So you’re thinking about doing a DIY sprinter van conversion? Well you’re certainly in the right place because that’s exactly what we did. Bought a plain old second hand Mercedes Sprinter panel van and converted it to an awesome campervan that we now live in full time.
Quick note: if you’re undecided on your base vehicle, the majority of the information in this free campervan conversion guide can be applied to other vans. So there’s no need to stop if you haven’t fully decided on that aspect of your ‘how to convert a van into a camper’ journey.
Sprinter Van Conversion
In this blog post we’re going to give you all the information that you need to get started on your sprinter camper conversion. Including tips on how to buy the vehicle, how to decide on the layout and a step by step guide for the whole sprinter van build out process.
Disclaimer: We’re not professional campervan builders. All the skills we employed in converting our van are completely self taught. So, basically, if you follow what we did and something goes wrong, like you err… flood your van or something. That’s on you. Just saying!
Choosing A Base Van
Before we bought our Mercedes Sprinter van we spent a considerable amount of time researching what base vehicle to choose. We were also looking at the Ford Transit, Peugeot Boxer, Vauxhall Vivaro or Iveco Daily as options.
But ultimately we decided to go with a Sprinter conversion for the following reasons:
- Large versatile space
- Decent miles per gallon
- Long life span
- Parts widely available
- Holds value well
If you like the shape and size of the Mercedes Sprinter van another base vehicle to consider is the almost identical VW Crafter. They are however more expensive and generally less readily available on the second hand vehicle market.
Another factor you’ll need to decide when choosing your type of campervan base vehicle is vehicle length. Because we were building a Sprinter campervan to live in full time having the maximum amount of space possible so we opted for the long wheel base (LWB) version.
There is also an extra-long wheelbase (ELWB). But do bear in mind that more space ultimately equals more weight and a larger vehicle to park. So if you are only planning on using your diy sprinter van conversion for shorter trips, a short or medium wheelbase (SWB/MWB) van might better suit your needs.
The height of the vehicle may also be something that is important to you. Neither of us are very tall so a standard roof sprinter was fine for us. But there are also high roof and super high roof options.
Something else to think about when choosing your base vehicle for a campervan conversion is how many passenger seats you will need. And whether these will all be in the cab area or whether some will need to add additional ones in the back.
Sprinter panel vans readily come with two or three seats as standard in the cab which was ideal for us. Although fortunately we opted for a three seater sprinter, as we found out soon after we moved in that we were to welcome a baby on board.
Buying A Sprinter Van
Of course you may be in the market for a brand spanking new Mercedes Sprinter van. Lucky you! But if like us, you don’t have that kind of a budget you’ll be looking for a second hand Sprinter van to convert.
Because Sprinter vans are popular fleet vehicles in the UK, there are usually plenty of them around and some good bargains to be found. But the market tends to move quickly, so once you’re ready to buy, be prepared to travel to viewings and make swift decisions.
Things to look out for when viewing a second hand van:
- Check the bodywork for rust; particularly wheel arches and door frames
- Check the suspension; bounce on a corner, it should spring back smoothly
- Check tires for wearing; uneven wearing in particular indicates a problem
- Make sure there’s no warning lights on the dashboard
- Check the lights work properly that they’re not dimming or flickering
- Check the steering; there shouldn’t be any free play or veering to the side
- Test the brakes; choose a safe straight stretch of road to break harshly
- Inspect the roof; this is often overlooked on high roof vehicles
- Ensure everything works; windows, A/C, heating, seatbelts, radio, wipers
- Check behind panels if possible; new panels could be covering something up
Obviously to do many of these checks you will need to test drive the vehicle. So if it’s a private sale ensure that it is properly insured for you to drive. And turn the radio off so that you can listen out for any strange noises that could indicate anything mechanically unsound.
Mileage wise obviously the lower the possible, but with that comes a higher price tag. So you’ll need to balance both this and the condition of the vehicle against your budget.
We were reliably advised by our mechanic that Sprinter vans are good to run to 250k miles without any major issues. So we felt comfortable and haven’t regretted buying a 5 year old van with 150k on the clock. I don’t think we would have gone much higher or older than that.
You’ll also want to check the van’s history. Both in terms of the service history to verify that it has been looked after, but also to look at how many owners it has had. A history of frequent recent sales can indicate some serious potential underlying issues.
