Adding the Plywood Flooring and Internal Walls to the Camper Van
Lining the camper van with plywood was where I really got into my stride since my professional background is in furniture making. Having said that, ply ling a camper van can be a tricky business no matter what your level of expertise but it can be made much easier by making some paper templates of the shapes you need before you start cutting. If you are lucky, as I was, you will already have a previously installed plywood floor which you can easily remove and just draw a pencil line around to transfer the shape onto the new plywood. I also had a few pre-existing side panels I was able to do the same with.
For the camper van floor, I used 18mm WBP plywood. I considered using 12mm ply to save weight but the difference was so marginal I opted for the heavier board to have something solid to screw the interior fittings and furniture to and which would also feel firmer underfoot. As I’ve mentioned above, I had only to remove the existing plywood floor to trace the shape from so this saved me a lot of time and effort in finding the shape and checking the fit progressively. On the other hand, even if you are starting from scratch, the interior shape of the Primastar van is surprisingly regular and square so finding and cutting curves is minimal and mainly just involves cutting around the wheel arches and side step etc. Everything else was easily measured and marked with a straight edge and tape. I had already laid the foil insulation onto the existing floor and taped the joints together with foil tape. There was no need to spray glue the foil down as it lays flat when fitted and the plywood holds it firmly into place thereafter.
The floor is bigger than the standard 8′ x 4′ plywood sheets available so you will need to make the floor up from three separate pieces. Each of the resulting joints is covered by interior fittings when complete so there’s no need to give the joints any special treatment to finish. Once the plywood was in place, I screwed the pieces down with 4 x 30mm wood screws. The screws are driven right through the floor pan here so it’s essential to look underneath and make sure you’re not going to screw through anything you shouldn’t. To be safe, I kept the screws to a minimum and only put them where they were absolutely needed such as along the joints and at the back and side door thresholds. It’s also important to use screws that are just long enough and don’t excessively protrude through the floor pan.
Again, just like the floor, the roof is a regular shape with no odd angles and even less curves than the floor so this was probably the easiest part of ply-ling the van. Like the floor, a single standard sheet of plywood wont extend to the whole roof surface so I decided to split the roof along it’s length and form a stepped roof with a slightly higher channel along the centre. This had the added benefit of providing a nice feature in the camper while also disguising the inevitable joints in the plywood sheets.
To begin, I cut a sheet of 6mm WBP plywood slightly wider than one third of the total width of the roof. I then added two narrow strips of 15mm MDF along the length of each edge, glueing and screwing from the back of the plywood into the MDF. Once this piece was assembled, I moved the plywood sheet into position, centring it on the width of the roof and screwing it directly to the struts spanning the roof across its width. You can screw directly into these but be careful to use screws of the right length or you may go right through the outer skin.
Once the centre panel was in place, I was able to measure the side panels to length and roughly to width, leaving an excess of about 10mm on the width. The excess allowed me to put the panels into position and mark the exact width with a pencil along the edge of the MDF strip where it forms the step. This allows for a really snug fit and a neat finish. Once cut to size, the side panels can be screwed into place. Again, I screwed these directly to the struts and also along the length of the MDF strips to join it all together.
Important notes on the roof
Something to bear in mind is that the left side panel is about 40mm narrower than the right side (when viewed from the back doors looking towards the front) due to the plastic conduit for the wiring that runs along the left edge of the roof. If you don’t account for this in your measurements when dividing up the three roof panels, your centre panel will be slightly offset to the right. This might not bother you depending on how pedantic you are but I’m an asshole that way so it would keep me awake at night.
I should also have pointed out that I had all the wiring for the recess lights in place before I installed the plywood, Don’t forget this part before you start ply lining your van. You’d be surprised how easy it is to forget these obvious things when blinded by enthusiasm.
I also made sure to leave a gap of a few millimetres around the outer edges of the plywood panels where it meets the bodywork. This allowed me to easily tuck the Veltrim carpet lining into the joints for a really neat and professional finish. I found forward thinking was my best friend on this project (when I remembered to think ahead!)
Ps: In case you’re wondering, the cut out towards the front of the centre panel is for the drop-down TV. More on that later
Ply-Lining the Van Side Panels
The side panels were also cut from 6mm WBP plywood sheets having been first marked from a paper template. The side panels are a liitle more complex than the floor and the roof and I found the easiest way to quickly determine the shape and transfer it to the plywood was to make a template from a large sheet of paper. I had a bit of a head start by removing the old side panels however, these were of limited use as they didn’t completely cover the areas I wanted to line. I used a roll of plain paper from a wide format printer to make the template, taping a few pieces together to make a sheet big enough to cover the entire panel. You can tape it into place or have someone hold it for you while you mark it with a pencil. Just press the paper into the shape of the panel and mark the cut line with a pencil. Remove the paper, cut out the shape and transfer it to the plywood sheet, then cut. It’s as simple as that. Repeat the process for each of the sections and screw them firmly into place once you are happy that all of your insulation and wiring is in place and you are ready to close the panels up permanently by screwing them directly into the inner struts of the bodywork.
As you will see from the photo, I also added a small recess in the left side panel as an added feature to take the plain look off it and also for some useful additional storage. This was formed by making a shallow MDF box and fixing to the bak of the panel where the opening had been cut. Not entirely necessary and purely a matter of personal taste, although I find mine very useful.
Fixing the Panels to the Bodywork
To fix the plywood into place, use a wood screw of a suitable length. I used Spax Posidrive screws as they are great quality and grip really well in the sheet metal. Choose the length carefully (I used 4 x25mm) to ensure you don’t accidentally drive any through the outer panels in the process. You may need to drill a pilot hole with a 2mm cobalt drill bit to get the screw into the metal, but in some areas, the metal is thin and soft so the screw can be driven directly into it.
With all of the plywood lining to the floor, roof and sides of the camper van in place, I had a nice, clean interior surface ready for final finishing with some four-way stretch carpet lining.