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Paneling your camper van conversion: a how to

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Here we’ll explain how we paneled our Ford Transit van in our conversion to a camper van, what bits were a bit challenging and how long it took so you know what to expect. 

How to panel the ceiling and walls of your camper van with plywood

As our Ford Transit was a former work van, it fortunately came with its old panels. While these were dirty, rotten and totally unusable, they did serve as a good template to cut new ones.

But we did need to make a few modifications because the old panels covered the back window which we wanted to make the most out of to get as much light in our camper as possible.

Paneling the roof of our camper van

This was the most challenging part of the paneling stage of the build because of the dimensions of Ford Transits. This is compounded by the fact you’re working above your head, which is uncomfortable at the best of times.

Because we opted not to use tongue and groove for the ceiling, we needed to cut plywood panels as we weren’t able to find the right-sized kit online. 

Another hurdle was also that a standard sheet of ply is 1220 x 2240 mm (8x4”) while the width of a Ford Transit High Top is 1300 mm so had to use four sheets across the van – not the most economical use of ply, but we used the off-cuts for the walls.

To fit the ceiling we measured the roof by hand and divided it by four. If you’re doing it this way, be sure to make the joins on the metal body ribs of the van so you can screw into those. 

Another trick we did was putting blocks down the edge of the ceiling panels so we could screw the wall panels into those to keep it all as tight as possible. 

Tracing the old panels 

This was relatively straightforward – we simply traced the outline on our new 6ml sheets of ply then cut them out with a skill saw and jigsaw.

With a few modifications to allow for the back window and neater curves around the side door and other window, we could fit all the pieces together. Again, this can prove fiddly, so give yourself a lot of time for this stage to avoid frustration.

And as we mentioned in a previous post, we’d secured long wooden beams down each side of the van, so could screw the panels into this, rather than the metal beams. As well as avoiding the dreaded wood-on-metal squeaking, this means you also have a pocket of air between the insulation and the panelling.

Also because we’d put the blocks on the edges of the roof panels, we could also screw into that to make everything neat and tight.

Things to consider when paneling the ceiling and walls of your campervan:

  • Think where you want your lights and electrics to go as this is the last chance to hide the wiring behind the walls.
  • We strongly recommend putting the wooden beams behind the panels - this makes things a lot easier, more secure and you’ll be grateful when you come to do the cabinetry.
  • Consider how you’re going to finish the walls and ceiling of your camper van conversion as you might need to fill the screw heads, or leave them open for maintenance.
  • Try plan to use the off-cuts from the ceiling for your wall panels, this saves on waste which saves money and is better for the environment.
  • Think about where the body ribs and seams are so you can use those to secure the panels. 

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