Sprinter Van Build Out
Now as you’re reading a guide on how to convert a van into a camper we’re assuming that you’re at least looking to do some of your Sprinter van build out yourself. How much will depend on a few different things, your budget, timeframe, your skills and available tools.
We had quite a healthy van build budget, but given that we planned to live in it full time, we wanted to make it as comfortable as possible and with a high quality finish. This meant that we had to do, or rather learn how to do, the vast majority of our Sprinter conversion ourselves.
Fortunately we weren’t working to a strict time frame so we had plenty of time for planning, research and making mistakes. But other than being practical people, we didn’t have any van building experience. So if we can learn the skills needed for a sprinter build out you can too.
Just do understand that if you go down the full DIY Sprinter van conversion route it’s a huge project. You’ll spend just as much time reading blog posts like this, watching ‘how to’ YouTube videos and searching for parts as you will physically working on your Sprinter build out.
One of the huge benefits is that you will have intimate knowledge of the inner workings and know how to fix things if anything breaks. Plus you get the satisfaction and kudos.
But do bear in mind that if you plan on renting your self converted campervan out ever in the future there will be things that you can’t legally do. LPG installations for example have to be undertaken by a qualified professional as you’ll need a landlord gas certificate.
Sprinter Conversion Layout
If you’ve been thinking about how to convert a camper for as long as we were you’ll probably already have a decent idea of what you’d like your ideal sprinter conversion to look like. But once you get your base vehicle you’ll also probably realise it might not all be possible.
So before you get into nailing down what you want your overall style and finish to look like, our best advice is to draw up a list with two columns of your must haves and your wants.
Two biggies are whether or not to have a fixed bed and a bathroom. But you’ll also want to design your Sprinter conversion layout with your hobbies in mind. How much storage do you need? Do you like to cook? What are your working requirements – do you need office space?
Whether it’s for full time living or part time adventures, you’ll find lots of inspiration for clever designs and space saving ideas on instagram, Pinterest and YouTube. Try to really drill down on what you’ll be doing in the space
Another good idea, especially if you’ve never tried one out before, is to rent a campervan and take it on a roadtrip to try it out for size. Then you can get to work sketching a floor plan, and if you already have your van tape it out or use cardboard cutouts to properly envisage it.
DIY Sprinter Van Conversion
Alright, let’s get into the nitty gritty of how to convert a van into a camper. For the next part of this sprinter van conversion guide we’re going to be talking you through insulation, ventilation, electrics, gas, water, cabinets, sleeping areas, floors, walls, ceiling and the external areas.
We’re going to get super detailed and hopefully answer all your burning sprinter conversion questions and more. So if you need to grab yourself a brew, a snack or take a quick nap, go ahead and do that, we’ll wait right here!
Okay as mentioned above we completed 99% of our sprinter van conversion ourselves, we just had professional help with one of our windows and our gas safety check. So when I say this is a DIY guide, it really is.
You can also find all of our appliances, decor, plumbing, electrics stuff over on our van gear shop page.
Step 1: Campervan Windows
As part of deciding your campervan layout you should have hopefully figured where you want to install any extra windows. If indeed you want any windows at all. Some people opt for no windows in their living space, especially if the cab is being left open.
This means the living space is better insulated, more secure and saves some cash. But on the flipside means there’s less ventilation and light so it depends where your priorities are. Because we closed our cab area off, we didn’t want to feel like we were living in a metal box.
And it can be quite disorientating at night not being able to see out into your surroundings. For that reason if we were designing our campervan layout again I think we’d put an extra window in. As it is now we have two, but both on the same side.
Van Conversion Tip: If you have designs on getting your panel converted to a reclassified to a campervan with the DVLA it’s a must that you have windows in your living space.
Now there are different types of van windows that you can DIY install:
- Bonded van windows
- Framed acrylic van windows
Bonded campervan windows are where a hole is cut out in the side of the van and a window quite literally stuck over it. They are glued on with a strong adhesive sealant and sit flush against the outside of the van.
Framed acrylic van windows are another option but they are more complicated to install as you will likely have to modify the thickness of the van wall with an additional frame.
