Right from the start, we knew we wanted wood paneling finish in our DIY camper van conversion. It is fairly easy to obtain a nice & clean finish with the tongue and groove paneling: each plank will sit flush to the adjacent planks, creating a uniform & continuous surface.

Tongue-and-Groove-Wood-Paneling-(annotated)

Tongue and Groove doing it’s thing

 

The planks are relatively thin at 5/16” thickness, making them flexible enough to conform to the van funky surfaces. We did not sand the planks, but we finished them with varnish to protect them against a spaghetti incident.

Spaghetti Incident

Not in our Van!

 

 

 

TIME SPENT ON THE JOB

40h approximately (including furring strips installation)

 

TOTAL COST

TBD$ USD

 

DISCLOSURE:

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MATERIAL

  • Knotty Pine Wood Paneling, 5/16″ thick X 4″ wide x 96″ long (We bought them from our local Rona)
  • Baltic Birch Plywood Sheet, various thicknesses (We bought them from our local shop in Montreal, Langevin Forest)
  • #6 Screws, length 1/2″ and 5/8″. We used brass screws for the aesthetics… (Buy from Amazon)
  • Plusnut (Buy from Amazon)
  • Varnish

 

TOOLS

 

RESSOURCES

  • There’s nothing to see here.

 

PRE-REQUISITE




HERE IS HOW IT GOES!

Furring Strips

The wood paneling is not attached directly to the van; it’s attached to furring strips that we first installed. We installed furring strips every 2 feet or so, depending on what was possible. As usual, we did not use metal screws; we used Plusnut (http://amzn.to/2qANc8V) to attach the furring strips to the van walls. Not familiar with Plusnut? That’s fine, we made an article (size guide, how-to, etc) here:

Plusnut-heading-annotated

Read our guide here: faroutride.com/plusnut/

 

The furring strips are made from Baltic Birch Plywood; it is a high-quality plywood. For the same thickness as regular plywood, there are more layers and the material characteristics are more uniform.

It was super important for us to maximize the living area, therefore we did not want to “overdesign” the furring strips: instead of using typical 2″x 3″ straight stud frames, we used 1/4″ or 3/8″ or 1/2″ thick Baltic birch plywood furring strips that conform to the van curved surfaces.  It made the fabrication of the furring strips & the installation of the paneling much more time consuming, but we’re very glad we did it!
 




 

The furring strips are generally 4” wide.  We used ½” thickness plywood for the ceiling, 3/8” thickness plywood for almost-flat surfaces of the walls and ¼” thickness* plywood where we wanted the paneling to conform to the van curvatures.

*Disclaimer: ¼” Baltic birch plywood is THIN! Will it withstand the test of time? We think so, but if you choose the do the same, do it at your own risks! ¼” “regular” plywood is probably not strong enough (it will probably crack at screw locations). If you’re using the van as a cargo or if you plan on attaching heavy stuff to the wall, ¼” is probably not strong enough.

Furring Strips Left Forward

Furring Strip Van Conversion

Furring Strips

Furring Strips Right Wall

The two horizontal furring strips are installed because there is a change in curvature along this orientation

Furring Strips Ceiling Van

 

Wood Paneling

 




 
The wood paneling is screwed into the plywood furring strips, every two feet or so. We used #6 countersink screws in brass material, because the brass blends well with the wood color. To avoid the paneling to crack, we pre-drilled and countersunk every hole before screwing into it. This is time consuming, but the pine is quite soft and will crack at installation or later with the cold/hot/vibration.

Wood Paneling Final 1

Wood Paneling Final 2

 

 

 

At Last

We still have to complete the back of the van & the transition between the right wall / ceiling. Wait for it!

 

 

This article is a work in progress…

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ON SECOND THOUGHT

Does the wood paneling squeak? It does sometimes, but no enough to bother us. The music / road noise / etc compensate for the squeaks sound 🙂

 

 

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ABOUT US

Hello! We’re Isabelle and Antoine, a couple dreaming of being on the move and we’re seeking for the ride of our life. We bought a Ford Transit van, converted it to a campervan, sold our house, quit our jobs and hit the road full-time to make our dream a reality. We are sharing this in hope of inspiring and helping others to follow their dreams too!

 

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4 comments

  1. Comment by Terri

    Terri Reply August 29, 2017 at 10:16 am

    Is there much problem with the tongue and groove paneling expanding and contracting with changes in climate? Any thoughts or advice about how to reduce the squeaking (for someone who hasn’t started to install paneling yet)? I know it’s usually pretty hard to track down the exact source of squeaks. As always, thanks for the inspiration and advice!

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply August 29, 2017 at 12:33 pm

      It’s still a bit too soon to tell, as we only went through 1 winter and 1 summer. There is no cracks yet, but there is some squeaks! I’ve heard of people gluing the tongue-and-groove to 1/8″ plywood to eliminate the squeaks; I’ve also heard that you can put silicone between the planks.

      What we’ve learn for sure is, any wood-on-wood will squeaks! When a gap is not possible, some neoprene tape or rubber (http://amzn.to/2vGMMMv) of some sort will work!

      Let us know if you find better solutions!

  2. Comment by Brendan

    Brendan Reply November 4, 2017 at 1:38 pm

    Has your 1/4″ birch firring strips along the beside worked out OK?? I am thinking about doing the same in order to maximize every lateral inch there is in that gaping wall recess. Is it a problem to lean up against that wall while in bed?

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply November 4, 2017 at 2:02 pm

      The bedside wall feel really stiff (compared to the wall behind the driver seat); because the furring strips are much shorter, there is almost no deformation when I push on it.
      The wall behind the driver seat feels the same as when we installed it: there is maybe 1/2 inch deformation when we push on it with our hand. We lean on it when we’re sitting on our “couch”. It’s still holding strong!!

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