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Campervan Cladding: How To Do It

It can feel like a long time coming, but when you get to the stage of installing campervan cladding in your van conversion you’ll finally be able to see the space taking shape.

Campervan Cladding

Because we were going to be living full time in our converted Sprinter van we wanted to create a light and airy, yet homely feel and I think we managed to achieve just that.

campervan cladding finish

Read on for full details on how we installed our wooden campervan cladding, the products and tools we used, plus lots of helpful tips for saving weight and creating neat finished edges.

Van Conversion Walls & Ceiling

There are of course other options for campervan wall and ceiling covering so in the interest of completeness we’ll quickly run through these here first.

A popular alternative to camper cladding is just to use plywood to line the walls and ceiling. This can either then be painted or carpeted over for a finished effect.

One thing to bear in mind if painting plywood camper walls is that you are going to want a minimum amount of joins so you should use as bigger sheets as possible. Be aware that any filing is likely to crack on the most curved parts of the van so in order to get a neat finish you might want to put your joins behind furniture or add some edging over the top to keep it tidy.

Another alternative to wooden van cladding is PVC cladding. It’s lightweight, easy to keep clean & comes in lots of varying widths. But it is more difficult to install, especially in curved areas and you have to stick it on rather than screwing it on which can be less secure.

Tongue & Groove Van Cladding

The campervan cladding we opted for was a spruce tongue and groove variety from Homebase. The measurements are 8mm x 94mm x 2.4m. This van cladding came in packs of 5 and we used 18 packs for our LWB Sprinter van – so around 90 lengths.

painting van conversion cladding

But we did use it for cladding the van doors and some interior walls too, not just the camper walls and ceiling.

We had read that this type of wood cladding was likely to have quite few broken pieces in the packs. But there were only a couple in ours and they were along the tongue or groove, which we cut off for the bottom and top of some sections so none of it was actually wasted.

Weight & Cost Saving Tip

Even though that seems like alot of cladding, we actually only cladded the parts of the van you can see. The campervan wall covering in the garage, behind the cupboards and behind the tiled kitchen walls is lined with 5mm plywood.

Which not only cuts down on weight and cost, but gives you a chance to use up any plywood offcuts too.

how to clad a campervan
campervan cladding ideas

Van Build Tip: Drive around at regular stages of your van build to listen out for new squeaks and rattles. Far easier doing this as you go along, than troubleshooting at the end.

Products & Tools

Watch how we installed our campervan ceiling cladding here:

Framing Out A Campervan

First of all you need to build a substructure in which to attach your campervan cladding too. This means lightweight, flexible wood spaced at regular intervals, screwed into the metal pillars of the van. Ours were around 50cm apart.

Vertical battens are the most important for cladding a campervan. But we also put in some horizontal ones at this stage too for attaching our furniture to. To attach them we just used some self tapping screws into the raised ribs of the van metal.

campervan cladding preparation

Even thinking about how to screw into your van walls is daunting. We know. But you should be able to measure easily enough the depth of screw you need that won’t go out the other side of your van.

We’ve seen people do this both ways, but we opted to put the vapour barrier on first, then screw the battening through that to limit the number of holes in the vapour barrier. Otherwise you’ll be piercing the vapour barrier with every nail or screw you use to secure the cladding.

Framing Windows

If you have windows in the walls of your van, you’ll also want to frame them out at this stage too, so that you can get a nice neat finish with the cladding.

To save on weight and maximise the amount of light coming in, we didn’t however frame or clad right up to the window in our sliding door.

We finished the edges around the window with automotive carpet. Then just added cladding stuck on some 3mm plywood to the top and bottom sections of the door.

cladding campervan sliding door
cladding campervan backdoors

We actually ended up taking the bottom section off and replacing it with just 3mm plywood after a while though. This was because it was slightly too thick and started scratching the outside of the van when the door opened.

It saved a lot of weight too & isn’t a part of the van you can actually see very much due to the placement of our kitchen cabinets.

Because there were so many holes in the metal cross beams, the ceiling battens we actually just stuck on with a strong flexible adhesive (tigerseal) and over a year later they’ve held up just fine.

Carpeting the Edges

Make sure you carpet any awkward areas before you start fixing the cladding. This will mainly be around door edges. To get a good finish you want to tuck the carpet just under the rubber door seals, you can pull them off easily.

