Installing the floor is one of the most important parts of a camper van conversion process. Although you could simply throw in a plywood board and call it a day, we recommend taking the time to properly install a multi-layer floor that not only supports your weight, but also insulates your van, is impervious to mold growth, and aesthetically looks great!
In our van, we installed a 4-layer sub-floor to insulate the camper van and prevent mold growth. Finally, we added luxury vinyl planks for the top layer and love the look and feel of our floor boards. And after 70,000 miles on the road, we would do it exactly the same way if we built another van.
In this post, we show how to install a floor in a camper van. This includes putting in:
- Duct insulation
- XPS foam boards
- Foam underlayment
- Luxury vinyl planks
If you’re ready, let’s get to it.
Not what you need? Check out our “Camper Van Foundation” category page for more similar content.
Cover Metal Floor With Duct Insulation
Before laying down any floor boards, it is important to insulate the floor to prevent cold air from rising through the floor and entering the main living space of the van. The first step to insulating the floor is laying down duct insulation on the van’s bare metal floor.
We like using duct insulation for the following three reasons:
- Easy To Apply – Bottom side sticks directly to the metal floor.
- Reflective Top Layer – Helps to reflect heat back into the van.
- Thin – Takes up minimal vertical space
Refer to the picture below to see how we applied the duct insulation to our van’s floor.
The difference in temperature when walking with bare feet on the metal floor versus on the duct insulation is huge. And as an added bonus, the duct insulation prevents water and moisture from reaching the metal floor, which prevents rust spots from forming.
We use this duct insulation to cover the metal floor of our van. This self adhesive foil sticks directly to the metal and helps stop cold air from seeping up through the floor.
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Add Layer Of XPS Foam Board
Next, add a layer of extruded polystyrene (XPS) foam board on top of the duct insulation. With an R-value of 5, XPS boards offer solid insulation against the cold. These foam boards also have strong compression resistance, meaning you can walk on these boards with them breaking or denting.
In the picture below, you can see we cut the foam board (with a jigsaw) to fit on the floor of our van.
These boards also come in different thicknesses. The greater the thickness, the more insulation value they provide. We recommend going with the 1″ thick boards.
XPS foam boards are commonly found at major hardware stores, like Home Depot.
Add Plywood Subfloor Layer
Next, add a plywood sub-floor layer on top of the XPS foam boards. This layer supports the top floor boards and ensures that the boards don’t wobble and lift when you walk on them. For the sub-floor, we recommend a plywood thickness of 1/3″-1.5″. If you choose too thin of a plywood board, it will easily warp and bend as you walk on it.
This plywood sub-floor installation process is divided into three parts.
- Cut Plywood Boards
- Treat With Mold Control Spray
- Paint With Anti Mold Primer
Part 1: Cut Plywood Boards
Since the XPS foam boards that you cut out should already fit the van’s floor, you can use the foam board to create the cut lines on the plywood boards. Then, use a jig saw to cut along the plywood’s cut lines.
In the picture below, we finished shaping our plywood boards and placed them in our van to see how everything fit.
Part 2: Treat With Mold Control Spray
It’s important to mitigate mold growth wherever you can in your van, because once mold starts to grow, it can be difficult to remove. This is especially true if the mold grows in areas that are hard to access, like the sub-floor.
To prevent mold growth on the plywood boards, spray two rounds of Concrobium Mold Control Spray. Not only does it kill mold spore that already exist in the wood, but it prevents mold from growing back in the future.
Part 3: Paint With Anti Mold Primer
Once the mold spray has dried, paint two layers of primer. This helps to seal the wood and blocks moisture from getting into the wood. We like to use the Zinsser Mold Killing Primer to give the plywood added protection from mold.
By the end, you should have a proper sub-floor that includes the following layers:
- Layer 1: Duct Insulation
- Layer 2: XPS Foam Board
- Layer 3: Mold-Treated Plywood
Spray Foam Around Sub-Floor Edges
Once installed, if you look at the edges of your plywood sub-floor you’ll notice that there is a small gap between the plywood and the van’s perimeter. We recommend to fill this gap with spray foam. Not only does this prevent cold air from coming up, but it also prevents water from seeping down through the floor.
Take a bottle of Great Stuff Gaps & Cracks and spray a thin bead along the edge of the sub-floor. Once the foam has dried, cut away the excess.
Now that the sub-floor is completed, you can move on to installing the top floor boards.
Add Underlayment Layer
Adding a layer of thin underlayment directly underneath the top floor boards helps to cushion and reduce reduce wear with your flooring. This underlayment also provides an added layer of insulation and acts as a vapor barrier to prevent moisture from damaging the floor and sub-floor.
- ROLL SIZE - 200 sq. ft.
- MOISTURE PROTECTION - Protect your floors from harmful subfloor moisture with built-in moisture...
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In the picture below, you can see how we installed red underlayment under our top floor boards. The underlayment we used was made of thin foam and worked well to cushion the top floor boards when walking of them.
Install Vinyl Plank Flooring
When installing the top floor in a camper van, you have many different material options to choose. The two most common flooring materials for camper vans are:
- Luxury Vinyl Plank: Similar to wood boards, but waterproof and lightweight.
- Sheet Vinyl ‘Peel & Stick’: Plastic roll that sticks to the sub-floor
Both materials are great options and, most importantly, do not absorb water, which can lead to mold growth and warping. Luxury planks are great if aesthetics is important to you and you desire your van interior to look like a real home. Sheet vinyl is a cheaper alternative and is great for those who are on a tight build budget.
To help with your installation, you will need a laminate flooring installation kit. This kit helps to ensure the floorboards are tightly interlocked together with no gaps. It is critical to ensure that you do not have any gaps between the boards as dust, dirt, and water will begin to accumulate there and degrade the flooring.
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.
Add A Welcome Mat & Area Rug
Once the vinyl flooring is completed, there is still more you can add to your camper van floor to increase aesthetics and improve insulation. Our two recommendations are add the following two items:
- A welcome mat
- An area rug
When living in a camper van, dirt is constantly being tracked into the vehicle from the outside. With a course mat, you can trap most of this dirt before it travels further into your camper. In our van, we placed a welcome mat right at the entrance of our sliding door and always leave our shoes on the mat when we’re inside. This is one of the primary ways we keep a clean camper van.
Below is the exact welcome mat we use in our van.
Adding an area rug really helps to accentuate your camper’s interior design. Rugs come in all different colors and patterns, so you can easily express yourself and your van. In addition to improving a camper van’s aesthetics, an area rug helps to insulate the van interior from the cold flooring.
Camper Van Floor Installation Tips
Below are our top 5 tips when installing a floor in a camper van.
1. Use Thick Gloves When 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. Create Cardboard Templates
To help size the foam boards and plywood, use large pieces of cardboard to create the perfect outline of your van’s floor. Once completed, use the cardboard to create cut lines on the foam and plywood boards.
3. Use XPS Foam Board, NOT Polyiso Foam Board
Not all foam boards are the same. When putting in foam boards for your sub-floor, make sure you are using XPS (extruded polystyrene) 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.
4. Mold Treat Plywood Boards
It is important to treat the plywood beforehand with mold killing spray and primer . You don’t want to discover several years later that your plywood sub-floor is molding and rotted out.
5. Ensure Vinyl Plank Boards Are Interlocked Tightly
When installing the luxury vinyl planks, it is 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 difficult 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 70,000+ 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.