Van Conversion Sprinter Headliner Shelf

Detailed instructions on how to install a sprinter headliner shelf in your DIY van conversion from start to finish.
Van Conversion Sprinter Headliner Shelf

Storage is key in a small space, and the over-the-cab space in a van is a lot of space. Headliner shelves in van conversions are quite popular now, as they provide a massive attic-like space to store whatever. Great for spare bed stuff, duvets and stuff that you may not use on a daily basis even. We built our own from scratch, and you can, too, by reading below and getting our headliner shelf PDF to help you out!

1. REPOSITION VITAL CABLES

The wires powering the backlights, reversing camera and any other electronics in the back of the van had to be moved out of the way, beneath the metal bracket on the side, so it did not interfere with the shelf we were going to install.

van conversion headliner shelf

2. TRIAL AND ERROR

We spent a whole evening trying to measure the size of our headliner shelf, where it would sit and how to support it.

We tried tape, a conour gauge, cardboard, and guesswork, and it took a long long time to get anything close to a shelf shape on paper…

van conversion headliner shelf
van conversion headliner shelf

3. MEASURE, CUT, FIT, REPEAT

In the end, we just went out and bought our 18mm softwood ply, got it cut to the largest width and depth we had measured (153 x 81 cm), and decided to just refine the shape by trimming off pieces and fitting it and repeating the process until the shelf fit into place.

In order to get the curving shape, we drew on a centre line and took the width at different stages (it started at 153cm, then slowly curved inwards, getting narrower). We halved that width measurement and marked it out equidistant from the centre line to get an even (ish) shape.

Since our shelf was sitting up against the front curve of the van as well, we used the flat side of the front of the shelf and marked the depth along the distance to cut this curve.

This got us the right shape, but it still took quite a few dry fits and sanding rounds to chisel away all the little corners that kept getting jammed. And, of course, this results in quite a few bruised fingers/heads. 🤕🤬

To save yourself this hassle, we designed a nifty template for you all to use 🙂

van conversion headliner shelf
van conversion headliner shelf

top tip

It is best to cut semicircle recesses for the wires on the side and at the back of the shelf (for the radio antenna). Try not to cut the antenna recess in the front of the shelf as we did. 😅

4. SLICE UP THE HEADLINER

Due to our unique design, we only needed to retain the bottom section of the original headliner.

So we first roughly cut it with a jigsaw and a wood cutting blade, so it was easier to manage.

Once the rough shape was done, we brought the shelf back into the van and dry-fitted the headliner with the shelf to mark the line we needed to cut.

The shelf was to rest on top of the original headliner, all the way to the metal brace which would support it.

Another round with the jigsaw and some smoothing out with a mini sander, and it fitted like a glove.

van conversion headliner shelf
van conversion headliner shelf

numpty alert

Whilst cutting the headliner, we accidentally sliced off the side arms of the headliner. After a few attempts to fix it, we had success with wood glue and metal nails which stitched them back together, like nothing ever happened. It was actually a pretty good finish considering.

van conversion headliner shelf
van conversion headliner shelf
van conversion headliner shelf
van conversion headliner shelf

 5. custom paint job

Instead of leaving everything grey, we broke out a few cans of black spray paint and went a little crazy. 🎨

We spray-painted all the plastic trim pieces we had removed from the van black and attempted to spray-paint the newly repaired headliner black, although the fabric did not accept spray paint that well.

Instead, we finished the day off by buying some black 4-way stretch carpet.

van conversion headliner shelf

6. INSULATE THE AREA

Before making the area inaccessible to insulate, we used trimfix spray adhesive to stick some recycled plastic insulation to the van cab roof and also in the side bits. Over the top, we stuck a layer of reflectix and covered any gaps with aluminium foil tape to create a seamless moisture barrier.

This should also keep us cooler in the summer as that area radiates heat like crazy. 😓

van conversion headliner shelf

7. POLLY GETS A WORKOUT

Once the 4-way stretch carpet arrived, we immediately took to slicing it up with scissors and stretching it over the top of the reflectix.

We’re not sure how exactly to do this in the most elegant or easiest fashion, but Polly resorted to becoming a spiderman gymnast for the afternoon, supporting herself by the headrests and sun visor mounts as she pulled and stretched the fabric to eliminate any kinks or bumps as we stuck it down with spray adhesive.

van conversion headliner shelf

top tip

We left the area around the wires for the backlight adhesive free, so that if we need to repair or replace a cable in that area, it is easy to reach rather than having to unstick all our hard work.

8. BOLT IN THE SHELF

We slid the shelf back in, and used some L brackets (which we had also spray-painted black) to attach the shelf to the van.

We had two different sizes of L brackets; the larger ones we attached to the bolthole where the coat hook screwed into, and the smaller ones attached to one of the side mounts, which is where the sun visors screwed into.

We lined up the brackets, drilled a hole in them so we could attach the L brackets at the right level, and marked the underneath of the shelf with a pen through the existing screw holes onto the shelf.

We took everything inside on a flat surface and screwed the L brackets into the shelf, went back to the van and bolted the brackets to their mounting places.

Hurrah! The shelf is in! 👌

van conversion headliner shelf
van conversion headliner shelf
van conversion headliner shelf

9. MORE BLACK FABRIC (AND MORE GYMNASTICS)

To finish up the shelf to leave it looking nice, we stretched our black fabric firstly over the piece of headliner that still remained and bolted this back into the van, securing it in place by putting the sun visors and central light in (without detaching the fabric roll).

The sun visors presented a problem, as we had increased the thickness of the headliner by one layer of fabric, and we actually ended up buying longer, 50mm M6 hex bolts in order to secure them back in.

Then we proceeded to stretch the fabric over the underneath of the shelf.

We can tell you now it is much easier to stretch the fabric when you are not upside down with glue and hair in your face, but we were aiming for a seamless finish between the shelf and where it joined the van.

We again used trimfix spray adhesive to attach the fabric to the shelf, and we pulled like crazy to stretch and smooth out the fabric so it didn’t kink.

Editor’s note: Sam’s forgetting the part where I was arching my back over the seats with my head upside down as I was pulling with all my body weight!!! 🙄🤣

After trimming the fabric, we re-attached all the now-black plastic pieces in, and stood back to admire our week-long battlefield.

van conversion headliner shelf
van conversion headliner shelf
van conversion headliner shelf
van conversion headliner shelf
van conversion headliner shelf
van conversion headliner shelf

quick look

  1. Measure shelf area roughly
  2. Measure, cut and test ply until it fits
  3. Remove excess headliner material
  4. Insulate cab roof
  5. Attach fabric to roof area
  6. Bolt shelf in with L Brackets
  7. Stick fabric to headliner
  8. Bolt headliner in
  9. Stretch and stick fabric to shelf

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