We have two bonded windows on our nearside/passenger side. A bonded universal vent window with flyscreen at the back in our bedroom, and a bonded half slider window in our sliding door. Both are privacy tinted so you can’t see in unless it’s dark out & there’s a light on inside.
You can read more about how to install campervan windows here. We go through exactly what we did in ten straightforward steps, plus give you all the tools and materials you’ll need to do the job.
It seems like a daunting task, cutting holes in the side of your newly acquired vehicle. But if you are indeed doing a DIY job on your campervan conversion, it’s something you’ll become very familiar (and dare I say comfortable) with rather quickly.
Step 2: Campervan Roof Vents
Next up, more holes! Only this time in the roof. Because not only are getting rid of bad smells and temperature control integral to comfort, but circulation of fresh air is a safety must for using a gas cooker and important for controlling water vapour.
Without proper campervan ventilation water vapour from cooking, showering and breathing moisture will hang around in the air and cause serious condensation issues leading to mould and rust. Two problems you definitely want to avoid.
We opted for the combination of a MaxxAir Deluxe Maxxfan at the front over our kitchen and bathroom area, with a Skymaxx Rooflight at the back over our sleeping area. When both in use they create a nice cool breeze through the van, essential for vanlife in hot weather.
You can read all about how we installed our van conversion roof vents in ten easy to follow steps here. There’s a complete tools and materials list. Plus other options for ensuring you are installing a solid campervan ventilation system.
Van Conversion Tip: Make sure you know what the new height of your van is after you’ve installed your roof vents in case you are driving under any low bridges.
Step 3: Campervan Insulation
Being as you will never see it, it can be all too easy to rush through this part of converting a campervan. But insulating a Sprinter van conversion properly is hugely important. And taking the time to get it right at this stage will pay dividends for your future van life comfort.
First up you need to choose the type of insulation you will use. We went for a combination of rigid foam board, aka Kingspan, and recycled plastic stuffing. Then fixed reflectix over the top to act as a vapour barrier and prevent moisture build up.
It’s quite common for people to think that insulating your van thoroughly only matters if you are going to be spending time in cold climates. But that’s not the case as it also helps you control the temperature inside when it’s super warm outside.
We’re really happy with our campervan insulation and know it was worth the time and effort from how warm our van stays in winter and cool it stays in summer.
You can read more about the ins and outs of van insulation here in this blog post. It contains lots more detailed explanations about R-values and toxicity plus guides you through our exact process for this stage of our sprinter van build out.
Step 4: Van Flooring
Getting the van flooring down and having a final piece of your Sprinter build out in place that will be on show is a really nice milestone. There are lots of ways to put a floor in your DIY Sprinter conversion, but ultimately you just want it to be as sturdy and lightweight as possible.
Ours consists of three layers. The bottom is framed out with wooden batons, which we simply stuck down with a strong flexible adhesive, with 25mm thick squares of rigid foam board in between. The middle layer is made up of 4 sheets of 12mm thick marine plywood that is screwed into the batons below. And then the top layer is some hard wearing wood effect vinyl.
Van Conversion Tip: If you have a factory floor fitted be sure to keep it to use as a template.
It was relatively simple to install. Although something that you need to consider before doing this step of your Sprinter van conversion is if you will be fitting an underslung LPG tank.
Because we didn’t do this until much later on in the process it caused us quite a headache when we realised that we needed to put bolts through the metal of the van floor. So definitely something worth thinking about in advance.
You can read here about how we got around the issue. And as usual in all of our ‘how to turn a van into a camper’ blog posts there’s a handy materials list with links to everything we used.
Step 5: Sprinter Roof Rack
Before you get stuck into any more of the structural work inside, it’s worth jumping up on the roof and getting this part of converting a sprinter van into a camper out of the way. If the weather is crap you can leave it until later, but just be sure to do it before your ceiling goes in.
Partly to do with keeping costs down and partly to do with wanting to do as much of our vanbuild ourselves as possible, we opted to build our own DIY Sprinter roof rack.
You can of course buy one ready made and depending on what you are wanting to put up there, that might be the best option for you. But as we only wanted to mount our solar panels up there, we just needed a simple, sturdy design.
As with most things during our Sprinter van conversion, it took us a long time to figure out how to do it. And even longer to source all the different bits and pieces that we needed. Thankfully it was then a relatively quick and straightforward task.
