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.
The planks are relatively thin at 5/16” thickness, making them flexible enough to conform to the van’s funky surfaces. We did not sand the planks, but we finished them with varnish to protect them against a spaghetti incident.
TIME SPENT ON THE JOB
40h approximately (including furring strips installation)
- 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 on Amazon)
- Cross Nut (Buy on Amazon)
- Jigsaw & Blades (Buy on Amazon)
- Power drill (Buy on Amazon)
- Drill bits (Buy on Amazon)
- Countersink Drill Bits for Power Drill (Buy on Amazon)
- There’s nothing to see here.
HERE IS HOW IT GOES!
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 Cross Nuts (Buy on Amazon) to attach the furring strips to the van walls. Not familiar with Cross Nuts? That’s fine, we wrote an article (size guide, how-to, etc.) here:
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″, 3/8″, or 1/2″ thick Baltic birch plywood furring strips that conformed to the van’s 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 1/2” plywood for the ceiling, 3/8” plywood for almost-flat surfaces of the walls, and 1/4” 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 risk! ¼” “regular” plywood is probably not strong enough (it will probably crack at screw locations). If you’re using the van for cargo or if you plan on attaching heavy stuff to the wall, ¼” is probably not strong enough.
The wood paneling is screwed into the plywood furring strips every two feet or so. We used #6 brass countersink screws because they blend well with the wood color. To avoid cracking the paneling, 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.
ON SECOND THOUGHT
Does the wood paneling squeak? It does yeah. We learned to live with it, and we don’t really mind it. Music easily covers the squeaks 🙂 To get rid of it, we could probably apply a little Silicone between planks (and between planks/furring strips), but then it would be difficult to remove them later if needed for some reason.
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