Though flooring may not be the sexiest van conversion topic, building a comfortable, sturdy, and insulating camper van floor is an important part of any camper van build process. In this article, we teach you how we built the floor in our camper van. This includes the sub-floor as well as how we built our van’s floor with luxury vinyl plank boards.
Camper Van Foundation Series
Camper Van Floor - Article Contents
Sub-Floor Installation In A Van
The first step when building the floor of a campervan is installing the sub floor. The sub-floor is the area and materials that are used underneath the top-most floor layer. Since we will be installing luxury vinyl planks in our camper van, everything below these vinyl planks will encompass the sub-floor.
What Is The Purpose Of A Sub-Floor In A Camper Van?
The sub-floor in a campervan primarily serves two purposes; insulation & support.
The floor of a van is one of the easiest and most common areas that cold air can enter a van. If you’ve ever walked on a cold, hardwood floor in a house then that is exactly how it also feels when walking on the floor of a van. Although a well insulated sub-floor cannot prevent a cold floor 100%, it can help to reduce the speed at which the cold enters the van.
A sub-floor also provides support when you walk on the top layer of your van’s floor. Unfortunately, a van’s original sheet metal floor isn’t perfectly flat and likely has a considerable number of grooves which would make walking just on vinyl planks an uncomfortable, wobbly experience. And so a sub-floor can help to provide more stability for the vinyl planks to lay on.
How To Install A Sub-Floor In A Camper Van
The sub-floor in our camper van consists of three layers. The first two layers (duct insulation & XPS foam board) provide insulation benefits and the third layer (plywood) provides the support.
Below is our step-by-step guide to installing a sub-floor in a camper van.
Step 1: Lay Down Duct Insulation
The first step to install our sub-floor was to put down a layer of duct insulation. With an insulation R-value of 3.0 and relatively thin, we’ve found that duct insulation is the perfect base layer to put directly onto our van’s cold sheet metal floor.
One side of the duct insulation is a sticky, putty-type substance that makes it easy to adhere the insulation layer onto the van’s floor. The duct insulation has a foiled top layer that acts as a reflective heat barrier to help prevent heat from escaping through the van’s floor.
Step 2: XPS Foam Board
On top of the duct insulation, we placed a layer of 1” thick XPS foam board. With an insulation R-value of 5.5 and with high compression resistance, XPS foam board is an excellent insulation material that will not break, dent, or degrade when walked on.
Learn More About Insulation: Camper Van Insulation Guide
Step 3: Plywood Layer
To provide support for the top layer of our floor, we placed a layer of 1/3” birch plywood on top of the XPS foam board. But before placing the plywood down, mold treated the wood with a combination of mold prevention spray & two layers of mold killing primer.
Once the primer had dried, we placed the treated plywood on top of the XPS foam board.
Step 4: Foam Spray Around The Floor’s Edges
With the plywood down, there will be a number of gaps that air can still easily transfer through the floor. These regions will be around the edges of the sub-floor as well as between the individual plywood pieces.
To prevent air transfer, we sealed these gaps with Great Stuff foam spray. Once the foam spray expanded and dried, we simply cut away the excess foam.
Installing Luxury Vinyl Planks In A Campervan
We wanted to build a camper van that resembled an actual home. Therefore, we used luxury vinyl planks, which we purchased from Home Depot, when building our camper van floor. These vinyl planks aren’t the cheapest or the lightest option for camper flooring, but these planks are:
Taking Home Vinyl Plank Samples
Installation Step 1: Install Underlayment
Before setting down our luxury vinyl planks, we purchased a roll of underlayment to put in-between our planks and the plywood subfloor. The purpose of this underlayment layer is to provide:
Underlayment is essentially a very thin foam layer that is easy to cut. So we simply cut the foam to fit exatly over the plywood sub-floor.
Installation Step 2: Install The Luxury Vinyl Planks
With the underlayment set, we could move on to placing down the final layer of our camper van floor: the luxury vinyl planks.
Luxury vinyl planks are easy to install because L-shaped lips are constructed on the edges of each of the planks. And with a soft mallet, you can easily hammer the two lips of adjacent boards together. In this way, the vinyl plank boards interlock together to create a tight fit.
Make sure the edges of each individual board fits tightly against the edge of it’s adjacent board. There should be NO gap between each board. If there is, it’s worth your time to remove the board, clean the grooves of any debris, and try again. Any gaps between the boards will gather dust and dirt and the gaps will become exacerbated over time.
Camper Van Floor Bonus: Welcome Mat & Area Rug
Once we finished laying down our vinyl planks in our van, our camper van floor still wasn’t finished!
Putting In A Welcome Mat In Our Van
Tracking in dirt from outside was one of our primary concerns when thinking about how to keep our floor clean. We’d be exiting and entering our van many, many times each day and preventing dirt from coming inside is virtually impossible.
Therefore, to minimize the amount of free roaming dirt traveling across our floor, we purchased a coarse welcome mat to help remove dirt from our shoes. The mat works really great and we shake the mat outside every morning to remove the dust and dirt.
Adding An Area Rug In The Van For Color And Improved Ambiance
We purchased a hand-woven wool rug while driving through Mexico and love the colors that the rug brings to our predominantly white, blue, and brown camper van interior. The rug has definitely made our van more homey and even more photogenic!
Tips To Install A Camper Van Floor
1. Use gloves when cutting and installing duct insulation.
Duct insulation looks innocent enough, but the foiled top layer is actually quite rigid and can easily cut through skin if you’re not careful. Wear a good pair of thick gloves to protect your hands when handling duct insulation.
2. Use XPS Foam Board, NOT Polyiso Foam Board
Not all foam boards are the same. When putting in foam board for your sub-floor, make sure you are using XPS foam board and not polyiso foam boards. XPS has a much higher compression resistance than polyiso and will better resist your weight when you walk on your floors.
3. Mold treat your plywood sub-floor before installing
Before laying down your plywood it’s important to mold treat the plywood beforehand. You don’t want to take off your vinyl planks several years down the road only to find that your plywood sub-floor is molding and rotted out. Be sure to kill and prevent future mold growth by using a mold-killing spray and primer.
4. Make sure luxury vinyl planks are interlocked tightly against one another
When putting down your luxury vinyl planks, it’s essential that each plank board is interlocked tightly to their adjacent boards. If there is a gap, it’s best to remove the board, remove any debris that might be in the grooves, and try again. Any gaps that you leave in the floor will only become exacerbated over time and will be impossible to fix once your floor is completed and set.
Final Thoughts: Installing Luxury Vinyl Planks In A Camper Fan Floor
Thank you for reading and we hope you enjoyed and found our camper van flooring article informative and helpful. After over 2 years and 60,000+ miles on the road, we still love our luxury vinyl plank flooring in our DIY van conversion and has, so far, held up against the test of time.
If you have any questions or comments regarding our camper van floor installation, please write a comment below or send us an email through our Contact Form.
Camper Van Foundation Series