Adding Carpet Lining to the Camper Van Interior
There are a number of ways of finishing the interior of your camper van such as with vinyl sheeting, tongued & grooved timber sheeting and various types of carpet and fabric linings. I chose to use a special ‘3D stretch’ type fabric lining for my van as I wanted to achieve a factory finish look and also liked the idea of the warmth and sound deadening qualities of a fabric lining as opposed to a wood finish.
The fabric lining was applied to the ply-lining, which I had installed to the interior of the roof and side walls at an earlier stage, using Trimfix spray-on adhesive. The fabric is cut large enough to completely cover each panel with plenty of excess at the edges. The adhesive is then applied to the back of the fabric and the panel surface, and allowed to become touch dry which usually takes only a few seconds. Once the glue is applied, the fabric is just laid onto the panel and smoothed down from the centre outwards, stretching around any curves or shapes in the process. It really is as simple as it sounds and I was surprised at how stretchable the fabric is and how easily it conforms to the shape of the panel to be covered. There are no really complex shapes in the Primastar so there were no really difficult areas to be tackled and I achieved a nice finish in most areas despite having never used this material before. Once you try a few pieces and get a feel for how workable and stretchy it is, you can tackle the job with some confidence.
The way I approached this job was to apply the fabric to the main structural parts such as the side uprights, around the windows, and the main door surround at the rear doors and then screwing the plywood panels into place before applying the fabric over these and tucking it in all around the edges. If I was doing this job again however, I would take a different approach and apply a single, large sheet of fabric over the entire side having fixed the panels into place first. Knowing now how workable and mouldable this stuff is, I’m certain this would be easier to do and would result in a better finish with less work and less joins and seams. From watching videos etc online and seeing how others have carpet lined their camper vans, I’m pretty sure this is the better approach to take.
I also made the mistake of not buying enough four-way stretch fabric to start with as I just measured the area of the inside surfaces of the van, added a small waste factor and bought the equivalent amount of material in M2. I can safely say now that I needed almost twice what I thought I needed at the start. In my case with the Primastar, approx 25 M2 would have been the appropriate amount to order, but I’ll know better next time.
Fabric lining the camper van is not too difficult a job overall but it helps to have an extra pair of hands when positioning the sheets and stretching everything into place. It also helps to approach different parts the job in the right order. In my case, here’s the order in which I worked;
Step One – The left and right uprights and the top cross member of the rear door frame. I did this in three separate pieces but I would treat it as one single piece next time, starting in the centre of the the top cross member and working outwards and downwards, wrapping the fabric around the entire section and finishing at the door rubbers (remove the door rubbers first to make this job really easy and to achieve a really neat finish when the seals are refitted).
Step Two – The three flat sections of the roof panels, starting with the centre panel and followed by the left and right, tucking the fabric into the gap that has been left at the edge of the plywood panels using a flat blade such as a filler knife or paint scraper.
Step Three – The side panels, in any order but treating each side as a full panel and covering it with a single sheet of stretch fabric. As I mentioned, this isn’t the approach I took but is definitely the way I would do it in future. Have someone help with holding a full sheet of fabric up to the side of the van, pressing the sheet into the largest, flattest areas of the panels first and carefully smoothing it into place, working from the centre outwards and shaping it around any curves. When cutting out the window sections, it’s advisable to allow an overlap of about 10mm from the finished edge of the window opening which can be folded over the metal lip and tucked into the gap behind. If you like, the edge can be further finished by adding a piece of U-trim around the entire window opening. I used one on mine and was really pleased with the finished look.
In my case, the wheel arches would not be visible so I didn’t cover them with stretch fabric. If you decide to cover yours, you should probably do these between step two and three.
Here’s a link to a useful YouTube instructional video from Vanguard Conversions on how to carpet line your camper van wheel arches
One piece of advice I would give when lining your camper van is to use very sharp blades and change them frequently. I found this material can be very difficult to cut cleanly when your blade isn’t really sharp. I’ve noticed since that Kiravans.co.uk stock extra-long utility knife blades to fit a standard Stanley knife/utility knife. Had I known about these I would definitely have found them useful, especially when cutting around the window openings. Another very useful thing to have to hand is some EvoStick Adhesive Cleaner for cleaning up any over-spray from the adhesive. It’s solvent based but won’t discolour or damage the fabric in any way.
As you will see from the photos, the carpet lining, once completed, completely transforms the look of the van and it begins to look a lot more like a camper van from this point on. Once the carpet lining is in place, you can begin to install the interior cabinets and fittings.
With all of the interior panels of the van fabric lined, I still had to line the insides of the rear barn doors and the side sliding door. I will cover these in a separate article.