Camper Conversion – Lining

After we had spent some considerable time insulating the van, and fixing a moisture barrier in place, it was time to line it. As with all things when working on the van, what you originally plan, isn’t necessarily what you end up doing….! We had planned to ply-line, and then use thin furniture board to give us the finished look. However, after pricing up the final costs for the walls and ceiling, this method just wasn’t cost effective; we weren’t building a factory finish van, we were building a family friendly van. For this reason, we went with ply-lining, topped with vehicle lining carpet, and we were very pleased with the results. If you’ve never used this material before, you’ll find it very forgiving, and in many areas where we’d been worrying about achieving a nice finish, this material enabled us to get the effect that we wanted, with minimal stress/expense.

Due to the ‘square’ shape of our Ducato, we were able to ply line the sides and ceiling quite easily, whereas on other vans, the shape can present a few issues. As with all things van related, careful planning will help to ease your work, in this case, planning where to put your batons in relation to the size of the ply sheets.

As our van was intended to have 4 travel seats, we were obviously going to have to put some careful thinking into how we were going to achieve this. We definitely didn’t want ‘side facing; seats, as these aren’t suitable for travelling, even if they do have 3 point belts fitted; we wanted seats that were as near to factory safety as possible, if not stronger. After some inspiration from Kenny Biggins ‘Self Build Campervan Conversions’ book, we decided that the best way to get what we wanted, was to raise the floor behind the cab area and fit some ‘girders’ that the seats would be mounted upon. Sounds easy enough…… Well, this turned out to be one of the hardest parts of our build. We had to get the girders made up by a local fabricator, then we had to get some custom brackets made up, to attach the girders underneath the structural cross members, to give it the strength we wanted. Once these were in place, the seats could be mounted to the ‘girders’ with high-tensile bolts, and the floor built up around them. Phew…

One point worth mentioning here is don’t be put off by watching Youtube videos. Look at them as a source of ideas and inspiration; don’t think that the way they do things is the ‘correct’ way. What you’ll generally find, is that people who go to the trouble of setting up a ‘professional’ looking Youtube channel, will also have a fully equipped workshop, with every power tool imaginable, whereas you’ll be stuck with a hammer, screwdriver and a basic drill!

From the outset, we budgeted for a few, specific power tools, and then shopped around to get the best prices. In particular, I wanted a circular saw, for cutting the sheets of ply and batons, an ‘oscillating’ multi-tool, for various jobs, not least cutting awkward holes in the ply to fit the electrical components, a Jigsaw, for cutting more fussy shapes in the ply and an impact driver for helping get screws through the metal. These, in conjunction with some self-drilling screws proved particularly useful, and again, proves the worth of watching Youtube videos for ideas.

At the end of the fitting out, did these tools prove their worth? Yes, definitely. They saved a great deal of time and effort. Did we fall out with one of our neighbours because of the noise? Yes – but they’re miseries anyway…! Could we have done it without these tools? Yes, but it would have taken a lot longer, a lot more effort, and we were working to a deadline.