Although we are not finished with our campervan conversion project just yet, mistakes were made. We definitely did learn a lot from our mistakes though.
After buying a van, you’re probably overly excited to get started on the conversion as soon as possible. This can however lead to mistakes that could’ve easily been prevented.
We’d like to share what NOT to do when converting your van, and what to think about twice (or three or four times). We hope that by sharing our mistakes, you will not make the same ones.
And yes, the title says ‘part 1’ as we’re certain we will mess up often enough to write at least one more blog post about it!
Never forget that everything is curved
Everything, and we really mean everything, in a van is curved. Never forget about that when installing just about anything in your van.
We thought that we had designed a nice and easy casing around our wheel arch, so that we could easily insulate it while also being able to store stuff on it. Such as our leisure batteries.
Even after working in this van for so long, we still forgot to take into account the curvature of the walls. This left quite a large gap between the wall and our newly created wheel box. Even on such a small distance, about 24cm (9.5 inches) in height, it is important not to forget about your van’s ‘voluptuous’ body.
Plan ahead before you start
Planning your build can be crucial. Being halfway through our build, we have noticed that there are some aspects that we would definitely do different if we could do it over. If we would have planned further ahead, this was easily avoided.
Although we are happy about how most of our flooring it turned out, it currently isn’t exactly how we would have liked it to be. We are still thinking about how we’re going to build our bed-sofa combination, and realize that the floor would have appeared much nicer if we would have extended it slightly in one corner.
We’re now taking our time to really plan the layout of the kitchen. Before we go on with ordering everything and installing them in our future kitchen area, we will decide where every item will go precisely. This enabled us to avoid quite a few mistakes that we nearly made.
Measure twice, cut once…?
More like: Jordy measuring twice, Marijke measuring twice, arguing about the measurements, both measuring again, cutting, and still ending up with a piece of wood that doesn’t fit perfectly.
In summary, if you’re not an expert woodworker, you’re going to run into difficulties like these at some point during your conversion. It’s bound to happen. As probably said by just about everyone that built their own tiny home, you can never measure too often.
We’ve found that it works best to use cardboard templates. Cardboard is lightweight, easy to cut, and readily available for free at many locations. Marijke was able to take home ample empty boxes from her job at a drugstore!
When you make a mistake when creating a template, it’s no biggie! If the template might be just a bit too short or it doesn’t follow the curvature of your van as it’s supposed to, you can just do it over! That’s much better than cutting wood and realizing you’re missing an inch! That would cost a lot more time and money, and it’s a shame of all that wood!
We’ve even seen pictures of people making all their furniture in their van and fitting it to see where everything goes and whether it will all fit in the limited space of a van. Although being a lot of work, we think it would definitely be worth the trouble.
Keep everything when stripping your van
One of the first things most people do after buying their van, is stripping it completely from all things that can be removed. Everything that’s unnecessary has to go, right?
After we had completely stripped our van, we threw most things out immediately. Well… you definitely don’t want to do that, no matter the state it’s in!
As we mentioned above, we mainly relied on making templates with cardboard to make every part fit. However, a van usually comes with perfectly sized parts such as flooring, or panels covering the doors. These make for perfect templates! Using them will save you a lot of time and trouble creating your own.
Because we threw most of ours out, we had to make a whole new cardboard floor template by hand ourselves. Although cardboard is a great material to work with, it’s not easy to make a template of your floor! We luckily did not yet throw away the panel covering the sliding door. This week, we used it to size our wooden paneling to cover it up for a more appealing look!
So please think twice before getting rid of anything that you take out of your newly bought van, beit new or second hand!.
Time your project right
Our final tip is to plan your project in the right season of the year. When we bought our van, winter was just about to start, talking about bad timing.
As we still live in a student flat on the third floor, we do not have an indoor space to work on our van, such as a garage. Neither do we have a private space to work, like a driveway that many people have in front of their house. We have to do everything outdoors on our parking lot in between other cars.
For people in a similar situation, we would definitely recommend to start your conversion when it’s warm outside, if at all possible. This will save you a lot of time and frustration. Each day it rained, we could hardly do anything in our van.
When we, for example, have to use equipment that needs to be plugged in, we need to roll out two reels attached to another which cannot endure any moisture. So when it rained we could not use these electrical appliances. Neither could we saw wood as we also had to do that outdoors, et cetera.
However, even when you can do most preparing work indoors, low temperatures can stil hinder your work if your van is outside. Things like gluing, treating rust, or painting can’t be done below certain temperatures or when it’s raining. Neither of these can be done properly when its below 5 degrees Celsius.
When paneling our walls, instead of treating the whole wall in one go when installed, we had to install our wall bit by bit as we first had to treat the panels with natural oil in our apartment.
We would thus definitely recommend to pay some attention to when you start your conversion project as it can either greatly hinder or accelerate your process.
Did you like this blog post and want to read more? Click here to go to our main campervan conversion page! Here, you can find a neatly organized list of all blog posts related to our van conversion project.