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How To Build & Install Furring Strips In A Camper Van

DON'T screw directly into your van wall! This post will teach you a much better solution.

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Install Furring Strips In A Camper Van

Installing furring strips in a camper van is one of the best ways to ensure that your future camper walls, ceiling, and furniture stay strongly attached to your van’s frame. That’s because when a screw is drilled into a furring strip, there’s a much stronger pull-out resistance due to the greater contact area, as opposed to being screwed directly into thin sheet metal.

Pull-Out Resistance Is Important because a van in motion experiences considerable vibration, twists, and turns. All this movement exerts a pull-out force on every screw in your van. Screws with low pull-out resistance can, and do, easily pop out.

In this post, we show you the best way to install furring strips in your camper van so that you can later install walls and a ceiling.

(Spoiler Alert: No screws were used in this post!)

“If you’re ready, let’s get to it!”

Table of Contents
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    Not what you need? Check out our “Camper Van Foundation” category page for more similar content.

    Step 1:

    Select Wood Material

    There’s an inherent conflict when deciding how thick your van furring strips should be. The thicker the wood, the greater the pull-out resistance there will be (good). But the thicker the furring strip, the more horizontal space you’ll be sacrificing in your camper (not good).

    So what’s the most ideal thickness?

    We suggest finding wood planks that are between 1/2″ & 2/3″ in thickness. And you can easily find these pieces of wood at your local lumber yard or any major hardware store chain.

    Ideal Furring Strip Dimensions?

    Most of our furring strips are L16″ x W4″ x 2/3″ thick. But it’s best to take a look at your own van’s interior and decide what the best furring strip dimensions are for you.

    Can You DIY You Own Furring Strips?

    Yes! We had lots of leftover 1/3″ plywood boards. So we cut the boards down to 16″x4″ pieces and doubled them up with wood glue to double the thickness.

    We then prepped our DIY furring strips with anti-mold spray and anti-mold primer.

    Below you can see the furring strips we created from leftover plywood boards. But you can easily go and buy similar sized boards at a local lumbar yard or hardware store.

    Creating DIY furring strips for our camper van conversion
    DIY van furring strips

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    Step 2:

    Purchase Cross Nuts (or Rivet Nuts)

    Some van conversions rely on screwing furring strips directly into the van’s sheet metal frame. But that defeats the purpose of using furring strips in the first place.

    So we will do something better and attach the furring strips to the van’s frame using cross nuts.

    Cross Nuts

    You can also use rivet nuts as an acceptable substitute, but cross nuts will give you stronger pull-out resistance.

    If correctly installed, a cross nut has over 10x greater pull-out resistance than a standard screw through sheet metal.

    And NO unnecessary drill holes are created in the van.

    Purchase The Correct Cross Nut Size

    Different van’s will require different sized cross nuts. If you own one of the three vehicles below, you can find the cross nuts you need by referencing the table.

    Vehicle Type

    Cross Nut Size

    How To Buy

    Mercedes Sprinter

    5/16-18 .280

    Ram Promaster

    5/16-18 .280

    Ford Transit

    1/4-20 .280

    Useful Tools

    Cross Nut Installation Tool

    Step 3:

    Install Cross Nuts To Van Frame

    Cross nuts do not create new holes in the van because they conveniently fit into the hundreds of pre-fabricated holes all throughout the camper van’s sheet metal frame.

    You simply slot a cross nut into one of these holes and compress the cross nut until it sandwiches (and tightly pinches) the sheet metal wall, creating a firm hold.

    Finished cross nut installation
    Installed cross nut (right) vs. empty hole (left)

    Example: Below, you can see how a compressed cross nut forces together the head and body. When installed in a van, the cross nut pinches the metal frame to create a strong, permanent grip.

    Compressed Cross Nut For Camper Van Walls
    A compressed cross nut for visualization.

    Get An Installation Tool

    Though there is a DIY installation method  that is cheaper, we VERY MUCH recommend getting an actual installation tool. It will save you lots of time, mental frustration, and unnecessary hand cramps. Trust us. We did the DIY method and it just isn’t worth it.

    Most importantly, this tool ensures that all your cross nuts are VERY TIGHTLY compressed onto your van’s frame. Some of our hand-cranked cross nuts don’t adhere very well to the metal wall and freely rotate.