So if you’re going down the homemade roof rack route, hopefully we can save you a lot of time and head scratching with this information. It includes a step by step guide plus a materials list with links to everything we used.
But just to give you a basic idea of the system, we fixed two unistrut rails along the length of each roof gutter. Then for the mounting structure for the solar panels, i.e. the cross beams, we used aluminium angle.
You’ll also need to cut a hole through the roof for a solar cable housing mount so they can feed into your van. Don’t forget to use a rubber grommet to protect your cables.
Van Conversion Tip: Whenever you cut any holes in your van metal, and I mean ANY, be sure to thoroughly clean up afterwards. Metal filings get EVERYWHERE and cause rust fast.
Step 6: Electrical System
Okay, up until now, other than cutting holes in your van, there might not have been anything that felt hugely daunting. Queue the electrics! Now for lots of people this is just a straight up no and they get this stage completed by a qualified electrician.
However, in our opinion, if you’ve got a good head on your shoulders, there’s absolutely no reason you can’t do it yourself. And that includes even if you’ve never undertaken any electrical work before, as was our case.
Having said that electricity is dangerous so if you are unsure get some professional advice.
And we’re not saying that designing your campervan electrics doesn’t get complicated at times.. But when it comes down to it, it’s really all just about calculations. So as long as you can do some basic maths there’s no need to be intimidated by it, or guessing at anything.
One thing you absolutely shouldn’t do is just blindly copy someone else’s system. You need to size your system for how much electricity you personally will be using and build your campervan electrics to that specification.
In this blog post we tell you exactly how to do that plus give you a detailed explanation of our entire electrical system so that you have some working examples.
To give you a quick run down here though, at the heart of it is our leisure battery bank which consists of 3 x 110ah AGM batteries. Feeding that we have 3 x 150W solar panels, a 60A battery to battery charger and a 30A mains battery charger with hook up.
The solar panels provide all of our electricity for most of the year and we just use our battery to battery and mains charger as back up. Then power comes out via our 12V fuse box and 500W inverter which we really only use for our laptops. Everything else runs off 12V.
Van Conversion Tip: Keep a spreadsheet with all your cable thicknesses and fuse sizes, it’ll come in super handy if you ever need to fix anything in the future.
You won’t be able to complete your electrics all in one stage. But you can get the back end of stuff running. By this I mean hooking up your batteries, solar panels, battery chargers (mains/B2B/MPPT), fuse boxes, inverter and isolators.
That way all you need to do is run the cabling to your appliances or sockets and pop fuses in.
You may also wish to build a small control panel in the living area so you can easily keep a check on your battery status. We have one under one of the seats that also tells us how much water we have, how full our waste tank is and how much LPG we have.
Step 7: Building Walls
Depending on your chosen layout you may be going for a completely open living space. Or, like us, you may be dividing it into sections. We essentially have three different ‘rooms’ in our sprinter van conversion; the main living area, the bathroom and the front cab.
Closing off the cab is of course a design preference and if you are intent on installing swivel seats won’t be an option. But we chose to do it for a number of reasons.
First of all to improve insulation. Glass is a terrible heat conductor and there’s an awful lot of it in there. Secondly, security wise we didn’t want the back to be easily accessible from the front and vice versa. And lastly, we wanted to use the whole of the wall for our kitchen cabinetry.
To build the wall we simply screwed wooden batons into the metal framework of the van then used some 25mm rigid foam board as building blocks and coated it in a thin plywood. Above the cab wall we also have our DIY headliner shelf that creates a storage area over the cab.
The other internal wall that we built inside our diy sprinter van conversion was of the bathroom cubicle. For this we again screwed wooden batons to the framework of the van metal, then just ply lined them and left them hollow as there was no point to insulating them.
We also had to build a small step into the bathroom so that water from the shower stayed contained there. There isn’t a door on the bathroom, just a shower curtain. It works fine for us and gives us our privacy whilst saving on weight.
Van Conversion Tip: Get your van weighed at regular intervals throughout building a sprinter campervan to ensure you’re not getting too close too or going overweight.
