As with every part of the van build process, there are many different options to choose from for walling material. For our van, we decided to go with 1/4” birch plywood because it’s flexible, easy to work with, and has a nice grain pattern. We decided to hang the plywood by screwing it directly to the van’s metal frame.
Putting up plywood walls in our van was a little intimidating at first. We weren’t sure how the install would work out, if just screwing the plywood to the metal frame would hold it well enough, or how it would look.
But once we got on a roll, the walls went up pretty easily and the finished product looks great. Here’s how we did it.
How To Install Plywood Walls in a Van
Step 1: Measure and cut cardboard templates
We started by making a cardboard template for the first wall panel, which extended from the metal rib between the two windows on the driver’s side to just behind the driver’s seat. We planned to screw the plywood directly into the metal rib, and wedge it behind the framing by the driver’s seat.
Step 2: Test Fit and Trim Templates
Once we cut out our template we tested it to make sure it fit. We had to trim a few spots here and there to get the sizing as close as possible.
As you can see, the panel is blocking out the lower portion of the window. In our furniture design, the kitchen cabinets and the bed platform are higher than the bottom of the windows, so we decided to cover the part blocked by the furniture with plywood and additional insulation.
Step 3: Trace Onto Plywood and Cut with Jigsaw
This is the fun part. We traced the template onto a sheet of plywood, then used our jigsaw to cut the outline.
Step 4: Cut Holes for Windows
To cut out the holes for the windows, we drilled holes in all four corners using a 1/4″ drill bit, then used the jigsaw to connect the dots.
Step 5: Test Fit and Trim Plywood
Even though we had tried to get our template as close as possible, we still had to trim down the plywood panel in a few spots to make it fit perfectly.
Step 6: Add More Insulation (If Necessary)
Step 7: Screw Plywood to Metal Van Body
To attach the plywood to our van’s metal framing, we picked up some 3/4” self-tapping sheet metal screws. These screws went right through the plywood and into the frame without drilling pilot holes.
The great thing about 1/4″ plywood is that it’s somewhat flexible, so it will follow the curved contours of a van body. The first panel worked out perfectly.
Step 8: Follow the Same Procedure With the Other Panels
After hanging the first panel, we followed the same steps to cut and hang plywood for the rest of the van. The windows in our van are all the same size, so we were able to modify our first template to make the other two panels.
All we needed were a few cuts here and there and an additional piece at the bottom to make the template for the rear windows. Then we traced the template onto the plywood and grabbed our trusty jigsaw. Once we cut and fit the plywood, we screwed it into the metal van frame.
We cannot emphasize enough how much time reusing your templates will save you. We were able to use many of the same templates in several different steps of our van build.
Step 9: Trace and Cut Door Panels
Last but not least was adding plywood panels to the rear doors. If you’ve been following along this far, you can guess how we did this.
We made cardboard templates, traced them onto plywood, cut them out with a jigsaw, and screwed them into place.
We cut holes to accommodate the door handles, and screwed the original plastic handle coverings back over the plywood.
Step 10: Admire Your Handiwork!
And there you have it! We officially have walls! It’s important to take a step back and applaud your progress after big milestones like this. It wasn’t too long ago that our van was just an empty shell. Now it’s starting to feel more like a home every day.
There’s something about the natural beauty of wood covering your living space that makes you feel peaceful and content. That’s why we decided to go with some beautiful cedar paneling for our van’s ceiling – which was next up in the build process.
We hope you’ve enjoyed keeping up with our progress thus far, and we appreciate all the love and support! You guys rock! Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram @gnomad_home and on Facebook at Gnomad Home. We can’t wait to finish our van build in the next few weeks and finally hit the road.