Van Conversion Design Tips

Van conversion design tips are not easy to find, hence me writing my own list here for you to benefit from. A good design not only looks good but meets the needs of the user and stays within definite limitations. I started out with a totally empty VW T25, having ripped everything out. I didn't have any flooring, wall panels, ceiling coverings, lights, insulation....nothing. Starting from nothing allows you to do exactly what you want, but it's also rather daunting....where do you start?!

One thing I spent a lot of time thinking about was ergonomics. I'd learnt about this during my engineering based degree. I remember designing a cab for a forklift truck operator. What I learnt helped me to realise how important it is to make tasks easy by thinking about every move, every piece of equipment, every limitation and every potential encumbrance.

I'm very happy with the design I came up with and you can see it for yourself in the video of photos below.

Here are my van conversion design tips......

Van Conversion Design Tip - 1

Do not use MDF unless it's marine MDF, or it will expand in your campervan, dampness being the biggest problem you will face. Likewise, woodchip should be avoided

as it will go moldy due to the damp.

My recommendation is to use oak plywood and keep it varnished. Another idea I would
look into if I was to do another conversion is coloured perspex.

Van Conversion Design Tip - 2

When fitting things into your van, use both glue and screws. Vehicles obviously vibrate a lot and, therefore, screws can rattle loose. Put a dab of glue into your hole before fitting the screw and the fitting will last longer and the hole will be protected from corrosion.

Van Conversion Design Tip - 3

I've seen a lot of van conversions and they appear very heavy. When designing a van interior, it's better to use the minimum weight material needed for the job. Every time you buy something or make something for your van, ask yourself if it's the most lightweight possible. Even when I was fitting a subfloor, I chose wooden baton that was smaller than normal....2cmx2cm. Even by overhead locker cupboard hinges are tiny and lightweight...but they work perfectly! Heavy, chunky, not ideal for a campervan. My VW T25 weighed in at 1.5 tonnes after my conversion....pretty low!

Van Conversion Design Tip - 4

Every vehicle has a set maximum laden weight limit that it must stay within if it is to pass its MOT test and remain safe. I've seen so many van conversion videos on Youtube to lead me to assume a lot of people are unaware of these limits. Sadly, you're not likely to hear someone on Youtube say, 'I made a mistake' and, therefore, lots of people will be making the same costly and time-wasting mistake. It might look good to have pallet wood-lined walls and ceilings but it won't feel good when you find out your van weighs so much you can't have a lot of extras in it lest it goes over the limit.

This site has some good tips on weight limits for campervans.

Van Conversion Design Tip - 5

Instead of spending money on expensive and heavy drawer catches, just buy stiff drawers. Both of my sets of drawers stay closed despite having nothing other than friction keeping them shut. One set is a cheap China shop solid pine set I re-hashed to fit under the kitchen worktop. It was very cheap and perfect for the job as they're lightweight and never slide open. The other one is a small vintage solid wood set of three shallow drawers, probably originally used for paper. They also never slide open and are perfect for cutlery.

Van Conversion Design Tip - 6

I love to make my own things, even curtains. I made nearly everything in my van, apart from the curtains. Why? Because you either make curtains correctly or incorrectly....there's not much in between. I like to make things myself so I know they're made well, but I knew if I paid someone to make my van curtains, they would be fine. I also like to make things myself to save money, but I worked out the cost of making them myself wasn't that much cheaper than paying a professional. I also realised I wasn't knowledgeable about types of fabric and wanted to make sure my curtains stood up to the difficult conditions of vanlife.

I bought thermal lined curtains in a pale colour. Watch the video below to find out
how I fitted them and also fitted the tracks.

Read my follow-up article that includes where I went wrong with the track...HERE.

Van Conversion Design Tip - 7

I will write a proper post about this but, in short, keep curtains against your van walls by using magnets and ribbon. Curtains that blow about while you drive or that hang into the van rather than against the window are irritating. When they curtains are open, use strong magnets to keep them fixed to the van and stop them waving about while you drive. To keep the curtains flat against the windows, slot behind ribbon, which can be attached to the van.

Van Conversion Design Tip - 8

You'll need to insulate your van if you want to be comfortable, whether you're going to be in a hot or cold climate. I've been in both and have been thankful for my insulation efforts. You can watch the videos below but, in short, I put fibreglass insulation into small plastic bags and put them into the wall cavities before fitting the wall cards.

Van Conversion Design Tip - 9

One of my favourite design ideas was to cover one side of the van windows with privacy film. I found some bubble effect self-cling window plastic that looks beautiful in the sun or with green countryside behind it. It means I can let lots of light into the van but still retain my privacy.

You can see our bubble windows in the video below.

Van Conversion Design Tip - 10

Campervan Headrest Covers

It's not necessary to spend a lot of money on doing up your van. Given the rapid clamp-down on diesel vehicles, nor is it a good investment. In many ways, I saved lots of money when re-fitting my campervan. One small way was covering my headrests with bathmats. It's so simple to do...just place a bathmat over the headrest, pin it down the sides, remove, cut, sew inside out and fit. Two years on and my headrests are still looking good.

Van Conversion Design Tip - 11

As above, you don't need to spend a thousand pounds having your seats recovered. Just put a throw or an old crocheted blanket over them. In hot weather, use a large cotton beach throw. They're cheap and easy to remove and wash.

Van Conversion Design Tip - 12

Find out HERE why I used a salad bowl for a campervan sink.

Van Conversion Design Tip - 13

I recommend buying a thick dense foam mattress.

CLICK ME to read the post of campervan bed ideas.

Van Conversion Design Tip - 14

I installed touch sensitive LED lights myself into my campervan.

They have been one of the best things about my van conversion.

Find out more about the installation HERE.

Van Conversion Design Tip - 15

Van Conversion Design Tips

When I first converted my van, I had lots of large cushions at the back to act as seat back rests.

They worked well but as I was buying lots of vintage stock for our online shop, I realised they would make good storage spaces. One by one, the cushion inners were thrown away and replaced with not only blankets, bedding and sleepwear but also vintage stock.

The cushions obviously won't be as comfortable but they will help tidy up your van.

Van Conversion Design Tip - 16

Van Conversion Design Tips

Washing machine drums make great stools you can store things in.

Find out more about them and how to make them...HERE.


That's all the van conversion design tips I have for you for now...

....but I'll add more as I think of them.

Please let me know your thoughts on my ideas by leaving a comment below.

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