Step 8: Campervan Cladding
Whether it’s with wood or PVC, cladding the interior walls and/or ceiling of Mercedes Sprinter van camper conversions is a popular choice. An alternative method is just to use large plywood sheets. Which can then either be painted or carpeted over for a finished effect.
Whatever you choose, this is a really nice stage of your Sprinter van conversion to reach as you’ll finally be able to see the space taking shape.
The campervan cladding we opted for was a wooden spruce tongue and groove type. And we used cladding clips to secure them in place. Some people find them difficult to use but we didn’t. First of all though you need to build a substructure to attach the cladding too.
This means lightweight, flexible wood spaced at regular intervals, screwed into the metal pillars of the van with self tapping screws. Ours were around 50cm apart. Vertical battens are the most important. But we also put in some horizontal ones too for attaching our furniture to.
Van Conversion 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.
In total we used over 200m of cladding. And even though that seems like alot we actually only cladded the parts of the van you can see. To save on weight, the wall covering in the garage, behind the cupboards and behind the tiled kitchen walls is lined with 5mm plywood.
You can read more detail about how we framed our windows and created neat finished edges around the cladding in this dedicated blog post.
We also chose to varnish/paint our cladding before we installed it into the van. We did it this way because wood shrinks and contracts with fluctuating temperature so you can end up with unpainted bits in the gaps.
Step 9: Installing Furniture
We chose to build all our own van furniture. But there’s plenty of van builders who prefer to buy and adapt ready-made cabinetry. Ikea is a favourite for kitchen units. But a huge benefit to custom making them is that you can completely individualise your storage space.
Van Conversion Tip: Plan what you want to put in your cupboards. We designed our shelf heights specifically for the food containers we would put in them so we maximised the space.
Having never designed or made furniture before, it took us a long time to even get the cut lists together. But much of that was due to working to very specific specifications for the cooker and our fridge housing, which you’ll need to account for either way.
If you’re new to woodwork like us, our advice is to start with the simplest cupboard/unit first. That way you can build up your skills and confidence before moving onto complex designs.
We used 12mm plywood for the carcasses so they were thick enough to be able to route in too for the shelves. And to save a bit of weight 6mm plywood with a decorative trim for doors.
This is process we used:
- Draw out design with exact measurements
- Double check measurements against space
- Create a cut list for 12mm and 6mm
- Cut out the 12mm using a table/circular saw
- Route out the shelving spaces
- Glue together and pin in place
- Cut out the 6mm using a table/circular saw
- Glue decorative edging on and clamp
- Fill all edges with wood filler and leave to dry
- Sand down all edges with palm sander
- Undercoat and then paint all pieces
- Attach hinges and knobs to door
- Bracket to floor and wall frames in van
The stages that take the most time are sanding and painting. If you’re anything like us by the time you’re finished this stage you’ll likely never want to see a piece of sandpaper again! But of course like most things in a DIY sprinter van conversion it will all be worth it in the end.
Step 10: Diesel Heater Install
If you want heating in your van you basically have two choices. You can either go with one of the more expensive premium brands such as Eberspacher or Webasto. Or to nab yourself one of the increasingly popular cheaper models as we did.
Just to clarify here in terms of the price difference, we’re talking about several hundred pounds. And while ours has now started to need a couple of parts replaced, we used it everyday over two winters without issue so we think the cost saving was worth it.
We have a 5KW diesel heater in our LWB Sprinter van conversion. But if you have a smaller van, 2KW would be adequate. And if you prefer you can plumb it directly into your van diesel tank, we just didn’t fancy taking that on and didn’t want the cost of paying someone to do it.
It’s extremely efficient and heats our van space up in around 10 minutes. Plus the remote control it comes with means we can put it on before we even get out of bed. Fuel wise, we use between 5-7 litres of diesel per week in winter.
These budget diesel heaters aren’t however the easiest to install as the instructions are pretty naff. Plus there’s a few additional parts we’d recommend getting to make the install go much smoother. You can read all about those tips here.
Van Conversion Tip: The most important thing you need to get when installing any diesel heater is a carbon monoxide detector.
Alternatively some people chose to install a wood burner as a heating source in their van conversion. If you are considering this double check with your insurance company that they will cover you. And check with a qualified installer to make sure you will be able to meet HETAS regulations.
