Planning a DIY van conversion can be an overwhelming task in the beginning. There’s so much you need to keep track of, and a lot of knowledge you need to learn.
To make it easier, here are 10 of our best van conversion tips to help you with your van conversion:
- Plan your layout
- Think about your budget
- Give yourself time; van build burnout is a thing
- Use the right tools
- Fix any rust immediately
- Consider weight
- Think about wires and pipes
- Be flexible; it’s okay to change the plan
- Outsourcing isn’t failing
- Use a magnet to catch metal chips
Plan your Layout Beforehand
If you tackle a van conversion without a clear plan, you’re setting yourself up for problems.
One of the worst things is spending hours or days doing a task, only to realise you need to undo everything you’ve just done because there’s a problem with the layout and design of what you’ve built.
We’ve been there…it’s a draining feeling.
Go into your van conversion with a clear idea of your layout design BEFORE you start any building work.
I know it can seem annoying, as you want to get on with converting your van, but putting in the effort and deciding your layout will make the building infinitely easier.
We’ve done an entire blog dedicated to planning your campervan layout as it is that vial.
Always Think About Your Budget
Determining your budget for your van conversion is another tool in your arsenal.
It is extremely easy to get carried away and go on a spending spree, buying things left, right and centre only to realise you’ve spent £200 on decorations, and now you haven’t enough for your plumbing system.
If you plan your campervan budget beforehand, you’ll know what you’re working with.
We recommend buying some of the big things first if you can afford it – like your electrical system, heating system, plumbing system, and any essential tools. This means you will have them ready to install, and you’ll know what’s left of your budget.
There will always be sneaky things you forget or additional expenses (like more screws, wood, replacing broken drillbits, paint, spray adhesive etc…), so budget in these expenses as well.
Give Yourself Time – Van Build Burnout is a Thing
Van conversions always take longer than you plan for.
Things go wrong. It takes you 3 hours to join two pieces of wood together.
Something that you plan to take a day takes you a week (personal example: our headliner shelf install).
If you go full-on and try to push through it, you will reach burnout. We did several times during our build, but you need to take breaks, enjoy other things and take a rest from the van build every now and then.
This way, you can come back refreshed and ready to tackle the next task.
Use the Right Tools
Having the right van conversion tools at your disposal is needed to keep your sanity!
Another top tip with tools is not to be lazy by not bothering to find the right tool for the job, especially if you already have it lying around somewhere!
Take it from someone who’s tried to cut plywood with a crafting knife or stated they would sand off 5mm thickness with a sander instead of setting up the table saw and cut it off in 10 seconds…
Being lazy will cost you time.
Fix ANY rust Immediately
When you first strip down your van, if you find any rust, even the smallest amount, fix it immediately.
If you leave even the smallest piece, in a few years, it will come back and bite you in the ass.
It may take an extra day of work, or maybe a week, depending on how bad your rust is, but we fixed all our rust after taking all the plywood panelling off, and 3.5 years later, still have no issues.
Consider the Weight
With most vans, you are limited by a 3.5T weight limit. This means 3,500kg for the entire build, the van, fuel, water and passengers.
In practical terms, most vans give you around 1,000kg to build your entire van. Whilst this seems a lot, when you start putting how much things weigh on a table, you realise it’s very restrictive.
You need to consider the weight of materials and appliances from day 1.
We weighed our van and did some serious calculations, which saved us a lot of headaches later on, as we knew our build wouldn’t exceed the weight limit as we had done the research beforehand.
The worst thing to happen is to build your entire van, weigh it, and realise you need to remove 200kg of weight…somehow…
Think About Wires and Pipes
Before cladding your walls and covering them up for good, think about where your wires and pipes will go.
Some people choose to put conduits in the walls of their vehicles, which is a good idea. The problem is that you need to put them in before your walls are up.
You should also consider that pipes and wires take up quite a bit of space, especially in the plumbing system. Have a decent-sized cupboard/wall area for these to live in; otherwise, once everything is built, you’ll be in quite a tight situation (we speak from experience).
Be Flexible – It’s Okay to Change the Plan
As your van conversion takes shape, you’ll have constant lists of everything that needs doing.
You may begin your day thinking, “okay, today I’m going to wire up my batteries” but instead, you realise you need to determine the size of your sofa as that is where your batteries will fit under. But to do this, you must know where your shower is going and how tall your sofa is.
In short, your day ends up thinking about something completely different and working on another problem, and you may feel disheartened.
This is completely normal during a van conversion; it happened to us all the time, and it will happen to you.
Changing tact is normal, and the important thing is that the build progresses. Spending your day doing something else or just sitting and thinking about solving problems is still progressing the build.
Outsourcing ISN’T Failing
You may reach a point in your build where there’s a task you really aren’t up for.
It’s okay to ask someone else to do a part of your build for you.
If we had gone for LPG instead of Diesel, we knew we’d be outsourcing the LPG system to a professional, as gas was not something we felt comfortable doing ourselves.
Everyone has their strengths and struggles. Paying someone to fit out a certain part of your build can is an extra cost, but sometimes this cost is worth it.
Use a magnet to catch any metal chips
Let’s end on a fun one – when drilling a hole, or cut through any metal, use a strong magnet to attract all those pesky metal shavings that would otherwise go everywhere and rust.
Less cleaning up afterwards, and zero rust!
The BEST Van Conversion Tips
- A van conversion is filled with trial and error.
- Testing and more testing.
- Thinking and researching.
- Comparing and compromise.
The best van conversion tip is to watch how others have done it.
Go onto Youtube, and watch 10 tutorials on installing your Maxxfan (not just ours), as everyone has their own little tricks and tips to help you. If 10 other people have all done something, and countless blogs are also telling you the same, chances are it’s the right thing to do.
If you have questions, ask people who have done it and research to find answers.
If you’re still stuck on anything to do with the van conversion process, we do have a van conversion consultation where you can ask us anything (literally anything at all), and we’ll do our best to help you from knowledge of our 3 van builds and our array of contacts.
Most of all, enjoy the build 🙂