Gone Outdoors

Do it Yourself Van Conversions

by Nancy Wagner

Refitting a regular van for road trips and camping makes a great project for people who want to save money and do the work themselves. With a bit of forethought and planning as well as a little hard work, successfully converting a van means you'll soon be creating great travel memories in the comfort of your own camping vehicle.

Planning

Start by drawing a floor plan of the inside of your van. Measure the interior, then start to figure out what furniture and appliances you want to install. Depending on your needs, consider room for a refrigerator, stove, sink, table, seating, toilet, water tank, shower and beds. Also make sure you allow for plenty of storage for items you use everyday and for items you may not need to access very often. Include storage for sports equipment -- consider adding racks on top of your van to hold the items. Remember to make room for batteries or power sources to run your appliances. A second battery makes a great option for running your appliances. If you plan to include a sink or shower, include room for the water tank. Also make sure to arrange for enough comfortable seating, including room for guests.

Shopping

When you're ready to look for appliances and furniture that meet your budget and fit into your floor plan, search the classified ads if you decide to buy used items. Look at Craigslist.com or ebay.com for the parts you need. Also visit salvage yards to find good used items. Recreational vehicle stores also carry appliances you might need.

Preparing the Van

Next, it's time to remove all of the current seating, brackets and other objects from the van. Tear out the carpet if you want to replace it. If your van has coverings on the wall and ceilings, you may want to remove these, too, and prepare to install insulation.

Installation

First, add insulation to the walls and ceiling of the van. Place paneling on top of the insulation using the existing panels or installing new ones. If you want to replace the flooring, it's time to do so. Consider installing linoleum for ease of clean up, or install carpeting. It's time to start installing your furniture and appliances. Before securing items to the van floors or walls, make sure all of your items fit first. You may have to make some changes to your floor plan to get everything to work. When you're ready to hook up electrical appliances or items requiring gas, call in a professional to get the job done safely.

About the Author

Nancy Wagner is a marketing strategist and speaker who started writing in 1998. She writes business plans for startups and established companies and teaches marketing and promotional tactics at local workshops. Wagner's business and marketing articles have appeared in "Home Business Journal," "Nation’s Business," "Emerging Business" and "The Mortgage Press," among others. She holds a B.S. from Eastern Illinois University.