Step 11: Camper LPG System
Hands down this was THE most difficult part of our sprinter van conversion. So if you’re thinking of getting some professional help with some of your Sprinter camper conversion this is the stage that we would most recommend you do that for.
Maybe it was just that by this stage of this build we were really starting to tire. But let’s put it this way, rolling around in a tight space in the cold damp weather underneath our van really did not bring out the best in us.
But if you consider yourself to be a competent person, here in the UK you can undertake your own gas work, in your own vehicle. And we got there in the end, did a pretty decent job and saved ourselves a load of cash in the process.
Van Conversion Tip: If you plan on hiring it out, you will however need to get your campervan gas system installed by a Gas Safe registered engineer.
Now there are different types of LPG systems so you’ll have to figure out what works best for you. There’s your standard bottles which can be refillable or non-refillable or underslung refillable tanks. And then there’s various different fixtures and fittings.
Our campervan gas system consists of an underslung gas tank with an external fill point. It feeds up into the van to a double isolator valve. With one gas pipe running off to our hot water heater and another running back out, underneath the van and then back in to feed our cooker.
That’s the simple version anyway – you can read more about it in this blog post all about our DIY campervan gas system. Don’t forget to put gas drop out vents near each appliance and install a carbon monoxide detector.
Step 12: Water Heater Install
Similar to an air heater, you first need to decide whether you actually want/need a water heater in your van. If you’re only using it for smaller trips and not installing a shower for example you can likely get away with using a kettle and much less expense.
As we live in our Sprinter van conversion full time, have a shower, and a baby we wanted readily accessible hot water and so opted to install a Truma Ultrastore Water Heater.
Once we’d got our heads around what we needed to do it was relatively straightforward to install. The trickiest part being that we needed to raise it up onto a platform to be at the right height so as not to interfere with the exterior plastic trim.
Van Conversion Tip: Don’t forget to install gas safety drop outs below every gas appliance you have.
We have our water heater running off of our LPG tank and we’ve been really happy with it. But should you want to you can also hook it up to a 230V mains connection.
You can choose between two different temperatures (50/70°C) and it heats 10L of water up within 20-30 minutes. Efficiency wise the water stays warm for 2-3 hours and we easily get two showers out of it.
There is also the Truma Combi 4E Boiler that combines a water heater with a space heater. But that comes with a much heftier price tag.
Something you may want to consider that we didn’t know about when we were building our Sprinter camper conversion is the Bobil Air Xchange system.
Similar to the Truma Combi boiler it allows for independent heating of hot water in summer mode as well as both hot water and warm air in winter mode. Except rather than running off LPG or 230V you can attach it to your budget diesel heater at a much lower price point.
If we ever did another sprinter van conversion with a bathroom, this is the system we’d most likely consider. But as I say we’ve been super happy with our Truma water heater, we use it everyday, and over two years in, have never had a problem with it.
Step 13: Van Conversion Shower
It’s relatively common for some van builders to regret putting a shower. And it’s true that if you hardly use it, the space could have been better. But this definitely hasn’t been our experience. We use our shower alot. Even preferring to use it over campsite showers when we stay at one.
It’s also much more pleasant for everyone to have a separate ‘room’ with the toilet in too. Of course it’s a bit more of a faff than a shower in a house, as we need to take the toilet out and dry the space afterwards. But along with the million and one other things, it’s just one of the quirks of vanlife.
If you’re set on a sprinter van conversion with a bathroom, the next thing to decide is where to put it.
We have a partition wall between the cab and the living area with the shower cubicle located in the corner right behind the driver’s seat. Some van conversion designs have them central so as to create more of a separation between the sleeping and living areas.
So how did we create our shower? Well it’s basically just a wetroom with a portable toilet in it.
This is the process we used to create our van shower cubicle:
- 34x34mm wooden batons for the structure
- Lined it with 5mm plywood
- Countersunk all the screws, filed and sanded
- Filled any gaps with Grip Fill Adhesive
- Applied a waterproofing membrane
- Glued 2mm wetroom flooring in place
- Added PVC bathroom cladding with external corners
- Sealed all internal corners with a thick silicon bead
Because you’re not working to the dimensions of a shower tray, you make it as big or as small as you like. Just obviously bear in mind that the bigger it is, the less living space you will have.
