We love our camper van walls. They’re clean, streamlined, and have held strongly together for over 60,000 miles, and counting! But it wasn’t easy. Installing the plywood van walls was a time-intensive, multi-step process. But we are absolutely thrilled with the outcome and we want to share our wall installation process with you.
In this article, we’ll take you through our step-by-step process how we installed plywood walls in our camper van conversion.
Ready to learn more? Keep reading below.
Attach Furring Strips To Van Frame
Attaching furring strips to a van’s frame (with cross nuts) provide a much stronger anchor point for your plywood walls to adhere to than if you were to screw the walls directly into the van’s sheet metal. There just would not be enough contact area for the screw to grip onto.
But by installing furring strips first, you will be drastically increasing the overall pull-out resistance of your walls (and future furniture).
So the first step is to prepare the inside of the van by installing furring strips all throughout the van. In the above picture, you can see five white 4″x16″ boards that are bolted to the van’s frame. The future plywood walls will be screwed into these boards.
- Insert cross nuts into factory holes throughout metal van frame
- Compress cross nuts with installation tool
- Bolt furring strip to cross nut
Cut The Plywood Boards
Now you’re ready to begin fabricating your walls.
Decide Plywood Thickness
Choosing the thickness of your van’s walls is an important first step. Too thick and you are adding unnecessary weight. Too thin and your walls will be too flimsy.
In our van, we chose 1/3″ for our plywood wall thickness. We felt 1/4″ was too thin and 1/2″ was too thick and heavy.
1/3″ was a happy compromise. We also used 1/3″ plywood to build our sub-floor.
Related read: How to build a sub-floor in a van
Sizing & Cutting The Plywood Boards
Once you’ve selected and purchased your plywood boards, you need to cut them down to an appropriate size so that they fit along your van’s frame. Each plywood piece will likely need to be custom sized.
In our van, we separated our van’s side walls into three levels (reference the picture above):
The top third is the piece adjacent to our van’s ceiling. The middle third section encompasses our windows, and the bottom third section is adjacent to the van’s floor.
Related read: How to install RV windows
Once we had traced our cardboard templates over our plywood sheets, we were ready to start cutting the plywood with a jigsaw.
You may have to go back and forth a few times to get the perfect fit of your plywood piece on your camper van wall, but you’ll get there eventually.
Make Cutouts For Electrical Sockets
If you plan to have sockets or light switches installed into your walls, now is a good time to cut the appropriate size holes in the plywood to accommodate the electrical sockets and gang box.
In our van wall picture above, you can see our electrical wires coming through our middle wall.
Our free eBook can help you set up your electrical system.
Attach Plywood Walls To Furring Strips
With all the plywood boards cut correctly to size, now is the time to begin mounting each plywood wall piece to your furring strips.
How To Buy
#10 Flat Head Screw
Screws walls to furring strip. Flat head ideal to hide screw head in the plywood wall.
Countersink Drill Bit
Allows you to hide flat head screws in plywood wall.
Hides flat head screws from sight.
Screw Your Plywood Walls To The Furring Strips
Simply hoist your plywood boards and screw them into your furring strips.
We used larger, #10 flat head wood screws to get a stronger grip on our furring strips. The smaller the screw, the less contact area there will be with the plywood and the weaker the pull out resistance will be.
Want to hide your screw heads so that they aren’t visible? To do this, you’ll need to drill a conical hole with a countersink drill bit so that the flat head screw heads sit just below the plywood surface. Then you can use spackling to cover the screw heads and hide them from sight.
How We Installed Our Middle Wall
When you look at our camper van walls, you’ll notice that our middle wall is recessed and is (almost) flush against the van’s sheet metal panel. Having a recessed middle wall has increased our van’s internal living space and, if you’re not super tall, might help you sleep sideways instead of length-wise.
To install a recessed middle wall was a tricky process because we weren’t able to install any cross nuts in this region. No cross nuts meant we weren’t able to install our normal furring strips to attach our camper van walls.
So how did we do this?
Attaching 2x2 Wood Beams Across The Panels
Because there is only the thin sheet metal panel in this middle section of the van, there is no place to install a cross nut. We also could not simply drill furring strips through the metal because doing so would create a hole to the outside of the van.
Therefore, we laid 2×2 wood beams across the panel and screwed the beams along the perimeter of the van’s panel, where there was sheet metal that weren’t facing the outside.
The trickiest part of the whole process was that the perimeter edges of our van’s metal panel aren’t 90-degree angles. They’re more like 135-degree angles. So we had to cut the edge of our wood beams at an angle so that the wood could sit flush on the metal panel.
In our second illustrated diagram below, you can see how we cut the horizontal wood piece on both sides so that it fits flush with the metal wall.
The process of cutting the edges of the wood beams to match the angle of the panel’s perimeter took a lot of time. We had to make lots of small cuts on the edges of each wood beam to make sure it was exactly the right length and that it fit flush against the sloping metal edge.
After installing the horizontal furring strip, we did a similar process with our four vertical furring strips.
Beautifying The Camper Wall Edges & Corners
Once all the plywood boards were mounted, you’ll likely still have lots of rough edges and imperfect corners all throughout the van.
The corner tape easily wraps around the corners and edges and gives each edge a clean, continuous look.
After applying the corner tape, use the spackling to further adhere the tape to the plywood walls and to smooth out the transition of the wall and tape.
Sanding & Painting The Van Walls
With the plywood walls installed in our van, we were ready to finish off these camper van walls with a round of sanding and painting.
Sanding The Walls
How To Buy
Smooths out plywood surface.
For 1st round sanding.
For 2nd round sanding.
Protects lungs from micro dust particles & paint fumes.
Painting The Walls
Once you’re finished sanding, you’re ready to paint your camper van’s new walls!
“But which color do you go with?”
Color is a personal choice and everyone has their own unique style and flavor. Therefore, before painting your camper’s walls, it’s a good idea to create a color scheme for your van.
What’s a color scheme? Check out our post “How To Create A Color Scheme” to learn more.
Should You Paint Camper Van Walls White?
We knew we wanted to paint our camper van walls white. This would give our camper van a more clean and open feel. A lighter and brighter color would be less claustrophobic. But did you know that there are literally hundreds of different shades of white?
To help us decide, we purchased four different white paint samples and painted them onto a scrap piece of plywood.
After sanding, we applied two coats of Anti-Mold Primer. As with our furring strips, we wanted to do the best job we could to prevent mold now rather than have to deal with it later.
After the primer dried, we painted two coats of Off-White, Eggshell Paint.
Of the different qualities of paint at Home Depot, we purchased the most expensive paint. Premium paint solutions are thicker and we wanted to apply a nice, thick coat to the plywood to help smooth out some of the inconsistencies.
We also went with the ‘Eggshell’ finish to give our walls a slight sheen. This type of finish has also made it easier to wipe off scuff marks and food stains from the walls.
And after two coats of primer and two coats of paint, we were finally done installing our camper van walls and could finally take a much deserved tripod selfie.
Finished! Take A Step Back & Enjoy
As we mentioned in the beginning, we love the way our walls turned out. Most importantly, with over 60,000 miles (and counting…) that we’ve put on our vehicle, our walls continue to hold firm to the frame of our van.
With our camper van walls up and finished, we can now focus on installing our floor and ceiling.
If you enjoyed reading this post, we’re sure you’ll love learning how we built our beautiful cedar plank camper van ceiling.