But just enough to mask the edge. Too much and it can cause dampness by drawing in moisture from the outside of the van – we’re speaking from experience here. To get the best finish you’ll need to take off any metal/plastic fixings that you can too.

All of this can seem like a right faff when you’re just wanting to get on with your campervan wall cladding. But it’s a million times easier to do it upfront at this stage.

Wiring 12V Electrics

If you haven’t already you’ll need to run the campervan wiring for your solar panels, fan and lighting.

Our fan and bathroom light are on separate circuits with just the one load each. While our ceiling spotlights and reading lights are each on parallel circuits with the multiple loads running off the same circuit.

Our ceiling spotlights simply clipped through a hole cut into the cladding, with springs securing them in place. And because they are touch on/off and individually dimmable we don’t have a switch on the circuit.

Van Build Tip: If your insulation is close to touching the back of your ceiling light like ours was, stick a patch of insulation tape inbetween to stop the a short circuit being created.

wiring campervan ceiling lights

With regard to the original van lighting in the back of our van we capped off the lights towards the front of the living area. But we ran the ones at the back into our garage to use as lighting in there. If you do this just remember these are running off your van starter battery.

Painting Or Varnishing?

We opted for white walls so that it made the space feel bigger through being lighter. But we didn’t want it too clinical so we varnished the back doors and van ceiling cladding with a natural wood varnish. We love it.

Some van builders opt to install their cladding first and varnish/paint after. We chose to do this job beforehand. Just be aware that if the wood shrinks you might end up with some unpainted gaps where the cladding pieces join as they slightly come apart..

The varnish we used was Ronseal Interior Satin Ash Varnish and we put two coats on.

For the painted cladding we first used Colron Knotting Solution to prevent knot seepage. Then added two coats of a White Multi-surface Primer & Undercoat, followed by two coats of Dulux Pure Brilliant White Eggshell.

How to Clad A Campervan

Okay, now you’ve done all of your prep work, it’s time to actually get your van conversion walls and ceiling in. If you’re doing your van conversion solo, this is a two man job, so a good stage to get a mate to help out.

As we didnt want lots of visible screws or nails, we used cladding clips to secure our campervan cladding in place. Lots of van builders talk about how difficult they are to use. But we honestly found them really straightforward to use.

And it was certainly less time consuming than going around and filling a load of holes if you do want to hide the fixings.

measuring campervan cladding
van conversion internal wall cladding

Van Build Tip: Mark out where your battens are on the cladding with some tape so you know exactly where they are at a later date for fixing your furniture to them.

Using cladding clips does however mean that you have to work in one direction from an edge. You can’t just start in the middle of a wall or a ceiling. Which isn’t any drama for the walls. But it can make it trickier for ensuring the ceiling is central.

Tongue and Groove Van Ceiling

Luckily for us, when we measured it out, our Sprinter van ceiling took exactly 16 pieces of the cladding we used, so it was automatically centralised anyway. There was just a small gap at the edges but this was covered by the wall cladding which we did second.

If we’d have started in the middle with a central piece we would have ended up having to use half pieces at the edges would have been a hassle. So it’s important to spend some time measuring and working this out before you get going.

tongue and groove van ceiling
tongue and groove van ceiling

We did have to pin the very top pieces of wall cladding in place with a few nails as they weren’t slotting together tongue and groove style into another piece. And we also cut the tongue off to create a nice smooth corner join between the campervan roof cladding and wall.

For the van conversion walls, we worked from top to bottom, staggering the joins. This makes the cladding stronger as a whole, but also looks better aesthetically.

We were originally hoping to use longer pieces so as not to have any joins but at the time of our van build it was an absolute mission to get any wood cladding for campervans at all. We ended up driving all over the place and collecting packets from different store locations.

Watch how we put up our campervan wall lining here:

Van Cladding Finishing Touches

It was pretty difficult to get all the pieces to line up perfectly at the edges so what we did was tidy those areas up with some thin wooden edging strips. And above the back and sliding doors we created two fascias that we could later fix roll up mosquito nets into.

van cladding edging
van conversion garage

As you can see in the images we also used cladding for internal walls in our van. The partition sections we built in the garage to hold switches, the water fill point on one side and on the other give some protection to the batteries and electrics board.

And that’s it guys, campervan cladding done! As usual, get in touch in the comments if you have any questions.

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