Getting our DIY camper van flooring down and finally having a final piece of the build in place that would be on show was a really nice milestone for us. Creating a well insulated solid base to build on is also a very important part of the van conversion process.
Camper Van Flooring
In this blog post we’ll run you through preparing the metal of your van floor. Then framing it out, adding insulation, laying the plywood van subfloor and lastly the best type of van flooring.
All in our opinion of course! There are lots of ways to do your van floor installation, this was simply what worked best for us. We hope it helps.
Van Floor Preparation
If you have one, the very first step is to remove the factory fitted van floor. If it’s in good nick you might be tempted to just want to leave it in and use that as your van subfloor. But there are a few reasons why you shouldn’t.
Firstly you need to see what’s under there. Could be rust or mould. And one thing there will definitely be is a whole lot of muck. Secondly you are going to want to insulate under there.
And thirdly, the material that factory van flooring is made out of is usually extremely heavy. Which consequently will add unnecessary weight to your van build.
Once the new van floor is down, it’s down. So it’s important to take the time at this stage to give the metal a thorough scrub. Then treat any potential rust spots to avoid problems down the road.
Van Flooring Install Tips
Because we closed our cab and living area off we didn’t bother. But if you’re not doing that you may also want to consider adding sound deadening sheets at this stage. These will stick to the metal of the van floor to reduce road noise.
Also make sure you are actually ready to install your van subfloor. By this I mean that if you are installing underslung gas or water tanks, with bolting through the van floor, you may want to do this first.
It didn’t end up mattering for us because the bolts for our underslung gas tank are in our garage area and not on show. But we did have to cut some sections out of the van floor. So if you know you won’t want to do that, the fitting needs to happen at this stage.
Do not throw away your original van flooring. Or cut it up. Or let it get bent up. You will need it as a template – more than once.
How To Insulate A Van Floor
Next up is to get the first layer of camper van flooring down, and that’s the insulation. But first up, the van floor needs framing out to create a solid base for everything else to be fixed onto.
We put the wooden battens closer together in the areas we would be walking on. And made sure they were placed where the edges of the next layer would be. That way the plywood van floor could be screwed in nice and flat.
Some people screw the battens through the floor, but there’s really no need. A good quality adhesive with some weights on top while it goes off is more than adequate. The adhesive we used is called Tiger Seal and trust us those battens ain’t going nowhere.
Plus each screw put through the metal of your van is a potential rust point. Therefore it’s best to keep them to an absolute minimum.
Van Floor Insulation
Now for the insulation. Insulating the floor is important, but as heat rises, not as important as insulating the walls and ceiling. Furthermore you don’t want to lose too much headroom by putting in over thick insulation.
The material we used was 25mm rigid foam board, specifically Kingspan. In contrast to the 50mm thickness we used for insulating the van walls and ceiling. Because the rigid foam board is foil backed, we just used aluminium foil to create a vapour barrier and seal this layer.
Van Build Tip: Number the wooden and batons and pieces of insulation as you go in case you need to take them out as we did to clean up any foam bits before final fixing.
Also make sure to mark where the battens are and take some pictures for when you are screwing the plywood subfloor down into them.
Van Conversion Subfloor
Okay, if you have one, time to grab your original van flooring for a template for your second layer. Your van conversion subfloor.
For our van subfloor we used 4 sheets of 12 x 1220 x 2440 mm marine grade plywood. It’s not waterproof, just higher quality and more durable if it comes into contact with moisture. It is more expensive though and you don’t have to use. Again it’s just an option we went for.
When installing plywood flooring in the van we had to create our own template for a small section just behind the seats. This was because the factory van flooring didn’t reach behind the metal bulkhead wall which we removed.
Plywood Van Floor
Sprinter vans have a large step that runs the entire width of the sliding door. So we decided the space would be better used by having a smaller step to increase the floor area. As a result, for our sprinter van floor installation, we cut the plywood subflooring so it overhung the side step.
The plan being for our kitchen units to sit on it with storage cupboard built underneath to support the overhang. It also handily conceals cables running to the fridge and the battery to battery charger in the cab.
Depending on how precise your original template is, you may want to fill around the edges of this layer of camper van flooring with some spray foam. Of course trimming it off once expanded and dry so it’s flush with the plywood van floor.
Finally countersink all your screws so they are level with the van conversion subfloor. And fix the plywood around the edges into the batten to ensure a flat surface to lay your top floor.
Best Campervan Flooring
The best flooring for a van conversion is a material that is durable, easy to clean, lightweight, not too thick and ideally waterproof. Of course being the final layer of van conversion flooring you also want it to look great.
Vinyl Van Flooring
The light coloured wood effect vinyl van flooring that we choose ticked all of those boxes.
We again used the van flooring template but cut the vinyl a few centimetres bigger all the way around so we could trim it to size in place. All you need is a sharp pair of scissors. Don’t forget to do it the right side up – we so nearly made this mistake!
Be sure to thoroughly sweep or vacuum the plywood van flooring before fitting the final layer. And especially if cutting outside, make sure to remove any bits of grit or little stones stuck on the underneath of the vinyl.
Spray adhesive goes on both the campervan vinyl flooring and the plywood in opposite directions. Once tacky, smooth down, being careful to work out any air bubbles. It needs to be done in sections too – don’t attempt to do it all in one go.
For the campervan flooring edge at the back doors we rescrewed the original metal trim back on. We also ran a bead of silicone around the edges of the vinyl inside the van to create a watertight seal.
We also lined the plywood area around the step with vinyl so it would be easy to clean. Then finished it off with some aluminium metal trim and coir matting on the step.
Other Van Flooring Options
If you prefer not to install vinyl or linoleum for your finished floor, there are other van flooring options. Some van builders choose wood. In this case, it’s always better to go with lightweight laminate flooring over heavy hardwood campervan flooring ideas.
But vinyl or linoleum is better in our opinion because as well as all the qualities mentioned above, it doesn’t expand or shrink with heat changes as wood does. But you do need good quality, cheap vinyls will puncture or tear easily. Felt backed ones are best.
Depending on what the space is planning to be used for, some people opt to lay a more durable top floor in the garage area, such as a thicker rubber flooring.
Van Build Tip: When finished, be sure to cover your new flooring with plastic cover or cardboard to prevent it getting damaged during the rest of the vanbuild.
Tools and Materials List
Here’s everything we used during our camper van flooring installation.
- Treated Timber Battens (25x38mm)
- 25mm Rigid Foam Board
- Aluminium Foil Tape
- 12mm Marine Grade Plywood
- Felt Backed Linoleum
- Spray Glue Adhesive
- Waterproof Silicone
- Aluminium Angle Edging
- Coir Matting
- Stanley Knife
- Metal Ruler With Guard
- Sealant Gun
- Sharp DIY Scissors
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If you have any unanswered questions or some camper van floor installation tips of your own, get in touch in the comments.
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