Converting our own campervan – Phase 1

We’ve always talked about getting our own campervan, but it’s never really been the right time. But recently we were lucky enough to be offered a van at a great price – and we couldn’t resist! So we decided it was time to chase our dreams and convert our own campervan.

Below is the first phase of our conversion, from purchase to insulation. I’ve also tried to remember all the steps and the materials we used, so you can get some inspiration if you’re planning on converting your own van.

Buying a van

The first crucial step is buying a van. Trust me, your van conversion is going to be really tricky without one! We chose a high top, medium wheel base, Ford Transit. If you’re thinking of buying a van, you need to check it’s mechanically sound beforehand, especially if you’re buying an older vehicle.

It’s probably a good idea to have someone look over it and check everything is running OK before you invest all your time and money in fixing it up. We had ours looked over and it just needed a small amount of welding and a little TLC.

Tax and insurance

Once we checked it was in good condition and got the van home, it was time to tax and insure it.  We paid an upfront sum to ensure we were covered for the year. Comparison sites are the best way to make sure you’re getting the best deal!

Clearing it out

Once we’d got all the paper work done, it was time to get started! This is where the fun really begins. Our van used to belong to a carpet fitter, so it had some shelving and storage that we needed to get out. So we started by empty out any mess, taking down the shelves and stripping the wood from the walls and floor.

Once we’d taken the floor out we found a few small patches of rust that needed to be dealt with. Nothing major, but it was better to get this fixed now instead of finding that it caused us problems in the future.

Installing some windows

Now with an empty van, we decided we wanted to install some windows and get some more light shining through. We bought two side windows, one fixed and one opening, from Van Demon. These came as a twin set, which had everything we needed to fit the windows ourselves.

We chose to buy bonded windows as these seemed to be the easiest to fit yourself. Though you can choose rubber sealed or framed windows. I would definitely recommend this company! The products were great, they were really helpful and the windows arrived in less than two days!

You can easily fit both windows in a day, and the process isn’t too complicated. You’ll need a jigsaw or grinder to cut the hole in the van where the window will go, and everything else is included in the kit! The windows do come with instructions on how to fit them, but there’s also a number of YouTube videos that were a great help when we were installing them.

Fitting a vent

While the windows will provide us with some fresh air, we decided that for constant airflow we’d fit a vent in the roof of the van. After reading a few reviews we chose the Fiamma Crystal Vent (400 x 400).

Again, this was really easy to fit, we bought sealant to go round the edges and make sure it was water tight. We once again used our grinder to cut the hole in the roof and followed the instruction provided. It was quick and easy to fit, they can be pricey depending on the size you get, but would definitely recommend this product as well.

Insulating the van

And the final part of phase one, once we’d finished cutting holes in the van, was to insulate the whole thing! This was perhaps the messiest part of the job so far. There are a number of ways you can do this using different materials, but we were lucky enough to be given eight sheets of Celotex (which is usually pretty pricey).

This is not only good for keeping the heat in when it’s cold, but the surface also deflects the heat to keep the van cooler in the summer.

This was also simple to install, we simply cover the van top to bottom with these sheets. They are easy to cut and you really can cover most of the surfaces. To fill any small gaps that might be lurking, we bought some Soudal expanding foam.

We would suggest using Celotex, but you could also use materials such as loft insulation if you’d prefer – other options may be a bit cheaper, but could be more difficult to fit.

Next steps of our van conversion

And now, we’ve prepped the van and dealt with a lot of the more technical bits, it’s time to start decorating! Next step we’ll be lining the van with wood and beginning to building our furniture. Keep a look out for phase two of our van conversion coming soon!


Photo by Taduuda on Unsplash