    Astro Pneumatic Cross Nut Installation Tool
    • For setting bulbed PlusNut's, longer than standard rivet nuts and even standard rivet nuts
    • Includes 9 SAE and Metric sizes: 10-32, 10-24, 1/4-20, 5/16-18, 3/8-16, M5, M6, M8 & M10
    • Features the market's most popular rivet nut setting tool (1442) adapted for PlusNut and long rivet...

    The video below shows just how easy it is to install a cross nut with the proper tool.

    Still want to know the DIY way? We give detailed instructions on the 'free' way to install a cross nut in our appendix at the end of this post.

    Step 4:

    Attach Furring Strips To Cross Nuts

    To attach the furring strip to our van’s frame, we put a bolt through the furring strip and into the cross nut. In the below  picture, you can see how we bolted the furring strip to one of our cross nuts (hidden behind the furring strip).

    Furring strip with cross nuts in a van conversion
    Attaching a furring strip, with cross nut, in our van conversion

    To do this, we drilled a hole, just large enough to fit our bolt, through the furring strip. Then, with a washer, we bolted each furring strip to the cross nut.

    The resulting hold is very tight and strong.

    Get The Correct Bolt Size

    With all the cross nuts installed, you’re ready to attach the furring strips. The best way to do this is to use a bolt and washer to affix the furring strips to the cross nuts. Note: You’ll need to use bolts with the correct threads, which depends on the specific cross nuts you are using.

    Vehicle Type & Cross Nut Size

    Bolt Size

    How To Buy

    Mercedes Sprinter

    (5/16-18 .280)


    Ram Promaster

    (5/16-18 .280)


    Ford Transit*

    (1/4-20 .280)


    * Note: If you have a Transit, we recommend these particular sidewalk bolts. The unusually flat and low-profile heads of these bolts allow for a more flush fit to create stronger adhesion.

    Was This Post Helpful? We have lots of other useful articles to help you build the foundation of your camper van. Check out our Camper Foundation page to read more great van build content!

    Building a camper van? Download our free e-Books with intuitive electrical, solar, and plumbing diagrams.


    Furring Strip Installation Finished!

    Completed furring strip installation in a camper van - installing camper van walls
    Furring strip installation complete in our camper van.

    When we were done attaching all our white furring strips in our van, we were finally ready to start working on our plywood camper van walls.

    How many furring strips can you spot in the picture above?

    Hint: We also put thin furring strips on our roof to install our cedar plank camper van ceiling.

    Go Back: DIY Van Build Guide

    Appendix: DIY Cross Nut Installation Method

    In an effort to save money, we skipped out on the cross nut installation tool and opted for the DIY method. This involved laboriously hand cranking each cross nut to compress them onto our van’s frame.

    If you’re looking to save a few dollars and want to build up your hand strength, this is the method for you. But looking back, we would never do it this way again. It was tough and wasted too much of our time.

    Below, we list all the products you need to install cross nuts into your camper van’s frame.

    Tools & Materials List

    Installation Diagram

    In the diagram below, we illustrate how each of the items we listed above work together to install a single cross nut.

    Cross nut installation diagram using DIY tools
    Diagram for installing a cross nut in a camper van

    Looks confusing? We totally understand. We describe the DIY cross nut installation process below, step-by-step.

    Installation Steps

    1. Fit the K-Lock Nut around the carriage bolt
    2. Insert the 5/16″ washer into the carriage bolt
    3. Insert the box end of the 5/16″ wrench around the carriage bolt
    4. Lastly, fit the cross nut on to the carriage bolt
    5. Fit the carriage bolt and cross nut, together, into one of the van’s pre-fabricated holes
    6. With your left hand, hold BOTH the 5/16″ wrench and the locking pliers, which grip near the head of the carriage bolt.
    7. With your right hand, fit the open end of the 7/16″ wrench around the K-Lock nut and rotate the nut clockwise.
    8. Keep turning the K-Lock nut. This compresses the backside of the cross onto the sheet metal.
    9. Keep turning the K-Lock nut until it refuses to rotate any more.

    When you are done, the cross nut should adhere tightly to the van’s sheet metal frame. Below is an example of a successful cross nut installation.

    Thank You For Reading!

    We’re Yuko and Eric! We both grew up in Asia ( Japan & Hong Kong ), we left our jobs and homes in 2018 and started traveling full time from Canada to Argentina in our self-converted camper van since end of May 2019. “Asobo” means “Let’s play” in Japanese. We named our site “Asobolife” because the life is always uncertain and we live only once so it’s important to always keep positive, playful mind and enjoy the moment you are in the present. We also want to use this website to share our road trip and van building experiences to inspire our readers. We hope you enjoy!

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