to the wall. For the foam, I was able to use my knife to trim it right off, but for the marathon tweed fabric I had to use the scissors,

An image showing the back doors or the van with a layer of upholstery foam glued around the previously exposed metal.

Honestly, I have no idea what I was doing, but the end results turned out pretty good!

(pics coming soon)

I also added some tiles in the "kitchen" behind where my stove will be. This was pretty easy to do, although I was surprised at how easily the tiles shattered. Even the thinnest score into the tile with my knife really helped it crack along the lines I need. In hindsight, using a dremel for this would have been the best option.

(pics coming soon)

I finally added some moulding around the upper perimeter, around the doors, and around the tile. Again in hindsight I feel like I should have probably watched a tutorial on how to do this properly, but with a little bit of improvisation I think it all turned out pretty great :)

Notion Board

Click on the image above to go to the full data base.

The Notion Board is my brain-dump database. I've been keeping meticulous track of every purchase, complete with receipts.

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Van Build Phases

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