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How To Build Strong Plywood Walls In A Camper Van

From beginning to end, we detail, step-by-step, our process of installing plywood walls in our camper van.

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How-To-Build-Campervan-Walls

We love our camper van walls. They’re clean, streamlined, and have, so far, held the test of time for over 60,000 miles. Installing our plywood van walls was a time-intensive, multi-step process. But we are 100% satisfied with the outcome and we want to share our wall installation process with you.

In this article, we will share with you our step-by-step process how we installed our plywood walls in our DIY camper van conversion.

Ready to learn more? Keep reading below.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this section, you’ll be able to answer the following points:

  1. Why fastening plywood walls directly onto a van’s frame isn’t ideal.
  2. What is a better alternative?
  3. How did we attach our walls?
  4. How do we prevent mold growth?

Step 1:

Install Cross Nuts To Van's Metal Frame

Finished cross nut installation

We knew right away that we did NOT want to screw plywood walls directly onto our van’s sheet metal frame.

This was for two important reasons:

As much as possible, we wanted to limited any new holes made into our van’s sheet metal frame. New holes exposes unprotected meal, which eventually leads to rust. We didn’t want rust building up in our van.

Even if we drilled screws through the van’s metal wall, the sheet metal material is so thin that the screw can easily pop out over time. The contact area between the screw and the metal wall is too small for our liking.

So, what was our solution?

Cross Nuts To The Rescue!

We installed our camper van plywood walls to furring strips, which were bolted to our van’s metal frame using cross nuts. Our installation procedure went like this:

  1. Install 50+ cross nuts all over van frame.
  2. Fasten DIY furring strips to cross nuts.
  3. Screw in plywood walls into furring strips

Installing our van walls this way helps prevent any new holes from being drilled and has a SIGNIFICANTLY stronger pull-out strength.

What are cross nuts? Cross nuts are cylindrical inserts that fit conveniently into existing, non-threaded holes. When compressed, cross nuts pinch the inner and outer wall to create a permanent grip.

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

To learn more on what cross nuts are and how we installed them, we highly recommend first reading our post: How To Install Cross Nuts (And Furring Strips) In A Camper Van.

Step 2:

Install Furring Strips To Cross Nuts

Furring strips with cross nuts in a van conversion

Our plan was to bolt furring strips to our cross nuts. Then we could screw our plywood walls to the furring strips for much stronger hold.

Not Only The Plywood Walls: We will also plan to screw our upper cabinets, kitchen counters, and bed frame to these furring strips.

Since we had so much leftover plywood from when we build our sub-floor, we decided to create our own DIY furring strips. This process involved:

  1. Cutting up old plywood boards;
  2. Wood gluing two boards together to double the thickness;
  3. Spraying anti-mold spray onto the furring strips, and;
  4. Painting the strips with anti-mold primer.

To learn more on exactly how we fabricated our own furring strips, we highly recommend first reading our post: How To Install Furring Strips In A Camper Van.

Step 3:

Cutting Plywood Camper Van Walls

After all that prior work to create and attach furring strips our cross nuts, it was finally time start making and installing our camper van walls.

Follow the steps below to learn our process.

Select Plywood Thickness

Same as when we build our camper van floor, we started with 1/3″ plywood boards.

We chose 1/3″ for our wall thickness because we felt 1/4″ thick plywood was too thin and 1/2″ thick plywood was too thick and heavy.

1/3″ was a happy compromise.

1/3" Plywood for camper van walls
1/3" plywood board

Sizing & Cutting Our Plywood Walls

When sizing our plywood pieces, we separated our van’s side walls into three tiers:

  • Top Third
  • Middle Third (containing our van windows)
  • Bottom Third

In the picture below, you can roughly see the three tiers.

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 our van’s floor.

Installing plywood camper van walls - mid construction
In the middle of mounting our plywood camper van walls

We then went to work measuring each segment of our van’s walls and cutting plywood to fit those segments.

Installation Tip: Large pieces of cardboard are great for templates before cutting your plywood. Size your wall with the cardboard, then trace the cardboard over your plywood sheets.

Once we had traced our cardboard templates over our plywood sheets, we were ready to start cutting the plywood with our 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.

Got 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 wires.

In our van wall picture above, you can see our electrical wires coming through our plywood walls.

Step 4:

Attach Plywood Walls To The Furring Strips With Screws

Installing camper van walls - adding spackle to our walls
Completed left side of our camper van walls

With all our plywood cuts measured out, it was time to mount our plywood walls onto our camper van’s furring strips with screws.

Materials Needed

Flat Head Screw

Countersink Drill Bit

For our screws, we used larger, size 10, Flat Head Wood Screw to get a stronger grip on our furring strips.

Lastly, we wanted to hide our screw heads so that they weren’t visible and sitting above the plywood surface. To achieve this, we purchased a countersink drill bit and would drill a tiny conical hole into our plywood before drilling in our flat head wood screws in.

After the screws were in, we would use spackling to hide the screw heads from sight.

Beautifying The Edges & Corners

Once all the plywood boards were mounted, we had lots of rough edges and imperfect corners all throughout the van.

To smooth out these imperfections, we used a combination of Drywall Corner Tape and Spackling.

The corner tape was easy to apply and gave us perfect edges and corners.

After applying the corner tape, we used the spackling to further adhere the tape to the plywood walls and to smooth out the transition of the wall and tape.

Van Conversion Guide - Finished Installing Walls In A Camper Van
Finished mountain the camper van walls

Step 5:

Sanding & Painting Our Camper Van Conversion 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 Our Van Conversion Walls

Materials Needed

Electric Sander

80-Grit Sandpaper

120-Grit Sandpaper

Filtered Mask

To sand our plywood, we used an Electric Sander and went over our plywood twice; once with 80-Grit Sandpaper, and the second time with 120-Grit Sandpaper.

Nothing else to it.

Safety Tip: Whether you're sanding inside or outside, please wear a proper filtered mask to remove small particles before they enter your lungs.

Painting Our Camper Van Wall Panels

Now we were finally ready to begin painting our camper van walls.

But which color do you select?

The "Right" White

4 Samples of White Paint - Installing Camper Van Walls
Our four white paint samples
Paint Color - Beautiful Camper Van Interior Wall Build
"Twinkling Lights" paint swatch from Home Depot

We knew we wanted to paint our camper van walls white, but which shade of white was best?

Read: Why White Walls Are Best For Your Camper Van

To help us decide, we purchased four different white paint samples and painted them onto a scrap piece of plywood.

In the end, we settled on a white color paint called “Twinkling Lights” from Home Depot.

BTW, Did You Create A Color Scheme For Your Campervan Interior?

Materials Needed

Anti-Mold Primer

BEHR Paint From Home Depot

Paint

After sanding, we began by painting our camper plywood walls with 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 went ahead and 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 our scuff marks and food stains from the walls.

Finished Painting Camper Van Walls
Finished painting our camper van 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 Result After Installing Camper Van Walls
Finished result after painting our camper van walls

Finished Installing Our Camper Van Walls

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.

Did You Know? This post is Part 5 of our 7-part camper van 'foundation' series. Check below to view the entire series. Or...simply return to our camper van build guide.

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