The dimensions of our Sprinter van conversion bathroom are 900 x 550mm. Which is probably the smallest you want to go. We’d make our doorway a few cm wider were we to do it again. Don’t forget to build a step to contain the water in your wetroom too. Ours is 45mm deep which is adequate.
Van Conversion Tip: For ease of running water pipes keep your plumbing system along one side.
We also opted to somewhat controversially not have a door on our campervan shower and toilet cubicle. The reason for this is two fold. Firstly to cut down on weight. And secondly because we wanted the extractor fan just outside to be able to pull the steam out while showering.
You can read more details about our DIY van shower installation here, complete with a tools and materials list, plus lots of useful tips for things we would do slightly differently were we do do it again.
Step 14: Campervan Plumbing
We’re super happy with our campervan water system and so pleased we opted to invest in a hot water heater. As we have a shower too, it makes for very comfortable living. BUT we wouldn’t necessarily opt for the same setup were we not living in the van and just using it for short trips.
But however complicated or simple your setup will be, one of the most important things you are going to need to work out is how much water capacity you think you’ll need.
So do a rough calculation of how much water you think you’ll be using per day for cooking, drinking, washing the pots and washing yourself. Then multiply that by how many days you’d realistically want to go in between fill ups, and there you have your fresh water tank capacity.
As a comparison we (2 adults and a baby living full time in our van) use between 20-25L of water per day. So our 100L fresh water tank lasts us 4-5 days.
You then need to decide whether you want your water tanks to be underslung or not. We opted to place our fresh water in the garage and our waste water tank underneath our sprinter van conversion.
If we’d have put them both underneath we’d have had more room in our garage. But because our LPG tank is also under there we’d have needed to relocate our spare tyre onto the back door.
It’s a little more difficult to work out what size grey water tank will be best. But most people tend to half the capacity of their fresh water tank. We have a 52L one which works fine but in hindsight we’d have probably gone for a slightly larger one.
The toilet we have isn’t anything fancy, just a standard Thetford Porta Potti. It isn’t connected to the rest of our plumbing and just has an enclosed 21L tank for black waste. The more popular option however is to have a composting toilet which tends to last much longer between needing emptying.
You can read the full details about our van life water system here, including full parts and materials lists.
We genuinely found this part of one of the more challenging parts of our Sprinter van build out as we needed to change and adapt quite a lot of pipework fixtures to get it all to fit together.
But the day you turn that tap on and have running water feels so good – hopefully with no leaks, otherwise it’s not quite as exciting!
Step 15: Campervan Wifi
By this stage you should be more or less there with your Sprinter van conversion and just adding the finishing touches. Which depending on how you are planning on using your newly built campervan may mean adding wifi.
Because we live in our camper full time, having a decent internet connection is imperative to us being able to work so we researched this part of how to convert a van into a camper pretty extensively but it’s quite a simple setup really.
Inside we have a mobile wifi router and outside, on the roof, connected to said router we have an aerial. This isn’t necessary in order for the router to work, it just boosts your signal. Then all you need to do is add a data only SIM to the router and voila you’re away.
You can get some really decent deals in the UK at present, but sadly due to bloody Brexit the packages no longer translate to EU usage and data is capped which is a real pain.
You check out the full details of our campervan wifi setup here, plus find the best latest deals for UK data SIM cards.
Well that’s it! We have officially downloaded everything we learnt during our Sprinter van conversion from our brains into this free DIY guide.
We hope you find it super helpful and are excited to get cracking with your project if you haven’t already. Do click through and read the specific associated guides as the go into much more detail about each stage.
If you have any questions that you think we can help with drop us a comment and we’ll do our best to help. But do remember that we are not qualified experts so if you have any comments that you think might help your fellow van builders feel free to pop those down below too.
Good luck with your build and drop us a DM over on Instagram with some pictures – we really love to see your van build and the progress you’re making with them!
- Sprinter Van Conversion: Your FREE DIY Guide
- How To Prepare For Vanlife With A Baby
- Camper Van Window Installation: A DIY Guide
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Yorkshire born & bred, Sarah is a professional blogger who loves to travel. Pushing her boundaries with new adventures is her jam, so you likely won’t find her in one place for too long. Also a serious Marmite addict.